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Vile Violent Vacations

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Dean stood over an open grave, the familiar scent of decay filling his senses. Sam cursed and fired shots behind him, keeping the malevolent spirit at bay while Dean filled the grave with salt and gasoline, then fished through his pockets for a lighter or a matchbook. Really, if Dean had taken some time to think about, it was no time to be answering his cell phone. Also, since when had he programmed his ringtone to say his name?

“Dean?” His pocket asked, and Dean had his hand in there anyway looking for matches, so it was pretty easy to wrap his fingers around cold metal instead and pull out the phone. It was only when he was flipping the slim thing open that he realized it wasn’t a phone at all. 

“Is this a bad time?” Harry asked as his face swam into focus in the little magic flip mirror. 

“Uh,” Dean said, his free hand still patting his pockets trying to find a lighter. “I don’t have any matches.”  And yes, this is a bad time, Dean thought, this is a very bad time not to have any matches.

“Dean, behind you!” Harry suddenly said, as Dean felt cold air hit the back of his neck, and dropped to the ground just before a shotgun went off very close to him.

“Dean, what the hell?!” Sam yelled over the ringing in Dean’s ears. Dean turned to look at Sam, who stood beside him looking pissed off – and judging by the blood slowly dripping down his face, he probably had good reason to be. 

“I don’t have any matches,” Dean stated, standing again.

“Oh for the love of...” Sam muttered, shoving the shotgun into Dean’s free hand so he could reach into his own pockets. Sam pulled out a matchbook, with the name of a motel on it that they’d both long since forgotten, and lit the entire thing, and then tossed it into the open grave. Flames lipped up the steep dirt walls and warmed Dean’s feet, behind Sam a figure screamed and burst into flame. Sam glanced over his shoulder at it and sighed in relief, before turning back to Dean looking pissed again.

“Nice professionalism there, Dean. How can you not have matches?” Sam asked, taking his shotgun back and resting it casually against his shoulder.

Dean glanced down at the mirror to see Harry watching them with wide eyes. 

“It’s been a while since I wore this jacket,” Dean answered. It was enough to get Sam’s eyes to swing down to see what Dean was holding. Dean watched as recognition and then confusion settled on Sam’s face.

“Hi, Sam,” Harry said with a smile.

“Uh, hey, Harry,” Sam replied, then looked at Dean in confusion. Before Dean could say anything, there was a distant wail of a police siren.

“Shit,” Dean and Sam both swore together. 

“Grab the shovels,” Dean said. “Harry, I’ll call you back.”

*

Harry stared blankly down at the mirror that was now only reflecting his face. 

“Well, that could have gone better,” Harry muttered. Still, besides Dean being covered in dirt and Sam being covered in blood and dirt, they had both looked relatively good. In truth, they had looked even more intimidating than Harry had remembered them being, but it was best not to dwell on that thought. 

He placed the mirror to side of his desk and turned back to the paperwork in front of him. Dean would call back. 

*

“Where’d you get that mirror?” Sam asked, once they were safely back at the motel. 

“Uh, Harry gave it to me last year, just before we left,” Dean answered.

“You didn’t tell me that,” Sam said quietly. Dean cringed inwardly, but tried not to show it on his face.

“Honestly, I had forgotten,” Dean said, trying for flippancy. “Don’t think I’ve worn this jacket since then, actually. Explains why it didn’t have any matches.”

“Whatever,” Sam said. “Thanks for that by the way, spirit threw me into a goddamn tree and you didn’t even have any matches. Next time, you’re on shotgun duty.”

“You alright?” Dean asked, because Sam wasn’t meeting his eyes and there was dried blood caked to his face.

“Yeah, I’m calling first dibs on the shower, though,” Sam replied, already unbuttoning his shirt.

“You think I should call Harry before we shower or after? I didn’t give him much time to say if it was an emergency or not,” Dean asked, as Sam threw his shirt to the floor and started kicking off his dirt crusted jeans.

“Just call him while I’m in the shower,” he said flatly.

“You sure?” Dean asked.

“Dean,” Sam said, as though Dean was the one being ridiculous. “Just... tell me about it after or something.” Then Sam disappeared behind the bathroom door. Dean made a mental note to check for head injuries once Sam had washed away all the dirt.

In the meantime though, he ran a hand over his face and reached back into his pocket for the mirror. So, maybe he should have told Sam about it, but then he hadn’t been lying when he said he had forgotten. It wasn’t like he didn’t have other stuff on his mind or anything. Dean flipped open the mirror and looked down at his reflection for a moment, trying to remember if there was anything special about the way the mirror worked.

“Harry?” Dean asked the mirror. “You there, man?”

Dean watched as Harry’s face swam into focus. Now that he wasn’t standing in a graveyard with a vengeful spirit trying to take him and Sammy down, he could observe more details about where Harry was. For instance, he noticed that Harry was seemingly in an office building with a view of, what Dean assumed was, the London skyline behind him.

“Swanky digs, Harry,” Dean said.

“Is that a stuffed armadillo behind you?” Harry asked with a smile. Dean turned around and sure enough...

“Yup.” Dean laughed. “What’s up Harry?”

“Where’s Sam?” Harry asked.

“Shower,” Dean said. “He, uh, told me to fill him in later. Think he wanted to get the blood out of his hair.”

“Oh, okay,” Harry said. “Well, um, the reason I’m calling is because... well, you see... I heard that... that is to say, that I wondered...”

“You heard about the apocalypse?” Dean guessed.

“Well yes, but...” Harry said. “I was wondering if you maybe you wanted to come for a visit? For Christmas?”

Dean starred at Harry for a moment in disbelief, watching Harry bite at his lip a little as he stared back with a questioning look on his face.

“You heard that Lucifer was roaming the earth and you want to invite us to your house for Christmas?” Dean asked slowly.

“Well, the two are a little unrelated, but essentially, yes,” Harry said.

Dean scrubbed his free hand through his hair, and glanced over to the bathroom door. The last Christmas they celebrated felt like a lifetime ago for Dean, but it hardly seemed appropriate to celebrate now. Dean wondered whether Ellen and Jo ever celebrated Christmas.

“Also,” Harry said, “I could use your help.”

Dean’s attention refocused on Harry immediately.

“What’s up?” he asked, reaching for the nearest journal – Sam’s, he thought absently, though they used each other’s interchangeably these days. He looked around for a pen, but couldn’t see one.

“Dean... Dean,” Harry was saying, Dean looked back at the mirror to find Harry shaking his head. “It’s nothing specific. It’s just that, well, ever since May, we’ve had... increased supernatural activity.” Dean cringed.

“Yeah?” he asked blankly, glancing back at the bathroom door.

“I don’t have that many ears in the Hunting communities here, but I’m thinking they might be a little overwhelmed. I’ve been thinking of maybe using one of my teams, where applicable, to relieve some of the stress on the Muggle Hunters,” Harry said, as though he were pitching an idea to his superiors. Dean wondered if Harry even had superiors. 

“English, Harry,” Dean said.

“I need you and Sam to teach a bunch of wizards how to Hunt,” Harry said.

“You serious?” Dean asked.

“Yes,” Harry nodded. “I wouldn’t be inviting you if I weren’t.”

“What about the Department of Mysteries? Are they still after us?”

“Don’t worry about them,” Harry responded vaguely, and then added. “You wouldn’t have to fly either – I’ve got it all worked out.”

“You going to take me on the Magic Wizard Vomit Ride again?” Dean asked.

“It wouldn’t be as bad as that,” Harry answered, “but you could fly if you wanted.”

“Let me talk to Sam about it,” Dean said. “I’m not promising anything.”

“It doesn’t have to be for Christmas, if you already have...” Harry started, but then paused, apparently reading something in Dean’s expression, because he finished with “...a hunt lined up.”

“Yeah, alright, I’ll call you back,” Dean said. “I have to go stitch up my brother’s head.”

“Uh, ok, yeah, don’t let me keep you,” Harry replied and Dean had to bite his lip to keep from smirking at Harry’s expression.

“Later, Harry,” Dean said and snapped the mirror shut, tossing it onto the bed just as Sam exited the bathroom with a towel tied snuggling around his hips. Dean watched as Sam’s eyes tracked the mirror and then slid down and away.

“Let me jump in the shower, then I’ll have a look at your head,” Dean told him. There was no sense poking at Sam’s cut now, he’d just get dirt in it. 

Sam nodded, pulling a clean t-shirt out of his duffle. Dean paused in the bathroom doorway. 

“It’s nothing bad, Sammy,” Dean said. “Just... let me have a shower first.”

“Yeah, okay,” Sam answered, but Dean could tell he didn’t believe a word.

*

Sam wasn’t sleeping when Dean finished his shower. Really, he wasn’t. Dean was just really quiet these days and Sam happened to be thinking with his eyes closed, that was all.

“Sam,” Dean said, and Sam had to wonder how Dean managed to have his voice be both sharp and gentle at the same time. Sam opened his eyes to find Dean leaning over him, hair still damp from the shower. 

“Don’t drip on me, man,” Sam said.

“Let me see your head, Sam. You might have a concussion,” Dean responded, already putting a hand to Sam’s jaw and brushing his hair away from the cut on his head.

“Get off,” Sam protested, but he stayed perfectly still so that Dean could see the cut.

“I’m gonna put three stitches in,” Dean mumbled. Sam sighed.

“Dean, just leave it. I’m tired.” 

“You can’t sleep. You have a concussion,” Dean replied, already moving to get the first-aid kit out of his bag.

“I don’t have a concussion,” Sam said. “We haven’t slept for two days! I’m just tired.”

Dean was ignoring him. He was laying out the first-aid supplies as though it actually mattered – like they were back on Dr. Sexy MD or something. Sam had the fleeting thought that maybe Dean was too sleep deprived to be allowed near his head with a needle and thread.

“You want some whiskey or something?” Dean asked. 

Sam shook his head. 

“Do we still have some of that topical numbing cream left?” Sam asked. Dean nodded, heading back over for the bag. “Just use that,” Sam continued, “save the alcohol for the bad stuff.” Your stuff, Sam wanted to add, but didn’t.

“Yeah, okay,” Dean said. “Found it.”

They were both silent for a bit, Dean rubbing the numbing cream into Sam’s forehead with a calloused finger, and then threading the needle. Sam counted Dean’s breaths and found his own breathing synching up just like always. It was a trick Dean had taught him when he was little to try to get him to fall asleep, but Sam found that it worked well for getting through pain too. It’s why those months – first because of the Trickster and then because of the deal – were the worst for pain in every way, because Dean wasn’t around for Sam to synch his breathing to.

“Harry wants us to visit,” Dean said on his next exhale.

Sam’s thoughts came crashing back to the present: Dean, the mirror...

“How come you didn’t tell me about the mirror?” Sam asked. It didn’t take a genius to see what was going on. Sam knew now – he knew – Harry telling him they were the same, despite telling him that he didn’t believe Sam would go bad – it had all been a lie. Harry hadn’t trusted him. He’d given Dean a mirror so that when the time came, maybe Harry could help Dean escape or help Dean kill him... maybe he should have used it.

“It’s not like that Sam,” Dean said, his grip tightening on Sam’s jaw where he was holding Sam’s head still while he worked. He tilted Sam’s chin a bit, forcing Sam to look at him. “It’s not what you’re thinking. I just forgot, that’s all. He gave it to me, and I put it in my pocket, and then there was that stupid Siren and...”

“He still gave it to you,” Sam said, and fought the urge to grimace when he realized how childish he sounded. Maybe he could blame it on the concussion that he didn’t have.

“Yeah, well, he invited us for Christmas,” Dean replied, thankfully tilting Sam’s head back down and refocusing on his head-wound.

“Christmas?”

“Yeah, you see, a long time ago Caesar Augustus declared that everyone should be taxed, so this dude, Joseph, and his knocked-up wife had to-” Dean started.

“Are you seriously going to tell me the Christmas story?” Sam laughed.

“You asked,” Dean muttered, but Sam could hear the smile in his voice without looking at him.

“He really invited me too?” Sam asked softly, while Dean tied the thread off.

“He also wants us to give him a hand with something,” Dean said, ignoring Sam’s question, but in a way that answered it at the same time.

“With what?” Sam asked concerned, as Dean started packing up the first-aid supplies again. “Is he in trouble again?”

“Nah,” Dean answered. “He said it was nothing specific... just that, well, since May there’s been a bit more to handle, and he wants our help training up his men.”

Sam heart sank. 

“Do you think he knows?” Sam asked.

“He knows about the apocalypse, Sam,” Dean answered. “Bobby would have told Hermione.”

“No, do you think he knows that it’s my fault?” Sam asked insistently.

Our fault, and I don’t know,” Dean said with a sigh. “He knew we were trying to stop it, and it’s obviously not stopped, so probably.”

Sam nodded, and then the ridiculousness of it started to sink in.

“So, there’s a good chance he knows we’re responsible for Lucifer roaming the earth and his reaction is to invite us over for Christmas?” Sam asked in disbelief. He was rewarded with a chuckle from Dean.

“That’s what I said!” Dean admitted. “Wizards, man, fucked up.”

“You want to go?” Sam asked.

“Dunno,” Dean replied sobering, “maybe? Maybe not for Christmas though...”

“No?” 

“Nah, thought maybe we could just do Christmas Winchester-style,” Dean said with a devilish grin firmly in place.

“Beer-can-wreath Winchester-style or completely-ignore-it Winchester-style?” Sam asked.

“Either one,” Dean shrugged, “just not...” Dean made a vague motion with his hand, but Sam already knew what he meant.

“Yeah, sounds good to me,” Sam replied.

“Get some sleep, Sammy,” Dean told him. “I’ll wake you up in a couple hours to make sure you don’t have a concussion.”

“Yeah, okay,” Sam said. He wanted to argue that Dean could just let him sleep through the night, but at this point, he’d take what he could get.

Dean turned the TV on low and settled back against his own headboard, while Sam slipped under the covers.

“You’d have to fly,” Sam pointed out, realizing that there was a good chance that Dean had never really considered going at all.

“No, he said he had something else worked out,” Dean replied without taking his eyes off the screen.

“Are you really considering going?” Sam asked.

Dean actually turned to look at him then, at least briefly, before refocusing on the TV.

“Yeah,” Dean said. “I mean, it’s not the Grand Canyon, but I’ve never been overseas and maybe it’d be nice to go before-“

“Yeah, okay,” Sam interrupted. “Just, not for Christmas.”

“Not for Christmas,” Dean agreed.

Chapter Text

It hadn’t been a lie, Harry thought, as yet another report crossed his desk. He really could use the Winchester’s help. Centuries of recorded Wizarding history had never mentioned anything like this happening, then again, this was the first apocalypse. Still, Harry felt vastly unprepared to deal with the influx of “Paranormal Muggle Problems”. It was true, this wasn’t the first time that Harry felt vastly unprepared to deal with something – his years at Hogwarts, the Second War, Ginny announcing she was pregnant, Ginny announcing she was pregnant again – actually, in comparison this wasn’t that bad.

Mostly though, Harry just wanted to see the Winchesters. Ginny had made him promise last year to invite them for a visit, but when he had explained what happened in America and the stakes of the war the Winchesters were fighting, she had quickly let the subject matter drop. Harry knew that she worried. Ron and Hermione had expressed the same worry in different ways too. They were worried that Harry wasn’t used to not being on the front of the battle-lines, that Harry was trying to take on a war that wasn’t his, and that the Winchesters were far more dangerous than Harry was willing to believe.

Harry had hoped that Dean would have called him. Instead he had heard all his news second hand, through Hermione’s correspondences with Bobby Singer or reading between the lines of news from America. Then of course, there was the flurry of activity in May, when the head of the Department of Mysteries had run panicked into Harry’s office and announced that all their Seers had just declared that Lucifer had risen. The fact that Harry hadn’t been surprised in the slightest apparently not only added to his ‘mystique’ but also went a long way in keeping everyone calm. 

Unfortunately, after that Hermione’s correspondences to Bobby Singer had been strained. The man did not talk about what had happened, if Sam and Dean were alright, or what they were doing. He eventually cut off communication with Hermione all together, much to Hermione’s distress. 

Harry had thought about calling Dean a hundred times, but it was a huge risk. Dean was a muggle, and Harry had no way of knowing whether he was alone or not when he phoned, but on top of that, Dean was a Hunter, and the last thing Harry wanted to do was call Dean when he was in the middle of a Hunt – which is, ironically, exactly what he ended up doing.

Then there was this increase in supernatural activity, and Hermione had gotten back in touch with Bobby Singer, and finally Hermione had shown up at his house carrying a letter – a letter that kindly asked if Harry might be able to force the Winchesters to take a vacation. It was the excuse Harry didn’t realize he was waiting for. 

Now all Harry had to do was wait for Dean’s response to his invitation. He knew it was asking a lot. The Winchesters had probably never traveled outside of America, and it wasn’t like they didn’t have things to do there. Though, Harry reasoned, it’s not like the apocalypse was localized to the lower 48 states.

Harry kept the mirror close to him at all times, tucked inside his breast pocket. Two days after he had called them, Harry found himself in a meeting with the Minister about the most recent vengeful spirit incident when he heard a familiar American voice speak his name.

“Harry? Are you there?”

“Excuse me, sir,” Harry said, as he slipped his hand into his pocket, “but I have to take this.”

Harry slipped out of the room, ignoring the Minister’s slightly gobsmacked expression. As head of the Auror office, Harry was on call twenty-four hours a day, so it wasn’t too unusual for him to walk out of a meeting after receiving a call. It’s just that usually he was summoned by interdepartmental memos, not by Americans speaking to him from his pocket.

“I don’t know if it’s working, Sam,” Harry heard Dean mutter as he slipped the mirror out of his pocket and opened it. Dean’s face came into focus, with Sam peering curiously over his shoulder.

“Hi guys,” Harry said smiling at them. Dean gave Harry a grin, while Sam smiled hesitantly and then ducked out of frame.

Harry could see the sun shining on them, though he realized that Dean’s cheeks were red with cold. They must have just pulled over at the side of the road to call him, and possibly stretch their legs a little after a long stretch of driving.

“Hey, Harry,” Dean said. “Uh, sorry it took a bit for me to call you back. There was this banshee and-"

“It’s alright, Dean,” Harry interrupted, “I figured you two needed to discuss it a little before you made a decision.”

“Yeah,” Dean said. “Um, well, we did, and...” Harry found himself holding his breath, and crossing his fingers behind his back. “...we’d like to come...visit...” Harry let out his breath and smiled.

“Excellent,” Harry said/ “Where are you? I can get-” 

“Harry, wait,” Dean interrupted, biting his lip and then glancing off to the left – where Harry realized that Sam must be standing. “We can’t come for Christmas.” 

“Oh, okay, yeah,” Harry tried to dial back his enthusiasm, realizing he had gotten ahead of himself. “Of course, you probably already have umm....well, it is short notice. When would you like to come?”

“You must do something for New Years Eve, right?” Dean asked, with an odd looking smile.

“Yeah, of course, the Weasleys-” Harry answered, thinking about the New Year’s Eve party the Weasley’s threw every year since the War.

“It’s on a Thursday this year, right?” Dean interrupted. Harry was about to respond, but he realized Dean wasn’t even looking at him, he was asking Sam. “We’ll come on the Friday. New Year’s Day, you think that would be alright?” and this time Harry knew Dean was asking him.

“Whenever you want, guys,” Harry answered. “I’ll make arrangements.” 

“Great, thanks, Harry,” Dean said. “Sam and I should get going. You can call us back at this time, on December 27th, and let us know what the travel plans are.”

“Understood,” Harry replied, watching the world in the mirror shift, and realized that Dean had been sitting on the bonnet of his car while they talked, and had now slid off it. “Talk to you soon, guys.”

“Bye, Harry,” Dean said, then turned the mirror until Sam was in frame, “say goodbye, Sam.”

“Goodbye,” Sam said, caught off guard, just before Dean shut the mirror. 

Harry felt the smile slip from his face. He had been an idiot inviting the Winchesters for a family holiday. Sure, when Harry was a kid, he had relished the family gatherings at the Weasley’s house – he still did, but that was because Harry had never had a family. The Winchesters had, however long ago, and they had another family made up of Hunters, some of which they had just lost, of course they wouldn’t want to be reminded of what they were missing. Harry felt like an insensitive bastard.

There was something else that had been disconcerting about the call, and at first Harry couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but now he realized what it was: Sam had looked nervous.

Before Harry could think on it any more, the Minister was poking his head out his door and looking over at where Harry stood.

“Is everything alright, Mr. Potter?” The Minister asked.

“Mm, yeah,” Harry answered. “Everything is fine.”

“So, may I ask what was so important that you had to interrupt our meeting?” The Minister asked. Harry knew that there were people out there who feared him, people who thought it was only a matter of time until Harry Potter seized control of the Ministry. It was part of the reason Harry knew that he could never run for Minister of Magic, and he could never be openly disrespectful of authority. Everyone was always looking for an early warning sign. The current Minister was no exception. It got on Harry’s nerves.

“Actually, it pertains to our meeting,” Harry replied, re-entering the Minister’s office and making sure the anti-eavesdropping wards were still up. “I’m pleased to report that if we can hold out until January, I’ve managed to arrange for some experts to come in to help us.”

“Experts?” 

Harry smiled slowly.

“A couple of friends of mine from America, sir,” Harry answered with a smile, “who just so happen to be the two best Hunters in the world.”

As Harry watched the blood drain from the Minister’s face, he decided that whatever happened, this moment was worth it.

*

On January 1, 2010, at six in the morning, a black 1967 Chevy Impala pulled into a parking spot along Shore Road in Winchester, Massachusetts. Phil certainly couldn’t fault them for their punctuality. He waited until the Winchesters had gotten out of their car, and watched as they both leaned their arms on the roof facing each other, appearing casual while keeping watch over each other’s shoulders. 

They looked wearier than he remembered them, but then, it was early in the morning. Phil took a deep breath and stepped out from the trees and waved. He watched as the Winchesters tensed, and then relaxed, both giving him a smile.

“Phil,” Dean greeted, as he walked towards him. Sam remained by the car.

“Dean, Sam,” Phil greeted back, “Are you ready to go? Were you able to find your amulets, or do you need new ones?”

Dean and Sam both reached under the collars of their t-shirts in answer, pulling the crystal pendants from underneath their clothes by the chains. Phil noted that Sam’s chain had a crude knot tied in it, and had to bite his cheek to keep from smiling at the memory of when Sam had used the chain as an impromptu leash. Phil hadn’t been around to see the leash come off, but obviously it had been cut, and Sam had just knotted the severed ends together again. 

Harry had told Phil that he had already explained to the Winchesters how it was going to work, that all he had to do was make sure they had the pendants and then perform the spell. 

“What was that word you guys used?” Dean asked, but continued without clarifying. “Splinch? You’re not going to splinch my baby are you?”

Phil gave him a reassuring smile, remembering the difficulty in apparating with Sam as side-along. 

“There’s no apparating involved, Dean,” Phil said. “So, no need to worry about splinching. I thought Harry explained that you’d be traveling by portkey?”

“He did,” Dean confirmed, “but I just want to make sure we’re all going to make it in one piece.”

“You will,” Phil reassured him.

“Phil,” Sam spoke, and Phil didn’t miss the small cringe Dean tried to hide. “How has it been since...”

Sam trailed off, but Phil knew what he was asking. He’d be lying if he said that it wasn’t with some trepidation that he was doing this favour for Harry – lying, if he said that he hadn’t been hoping never to cross paths with the Winchesters again.

“It’s been so normal, it’s unnerving,” Phil answered. “Well, except for what happened in Carthage.” Sam bit his lip and looked down, nodding slowly. There was an awkward moment of silence, before Phil decided that it was best just to stick with his plan of having the least amount of contact with the Winchesters possible. “Come on then, let’s get this over with.”

“Sounds good,” Dean replied, and slipped back into his car. Phil watched as Sam hesitated briefly, shooting Phil another look as if he was trying to decide if he should say something or not. Then he just gave Phil an apologetic smile and ducked into the car to join his brother.

Phil took the time to walk around the car, before coming to a stop at the hood. He drew his wand and touched it gently to the black paint. He should be thankful that he was sending the Winchesters so far away from the Wizarding community in the US. If anyone else knew he was doing this, they would consider it a good act – Phil didn’t have all the facts, but he knew that the Winchesters were inexplicably bound somehow to the apocalypse; he knew that wherever they went, trouble followed. As he touched his wand to the hood of the Impala though, his only thought was ‘what are we going to do without them?

Phil concentrated on the coordinates he was given, and hoped for the best.

Portus.

*

Harry was doing his best in trying to ignore the amused looks that Ginny kept shooting him. He knew he was doing a rubbish job at hiding how anxious he was. He had done alright that morning - he had looking after the children and making up one of the spare rooms to distract him. Now, as James and Albus played on the floor behind him, all he could do was stare nervously out the large windows of his study and fiddle with his communication mirror. Phil would call if the Winchesters didn’t show up. He wouldn’t call if they did. It was eleven.

“Why don’t you go wait on the stoop, Harry,” Ginny finally said. “As amusing as this is, you’re starting to make me nervous.”

“They might have changed their minds,” Harry answered, “or something may have happened. I’ll wait in here. It’s cold outside.”

“And Harry Potter doesn’t know how to cast a warming charm?” Ginny laughed. “They’ll come Harry, I’m sure they would have called if they couldn’t make it.”

“Am I that bad?” Harry asked. “They’re Hunters, Gin. Not only that, they’re the Winchesters. Maybe I am mad to have invited them.”

“As I recall, they saved your life and Ron talks about Dean more than he ever talked about Viktor Krum. They’re your friends, Harry,” Ginny said, “and they need your help – they may not have asked for it themselves, but they do need it. More than that, if things continue the way they have, you may very well need theirs.”

Harry smiled, he knew all this. Most of it was exactly what he had said to Ginny when they first discussed inviting the Winchesters to England. He could also remember her reply.

“And I do believe you once made me promise to invite them ‘round, as penance for getting into trouble in America,” Harry replied.

“I do believe I did,” Ginny smiled. “If anyone should be nervous, it’s me. I’m about to have two charming men in my house.”

“Three,” Harry said with a frown. Ginny just raised an eyebrow.

Out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw the black car appear perfectly in the open parking spot in front of the house. 

“They’re here!” Harry said, as he bolted from the room and ran down the stairs. He ignored Ginny’s laughter and James’ voice calling out: “Who’s here, Daddy?”

He was out the front door and on the stoop, just as the driver’s side door opened. He slowed his run and watched with a smile as Dean jumped out and started inspecting the car for damage. Sam exited the car at a more sedate pace, forehead creased in slight concern as he glanced up and down the street. Harry had forgotten how tall and broad shouldered Sam was, he hadn’t seen him since... well, for a while. 

Harry took a deep breath. They couldn’t see Harry yet. They wouldn’t be able to see him until he stepped out of the gate at the end of the walk.

“What the hell was that?” Dean asked Sam. Harry watched as Sam gave Dean a look that clearly said ‘How the hell should I know.

“Did we make it?” Sam asked. “Is this London?” Harry tried not to laugh as Dean just returned the look Sam had given in response to Dean’s previous question.

“You did,” Harry said, as he stepped out of the gate, both brothers tensed and whipped their heads around to stare at Harry. “And that,” Harry continued, “was Phil turning your car into a temporary Portkey.”

“Where the hell did you just come from?” Dean said, while Sam just stared at Harry with an unreadable expression.

“My house,” Harry laughed. “Here,” he held out two slips of paper, “read these.”

Dean and Sam both plucked one of the papers from Harry’s outstretched arms. Harry watched as they unfolded them and scanned the words.

“Harry Potter lives at-” Dean started to say giving Harry an incredulous look.

“Not out loud!” Harry interrupted, even though Dean wouldn’t have been able to complete the sentence anyway. 

“There’s only 11 and 13...” Sam said, looking up at the houses.

“Wait for it,” Harry stated, wishing he could see the effect for the first time again. Instead he watched the Winchesters, and could tell the moment Number 12 Grimmauld Place began to reveal itself to them. The widening eyes were a dead give-away.

“How did...” Sam started but didn’t finish.

“It’s called the Fidelius Charm,” Harry explained. “It means only certain people can find my house. Some of my family think I’m being paranoid, but well, I was hunted by demons last year.” The Winchesters nodded in understanding, and Harry hoped maybe a little bit of awe. 

Then Harry remembered his manners. 

“It’s good to see you,” Harry said smiling. “I’m glad you could make it. Do you need help with your things?” He watched as Dean smiled in return while Sam seemed to slouch into himself a little.

“Good to see you too, man,” Dean said.

“I’ll get the bags,” Sam nearly answered over Dean, then quickly turned back to the car.

“So, I thought maybe you’d just want to get settled in today,” Harry said. “Ron and Hermione are planning to come over for tea, but other than that I had nothing planned.”

“Tea?” Dean smiled.

“A light meal served between lunch and dinner,” Sam said, coming up behind Dean carrying two duffle bags. 

“Dude,” Dean said, raising an eyebrow at Sam, “you are so weird.”

“Come on,” Harry said, trying not to laugh at Sam’s slightly embarrassed look. “Let’s get out of the cold.”

He turned and led them into the house. Ginny was sitting on the stairs at the end of the hall waiting for them, with James and Albus sitting beside her. The Winchesters stopped just inside the door, while Harry closed it behind them. Ginny dislodged Albus’ clingy hands from her arm, and stood to greet them.

“Dean, I believe you’ve already met my wife, Ginny,” Harry said, shaking his head as Ginny blushed and offered her hand to Dean, who in turn gave her a mischievous smirk. 

“Ginny, this is Dean’s brother Sam. Sam, Ginny,” Harry concluded. Ginny offered her hand to Sam, who took it with a quiet, “Nice to meet you.”

“It’s nice to meet you too, Sam,” Ginny said with a smile. “Hermione certainly wasn’t exaggerating about you.”

“Uh, thanks?” Sam said, biting his lip.

“It’s very nice to meet you in person too, Dean,” Ginny said, taking the attention off of Sam. Then she turned to the two boys who were now shifting from foot to foot at the bottom of the stairs. “James, Albus, come say hello.”

Harry watched as James ran forward, Albus following more tentatively behind. Dean immediately fell into a crouch and gave them a friendly wave.

“Nice to meet you, guys,” Dean said. “Now which one of you is James and which one of you is Albus?”

“I’m James!” James declared. “He’s Albus. I’m five.” He held up one hand and splayed his fingers out.

“Five, wow.” Dean said, “How old are you Albus?”

“He’s four!” James answered, folding his thumb back in.

“Well, I’m Dean and this is my brother, Sam. I’m thirty, and Sam is twenty-six,” Dean smiled. Harry watched as James eyes widened, looking between Dean and Sam, who was still standing looking at Dean with an almost affectionate expression.

“How many is that?” James asked.

“How many? Hmm...” Dean said, then motioned to Sam, “Sam, get down here and help me out.”

Harry smiled as Sam looked surprised and a little confused, but immediately fell into a crouch that mimicked Dean’s. Dean held up his hands and spread his fingers, and then nudged Sam with his elbow. Sam clued in immediately and held up his hands the same way.

“Ok, James, hold up your hands just like this,” Dean said, and watched as James did so, “Awesome, this is how many years old I am, James. And this,” Dean folded three fingers and a thumb down, “is how many years old Sammy is.” Ginny laughed as James’ jaw dropped. 

“Alright, boys,” Ginny said, already starting to shepherd the boys backwards, “Let’s go back up to the study, so that Sam and Dean can put their things away.” Sam and Dean both stood again, Sam biting his lip again and Dean ducking his head a little.

“You had a baby girl too...” Dean said, and Harry was only a little surprised at the man’s memory. 

“Lily’s asleep,” Harry answered, “let me show you to your room, and then I’ll give you the grand tour.”

He led the Winchesters up the stairs behind Ginny and the boys. Ginny, James, and Albus, disappeared into the study, while Harry opened the bedroom door and ushered Dean and Sam in.

“I wasn’t sure if you wanted to share a room like usual, or if you wanted to have separate rooms,” Harry said. “I made up this one for you to share, but if you want separate ones, I can put one of you in one of the rooms upstairs.” 

“One room is fine,” Dean said. “Right, Sam?”

“Uh, yeah,” Sam said in an oddly strained voice. Harry glanced over at him to find him still holding the duffle bags, and staring at the far bed with oddly glassy eyes. 

“I, umm, already lengthened one of the beds for Sam, of course,” Harry said, wondering what in Merlin’s name was going on.

“Thank you,” Sam all but breathed. Harry was about to ask what the problem was, when Dean suddenly spoke.

“Okay, that’s enough,” Dean declared, and Harry tensed, watching as Sam dropped the bags onto the floor and turned to Dean with wide anxious eyes.

“Dean...” Sam said, and yes, Harry was definitely remembering the Winchesters’ ability to have silent secret conversations with each other. 

Dean gave Sam a look and then turned to face Harry.

“Harry, you know that Sam accidentally broke the final seal, right?” Dean asked. 

“I assumed it was an accident, yes,” Harry said.

“See, Sam, I told you, he knows and he obviously doesn’t care. It’s not like you did it on purpose,” Dean said to Sam. “So, stop the sad puppy routine, no one cares that you got into the garbage.” 

Harry had to bite his lip to keep from laughing at Sam’s expression.

“I’m not a...” Sam said indignantly, trailing off unable to actually say the words.

“Yeah, you are,” Dean rolled his eyes, then turned back to Harry with a serious look. “It’s not just Sam’s fault, Harry. I was the one that broke the first seal.”

“I know,” Harry said.

“Okay... wait, what?” Dean asked, “How do you know that?”

Harry cringed, realizing that he should have just acted surprised. How did he tell Dean that they had all found out last year, that there was a prophecy that Harry had completely misinterpreted and hadn’t even told them about. Merlin, they were going to kill him, in his own house, with his children in the next room.

“Hermione found a book that described the first seal,” Harry answered in a purposefully vague way. “You’re the only one I know that’s been to Hell, Dean. Listen, we can talk about all this later. Let me show you the house.”

“Oh, okay,” Dean said quietly, though he didn’t look that happy about it.

“And Dean’s right, Sam,” Harry added, “I don’t blame you for what happened.”

“Thanks,” Sam replied.

As Harry led them out of the bedroom, all he could think was that sooner or later, he would have to tell the Winchesters the truth, and he only hoped they’d forgive him.

Chapter Text

They started the tour on the second floor, since they were already there. Now that most of Sam’s fears were allayed, he was able to take in more of the house. The hallways were dark and narrow, but the rooms were large.

“There’s a bath, here, right next to your room,” Harry pointed out. “We use the one upstairs, so this one’s all yours. Through here is my study.”

Sam followed Harry into the room that Ginny and the kids had disappeared into earlier. There were large windows that looked out over the street, where Sam could see the Impala, and a large fireplace on the far wall behind an oak desk. Ginny sat at the desk reading, while the boys played with the toys that were scattered all over the floor. There were bookshelves and filing cabinets along every available wall except for one and a playpen sitting in the corner with a sleepy toddler in it.

“There you are,” Ginny said. “Is the one room alright?”

“It’s fine, thanks,” Dean said with a smile.

“Brilliant,” Ginny replied, then turned to Harry. “I’m going to take the boys down for lunch, so you can make the kitchen your last stop on the tour. Could you mind Lily?”

“Sure, love,” Harry said. Sam looked around the room while Ginny urged the boys downstairs. 

“The Most Noble and Ancient House of Black,” Sam read aloud, looking at all the faces and odd names on the only wall not covered in bookshelves. Some pictures seemed newer than others, with odd scorch marks around the edges of them. Sam ran a finger along one and could feel where the new tapestry threads were woven into the old slightly burnt ones.

“That’s my Godfather,” Harry explained. Sam looked underneath his finger to read the name Sirius. “He’s the one that left me the house,” Harry continued. “I had to have the tapestry repaired, because his parents had burnt his face away when he refused to support Voldemort and ran away from home.” 

“His parents supported Voldemort?” Sam asked, though the answer was obvious.

“The whole family did,” Harry explained. “The Blacks were pure-blood, elitist, and prejudice. Only Sirius and Andromeda rebelled.” Harry pointed to the portrait of a witch – Sirius’ cousin- which was also a new addition to the tapestry. He then slid his finger over to another new picture. “Andromeda married Ted Tonks, a Muggle-born. They had Nymphadora, who married my dad’s friend Remus Lupin, and they had my Godson Teddy.”

“So, Teddy is the last of the Black line?” Sam asked, looking at all the new additions Harry had pointed to.

“Teddy is a Lupin,” Harry answered. “I think Sirius would actually be happy that there’s no true Blacks left in the world. I’ve left Teddy the house in my will though. It should be his.” Then Harry pointed to another name on the wall, one that was familiar to both Sam and Dean.

“Strictly speaking though, Malfoy is more of a Black than Teddy is.”

“They’re cousins?” Sam asked astonished, remembering the awkward tension between Harry and Draco.

“Once removed,” Harry answered. Sam realized that Draco’s portrait wasn’t new, which only meant…

“Malfoy supported Voldemort?” Sam whispered surprised, trying to remember all he could about the reserved blond man that had helped them the previous year. 

“He made a mistake,” Dean suddenly spoke up from behind Sam. Sam turned to his brother in confusion. He had to admit, he had gotten so caught up, he'd forgotten his brother was in the room. Now though, he realized that Dean had already known.

“How-" Sam started, but Dean interrupted.

“I’m sure you can relate, Sam,” Dean said in a monotone. Sam shut his mouth and nodded.

“I didn’t realize you knew,” Harry said.

“He told me last year,” Dean shrugged. “Explained about his father.”

Oh, Sam thought.

“There are a couple of people on the tapestry who went against Voldemort in the end,” Harry said, turning back to the wall. “Even Draco’s parents refused to fight in the final battle.” Harry pointed to the two names. “Draco’s mother actually saved my life by telling Voldemort that I was dead when I wasn’t.” Then Harry’s fingers slid over to the portrait besides Sirius. “And Sirius’s brother, Regulus, found out about the Horcruxes before anyone else did and died trying to destroy one. He was dead for nearly 20 years before we found out what he’d done. I think people like them make up for people like Bellatrix.”

“What’d she do?” Sam asked.

“She killed Sirius and Teddy’s Mum,” Harry said. “And my friend Dobby, and-” 

“Holy shit,” Sam said, cutting Harry off. “Are you sure Wizards aren’t evil?”

“Some of them are, but that’s why I have a job,” Harry shrugged.

“Did you kill her?” Dean asked.

“Ron’s Mum did, yeah,” Harry answered.

“Good,” Dean said.

“Alright, we’ve gotten sidetracked enough,” Harry suddenly declared, before Sam could ask his next question. “I’m supposed to be showing you the house, not giving you a history lesson. Come on, I’ll show you the upstairs briefly and then we’ll go join Ginny for lunch.”

Sam followed Harry out of the room and up the stairs to the third floor. He didn’t notice that Dean wasn’t behind him until he heard his brother jogging up the stairs to catch up. Once they were on the landing, Harry turned to look at them and Sam watched as his eyes landed on Dean and then went a little wide. Sam immediately turned to see what was wrong with his brother, but Dean was fine – he just had a sleepy, but awake, toddler in his arms.

“Um, Ginny said to watch her,” Dean said. “I didn’t think you were supposed to leave babies alone for too long, so I thought I’d bring her with. She didn’t cry when I picked her up.”

“I forgot,” Harry said, rubbing a hand over his face. “I’m such a rubbish father.”

Dean laughed softly. Sam watched as the baby smiled at the noise.

“Don’t worry about it, Harry,” Dean said. “Sam was distracting you with all those questions.”

“That’s no excuse,” Harry muttered.

“Dude,” Dean insisted, “my Dad once drove off and left Sammy and me at a gas station. He was driving ten minutes before he realized he was missing his kids. Leaving your amazingly quiet toddler in her playpen is hardly being a bad father.”

“I don’t remember that,” Sam said, as Harry reached over to take Lily out of Dean’s arms.

“You were three,” Dean replied, making sure Harry had a hold of the kid before he let go. “I let you splash in some puddles and you didn’t even notice he was gone. Actually, you cried when he came back, because you liked the puddles so much.”

Sam and Dean shared a smile at the thought. They turned back to Harry to find him looking as if he couldn’t decide what his reaction to the conversation should be. 

“So, um, this is Lily’s nursery,” Harry said opening the door behind him, then walked down the hall and opened the other door. “And this is my and Ginny’s room.” Harry pointed to the floor above them with his free hand. “The boys’ rooms are on the floor just above us – they’re kind of mess, so I won’t bother showing you. The floor above them has Teddy’s room and the other spare room.”

“You have a lot of floors,” Sam observed.

“Well, that’s London for you – the houses are skinny, but tall,” Harry replied. “I like it much better than the suburbs though. In the suburbs, if your lawn looks nice enough than no one says a word about the skinny kid you’ve got locked in the cupboard.”

“Yeah, suburbs can be pretty creepy,” Dean said, and Sam was glad that Dean knew how to answer casually to what Harry had said, because Sam sure as hell didn’t. “So, where’s your boy Teddy?”

“He lives with his Grandmother,” Harry said. “I just keep a room for him so that he always knows he's welcome, and so he feels at home when his Grandmum wants a little break. He’ll be by tomorrow.” 

They followed Harry down the stairs next. Lily kept her eyes on Sam and Dean over her father’s shoulder. Sam was surprised she wasn’t more scared of them. Occasionally she would smile or giggle while looking at Dean, and Sam would turn his head in time to see Dean’s wipe a smile off his face and then try to look innocent. 

They reached the entryway again, and Harry waved an arm through the archway into a living room area. There was a fireplace and some couches and chairs, and an ornate chandelier. 

“That used to be a formal dining room, but we changed it,” Harry said. “The kitchen is big enough to eat in, and we aren’t the formal dinner type of people.”

“How come this wall is thicker than the others?” Dean suddenly asked, running his hand over the wall in question. Now that Sam's attention was brought to it, he could see the difference. A portion of the wall jutted out thicker than the rest for no discernable architectural purpose. 

“We had to plaster over something,” Harry answered with an odd smile. Dean shrugged.

“Just as long as it’s not a body,” Dean said. “’cause that’s just asking for trouble.”

“It’s not a body,” Harry laughed. “Come on, the kitchen is down these steps.”

They followed Harry down a few steps and through another heavy door into a huge cavernous room. It was brightly lit by wall sconces, which reminded Sam of the ones he had seen at the Ministry of Magic in America the previous year. There was a fireplace big enough to walk into on the far wall. James and Albus sat across from each other near the end of a large wooden table, eating sloppily as only children do – well, children and sometimes Dean.

“It smells delicious in here,” Dean said, moving into the room. Ginny looked up from where she was standing by the stove.

“I was beginning to think you’d all gotten lost in the house somewhere,” she said. “Sit down. I’ll fix you some plates.”

“Sit here!” James said, pointing to the chair next to him and looking at Dean.

“Ok, thanks,” Dean replied, and Sam honestly couldn’t tell if he was talking to Ginny or James. Sam moved around to the other side of the table. He put his hands on the back of the chair next to Albus, who was looking at him warily.

“Do you mind if I sit here, Albus?” Sam asked, and actually felt relieved when the kid nodded slowly at him. Sam smiled at the wide green eyes – the kid looked so much like Harry, only with freckles.

Harry put Lily in the high chair on the other side of James, and took the seat next to it at the head of the table. Ginny placed some plates in front of them, and took the open seat on the other side of Albus. For a while, the adults all ate in silence. Sam was impressed that Dean managed to have some table manners. It was actually Sam who found himself reaching to eat something off Dean’s plate as usual, before remembering they weren’t alone and quickly drawing his hand back.

“So, uh, you know I said that Teddy would be coming over tomorrow?” Harry asked, and Sam could help but notice the small hesitation in his voice and the way Ginny paused in eating.

“Yeah,” Sam and Dean both answered.

“Well, he goes back to school on Sunday – it’s boarding school, you know, so we won’t see him for a bit,” Harry explained. “And it’s sort of a tradition that we have a bit of a… well, a family dinner.”

“Oh, no problem,” Dean said. “We can steal some license plates and drive around.”

“No, no,” Harry said, “that’s not what I… well, I mean, if you want to you can… but what I was trying to say was that you’re more than welcome to join us, as long as you don’t mind the extra people.”

“How many extra people?” Sam asked.

“My parents,” Ginny answered, “Teddy’s Grandmum, Ron and Hermione and their kids, my brother Bill and his daughter, I think that’s it.”

“It’s just for dinner, then everyone will go home,” Harry said. “Teddy will stay here and we’ll take him to the train in the morning.”

“Hm, okay,” Dean said, catching Sam’s eye, “if you don’t mind having us around.”

“Of course not,” Harry said. “I must admit, everyone is a little bit curious to meet you. Plus, you have to prove to my mother-in-law that you aren’t going to mur-OW!”

“Not in front of the children!” Ginny said, and Sam was only confused for a second before he put it together.

“We wouldn’t,” Sam said.

“I know,” Harry said. “But Hunters don’t have the best reputation in the Wizarding world.”

“No problem,” Dean said, “I assure you there will be no mur-OW!”

“Dean!” Sam said, drawing his foot back and cutting a glance to the kids, who were looking at the Winchesters with curious expressions. 

“Don’t kick me!” Dean growled. “You fu-OW!”

Sam drew his foot back again and glanced over at Ginny to apologize for his brother, only to find her trying desperately to stifle her laughter.

“There’s one other thing,” Harry said, not bothering to hide his smile.

“What?” Dean asked, while rubbing his shin under the table.

“I was wondering if you’d be willing to teach at Hogwarts.”

“You want us to… what? ” 

*

As Ginny took the children back upstairs to the study, Harry explained about underage Wizarding laws. With the increased Supernatural activity, Harry was concerned mostly with everyone under the age of seventeen who couldn’t just fire off a quick defensive spell, or apparate away from the situation, because they weren’t allowed to do magic outside of school. 

“Most don’t even bother carrying their wands with them at all times, like I used to do,” Harry said. “They’d be forgiven for defending themselves of course, but they still worry about getting into trouble, or using accidental magic. I just thought, if I could get you to come in and give a talk... show them how people without magic protect themselves... well, that would at least be something.”

“Harry I don’t know...” Dean said. “It’s not the best stuff for kids to hear about.”

“They already know about it though,” Harry said, “at least the Wizarding side of things. They learn about werewolves and vampires by the time they’re thirteen. The kids from Wizarding families know about magical creatures long before school. There are ghosts at the school already. They just don’t have any experience with the unfriendly kind. Peeves is a nuisance, but he’s tame in comparison to Muggle poltergeists.”

“How come we get all the evil stuff anyway?” Dean asked. “How is that fair?”

“You don’t have a monopoly on evil,” Harry replied in a low tone. “Dean, I’m not asking you to tell them about the apocalypse, or Lucifer, or Hell. You don’t even have to tell them about demons, if you don’t want to – I’m just asking you to tell them how to put salt on their window sills and recognize the presence of a malevolent spirit.”

“Shouldn’t their parents be looking out for them?” Dean threw back. “Isn’t checking under the beds for monsters their job?”

“And where are their parents going to learn it?” Harry asked.

“Dean...” Sam finally spoke up, speaking carefully. 

“Sam, don’t you dare,” Dean glared at his brother. Sam only sighed and looked down at his half-empty plate.

“You agree with me, don’t you, Sam?” Harry guessed. Sam ignored Harry in order to look at Dean.

“They need to know how to protect-” Sam started only to be cut off.

“They’re innocent kids, Sam,” Dean said. “They don’t need to know what’s out there!”

“They’re witches already,” Sam replied, “and if we can’t stop L-”

“Enough,” Dean interrupted. “God, it’s like the Adam argument all over again.”

“But maybe if we had taught Adam before-” Sam tried.

“Don’t, Sam,” Dean said. “Just don’t.”

Sam quieted at that. Staring down at the table and giving a small resigned nod. Harry had completely lost the thread of the conversation, and wasn’t quite sure anymore if his side was winning.

“You do realize that I’m going to train them anyway, right?” Harry said. “They’re already being trained to use magic against evil. Wizards already know the truth of the world, they aren’t like Muggles. If this is an argument about protecting their innocence... well, that ship has already sailed.”

Harry watched as Sam blew out a long breath and Dean folded his arms and glared at the table. Harry tried not to fidget in the silence. He thought back to the yelling matches the Winchesters had had during Harry’s time with them the previous year. So far, this disagreement had been quite different. There had been no yelling, no escalation. It was just a disagreement, discussed calmly across the table from each other.

“Alright, then,” Dean said. “We’ll do it.”

“You sure?” Sam asked, before Harry could. 

“Yeah,” Dean said. “Plus, I bet you want to see that castle.”

A soft smile graced Sam’s face as he ducked his head a little.

“I’ll go pull our journals from the car,” Sam said, pushing back from the table. “See if I can draw up a lesson plan.”

“Lesson plans? Really? Should I start calling you Mr. Winchester and asking for a hall pass?” Dean said to Sam’s retreating back. Sam just flipped him off without a backward glance.

Harry chuckled and began collecting the plates from around the table. The routine was that if Ginny did the cooking, Harry would do the washing up. 

“Let me help you with that,” Dean said, grabbing his and Sam’s plate.

“It’s alright, you’re a guest, Dean,” Harry said, placing the plates in the sink and running the tap.

“Don’t care. I’ll dry,” Dean replied, grabbing the tea towel next to the sink.

“Thanks then,” Harry smiled. “Are you sure you’re alright with all this. I didn’t mean to start an argument. It was just an idea.”

“It’s fine, Harry,” Dean said dismissively. “Like you said, these kids might need to defend themselves, and if they can’t do it with magic... well, Sam and I sort of made this mess, and...”

“It's not your fault,” Harry said.

Dean just sighed and shook his head. Harry didn’t quite know how to interpret it. So he figured now was as good a time as any to ask questions.

“Who’s Adam?” Harry asked, handing Dean a plate to dry. 

“Someone who is better off where he is,” Dean answered vaguely. 

“Where is he?” Harry asked.

“Dead,” Dean replied, waving the dried plate around a little and looking at the cupboards.

“Oh,” Harry said. “Uh, plates go in the cupboard to your right.”

Harry watched as Dean put the plate away, wondering how he was supposed to move the conversation from here. 

“You and Sam seem to be getting on much better than last year,” Harry tried to go for something positive. Dean looked at him blankly for a second, as Harry handed him another plate, then he glanced over his shoulder at the door.

“You think?” Dean asked. 

“Yeah,” Harry said. “You just had a disagreement without shouting at each other, or someone storming off.”

“Huh,” Dean considered. “So, you noticed last year that...” he trailed off, moving his free hand vaguely through the air.

“That things were a bit tense?” Harry asked. “Yeah, a little.”

Dean fell silent for a minute. Harry thought maybe the conversation was over, when Dean started speaking again in a soft voice.

“Last year, with Adam... I mean, Sam was just wearing me out. I love him, but he wears me out, man...” Dean shook his head slowly, and Harry thought of the times he had seen Molly make an eerily similar expression. “...at the time, I just couldn’t imagine having two-”

“I pulled Dad’s journal too,” Sam announced as he walked into the kitchen. “I figured the first few pages lay out the standard stuff pretty well, even if he did write like Yoda.”

“Yeah, okay, Sam,” Dean replied, before he turned back to Harry. For a second, Harry hoped he was going to finish whatever he had been trying to say before, but instead he asked, “Are we still teaching your Wizard-hunters too, Harry?"

“Yes,” Harry confirmed. “I still have to work out the details for Hogwarts, but I’ve called a mandatory Auror training session for Monday.”

“What kind of problems have you been having anyway?” Dean asked. “You want to give us a rundown?”

“Why don’t we wait until my second in command gets here,” Harry answered. 

“Do you want us to cover demons with the Aurors too?” Sam asked. “Because I’m not sure... I was thinking of just making one lesson plan for both, but the kids are what? Eleven?”

“The youngest are, yeah,” Harry answered. “Maybe just do demons with the older ones.”

They lapsed into a conversation about what to include and not to include with both the Aurors and the children at Hogwarts. Harry and Dean still washing dishes, while Sam sat at the table flipping through old leather bound books and making notes. Harry could have just flicked his wand at the dishes and had them wash themselves, but he didn’t want to inundate the Winchesters with too much magic right away. When the dishes were washed, dried, and put away, Harry and Dean moved to the table to help Sam leaf through the journals and plan out the essentials of what they should be teaching both groups.

Ginny joined them once she had gotten the children down for their afternoon nap and the conversation shifted to what the Winchesters might like to see while they were in London. The Winchesters didn’t seem to know much about London attractions, not that Harry was surprised. They both admitted that between their job, Dean’s fear of flying, and their car full of illegal weapons, they had both resigned themselves to the idea that they would never see anything outside of the US. Ginny immediately began to plan out an itinerary for the weekend, insisting that the Winchesters not worry about the Auror business until Monday. The time passed quickly, and before Harry knew it, soft chimes filled the air in the kitchen. 

“That’ll be Lily,” Ginny said, just as a slightly different melody joined with the first. “And there’s James, who will no doubt wake Albus.”

“Where…?” Dean said, cocking his head to listen to the chimes as though trying to find their source.

“Ginny puts a charm on the children’s beds. It makes chimes sound in the study, our bedroom, and the kitchen when they wake up. There’s a slightly different melody for each.” Harry explained. 

“Go on and get them, Harry,” Ginny said. “I better put tea on. Hermione and Ron will be here shortly.”

Harry made his exit, stopping first at Lily’s room. He could already hear James and Albus on the floor above – the doors of their bedrooms open and their voices carrying down the stairs. It sounded like harmless playing, nothing had dissolved into arguments over toys yet, so Harry took his time changing Lily and making sure she was happy and smiling before he made his way up to the boys’ rooms. 

Harry couldn’t help how his mind circled around the Winchesters. There were so many questions he wanted to ask them, but didn’t know how he could. Firstly, they looked exhausted and this was all supposed to be a ruse to trick them into resting. Harry wasn’t sure how he could be successful where their friend Bobby had failed, but he’d do his best. Secondly, asking the Winchesters anything about the apocalypse would probably be like pulling grenade pins. 

He collected James and Albus, telling them to pick some toys to bring down to the living room. Harry wondered if maybe he was being careless, inviting the Hunters into his home. Sam and Dean were friends though, and educated on wizards now, thanks to last year’s events. But still – they were Hunters that seemed to have both Heaven and Hell against them. Maybe Harry was just inviting trouble.

When friends ask for help, even indirectly, you give it, Harry reminded himself, and then broke up the fight brewing between James and Albus about who got to carry the toy train downstairs.

He finally got the children to the bottom of the staircase, when he saw the brief flash of light from the open kitchen door that signaled a floo arrival. 

“WHAT THE FUCK?” Dean’s voice came immediately afterwards.

“Daddy,” James said in a whisper, “your friend said a bad word!”

“I know, James,” Harry replied cringing. “Daddy really should have warned his friends about how Aunt Hermione and Uncle Ron would be arriving.”

Chapter Text

*a few minutes previously*

“Are you sure you don’t need any help?” Sam asked Ginny, trying to remember what ‘tea’ usually involved. Dean has already offered her an extra set of hands, but had been declined. Still, they were unaccustomed to being house-guests. Bobby’s was more of a fend-for-yourself type of place, unless you were laid up. 

“I’m sure, Sam. It’s just tea and jam, nothing fancy,” Ginny replied. 

“Are we having crumpets?” Dean asked as though he was both intrigued and horrified by the idea. Sam cringed and closed his eyes, but Ginny’s soft laughter echoing through the cavernous kitchen quickly put him back at ease.

“No, sorry, maybe tomorrow,” Ginny said, and threw a wink towards Dean that got a genuine smile back.

“Awesome.”

Sam watched as Ginny pulled down some plates from the cupboar, and then moved to the fridge to retrieve a large mason jar.

“So, Ginny...” Sam said. “What do you do? I mean, are you a stay at home mom, or an Auror like Harry and Ron, or um...a lawyer?...like Hermione, or do you have some other job?”

“I’m a sports reporter,” Ginny answered with a smile.

“No way,” Dean replied. “Not only are you attractive, but you’re into sports? Man, Harry’s one lucky man.”

“I used to be a professional athlete,” Ginny continued, her smile broadened knowingly as Dean’s eyebrows shot up. “Harry kind of ruined that by knocking me up a bit earlier than we had planned, but I had a good few years with the team, and I certainly wouldn’t trade James for more. The game can be pretty brutal, so most players only last a few years on the professional level anyway.”

“What sport-” Sam started to ask, but stopped mid question as the fire in the oversized fireplace suddenly roared to a height of over five feet and turned green. 

“Oh Ron’s-“ Ginny started to say, just as Sam heard Dean’s chair scrape backwards against the floor, his hand moving towards his coat pocket. Sam immediately leapt to his feet as well, calculating the distance between Ginny and the fireplace. Dean would take point, he always took point – Sam was in charge of the civilians...

The green fire took the shape of a man holding something for an instant, and then the green fire disappeared altogether as Ron Weasley stepped out of the fireplace carrying a small girl with curly red hair.

“WHAT THE FUCK?!” Dean said, echoing Sam’s thoughts. Ron response was to break into a wide smile.

“Hi guys! I’m so glad you came! It’s nice to see you! Is that a gun?” Ron said all in one happy breath, obviously unaware of how fast Sam’s, and probably Dean’s, heart was pounding. Sam watched as Dean hastily shoved the gun back into his pocket.

“You said a bad word,” the little girl in Ron’s arms added sternly. Sam had a flashback to Hermione’s business-like demeanour, and would have laughed at the whole situation, if he wasn’t still half ready for a fight.

“Uh, I...” Dean said, “you...fire...”

As if on cue, the fire leaped up and turned green again. Sam found himself tensing all over again, even though logically he knew that if the first time was Ron than this was probably just...

Hermione stepped out of the fireplace carrying an adorably chubby baby. She gave the room one glance and then turned to Ginny.

“You didn’t think to warn them, did you,” she stated. “I told Harry, I should have known he wasn’t listening, the dolt. We should have arrived at the door. Did they almost shoot Ron? I can’t believe I let him go through with Rose. Stupid daft-“

“Sorry,” Ginny said, then turned to Sam and Dean. “I’m sorry – I should have warned you. I’ve never...I forget sometimes what’s...’normal’ and what’s just for wizards.”

“How can you not know that people materializing out of fire is not normal?” Dean asked, taking a deep breath and running a hand across his face. Sam took a calming breath as well. He caught the crestfallen expression on Ginny’s face though, and realized that Dean’s annoyance may have caused his tone to be a bit harsh.

“It’s alright,” Sam offered. “Now we know. Lesson learned. Wizards can materialize out of fire, and hu- uh, Muggles can’t.”

“It’s my fault,” Harry’s voice piped up from the doorway. “Sorry, Hermione. I was listening before. It just completely slipped my mind in all the excitement of actually having Sam and Dean here.” Harry moved across the room and kissed Ginny sweetly on the temple. “Sorry, Gin.”

“Well, now that Harry’s taken full responsibility for being an idiot, how about we try this again,” Hermione stated, breaking out into a smile. “Hello Sam, Hello Dean, it’s lovely to see you both again.”

“Hi, Hermione,” Sam said. “It’s nice to see you too. Sorry about...but yeah...” Sam searched for words to explain their heightened reflexes, “...we’ve kind of had...a rough...year...”

“Or two...or forty-five,” Dean added with a humourless chuckle, then shifted his attention to the girl in Ron’s arms, his next words were spoken with a smile and a softer voice. “Now, are you the beautiful Rose that snuck over to Uncle Bobby’s house?”

Rose’s comically open scepticism of them melted off her face at the mention of Uncle Bobby. Dean’s people skills may have suffered since Hell, but Sam was still impressed with his ability to talk to children. 

“I am!” Rose declared. “He gave me hugs and pie!”

Sam laughed and was surprised at the sudden pang of something that felt oddly like homesickness. 

“If that’s what you were looking for, then you went to the right place,” Dean confirmed. 

“I didn’t realize he was your uncle,” Ron said.

“Family doesn’t end with blood,” Sam recited. Dean didn’t look over, but Sam knew the soft smile on his face was for him.

“Well, James, Albus, and Lily are in the living room, probably wondering where their cousins are,” Harry said. “Go make yourselves comfortable and Ginny and I will bring out the tea.”

*

When Harry came in carrying the tray of food – Ginny carried the tea, as she seemed convinced Harry would end up spilling it if he tried – Ron seemed to be in the middle of explaining his childhood to Sam and Dean. Harry’s boys and Rose were playing happily on the carpet by the window, and Hugo and Lily were passing stuffed toys back and forth in the playpen in the corner. Sam and Dean were sitting on the loveseat while Ron and Hermione had taken two-thirds of the couch. 

“...Harry was really the first person I met who knew anything about Muggles, and well...” Ron was saying, shooting Harry a look, as though he regretted that Harry had just walked into the room. “...Special circumstances with Harry of course, didn’t want to talk much about it...and we were on our way to a wizarding school anyway, so it was mostly me explaining my life to him, you see. I got glimpses, of course, over the years – had to rescue Harry from that house a couple of times, eh, Harry? But I only ever did see it briefly. And Ginny wasn’t there that time we came by floo. ‘S why she didn’t remember to warn you, I’m sure. You remember that, Harry?”

Harry smiled at the memory, sitting on the couch beside Ron. Ginny sat in the chair next to Hermione’s end of the couch. 

“Before fourth year, yeah,” Harry replied. He turned to Dean and Sam, who had been listening to Ron in slight disbelief. “The Dursleys had boarded up the fireplace. Ron and his family all got stuck behind the boards. They had to blast their way out.”

“Yeah, yeah!” Ron said, smiling brightly. “The Dursleys ended up covered in plaster dust and were too shocked to say anything, which, given how they are, I figure was really for the best. Then, my brothers, they played a joke on his cousin – dropped a candy on the floor for him to eat, and it made his tongue all swell up and grow long. It was brilliant, or at least, the way Harry tells it sounds brilliant – he didn’t take the bait ‘til Fred, George and I had already left.” Ron’s smile grew wistful for a moment, then his eyes darted to Harry’s as he leaned forward to add some milk to his tea. “How was your visit with your cousin this holiday anyway, Harry?”

“Awkward, as always,” Harry replied. He saw Dean and Sam’s heads turn towards him out of the corner of his eye, but kept his gaze on the little snack he had prepared for himself while Ron had been speaking.

“You still visit him?” Dean asked, “I didn’t think...I mean, before, when you...”

Harry shrugged, knowing what Dean was trying to say. He knew a lot of people didn’t really understand why he made the effort with Dudley. George often asked him why he didn’t just cut him out of his life completely, as he had Uncle Vernon. 

“He was raised to treat me like that,” Harry answered before Dean could figure out how to formulate his question. “It wasn’t really his fault. You know, his parents treated me like that, so he did. Maybe he thought everyone’s cousins got treated poorly, who knows...I’ve never asked him. He’s... he tries now. I think he just reached that age where he realized that it was possible that his parents had been wrong about something. He actually worried about me during the war. I never thought... anyway, he tries, so I try. It’s only fair.”

Dean and Sam both nodded, and Harry realised that they really did seem to understand. He was grateful.

“Yeah, I kinda...” Dean started. “Well, last year when we met you – I couldn’t help but wonder if my Dad would’ve just killed you on the spot, you know?”

Harry would have laughed at how all the wizards in the room paused momentarily in eating at Dean’s words, while Sam just cringed and looked at Harry apologetically; but Harry couldn’t help but wonder how close to death he had been at any given moment while he had been with the Winchesters. He darted a quick glance over to his children.

“Not that I was going to or anything,” Dean clarified. “I just...Sam and me, we were sort of raised where if it’s not human...”

“We’re human,” Hermione said. Now it was Dean’s turn to cringe.

“We know,” Sam said. “What Dean means is that our Dad-”

“He might not have waited long enough to find out,” Harry guessed. 

“Exactly,” Dean said with a relieved smile. 

It was hard to keep the conversation flowing after that, and Harry fidgeted in the moment of awkward silence. Of course, it wasn’t completely silent, James and Albus were arguing about the trains again, with Rose playing mediator.

“So,” Dean said, finally, “now that Ron’s here, should we get down to business?”

“Business?” Harry asked, then remembered the reason he had given Sam and Dean for their visit. “Oh, um, it’s nothing really. It could wait.”

Harry watched as Dean frowned and looked over at the kids. Sam was fidgeting with his tea cup, which looked like it was from a child’s tea-set in Sam’s large hands. Harry wondered what would happen if he stood Sam up next to Hagrid.

“They’re not paying attention,” Dean said, and Harry glanced over at him confused. “They won’t hear. Just a brief rundown, Harry, please.”

“Okay... yes, alright,” Harry said, as a slow realization dawned on him. Hermione furrowed her eyebrows at him, but Harry ignored it. He wondered what his reaction would have been if someone had shown up at their tent during the war and made them sit and have tea and make small talk. Forcing the Winchesters into a week’s vacation would be impossible – all he could really hope to do was try to have them move at a more relaxed pace. 

“The files are in the study, I’ll just go get them,” Harry said, rising. “Ron, could you muffle this half of the room, just in case the kids start listening?”

“Sure,” Ron said, pulling out his wand. Harry had been trying to limit the amount of magic in the house, hoping it would put Sam and Dean more at ease, but he figured they’d have to start using magic in front of the Winchesters at some point. He might as well ease them in with a simple charm that they’d seen before. He took the stairs two at a time, grabbed the file from the top of his desk, and was back in less than a minute. 

Hermione was still looking at him a little disapprovingly, but Ginny and Ron seemed interested in what Sam and Dean would say about the occurrences. One of the events had hit closer to home for them, after all. Harry laid out the file on the coffee table and started leafing through the various incident reports inside.

“So, um, right... May 15th is when...” Harry glanced up at Sam, because it suddenly occurred to him that he was sitting with an eye-witness, possibly two. And yes, half the Ministry's known Seers all went into trances at exactly 5am on May 15th, while the other half woke up with equally prophetic dreams, but Harry was sitting in front of two people who knew exactly what happened.

“Yes,” Sam said. “Uh, midnight for us. I...” Sam’s gaze darted to Ron, Hermione and Ginny, and he didn’t complete his sentence. Dean’s lips were a thin line.

“Right,” Harry said. “So, the only unnerving thing after that was actually just how normal everything was. There was nothing all summer.”

“Yeah,” Dean said. “It was similar for us. War – the Horseman - turned up about a week after, but then it was just the usual stuff all summer. Found another Vamp nest, which is pretty rare, but other than that...”

Sam breathed a relieved sounding sigh, and Harry wondered if he had suffered memory loss or something, because it sounded like hadn’t known.

“Demon activity increased,” Sam added. “There was a major demon dust-up in Oklahoma. Lost at least one Hunter. That was in August. Then um, yeah things were... alright... until Carthage.”

“Right,” Dean said, frowning slightly at Sam, before turning his attention back to Harry. “So, what’s happened to change the business-as-usual status here then?”

“Oh,” Harry said, and locked back down at the papers in his hand. “Right, well, as you may remember, Wizards don’t usually have much trouble with vengeful spirits, violent poltergeists, or well, any of the stuff you fellows usually have to deal with. We always figured it was something about the magic that kept them away. Same as there’s something about the magic that prevents wizard ghosts from becoming vengeful spirits and makes lycanthropy in wizards manageable.”

“Right,” Sam said. “And that’s changed?”

“A couple of months ago, a witch named Natasha Jones was attacked by a vengeful spirit in her home,” Harry handed over the incident report. “It was a fatal attack. We weren’t able to find what had provoked it.”

“Wait,” Dean interrupted. “This ghost is still there? You didn’t do a salt and burn?”

“No, we did,” Harry said, and he watched as Dean relaxed. “I just meant that we don’t know why the ghost attacked. It was a previous Muggle occupant of the house. Ms. Jones didn’t appear to have done anything to provoke the spirit, and Ms. Jones was hardly the first resident of the house since the Muggle’s death.”

“Okay, yeah,” Dean said. “That's odd.”

“Right,” Harry said. “But she was the first occupant since... May.”

“What else has been happening?” Sam asked softly, looking past the file on Natasha Jones towards the rest of the reports.

“The next thing was a werewolf,” Harry said. “One of yours.”

“Ours?”

“Muggle,” Harry clarified, “not a Wizard, unstable and dangerous. It was found prowling... what should have been a safe neighbourhood.” Harry’s grip tightened on the paper reflexively, as he remembered interrogating the poor Muggle after they had caught him. “Of course, the fellow couldn’t remember what he had been doing. We couldn’t find out how it had happened, or what he was doing in that neighbourhood of all places.”

“Why does the neighbourhood matter?” Dean asked slowly. Harry took a deep breath. 

“It was a family friend that found him,” Harry explained. “He was on his way to visit Andromeda and Teddy. I just...”

“I get it,” Dean said. “Did your friend get hurt?”

“No, thankfully he’s an ex-Auror and his reflexes are still sharp,” Harry said. “No one was injured. But the fact that it was there at all is troubling. Werewolves are rare, especially Muggle ones.”

“What else?” Dean asked.

“A handful of vengeful spirits," Harry said. “All in rather quick succession. Thankfully no fatalities, but there were a few serious injuries. Again, same pattern as with the first vengeful spirit victim – no apparent provocation, and no past spirit activity even though some of the spirits were centuries old. We did the best we could, but some of those bones were just dust.”

“Then a few weeks ago, our ghoul went crazy,” Ron said. Picking up the incident report they were all too familiar with. “It attacked my Mum.”

“Is she okay?” Dean asked, concerned eyes on Ron. Sam’s bemused expression fell into a look of concern as well at Ron’s words.

“Yes, she ended up killing it though,” Ron answered. “She was quite upset about the whole thing.”

“I’m-” Dean started to say, but Sam cut him, the confused expression back on his face.

“What do you mean your ghoul?” Sam asked, and Harry hoped he was imagining the dangerous edge to his voice. Maybe he was, because Ron didn’t seem to pick up on it, though both the girls looked a little tense, especially now that Dean was also looking at Ron warily.

“Our family’s ghoul,” Ron clarified. “We’d had it for ages. It lived in the attic above my bedroom.”

Sam’s jaw clenched and both Winchesters stared at Ron as if he had just told them he had Lucifer over for tea the other day. Sam looked ready to throw a punch, while Dean just looked like he thought Ron might be dangerously insane.

“You do know that ghouls eat corpses... people, right?” Dean asked slowly.

“And mice, and bugs, and anything they can get their hands on,” Ron answered. “With the ghoul gone, Mum figures she’ll have to get a cat.”

Now Dean was looking at Harry, Hermione, and even Ginny like he was reassessing them as people. Sam still looked like he wanted to hit something.

“You keep pet ghouls?” Sam asked, a little too calmly. “Is there a ghoul in this house now?”

Ron seemed to clue in then that he had said something wrong, but Sam wasn’t looking at him. He was looking at Harry.

“No,” Harry said. “We don’t have one. They... aren’t pets. In older wizarding houses, they just sort of... move in.”

“And you let them?” Dean asked, dividing his attention between glaring at the Wizards in the room as though they were stupid and looking at Sam in slight concern.

“Worse he ever did was bang pipes when I was trying to sleep,” Ron shrugged. “They aren’t normally dangerous. Stupid buggers, after all, aren’t they. Ours couldn’t even talk, just banged the pipes when he thought it was too quiet. Well, ‘til he went nuts and attacked Mum, anyway.”

“Why-” Harry cut himself off, he wasn’t sure how to phrase this question. ‘why is this such a big deal?’ seemed a bit condescending.

“Not all of them are stupid,” Dean said slowly, “I really don’t think you should let them into your houses. So don’t do it anymore, understand?”

“Yes, okay, we won’t,” Harry said immediately. 

“Can I ask...” Hermione said in what Harry liked to call her ‘diplomatic’ voice, all soft, smooth and unassuming. “...why are they dangerous?” Thankfully Hermione was a little quicker at reading facial expressions than Ron, and quickly added, “It’s just we’ve never had trouble with them before.”

“Sam?” Dean said, and of all things, Harry wasn’t quite sure why Dean was reaching for his brother’s hand. Dean tugged Sam’s arm straight and turned it so that the most vulnerable side was exposed. Sam tightened his jaw, but turned his other arm to match. 

“Do you see this scar here?” Dean asked, running his finger down the inside of Sam’s forearm for a considerable length. “And its partner on the other side?” Dean nodded towards Sam’s other arm. 

Harry nodded, because now that Dean pointed them out, he could see the two fine white lines. It almost looked like Sam had tried to kill himself, though they were slightly too high up for that. 

“Two ghouls,” Dean explained. “Tied him up and bled him.”

“Oh,” Ron said.

“It was after they killed our brother,” Sam added. 

The silence would have been deafening, had James and Albus not been making adorable choo-choo noises across the room. Though, Harry thought, perhaps that made the moment even more horrifyingly awkward.

“If you’ll excuse me,” Sam said, and walked out of the room and up the stairs before Harry could even nod numbly at him.

“So!” Dean said, clapping his hands together. “What have we learned?”

“Ghouls are dangerous,” Ron replied.

“That’s right, glad we had this chat,” Dean said. “So, the ghoul attacking your mother - that was the most recent supernatural activity?”

Harry nodded, then cleared his throat and said, “Ah, no, wait, there was also a malevolent poltergeist just the other week.”

“Ok,” Dean said, and he pulled all the incident reports over towards his side of the coffee table and started to lay them out in chronological order. “We have to figure out what the connection is. Laptop ain’t going to work in your house, is it? I’ll just go get my notebook. We’ll have to do this one like we did when we were kids.” 

“Connection?” Harry said, still stuck on the first part of Dean’s ramble. “They’re all isolated incidents - completely different spirits, creatures, and locations.”

Dean paused halfway to standing, then sat back down and leveled a patient look towards Harry. “Yeah,” he said, “but they’re all happening now. Why?”

“The apocalypse?” Harry answered, surprised by the uncertainty in his own voice.

“No,” Dean said, shaking his head. Harry waited to hear the correct answer, while trying to put a name to the feeling that had taken hold of him. “I know it’s not like any of us have been through an apocalypse before, so we don’t really know the rules for certain – but from what I’ve seen, it doesn’t work that way. There’s something behind all this, and we need to find it. You brought us over here to teach you how to protect yourself, right?” 

“Yes,” Harry said.

“Well, here’s your first lesson in protecting yourself,” Dean motioned to the reports laid out on the coffee table in front of him.“You’ve been treating the symptoms, not the disease. If you really want to stay safe, you have to figure out the connection and that will tell you what evil you’re really up against.”

“Oh,” Harry said.

“I’m going to go find our notebooks,” Dean said, standing. “Sam’s good at making connections – most of the time, anyway.”

Dean left the room. Harry sighed and leaned back against the couch.

“How long was that?” Harry asked.

“What?” Ron replied.

“How long did it take for us to completely put our foot in it and then feel like idiots?” Harry elaborated.

“I do rather feel like I just answered a question wrong in class,” Hermione said. “Not that that’s ever happened before.” Harry realized that yes, that was what he was feeling – like he was back in Remus’ DADA classroom and had gotten a question wrong and he was wishing that he had gotten it right so that Remus would be proud of him – instead of possibly thinking he was an idiot.

“Six hours,” Ginny answered. “I don’t think it was all that bad though, I mean... how were you to know really? And I don’t think Dean thinks any less of you, dear.”

“I can’t believe there was another one of them,” Ron said, before Harry could thank his wife for knowing him so well. Harry tried to imagine. He wondered what the guy had looked like, if he had been older or younger, if he had had Sam’s quiet tension or Dean’s intense energy.

Sam’s heavy footsteps descended the stairs at that moment, raising an eyebrow at Dean’s absence.

“Dean's getting the notebooks,” Harry said as soon as Sam was far enough inside the room to not be affected by the muffliato charm anymore. 

“Sorry about before,” Hermione said. “I wasn’t aware... I mean, it didn’t say anything in your file, or even those books-“

“'s okay,” Sam said. “We didn’t know either ‘til it was too late. Seemed like a good kid though; he was pre-med.”

Dean came back in the room then, carrying the notebooks they’d left in the kitchen. 

“What was his name?” Hermione asked tentatively. Ginny started gathering up the empty cups and plates, Harry saw Ron give her a look of slight confusion, but Ginny just shook her head at him. Harry had neglected to tell Ron and Hermione about his decision to keep magic to a minimum while the Winchester’s were visiting.

“Adam,” Dean said as he sat down. Harry’s eyes snapped to Dean’s, but Dean didn’t look at him. Instead, Dean gathered up half of the reports and handed them to Sam. “So, divide and conquer.”

“Looking for the connection?” Sam asked, as though the conversation about their brother had never taken place.

“Yup,” Dean said. “You focus on the vengeful spirits, I’ll take the monsters and poltergeists. Then we’ll compare notes.”

“Sounds good,” Sam said.

“So, this ghoul..." Dean started, and Harry listened with half an ear as Dean rattled off questions and Ron answered. He couldn’t wrap his head around the idea of a third Winchester, a third - obviously younger -Winchester... who Sam thought had been a good kid, and who Dean thought was better off dead. Harry starred at the Winchesters. He looked at the way their knees touched in the middle of the love seat, even though Dean had his body angled forward while he talked to Ron while Sam sprawled backwards flipping though the vengeful spirit reports. He thought of the previous year – of a knife being held to his throat after Dean went from asleep to attacking in less than a second, of how Sam had tried so hard to protect his brother that he very nearly killed him. He took in the tired lines under their eyes, the desperate exhaustion that clung to them, and the intelligent, determined, and dangerous look in their eyes. Harry decided they were probably both right about their younger brother. 

Hermione caught Harry’s eye and gave him a sad smile and a small shrug. Six hours – and the Winchesters were already hard at work. So much for a vacation.

Chapter Text

A half hour later, Dean suddenly cut himself off mid-sentence and turned his attention towards the other side of the room a half-second before Albus started crying. Harry was halfway out of his seat, when Albus ran over to him on his own.

“What happened?” Harry asked swooping Albus up onto his lap, but Albus was sobbing too hard to form intelligible words.

“James hit him,” Dean said. Albus nodded and stared at Dean with large sad eyes.

“James!” Harry called, but when he looked over and saw James’ guilty, yet slight confused face, he remembered the muffling charm. He sighed and stood, intending to pass Albus off to Ginny, so he could go talk to James, but realized that Ginny had slipped off to the kitchen again. Before he could figure out what to do, Albus weight was lifted out of his arms. 

“Thanks,” Harry said quickly and walked over to James. James now had large watery-eyes of his own, knowing full well that he wasn’t supposed to hit his brother. Rose looked eager to tell her Uncle Harry exactly what had happened – she loved telling on her cousins a little too much. Harry gave her a smile, but was sure to only address James when he asked questions. After James was finished defending himself, poorly, Harry confiscated the train they had once again been arguing over and reminded James to use his words not his fists. He left James pouting about the train and Rose trying to cheer him up by declaring that now they could play with her dolls.

It wasn’t until Harry was walking back across the room to rejoin the adults that he realized it had been Dean who had taken Albus out of his arms before. Now Dean sat with Albus on his lap, right arm wrapped around him and head bent low. Albus’s face was still blotchy, but his eyes were dry and he was smiling. Albus, who usually shied away from strangers, looked perfectly content and comfortable, giggling occasionally at whatever story Dean was whispering into his ear. 

“...and then I put Nair in Sammy’s shampoo... that’s like a... potion... that makes your hair fall out,” Dean was saying. Harry’s eyes flicked over to Sam, who was still reading, but Harry doubted that there was anything in the incident reports that would cause Sam to bite his lip and roll his eyes that much, so there was little doubt Sam was listening.

“...and that’s when our Dad made us stop, so I won the prank war,” Dean continued, which earned a huff and a shake of the head from Sam. “Even though I totally won the prank war, it didn’t mean that I didn’t still care about him or that I wouldn’t beat up anyone who hurt him. And sometimes I still hit him when he’s being a little bi...t annoying, but it usually just hurts my hand, because Sammy is built like a brick wall.”

“Touching,” Sam deadpanned.

“My point is,” Dean said a little louder now. “James still loves you. Now, why don’t you go over there and rescue him. I think your cousin is making him play with dolls.”

“I like dolls,” Albus said, smiling and looking across the room towards his brother.

“And there’s nothing wrong with that,” Dean declared without missing a beat. “Now, go over there and torture your poor older brother.”

Albus laughed and slipped off Dean’s lap. Harry snagged him as he went to walk by, wanting to make sure he was alright, since he didn’t know how hard or where James had hit him.

“Hey, Shorty, are you okay?” 

“Yes, Daddy,” Albus said with an exaggerated eye-roll. “I’m fine.”

“Ok, just asking,” Harry muttered and let Albus go. “I thought they weren’t supposed to treat me like an idiot until they were teenagers,” Harry muttered once Albus had run off to rejoin his brother.

“Dude,” Dean said with a laugh, “I think Sam’s first words were chosen to give our dad lip.”

“My first word was ‘car’, Dean,” Sam said.

“The kid really is fine, Harry. Just had his feelings hurt,” Dean said, ignoring Sam completely.

“Ok, well, thanks for cheering him up,” Harry replied. “So, any luck yet with the reports?”

“Not really,” Dean answered. “We’ll probably have to do a bit more leg work.”

“All the ghosts were Muggle ghosts,” Sam said. “You haven’t had any trouble with Wizard ghosts?”

“Well, no, like I said before, Wizard ghosts are different. They don’t become violent and they aren’t dangerous,” Harry answered.

“But that’s also what you thought about ghouls,” Sam threw back.

“One ghoul going bad, doesn’t mean everything we know is wrong,” Ron answered. “It’s special circumstances.”

“The theory that it’s due to the apocalypse?” Dean asked.

“Well, yeah,” Ron replied.

“Well, even if that theory is true... which, I don’t think it is, but I suppose it’s a remote possibility. What’s to say that the next thing to go bad won’t be a wizard ghost?”

Harry watched as Ron opened his mouth to argue and then snapped it shut again.

“Fair point,” Hermione said into the silence, “but it’s been months and none of them have. You’d think if they were going to, they would have by now.”

“Which is why I don’t think the ghoul attacking your mother is because of the apocalypse either,” Dean concluded. “After years of living above a child’s bedroom – easy fuckin’ prey - and then several months of staying passive after Lucifer got loose, why did it choose to attack when it did? Something else had to have provoked it - something more immediate. ”

“It’s the same with the ghosts,” Sam said. “Did you check the neighbourhood, see if there were other people with similar ghost problems?”

“Well, no,” Harry said. “I mean, I think in every case it was a predominantly Muggle neighbourhood, they wouldn’t have known to report it to us. They don’t even know we exist.”

“Civilians don’t know we exist either,” Dean said. “But we know they do, and we can find a problem without them having to report it.”

“Usually there has to be at least one fatality that makes the news, in order for us to find a case,” Sam added, then picked up Natasha Jones’ incident report. “But it looks like if civilians were affected to, it’d be pretty easy to find out.” 

“Of course,” Harry said. “So, you’ll need the Muggle newspapers for the past few months?”

“What I need,” Sam said with a pleading look, “is a wireless connection and a place to use my laptop.”

“Aww, Sammy, sick of researching the old way already?” Dean said. “You used to love the make-the-connection game as a kid.”

“I liked it better than sparring, that hardly implies love,” Sam replied with a roll of his eyes.

“I’ve got a computer in the garden shed,” Harry said. “It’s connected to the internet. Would that be alright?”

“Whatever I can get, man,” Sam said with a relieved smile.

“Well, we should be off,” Hermione declared, rising. “It’s so nice having you two here. We’ll see you tomorrow, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Dean said, standing as well.

“Brilliant,” Ron smiled, then waved his wand to get rid of the muffling charm. He called to Rose that it was time to go, but she responded with an adamant “No!” so Ron sighed and walked over to hopefully extract her from her cousins without anyone throwing a tantrum. 

“Oh, hey, Hermione?” Dean asked, before Hermione could move to join Ron. “Harry mentioned that you read about the first seal in a book. Do you happen to remember what the book was called? I know it’s old news now, but nothing we have mentions it, so I was thinking there might be other useful information in whatever book you found it in.”

“Oh,” Hermione said, and Harry felt his breath catch. He didn’t even have time to think ‘Hermione, no!’ before she continued, “I don’t think I remember, but Castiel would know.”

“Cas?” Dean asked. Harry’s heart lurched, and his eyes flew to where Ron was crouched on the other side of the room out of reflex. Harry wasn’t sure how Ron knew, but in that second Ron’s gaze shifted from a stubborn Rose over to Harry, and in the next instant he was standing and moving back towards the Winchesters with a deceptively calm expression on his face.

“Yes,” Hermione continued much to Harry’s dismay. “He’s the one that found it. It was in the library at Veracruz. Maybe it’s not available to Muggles, but I’m sure if you knew the title you’d-“

“Veracruz?” Dean asked. Now even Hermione could hear the hard edge to his voice. Sam was still sitting, but his hands were now braced against the furniture, his body ready to stand and move at a moment’s notice. Harry wasn’t sure how this was going to go.

“The... the wizard library at Veracruz” Hermione answered quietly. “Castiel... found me the book, when...”

“You knew then?” Dean asked. “Those days we spent in that farm house. You knew the whole time?”

“We didn’t know if you knew or not,” Harry threw in, then tried not to flinch when Dean turned his focus to Harry. At least his sole attention wasn’t on Hermione any more.

“You didn’t think to ask?” Dean replied incredulously. 

“We...” Hermione said. Ron shifted on his feet just behind Dean. Harry could see the wand in Ron’s hand held loose and ready at his side. “...if you didn’t know... we didn’t know if we could... how could we possibly tell you that?”

“Did it not occur to you,” Dean grit out, “that maybe it would have been better to hear it from friends, instead of-“ Dean cut himself off and turned on the spot, taking one step towards the door and nearly running right into Ron. 

“Did you know too?” Dean asked Ron, “that whole time at the farmhouse?”

“No,” Ron said, wide-eyed, wary, but genuinely innocent. “She didn’t tell me ‘til after you left. I swear I didn’t know until you were gone.”

“Hm,” Dean said, and then shouldered passed Ron and towards the front door. “I need some air,” he continued, voice angry and low, “don’t wait up.”

The slam of the heavy front door caused two things to happen. First, both Hugo and Lily burst into tears on the other side of the room, and secondly Ginny came running out of the kitchen with her wand drawn. 

She came to a stop in the open archway into the room, and Harry could see her eyes count the people in the room before she tucked her wand back into her pocket and walked over towards Lily. Ron followed her to tend to Hugo. James, Albus, and Rose were sitting wide-eyed in the corner, dolls and toys forgotten on the floor in front of them. Harry wished they had left the muffling charm up, though he knew that the children would probably be able to sense the tension in the room anyway. Hermione looked devastated.

Sam stood slowly, and Harry heard Hermione gasp and turn to him. He wondered how many of them had forgotten Sam was in the room. 

“Sam,” Hermione said. “I’m sorry.”

“Hey, it’s alright,” Sam said gently. “He’ll be alright.” Sam made sure to catch Ron’s eye as he came back over bouncing Hugo in his arms, and then Sam glanced at Harry too. “Thanks for not attacking him. He was just angry. He wouldn’t have hurt her.”

“We wouldn’t have-” Harry started to say.

“If you had done that freezing thing, you’d have only made things worse,” Sam explained, as if he knew Harry was about to reassure him that they wouldn’t have hurt Dean either.

Sam looked towards the window. Ginny was standing there making shushing noises at Lily.

“The car?” Sam asked.

“Still there,” Ginny answered. “Wherever he’s gone, it’s on foot.”

“Good,” Sam said.

“Sam,” Hermione said tentatively into the awkward silence. “How did he find out? Who was it that told him in the end?”

Sam grimaced, and gave Hermione a sympathetic look. Harry knew that whatever the answer was, Sam knew she would wish she hadn’t asked.

“Tell me,” Hermione demanded, jaw clenched in a familiar way.

“Alistair told him,” Sam said.

“And who-” Hermione started.

“The demon that broke him,” Sam answered, before she could finish the question. Hermione hand flew to her mouth and her eyes widened. Harry felt his heart lurch in his chest. “He told him, and then he beat Dean to pulp. And I made a lot of mistakes last year, a lot of goddamn mistakes – but it felt good to kill that son of a bitch with my bare hands, and I do not regret it. Not in the least.”

Sam’s voice had risen while he talked, until by the end his words were clipped and stern, his jaw clenched and his eyes watery. Harry nodded at Sam numbly. 

“Okay, Sam,” Harry said.

“Okay,” Sam echoed, as though they had reached some important understanding. 

“Should someone go after him?” Ron asked. “I mean, he doesn’t know London.”

“Don’t worry,” Sam answered with a small smile. “Dean always remembers the way back to the car. He won’t get lost.”

“If you’re sure,” Ron said. “I could always do a quick tracking spell and find him.”

“A what?” Sam asked.

“Auror trick, if someone just left a place, you can track them,” Ron explained, shifting Hugo on his hip, so that he could draw out his wand.  “I’ll show you,” Ron held his wand in front of him, and muttered the Latin for the standard tracking spell. He let go of his wand as it began to hover in the air in front of him, then quickly intercepted Hugo’s baby hands as he tried to reach for it. Harry knew Sam had seen this before, since Harry had used it the previous year to follow his Auror team with the Winchesters. Instead of pointing to Dean like a compass would point to magnetic north, the wand spun lazily in circles, never resting.

“Um, that’s strange” Ron said. “It should’ve found him by now.”

“Try tracking me,” Sam said. 

Ron snatched his wand out of the air and said the spell again, this time for Sam. Only even though they could all see Sam standing right there, the wand just spun in lazy circles as though Sam Winchester didn’t exist.

“How... why?” Ron asked, a little befuddled.

“Apparently Enochian works on magic too,” Sam said, now openly pleased, a hand splayed out across his chest. “Dean and I are both invisible to the eyes of Heaven... and apparently Wizards. Cas tattooed our ribs... well, carved into them, more like.”

“Enochian...” Hermione mumbled, and Harry could tell that her mind was already going a mile a minute with possible books to read.

“Wow,” Ron said dumbly, then picked his spinning wand out of the air. “I guess uh, Dean’s on his own then.”

“Do you think we should stay in case he comes back? Or leave?” Hermione said, her mind once again shifting to the immediate problem. “Do you think he’ll not want to ever see us again? Should we not come over tomorrow? Oh dear.”

“I’ll talk to him when he gets back,” Sam said. “You couldn’t have known.”

“Alright, just let us know if we should make ourselves scarce,” Ron told Sam, but Harry could see his disappointment at the possibility. Ron had been looking forward to seeing Dean again ever since Harry had arranged the visit.

Hermione and Ron gathered up the kids and went home. Sam watched in fascination as they used the floo powder and disappeared in the green flame. 

“Dean’s going to be gone for a couple of hours,” Sam told Harry and Ginny. “Do y’all mind if I get some sleep while he’s out?”

“What about supper?” Ginny asked. 

“I’m not hungry, and I haven’t slept in two days,” Sam said, and Harry watched in concern as Sam seemed to let go of the force of will that was keeping him conscious. “I haven’t slept in a bed for even longer. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that bed upstairs since you showed it to me.”

“Bloody hell, Sam,” Harry said. “Why didn’t you two say something? You didn’t have to stay awake all afternoon for us.”

Sam levelled Harry with a look as though he should already know the answer to his question.

“I try to sleep while he drives,” Sam said by way of an answer.

“Oh,” Harry replied.

“I’ll make up two plates, and put them in the fridge, in case you wake hungry later, or if Dean doesn’t eat while he’s out,” Ginny said. “You’ll... have to eat it cold though.”

“Don’t go to any trouble,” Sam said, but Harry could see him glance at the stove curiously. Harry knew he’d have to explain at some point that Wizard houses weren’t hooked up to electricity or gas, but he didn’t think now was the time. Thankfully he had charmed the lights in the house to work on switches, mostly just because that was what he was used to. It was a hell of a lot easier to find a switch when you were half asleep than it was to remember you were a wizard.

“It’s no trouble,” Ginny said. “You have a good sleep. We’ll try to keep the boys quiet.”

“Thanks, but don’t worry about your kids,” Sam smiled. “I’ve been in some pretty crappy motels. I’m a sound sleeper when I know I’m safe.”

“Alright, sleep well, Sam,” Harry said, not hiding his smile at Sam’s choice of words.

Sam gave them a wave and exited the kitchen, dodging Albus and James as they came running around the corner yelling at each other again. Ginny was already shushing them and telling them that Sam was trying to sleep before Sam even had time to make it up the stairs.

After distracting the boys with a package of crayons and some scrap parchment. Harry jumped up to sit on the kitchen counter, while Ginny debated what to make for dinner.

“Not going exactly as well as you hoped, is it?” Ginny said casually.

“Oh, I don’t know about that,” Harry considered. “Sam’s getting some rest and Dean’s out exploring London. Technically, those are things people do when on vacation.” 

“It’s why I love you,” Ginny said, laughing. “You’ve always been such an optimist.”

Chapter Text

For dinner Ginny cooked something that would taste just as good cold as it did warm. She made up two plates and put them in the fridge. She wondered if Sam or Dean would notice that the fridge was just an insulated cupboard with several permanent cooling charms. She knew that Muggle fridges tended to hum quietly like most of their machines.  

She and Harry fed the children, then chased them around for a bit trying to remind them to be quiet because Sam was sleeping. She could tell that for all Harry’s bravado, he was worried. The amount of times he glanced at the clock, or found a reason to go over to the front window gave him away. Ginny had to admit that she too was glancing out the front window as often as she could. By Sam’s reaction, it seemed that as long as Dean didn’t take the car, they didn’t have any reason to worry. So, naturally, Ginny breathed a sigh of relief whenever she confirmed that the car was still there.

Ginny put Lily to sleep, while Harry played with the boys. Then they shepherded the boys up the three flights of stairs to their rooms, making a game of taking the stairs as quietly as possible. Harry read to Albus, while Ginny read to James, and Ginny knew that they were both keeping an ear out for either of their houseguests moving about.

Once the boys were asleep, they made their way down to their bedroom. Ginny didn’t comment on the fact that Harry immediately went to the window to look down at the street below. He didn’t say anything, so Ginny assumed the car must still be there. They talked a little about the Winchesters - what time Harry thought they should leave in the morning for sightseeing, in what order they should see the sights of Muggle London – mundane things. Underneath all of it, Ginny knew Harry was really asking himself what he would do if Dean wasn’t there when they woke up. He was wondering how he could make things right again. He was worried because he also hadn’t told them about the prophecy. 

“At least Sam’s sleeping,” Harry was saying. “They look so tired, Ginny. Even more tired than last year. I didn’t think it was possible for Dean to sleep less, but apparently I was wrong. Two days? If Sam sleeps while Dean is driving, when does Dean sleep?”

“Maybe we should drug him,” Ginny suggested. “A sleep-draught.”

“He’d kill us,” Harry replied. “Sleep-draughts lock you in. If it’s bad dreams... if it’s Hell...”

“Mm,” Ginny agreed, remembering her own attempts at self-medication after the war – after the Carrows. There were dreamless potions, but there was always the chance of becoming addicted.

As Ginny went to pull the curtains closed, she couldn’t help but glance down at the car again, now covered in a light layer of snow. It was only because of the snow that she saw the footprints.

“I’ll be right back,” Ginny said casually. 

“Where are you going?” Harry asked, already in bed, and looking quite disappointed.

“I should have left instructions in the kitchen, in case Dean comes back hungry and doesn’t want to wake Sam,” Ginny said, slipping her wand into her pocket as she left the room. Harry seemed to be considering her answer, but Ginny didn’t wait around to find out if he realized she was lying.

Ginny silenced the creaky steps as she made her way quickly down the stairs. She slipped her bare feet into her winter boots, and grabbed Harry’s warmer coat out of the cupboard. She was relieved to see the car was still there when she opened the front door.

Ginny walked slowly up the walkway to the gate. At first she thought she had been wrong, that Dean may have just opened one of the car doors to get something and then gone away again – though, there hadn’t been a set of footprints leading away – but then she saw his head, slumped over and resting on the driver’s window.

Relieved, Ginny realized that he wasn’t about to drive off, as part of her feared he might – still, there was no reason for him to sleep in the car when there was a perfectly nice warm bed waiting for him inside. He didn’t stir when the snow crunched under her feet, as she walked around the back of the car, so that she could approach him from the passenger’s side. 

As she moved around the old black car, she couldn’t help but run her hand along it, dislodging the light layer of snow. The metal was cold to the touch, cold and smooth, and lifeless. Ginny had to wonder if maybe her father had been right all these years with his fascination and admiration of these Muggle contraptions, because Ginny knew – Harry had told her, and she had borrowed the books from Hermione – she knew how this car had sheltered a family for over 30 years, how it crisscrossed the vastness of North America, held bleeding bodies, provided escape and refuge. She couldn’t fathom how something could be used to such extreme limits, but could still seem so solid and strong under the streetlights, without having any sort of special magic in it.

She pulled Harry’s coat closed over her nightgown, and bent to peer into the window. Dean wasn’t asleep, he was just staring at his hand where it rested at the bottom of the steering wheel. Ginny knocked on the glass softly, and nearly jumped when Dean did. She took it as a good sign when there wasn’t a moment of hesitation before Dean was reaching across the wide front seat and opening the passenger door from the inside for her. The door gave a distinctive creak, as Ginny opened it wider and slipped into the car – the leather beneath her cold. 

“Nice car,” Ginny said, deciding it was as good an opening line as any.

“Thanks,” Dean answered, stroking a hand over the steering wheel. “She’s getting old.”

“Well, you’d never tell by looking at her,” Ginny reassured him, and was rewarded with a small smile. 

“Sam sleeping?” Dean asked. 

“Yeah,” Ginny said. “Where did you go?”

“Bar,” Dean replied. Ginny turned to study him, but he didn’t appear drunk. He smiled at her and shook his head, and Ginny knew the appraisal had been fairly obvious. “Most of our British cash is in Sam’s duffle,” Dean added in way of explanation.

“Oh,” Ginny said. She took a breath, trying to decide how to do this. Maybe she should have told Harry Dean was back, but she had thought that maybe it’d be better if whoever went to talk to him wasn’t one of the people he was currently angry with. Now though, Ginny was faced with the task of defending Harry and Hermione - against a Hunter no less –and she’d be lying if she said she wasn’t intimidated. Still, she hadn’t been sorted into Gryffindor just because she was a Weasley. 

“Harry tends to keep things to himself,” Ginny started to say. Dean chuckled bitterly. “No, just listen,” Ginny insisted. “I’m going somewhere with this. I’ve known Harry for a long time... I’ve loved Harry for a long time and he’s always preferred to keep things to himself. I suppose like most of his bad habits, I could probably blame it on his horrid aunt and uncle. But, my point is, Harry always kept everyone on a need to know basis, and in his opinion no one ever had to know anything.”

“Sounds like my Dad,” Dean said. “You really aren’t doing Harry any favours with this speech so far, just so you know.”

“I didn’t intend to,” Ginny replied with a smirk, though she was sure to hide her hands in the sleeves of her coat, so that her nerves didn’t show.

“Wow, with a wife like you...” Dean muttered, but left the phrase hanging. Ginny chose to ignore it.

“During the war, when Harry went off on his mission,” Ginny continued. “He refused to tell me what it was he was trying to do, where he was going, or when - or even if - he planned to return. But Ron and Hermione knew at least, I took comfort in that. How much did Harry tell you about the war, Dean?”

“Not much,” Dean said, staring blankly out the windscreen.

“Harry walked willingly to his death,” Ginny said, turning to stare out the windscreen as well. It was easier to talk about this if she didn’t look at Dean, especially since that comment made Dean look directly at her.

“He didn’t tell anyone why, or even that he planned to do it,” Ginny continued. “Not even Ron or Hermione. He told Neville to kill the snake, and then he just disappeared. It was the final battle – a battle we were waging to protect him - and he just took off in the middle of it without a word to anyone... and he walked willingly to his death. He was killing himself, and he didn’t even tell me why.”

Ginny took a moment to remember Harry’s small limp body in Hagrid’s arms – the overwhelming despair and confusion.

“I couldn’t stop thinking about it,” Ginny explained. “If he hadn’t survived, if he hadn’t been given the choice to return, I never would have known why he had died. None of us would have known. Maybe... maybe we would have put it together with time... but maybe not. I still get angry when I think about the possibility.”

“He told us that he died once,” Dean admitted, and Ginny glanced at him to see a small smile. “He said that his wife still hasn’t forgiven him.”

“I haven’t,” Ginny smiled back. “But not for the dying. I haven’t forgiven him for not even leaving a note. Now I get him to tell me everything as punishment... or therapy, or whatever you want to call it.”

“Punishment,” Dean decided with a small smile, then sobered and cleared his throat. “So, he told you too... he told everyone but me.”

“Yes and no,” Ginny said. “Hermione told him, and Harry decided that you didn’t need to know right then - probably only because he really didn’t want to be the one to tell you.”

“Still should have told me,” Dean said.

“Perhaps,” Ginny allowed. “But Harry’s been in your position too. Did he tell you anything about Professor Dumbledore?”

“Um, the only dude Harry ever listened to?” Dean replied. “Named an army after him. Was like a mentor, or something?”

“Yes, also our son Albus is named after him,” Ginny said. “Though, I was the one who named Dumbledore’s Army. It was a joke at the time, but in retrospect, I suppose it was fairly apt of me. But I digress; Dumbledore knew something about Harry for a long time without ever telling him. We’re not sure exactly when he figured it out, it could have been from the beginning or it could have been just the last few years of his life. My point is Dumbledore knew the whole time that Harry had to die in order to defeat Voldemort. He knew and he never told him.”

“Isn’t that uh, need-to-know information?” Dean said.

“It was,” Ginny said. “Dumbledore explained to Harry once, when Harry accused him of withholding important information, that he knew he was wrong to do so... but, Harry was just a kid, and Dumbledore couldn’t bring himself to burden Harry with that kind of knowledge. He wanted Harry to be happy with whatever life he had available to him for as long as possible.”

“I’m not a kid, Ginny,” Dean replied, a little exasperated. “That excuse isn’t going to work.”

“Like I said,” Ginny answered, “Harry tells me everything now. For instance, how you and your brother had to try to stop the apocalypse all on your own, how you grew up, how you only have each other now, but how tense it was between you, how you spent forty years being tortured in hell, and what they must have done to you to make you-“

“What’s your point?” Dean cut her off.

“He also told me how it was nice to see you a little more well rested when he woke up in the farmhouse; how it seemed like you were having fun with Ron; how much he enjoyed yours and Sam’s company during the last supper you had together. My point is by the time Harry woke up in the farmhouse and Hermione told him about the first seal – well, it wasn’t something in your future. It wasn’t something you needed to know in order to win the war. It was something that had happened, that was irreversible. My point is that all Harry could see was someone who deserved some happiness and he really didn’t see any good reason to take what little you had away from you.”

“I tortured people, Ginny,” Dean replied. 

“I’ve been tortured,” Ginny said, and kept her eyes on Dean as his gaze locked with hers in surprise. This was important. “I have. I’ve been tortured. I’ve been possessed. I’ve had my life slowly sucked out of me. You were in Hell... for forty years, however many of those years you managed to turn the tables a little – no one blames you. We all regret it on your behalf, but no one blames you.”

“Funny,” Dean replied, voice rough. “’s what Sam said.”

“Yes, well, obviously you should listen to your brother,” Ginny smiled. “Sounds like a smart guy.”

“He broke the final seal, you know?” Dean said. “You sure he’s that smart?”

“I haven’t spent much time with the two of you,” Ginny replied. “But from what Harry’s told me, and from what I’ve seen, I highly doubt Sam did it on purpose.”

Dean’s eyes shifted back to the steering wheel, but his smile was fond.

“Nah,” Dean said. “Tricked into it by a pretty girl – she told him he was stopping it. Had him strung along for over a year, and I never even noticed ‘til it was too late.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Ginny said. “Now, I assure you my intentions are honourable – but would it be possible for this pretty girl to convince you to come back in the house? It’s rather chilly out here, and I’m not wearing nearly as many layers as you.”

“Oh Jesus,” Dean said, taking in Ginny’s bare legs. “You must be freezing. I’m sorry. Yeah, yeah...I’ll come back in. Was going to anyway... half my stuff is in there.”

“Thanks,” Ginny said, but Dean was already moving out of the car, so she followed quickly. They entered the house quietly, and slipped of their snowy boots and jackets. Ginny whispered for him to follow her to the kitchen. One of the first things she had ever learned about this house, way back when she was only thirteen, was that the heavy kitchen door was a good sound barrier.

“Are you hungry?” Ginny asked, once the door was shut. “I put aside some food for you and Sam. It can be eaten cold or I can warm it up for you if you like.”

“Uh, either way,” Dean said. “Don’t trouble yourself.”

“I’ll heat it up,” Ginny decided, fetching one of the meals from the fridge. She needed a bit more time with Dean anyway. Ginny used a spell to heat the food, and then carried the plate to the table. She decided that given the circumstances, the best strategy was probably just to be forthright and honest.

“Are you still alright with staying here?” Ginny asked. “You have every reason to be angry. I think Harry might be worried that you’ll want to go home.”

Dean seemed surprised, and Ginny realized that the thought may have never crossed his mind.

“Harry still needs our help,” Dean said. “Yeah, I’m angry, but I’m a professional.”

Ginny was hit with a wave of disappointment. She was suddenly immensely glad to be alone with the Hunter for that remark.

“So, if there wasn’t a job...?” Ginny asked. Dean dropped his eyes to his plate and didn’t answer. Ginny took a breath. “Harry considers you a friend, Dean. He really does regret not telling you everything he knew back then.”

Dean nodded, and ran a hand across his face. Ginny compared the exhausted man before her with the man she had seen in the mirror over a year before. 

“Are you still up for sight-seeing tomorrow?” Ginny asked lightly, disguising the question as a topic change.

“Yeah, part of the reason I came,” Dean answered. “Even being in that bar was a trip. The beer was warm. London, man, you guys are messed up.”

Ginny laughed, and decided that it was probably good to end the night on this note.

“Well, I better get back to bed,” Ginny said. “I didn’t exactly tell Harry where I was going, if he’s still awake, he’s probably wondering where I am.”

“Isn’t that a bit hypocritical?” Dean smirked. “Since he has to tell you everything?”

“What do I look like, a saint?” Ginny winked. “Goodnight, Dean.”

“’night,” Dean replied smiling as the door closed behind Ginny.

Harry was mostly asleep when Ginny slipped into bed, but he was aware enough to roll over and smother her in a sleepy cuddle. Harry’s legs flinched back when they came into contact with her cold feet, and Ginny cringed knowing the cold touch probably woke him up a little.

“Yer cold,” Harry mumbled. “Where’d you go?”

“Dean’s back,” Ginny answered. 

“D’you go get him or something?” Harry asked, still obviously confused over why Ginny’s feet could possibly be that cold.

“Sort of,” Ginny said, then ran her hand through Harry’s hair. “Go back to sleep, Harry”

Harry burrowed into her side more, and Ginny had to take a second to remember the days when it was like pulling teeth to get Harry to initiate any of the contact between them. Three kids later and Ginny was starting to think Harry had more than recovered from his attention starved childhood.

“Does he hate me?” Harry asked softly.

“No,” Ginny said. “He’s just tired.”

Harry nodded into her collarbone and then finally Ginny felt his body relax again and his breath even out. Tomorrow Ron and Hermione were supposed to help Harry show the Winchesters around Muggle London and, if tonight was anything to go by, Harry was probably going to need all the sleep he could get.

Chapter Text

Sam woke up at four am. Dean’s bed was still empty, the sheets still neatly tucked in, the pillow untouched. Sam cursed and rolled out of bed. He slipped out of his room and into Harry’s study, making his way to the windows. Dean’s car still sat perfectly parked in front of the row house. Sam breathed a sigh of relief, though in the next second he realized the vast amount of different ways Dean could have gotten into trouble in the last ten hours even without a car, and he no longer felt relieved at all. Still, there was the rest of the house to check before he panicked. 

Sam used the trick of stepping on the edges of each step on the staircase – avoiding the weak middles – and was able to make his way downstairs quietly. He didn’t have to go far. He found Dean passed out on the sofa, one of the incident reports in his hand. Sam carefully pulled it out of Dean’s lax grip and placed it with the others on the coffee table. He went back to the hall and pulled Dean’s leather coat off the hook, then carefully laid it over Dean without waking him. He remembered when they were kids and how they had once been small enough that, on cold nights in the car, the coat could cover both of them. 

He made his way to the kitchen before his stomach woke Dean. He figured breakfast probably wouldn’t be for another few hours, so he might as well eat the plate of food Ginny had set aside last night. There was only one plate in the fridge, so Sam assumed that Dean must have already eaten his share. Maybe, Sam thought, Dean had even come home fairly early, though Sam doubted it. 

Ginny had said that he’d have to eat it cold. He knew there wasn’t a microwave, but Sam was curious about the stove. The stove looked like any other, except that it didn’t have dials. It wasn’t electric. It looked like a gas stove, only without the actual elements. 

“Okay, magic stove,” Sam muttered, and took a bite of his cold chicken. Who was he to complain anyway, it was way better than the overcooked and over-salted diner food that he and Dean usually lived off of. He ate in the kitchen, carefully washed and dried the plate and put it away in the proper cupboard, and then he went wandering.

Tucked in the corner of the kitchen, Sam found an extremely creepy picture of an odd-looking creature, appropriately named Kreacher, with dates underneath it. Sam felt a little uneasy as he realized that it may have possibly been something that lived in the house at one point. He didn’t recognize what it was, but he hoped it wasn’t another version of a pet ghoul. The picture gave him a dirty look, so Sam left.

In the living room, there were family pictures on the mantel. The old photograph of a man who looked like Harry and a beautiful woman holding a baby was probably a picture of Harry’s parents. It reminded Sam of the picture he had in his apartment at Stanford – of his Dad and the mother he never knew. There were many photographs of the red-haired people that obviously made up Ginny’s family, Sam didn’t spend much time looking at them. He found pictures of Harry, Ginny, and the kids, and pictures of Harry and a baby Teddy. 

He left the pictures and gathered up the incident reports, deciding to go back upstairs to the study, so that he didn’t accidentally wake Dean. As he passed through the hall, he thought he heard a muffled voice, but couldn’t find the source. Still, it was a town-house – He was probably just hearing the neighbours through the walls.

*

“Come on Harry, get up” Ginny said, and tugged on Harry’s foot.

“Yeah, Daddy! Wake up!” James demanded. Harry opened the eye that wasn’t buried in pillow to see James’ face looming over him, and Albus’ head a blurry black blob just behind him.

“Glasses, Daddy,” Albus said, thrusting his hand into Harry’s field of vision. Harry rolled over and opened both eyes. Carefully taking the glasses from Albus and sliding them on... they were of course covered with little finger prints.

“Thanks, boys,” Harry smiled. He reached for his wand and muttered a quick cleaning spell at his lenses. Albus giggled and Harry wondered if he marked the glasses up on purpose every morning just for the little show.

Ginny had Lily on her hip and was already dressed, so Harry stumbled out of bed and didn’t bother changing out of his pyjamas. He just took Albus’ and James’ hands and told them to be quiet going down the stairs in case Sam and Dean were still sleeping.

As soon as they got to the second level though, it was clear that Sam, at least, was not sleeping. He came out of the bathroom, freshly showered and clad only in a towel at his hips and the crystal pendant tied haphazardly around his neck, and nearly ran into them in the hallway. Harry was not sure which of the three adults were blushing more profusely – Harry and Ginny being both more fair-skinned or Sam being mostly naked, well... at least the children weren’t embarrassed.

“Oh, um, hey, good morning,” Sam said.

“Morning!” James said as if nothing were amiss.

“Mornin’,” Albus echoed quietly. Lily still sat on Ginny’s hip, wide eyes on Sam and thumb in her mouth. Sam smiled at the children, and some of the tension was broken.

“Oh, yes, good morning, Sam,” Ginny replied. “Sleep well?”

“Yes, thanks,” Sam said, and then inched a little to the side, and that’s when Harry realized that they were blocking the door to the guest bedroom.

“Oh!” Harry said and tugged on James and Albus. “Back up kids. Ginny?”

Ginny moved backward a bit too quickly, and Harry tried to remember that he’d probably get a good laugh at this later, but right then there was an Adonis standing half-naked in front of his wife and he didn’t really appreciate it as much as she appeared to. Harry couldn’t help but be consciously aware of his ridiculous bed-head and the possibility that he still had pillow creases in his face. Sure, Sam had scars, but they hardly seemed to diminish him... and the fact that Harry knew that even though he didn’t fancy blokes really said it all.

“Thanks,” Sam said ducking into the room, while keeping a firm grip on the towel. “Sorry,” he added turning back around briefly, then he seemed to remember something. “Oh, um, Dean might still be asleep on the couch downstairs.”

“Was something wrong with the bed?” Ginny asked. Sam shrugged.

“Sleeps where he falls,” Sam replied. “I’ll be down in a minute.”

With that the door snicked closed, and Harry raised an annoyed eyebrow at Ginny as she turned to him with wide-eyes and a placed a hand over her heart.

“Come on, kids,” Harry said quietly, leading James and Albus past Ginny. “Let’s keep practicing keeping quiet.”

Again, there was no need to be quiet, because when they got halfway down the stairs, Harry saw Dean in the hallway, very much awake with his ear to the wall.

“Dude,” Dean said. “There’s someone in your wall and I think they’re insulting me!”

So far, it was shaping up to be an interesting morning.

*

“...so, since we couldn’t get the portrait off the wall, we just plastered over it all. Mind you, we had to wait until Kreacher was dead, he loved Mrs. Black,” Harry was saying as Sam walked into the kitchen. He raised his eyebrow at the overheard name.

“What was Kreacher anyway?” Sam asked. Harry seemed surprised at the question. Sam nodded towards the corner of the kitchen where the picture hung.

“My house-elf,” Harry replied. “He used to belong to the Blacks. Sirius bequeathed him to me when he left me the house.”

“What’s a house-elf?” Sam asked. “Not like the ghoul thing, is it?”

“No,” Harry answered. “House-elves are different. They... well, things have changed in the past few years, but they’re sort of like servants – maids and butlers for Wizards. They can be attached to a particular family, or you can hire them.”

“Hm,” Sam said. “What did you plaster over?”

“The thicker wall in the front hallway there,” Dean pointed towards the kitchen door. “There’s one of those Wizard paintings underneath – the ones that watch you. Apparently they can talk too, and the one out there is some crazy racist lady.”

“Walburga Black,” Harry clarified. “Sirius’ mum. Pure-blood prejudice. Hates me because my father was a blood-traitor, hates Hermione because she’s a mudblood, would hate you because your Muggles... the list goes on.”

“Harry!” Ginny said sternly, pointing to James and Albus who were busy preparing to launch forkfuls of scrambled eggs at each other. “Language!”

“Sorry, Gin,” Harry replied. “Boys! Don’t play with your food!”

Ginny passed Sam a plate of food, and sat herself down beside Lily’s highchair.

“Language?” Dean asked Harry. “Did you say a bad word in Wizard or something?”

“Uh, the word I called Hermione – it’s like... um... calling a black person the N-word,” Harry explained. “And well, blood-traitor is also a nonsense term that shouldn’t exist. It’s all this rubbish against Muggle-borns and people from old Wizarding families marrying Muggles or Muggle-borns that Voldemort and people like the Malfoys believed. Like the older families were superior somehow, even though if you think about it, all wizards had to come from somewhere right? I mean, at some point, all our families had to be Muggle.”

“Alright,” Ginny said. “I’m not sure this is correct talk for the breakfast table. Why don’t you fill the Winchesters in later on everything that’s wrong about Wizard society, dear?”

“Sorry, Gin,” Harry repeated. 

The conversation shifted to the sights they were planning to see that day, and before they knew it, Harry was madly scrambling upstairs to shower before Hermione and Ron arrived. 

Sam had been in enough family-friendly diners to know that this was pretty much par for the course when you put young children near food, but he felt bad for Ginny all the same when James reached over and rubbed a handful of egg into Albus’ hair. 

Dean helped Ginny get the scrambled eggs out of Albus’ hair, while Sam gathered up the plates and took them to the sink. Ginny kept insisting that they didn’t need to help, but it was hard for her to be convincing when Lily spilt her juice and started crying before Ginny could even finish scolding James for the egg incident. 

“What’s going on in here?” Harry said, in a stern voice that reminded Sam a little of his own father, as he returned to the kitchen right in the thick of the chaos. Sam wisely stayed out of the way by the sink. Dean was almost done picking the egg out of Albus’ hair, and Albus was now only sniffling occasionally instead of sobbing. James was looking a bit bewildered, and Sam guessed that James had probably expected the stunt to illicit laughter not tears. Ginny was still trying to calm Lily down.

“James! How many times do I have to tell you to be nice to your brother?” Harry said. “You should be grateful; some people don’t get to have brothers because their parents die! How would you like that?” 

James eyes went wide and Sam thought idly that it really was like those Japanese cartoons - the way you could actually see the tears well-up. Albus had a similar horrified expression. Sam bit his lip.

“Dude,” Dean said, and ran a hand over his face.

“I mean...” Harry tried, but obviously didn’t know how to mend the situation.

“It’s okay, sweethearts,” Ginny said. “James, apologize to Albus, then you two go play, alright?”

James ran over to Albus and hugged him as only children do, then grabbed Albus’ hand and pulled him out of the room. Finally, Sam heard Dean’s stifled chuckle erupt into a full blown laugh. Sam fought with the corners of his mouth, but ended up making an embarrassing snorting noise as he laughed too.

“Oh Merlin,” Ginny sighed. “My poor babies are going to need therapy by the time they’re eleven at this rate.”

“It sounded better in my head,” Harry mumbled. 

“I’m sure it did,” Dean replied, patting Harry on the back consolingly without losing his grin.

“I don’t remember our Dad ever using that one on us, that’s for sure,” Sam added, shaking his head.

“Didn’t have to,” Dean winked, “you always deserved what I did to you.” 

Before Sam could argue, there was an eruption of green flame in the large fireplace, and out stepped Ron. He took a brief look around the room and then frowned.

“Aw, Harry did something stupid, and I missed it,” Ron said. “What was it then, come on, tell me?”

The fireplace flashed green again and Hermione stepped out. 

“Good morning,” Hermione said.

“’Mornin’” Sam replied, as Harry and Ginny both greeted her as well.

“’Mornin’” Dean added in at the end. Hermione glanced over at him hopefully. “Yeah, I’m still pissed, but we’re good,” Dean assured her.

“Understood,” Hermione replied. “I wasn’t sure you’d still want me tagging along today.”

“Nah,” Dean said. “Need someone who can talk geek to Sammy, while the rest of us make funny faces at those guards.”

Sam rolled his eyes, but he had to admit that Dean was probably right.

“Brilliant” Harry said brightly. “Who’s up for seeing London?”

*

They started off with the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. Dean listed the number of movies he had seen in which someone fell off Big Ben, flew into Big Ben, or caused Big Ben to explode, while Hermione talked about its historical significance. Harry thought it was an educational experience no matter which of them he listened to. 

They walked by Westminster Abbey, but didn’t go inside. Hermione regaled them with stories of coronations, and the political significance of the building, but managed to actually avoid the topic of religion. After the previous night, it was clear Hermione was determined not to upset the Winchesters in any capacity.

Next was a small stroll through James Park, while Hermione and Sam discussed the switch from Latin to English within the church and its relative non-transference to exorcisms. Ron told Dean all about his Dad’s reaction to the EMF meter that Dean had made for him, and how Ron had managed to repair it himself three times already. They made it to Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guard. 

Trafalgar square was next on the list, mostly just because it was well known, and not for any interest in Nelson. Hermione still went on about the history for a bit, this time with Ron mostly peppering her with questions, as Sam and Dean sat on the edge of one of the fountains and stretched their legs out, crossing them at the ankles in mirror poses. Harry laughed at Ron’s more ridiculous questions, and noted that Ron had probably passed the point of being genuinely curious and was well into the let’s-annoy-Hermione-until-she-loses-it game. 

He turned to Sam and Dean to see if they were as amused as he was by Ron, only to find the two brothers were obviously not paying attention anymore. They both sat there with slightly wistful expressions. Harry turned towards where they were looking to see what on earth about Trafalgar square was bringing the mood down so much. Only he couldn’t figure it out. There was the column, the other fountain, the gallery...

... and people. A group of teenagers pushed and shoved each other playfully, waving to more friends as they arrived before the group started arguing about whether they wanted McDonald’s or Burger King. There was a mother walking by with a pram, and younger kid rocketing about on roller-skates while his dad yelled at him not to bump into people. There were a few other tourists, taking pictures of each other with the column over their shoulders.

The Winchesters were looking at the people. Harry couldn’t help but think back to the war against Voldemort. He tried to remember if he had ever looked at everyone like that – like they were children that needed protecting, like it was his job to save them all. He knew what it felt like to have the weight of the world on his shoulders, but not like the Winchesters. The Winchester’s fight was different than his had been, and not just because they had a different enemy.

“Harry?” Hermione said softly to him, and Harry realized that her and Ron had stopped at some point and were Ron was now sitting next to the Winchesters looking around in slight confusion. 

“They’re doing it for us, not themselves” Harry said. The Winchesters weren’t trying to save their own lives. They were trying to save everyone else’s. Why did they even hunt? They’d long since killed the demon that killed their mother; Dean was back from Hell. What was it to them if Lucifer was roaming the earth? Was it just out of some sense of guilt over having accidentally caused it? No one would blame them for giving up. No one would blame them if they just decided to stop. Hadn’t they given enough for humanity already? Hadn’t they been screwed over enough already? 

Yet, Harry couldn’t even get them not to think about hunting for one bloody day. He had to find a job for them to do in Britain just so that they’d come. They hadn’t even made it through tea before Dean and Sam were sitting there reading reports and trying to make connections between paranormal occurrences. Why were they such workaholics? Then Harry thought, maybe the better question was if they weren’t working, what would they be doing? They lived in a car, they were legally dead and, besides Sam’s brief stint at college, hunting was all they’d ever known. They were killing themselves to protect something they couldn’t even enjoy.

“Harry?” Hermione repeated. Harry could see her scanning the skies, as though there might be a magical cause for the melancholy that had just descended on their group. But Harry knew... they just had to put the Winchesters back into familiar territory.

“The Tower of London,” Harry announced.

“What?” Hermione asked, completely confused.

“I think Sam and Dean would really enjoy the Tower of London,” Harry clarified. 

“Harry, do you honestly think that’s a good idea?” Hermione asked in amazement, but Harry had spoken loud enough for everyone to hear him, and Sam and Dean were now both looking over with identical quizzically raised eyebrows. Harry had the fleeting thought that sometimes Sam and Dean reminded him a bit of Fred and George.

“It’ll be brilliant, Hermione,” Harry said. “It’s their field of expertise, but they’re not required to actually fix any of the problems. You should start telling them about it, while I see if I can flag down a couple of taxis.”

Hermione gave Harry a confused and slightly disapproving look, but dutifully began to recite everything she knew about the Tower of London - including the fact that it was quite possibly the most haunted place in the England.

By the time they actually reached the tower and started the tour, Dean had produced an EMF meter from somewhere. Sam alternated between having his eyes roam over every single centimeter of each room, and walking with his eyes closed and his head cocked to one side like he was listening for something. Both the Winchesters asked numerous questions and then whispered animatedly back and forth to each other in half-sentences.

“Like that time in Albuquerque.”

“First or third?”

“Third.”

“Right, not so bad then.”

“Better than the second.”

“Don’t even.”

And then there were jokes, and Ron laughed even though some are at his expense. Hermione was happy because she knew more than the tour guides, and Harry could stand back and actually feel like the plan had been successful - that even though Harry had never met Bobby Singer himself, Harry thought he’d be happy with how Harry had managed to pull off this favour.

“Alright,” Harry said, after the tour was over. “I’ve had my fill of being a tourist. Let’s get home and help Gin with dinner.”

“Oh,” Hermione said glancing at her watch. “We better go pick up the children from my parents. We’ll see you in a bit, yeah?”

“In a bit,” Harry confirmed with a wave. Hermione and Ron glanced around and then turned and disapparated. 

“Come on,” Harry said, and set off walking. “We’ll take the tube home. How’d you enjoy your tour of Muggle London?”

“It was nice,” Sam said, and Dean nodded in agreement. 

“Why do you keep calling it Muggle London?” Dean asked. “Do Wizards have their own London?”

“Sort of,” Harry smiled. “I’ll show you tomorrow, after we drop Teddy at the train.”

“Okay,” Dean said. “I gotta admit, I’m interested in meeting Teddy.”

“Yeah?” Harry asked, just as Sam muttered a soft warning of “Dean.”

“Yeah,” Dean confirmed. “Never met a Shifter that wasn’t evil before. Fuckin’ hate those things.”

“Dean,” Sam said a little louder, as Harry’s blood ran cold.

“Don’t call him that,” Harry said.

“Sorry, right, he’s something else. I know, didn’t mean anything by it,” Dean immediately replied wincing. “Just meant... well...”

“Teddy’s a good kid,” Harry said.

“Of course, sorry,” Dean placated again. “That’s why I want to meet him, honest. I’ve already met your other kids and they’re pretty damn adorable.”

Harry couldn’t help the smile at Dean’s words about his kids, even though he knew that had probably been Dean’s intent. Dean smiled and changed the subject to whether or not there would be dessert with this family get together. Harry answered his questions and joked right back, but in the back of his mind he was already running through a thousand scenarios of how dinner was about to go, and whether Andromeda had been correct in her reluctance to let Teddy stay in a house along with two Hunters.

When they got back to the house, Ginny actually didn’t want them underfoot in the kitchen and told Harry that he should show Sam and Dean the computer in the back shed. Harry knew she was probably just getting rid of them so that she could use as much magic as she wanted without worrying about breaking Harry’s rule about using as little magic as possible around the Hunters.

Harry led them out into the back garden, which was actually fairly large for a London row-house. In the back corner was a garden shed that Harry had been very careful not to enchant at all. He unlatched the door and swung it open across the dirty floor. There was a small space heater that he always kept on low, so once they were inside he swung the door shut again to keep out the cold January air. He reached up and pulled the cord for the single light bulb that hung from the centre of the ceiling.

“Sorry, it’s not much,” Harry said. Realizing how shabby the shed must look – the space heater tended to attract spiders, who built complex webs in the corners. The floor was dirty from Ginny’s summer gardening supplies and the boys’ tricycles and wagon. In the corner there was a small desk with a computer and a modem. Harry went over to turn them both on.

“We have to keep the shed free of magic for the computer to run,” Harry explained, as he plugged the computer and modem into the battery pack he had mounted on the wall. “Otherwise, I’d have it looking much nicer.” 

“It runs off a battery?” Dean asked.

“How do you charge it?” Sam added.

“Solar,” Harry answered. “You may have noticed – the house isn’t exactly ‘on the grid’ as you say.”

“Magic stove,” Sam nodded. “The house isn’t hooked up to electricity or gas at all is it?”

“No,” Harry confirmed. “Technically, our house doesn’t exist according to the Muggle authorities. It wouldn’t matter except for wanting to use the computer. I couldn’t very well have some electrician come over to run electricity out to a garden shed that he can’t see and the city doesn’t know about. So, I installed solar panels on the shed roof, and it’s enough to charge this battery here – which runs the space heater, the light bulb, and computer when I need them.”

Dean whistled lowly, and moved the two steps across the small shed – which seemed smaller now that Harry had the two Winchesters in it with him – to gaze at the series of wires running between the battery and ceiling. 

Harry indicated the swivel office chair to Sam, and made sure all the right lights on the modem were lit.

“It’s wifi,” Harry said. “Again – sort of difficult to have internet access run out to your shed, when you don’t exist.”

“I never realized having magic could actually make things more difficult,” Sam muttered. 

“You mean, besides well-meaning fellows like yourself thinking I’m evil from time to time and trying to kill me?” Harry asked. “It’s just a different set of problems – whether your magic or not, there’s always going to something working against you.” Dean hummed in agreement.

“You have the specs for this Harry?” Dean asked, pointing at the solar set up.

“Uh, yeah” Harry replied, crouching beside Sam and sliding the desk drawer open. “It’s um... British voltages though.” 

Dean just shrugged and made a grabby hand in Harry’s direction when Harry pulled the pile of papers out of the drawer, so Harry handed them over.

“What time do you want us inside?” Sam asked, without taking his eyes off the screen. 

“Teddy and Andromeda will be here at six,” Harry replied, and then, recognizing that he was being dismissed, added “Just turn-off and unplug the computer and the modem when you come in.”

“Will do, thanks, man,” Sam said. “Dean, you want to go grab those incident reports while I hack into Scotland Yard here? I left them in Harry’s study.”

“Sure thing, Princess,” Dean grumbled and rolled his eyes. “You want a half-caf double latte with that order?”

Sam leveled Dean with blank stare, and Harry bit his lip to keep from laughing. Dean just shook his head and pushed Harry out the door along with him.

“He was kidding about Scotland Yard, right?” Harry asked when they were half-way back to the house. 

Dean just shot Harry a look that did not put him at ease at all.

Chapter Text

Sam worked steadily once Dean dropped off the reports. Dean hung around the shed with him for a bit, reading over the specs for the solar panel and looking over Sam’s shoulder. Eventually he made some excuse about checking on the car and disappeared. 

Sam had been through half the ghost reports, and there were no civilian incidents that corresponded to the wizard ones. From what Sam could deduce, there actually hadn’t been an increase in Supernatural activity in Britain since the apocalypse. At first, he wondered if Harry was lying to them or something – but Sam had cross-referenced the names in the incident reports with the names in Harry’s other files and it seemed like these people existed, and lived where they lived, and the ghosts had all been legitimate too, as far as Sam could tell. 

“Sammy,” Dean said opening the door. “Time to come in, man. People will be here soon. We can see that freaky fire thing again.”

“Hm,” Sam responded, picking up the report he was working on and staring down at the names.

“Sam?” Dean repeated. “Come on, you can pick it up again later.”

“Dean, this doesn’t make any sense. Why just go after Wizards?” Sam asked. Somewhere he registered Dean’s sigh as the door closed and Dean leaned over his shoulder to peer at the computer screen and Sam’s scribbled notes in the margins of the reports.

“How about you take me through it all tonight, okay?” Dean said. “Looks like you’ve only gone through a few of them anyway. We can check out the rest and then see what’s what, sound good?”

“But...” Sam said, gesturing to the reports as if they would clarify whatever he was trying to say.

“Sam,” Dean said, and yeah, Sam knew that tone – from more than one person at that.

“Yeah, okay. I’m coming,” Sam replied, and started to shut down the computer and modem as Harry had requested.

They entered the kitchen just as the fireplace flashed green. Sam had seen it a few times now, but he still found it unnerving to see people materialize out of the green fire. This time was truly bizarre, as instead of the fire settling into the shape of a person who calmly walked out – the fire hurtled a medium sized object out of it. Sam immediately realized it was a young boy, who lay sprawled out on the small rug in front of the fireplace for only a second before laughing and springing to his feet.

“We really have to work on those landings, Teddy,” Harry laughed, as the boy – Teddy – hurled himself into Harry’s arms with a huge smile on his face.

“Hi Harry!” Teddy exclaimed. Sam took a good look at the kid now that he was stationary. Sam didn’t know what he had been expecting Teddy to be like, but he wasn’t sure this was it. Teddy was skinny, with pale skin and nice looking face – kid probably wouldn’t be hurting for girls in a couple of years, even though he looked a bit bookish. His hair though, well that was something else. It was streaked in brown, jet black, and the impossible red that matched Ginny and Ron’s hair. There were also one or two streaks of bubblegum pink and turquoise blue. 

“Nice hair,” Harry said, ruffling it. 

“Thanks!” Teddy replied. “I think I’ve got everyone, yeah?”

“Vicki’s coming too,” Harry said. Sam watched as Teddy made a face of concentration and some of the black in his hair turned almost white from the roots down. Sam glanced at Dean, who raised his eyebrows at him to say they were on the same page with this one. 

Before they could say anything, the fireplace flashed green again and out stepped a very beautiful older woman pulling a very large trunk. Sam and Dean both immediately stepped forward.

“Let us help you with that, ma’am,” Sam said. The woman seemed to tense for a moment, and looked them over. Sam figured it was probably due to his height.

“Thank you,” the woman replied, but she didn’t relax as much as look vaguely amused before shaking her head.

“Told you,” Harry said with a wide smile. Sam shrugged at Dean’s questioning expression, and they each took a side of the trunk.

“Where do you want it?” Dean asked.

“Just tuck it in the corner there,” Harry said. Sam and Dean moved it the three feet to the corner, and made sure it was out of the way. 

“Sam, Dean,” Harry said once they had turned back to the wizards. “I’d like you to meet Andromeda Tonks, and my godson, Teddy Lupin. Andromeda, Teddy – Sam and Dean Winchester.”

“Nice to meet you,” Teddy said, stepping forward and offering his hand. Sam bent to shake it, and felt Dean move up beside him to grasp Andromeda’s hand as well. 

“Likewise,” Sam and Dean echoed each other. “Harry’s told us a lot about you, Teddy,” Dean added.

“Yeah?” Teddy asked.

“Yup,” Dean confirmed, then winked. “Said you were a rotten kid and he didn’t love you at all,” Sam glared at Dean, but then caught Teddy’s knowing smile.

“He did not,” Teddy said.

“Hmm, well, now that you mention it...” Dean replied, and pulled an exaggerated thinking face. “It could have possibly been the complete opposite of that.”

“Well, he told me that you were a scaredy-cat and that he could beat you up easily,” Teddy laughed.

“Oh?” Dean said. “I think you’re confused. That only describes Sammy, here.”

Sam rolled his eyes and tried his best not to glare at his brother. 

“He’s afraid of clowns,” Dean added in a stage whisper.

“Dean!” Sam said, losing the battle against not glaring. Teddy’s laughter echoed through the kitchen. Sam’s annoyance deflated when he caught the amused expressions on both Harry and Andromeda’s faces. He really wished Dean would stop using him to break the tension.

“Teddy!” Two children’s voices called out from the kitchen doorway, and James and Albus came running into the room at full speed towards Teddy, who immediately couched down so he could catch both of them. 

“They heard a familiar laugh,” Ginny smiled from the doorway, with Lily resting on her hip.

“Hi guys!” Teddy said to the two young boys, then looked across the room at Lily with a softer smile, and added, “Hello, Little Lily Luna.” Lily smiled back and leaned forward in Ginny’s arms reaching for Teddy. Teddy slowly made his way over to her, James and Albus made it difficult by crowding around his legs and pulling on his jacket.

“Teddy! Daddy has friends!” James said. “They’re very big!”

“I know, James,” Teddy laughed. “I just met them.”

“Samdean,” Albus added quietly.

“Are you sleeping here too?” James asked. “Can you sleep in my room?”

“No, me,” Albus argued.

“I’ll be sleeping in my own room,” Teddy said. Both of Harry’s boys pouted at that, but Teddy just laughed and pushed them towards the door. “Come on, I’ll play with you until Vicki gets here.” 

“So, Harry tells me you two are Hunters,” Andromeda said once Teddy had left the kitchen.

“That’s right, ma’am,” Dean replied. 

“And have you ever killed a witch?” She asked. Dean was nodding and looking vaguely disgusted, so Sam added answered quickly.

“Not your kind of witch,” Sam said. “Just, the uh...” He trailed off, trying to decided if ‘demon-worshipping bitches’ was too strong a term.

“The unnatural kind?” Andromeda finished for him, and yes, that sounded much more politically correct. Sam suddenly worried that all these years spending 24/7 with Dean were beginning to affect him.

“Skeevy kind, you mean,” Dean said. “It’s all baby-bones and sacrificial rabbits – and what did rabbits ever do to them, anyway? Demon-worshipping freaks.”

Sam coughed and kicked Dean in the ankle.

“Sorry, ma’am,” Sam said, “Uh, my brother... really doesn’t like the unnatural kind of witch.”

“I can see that,” Andromeda said, and her cold demeanour seemed to melt away into slight amusement. 

The fireplace flashed green again, and Sam and Dean both turned as one to see who was stepping out now. This time, it was an older motherly-looking woman. Her wild red-hair left no doubt as to whose mother she was. Harry and Andromeda still stood closest to the fireplace, so they were the first to be swept up into hugs. Harry was then promptly fussed over, with exclamations that he’d always been far too skinny, and that he’d obviously been working too hard. Dean snorted a laugh at Harry’s attempts to placate the woman, but that only drew her attention over to Sam and Dean.

“Oh! You must be Dean and Sam,” She said, immediately walking over to them. “Ron’s told me so much about you, of course. I’ve been looking forward to meeting you in person ever since Harry mentioned you’d be coming.”

“Uh, nice to meet you...” Sam said, offering his hand.

“Oh, of course!” She replied, “Introductions! I’m Molly Weasley, Ron and Ginny’s mum.”

“Dean,” Dean said, offering his hand to Molly after she had shook Sam’s.

“Now, you two look hungry and I do say, even more overworked than our Harry,” Molly announced, then turned back to Harry. “Harry, dear, where’s Ginny? I need her to come help me bring over the pies.”

“I could help-“ Harry started to say, but Andromeda interrupted.

“Oh, nonsense, I’ll help. Ginny is probably busy with the children,” Andromeda said and the two women turned and made their way back to the fireplace, reached into the small pot on the mantel, and threw the dust in that made the fireplace turn green, then disappeared together.

“Wow, she’s a little overwhelming,” Dean started to say in the resulting quiet of the room.

“Wait until you meet Arthur,” Harry said. “He’s quite enthusiastic about-“

Harry was cut off by the fireplace turning green again. This time an older man in green robes, with the same fiery red hair stepped out. He smiled at Harry and then his eyes landed on Sam and Dean, and Sam could have sworn the man’s eyes actually twinkled.

“The Muggles!” He said, clasping his hands together in delight.

“Arthur,” Harry said with a smile. “I’d like you to meet Sam and Dean Winchester. Sam, Dean, Arthur Weasley, Ginny’s father.”

Arthur was over to them in two steps, shaking Dean’s and then Sam’s hand enthusiastically.

“Oh, it’s a pleasure to meet you!” Arthur said. “Now, Harry tells me you two are Hunters –nasty business that, I’d love to hear how you got into it. Also, I hear you have an impressive automobile – tell me, what does a carbor-eater do?”

Sam really did not know how to respond to that. He glanced at Dean only to find that Dean was already looking at him with what must have been an equal expression of confusion on how to handle the situation.

“Uh, I think you mean carburetor,” Dean replied slowly.

“Arthur, honestly,” Molly said, and Sam wondered when exactly she had reappeared, “there will be plenty of time for all that stuff later.”

“Guys, why don’t you go tell Ginny her parents are here,” Harry said. “Maybe offer to watch Lily for a bit so she can come in and say hello.”

Sam shot Harry a grateful look, which was returned by a subtle wink, and he pulled Dean out of the room. They shut the kitchen door behind them and both took a deep breath.

“So, my parents have arrived then?” Ginny’s soft voice said from the doorway into the living room.

“Yes,” Sam answered. “We um...Harry said we should watch Lily while you say hello.”

“Smart man,” Ginny replied. She carefully handed Lily to Dean, and Sam waited to see if she’d cry, but she only stared wide-eyed at Dean as if he were some fantastic creature.

“Teddy’s playing with the boys, so you don’t need to worry about them so much,” Ginny said as she pointed behind her. “You can just hide out here while me and Harry give the 'Don’t Scare Our House-guests' speech to my parents.”

“Uh, thanks?” Sam answered as Ginny disappeared into the kitchen. He and Dean entered the living room to find Teddy instructing James and Albus on how to weave a toy train-track around the couch. 

“We can get Dad to enchant it to run on its own after we build it,” Teddy was saying with an enthusiastic smile. He then spotted Sam and Dean in the doorway and blushed deeply. Sam watched as the more brilliant streaks of colour in Teddy’s hair faded a little.

“Cool train, guys!” Dean suddenly said, and Teddy smiled tentatively while his hair returned to his former wild colours.

Before Sam and Dean could sit down, there was a knock on the front door. Sam looked at Dean, thinking of how all the other wizards had arrived through the kitchen fireplace. Dean gave him a look back, shifting Lily on his lip and freeing his right hand. Sam nodded and raised a hand to hover over the small of his back, just in case, and then-

“Vicki’s here!” Teddy said, and squeezed between Sam and Dean as he ran to the door. Dean turned to hurry after him, and Sam quickly followed. They got to the front hall just as Teddy flung open the door.

Standing on the front stoop was a man and a little girl. The girl was extremely pretty with long blond hair, fair skin, and beautiful eyes. It wasn’t hard to guess why Teddy was so enthusiastic in greeting her. The man was tall and fit, with long red hair swept into a pony tail and one earring that looked like a fang of some sort. He’d be handsome, if it wasn’t for the scars that marred his face – though, if Sam thought about it, without the scars he’d look like an idiot hipster or something. With the scars he looked like someone that Sam thought they might actually get along with; especially since the scars looked like they were made by a large adult male werewolf.

“Hi Victoire! Hi Bill!” Teddy said, greeting the two and stepping back so that they could enter the house. 

“Hello, Ted,” Bill replied, then looked towards Sam and Dean. “Hello...”

“Oh, sorry... hello,” Sam said, offering his hand. “I’m Sam Winchester, this is my brother Dean.”

Sam turned to look at Dean, only to find him openly studying Bill’s face. Sam elbowed him.

“Pleased to meet you,” Dean said automatically, offering his hand as well, then pointed to the Bill’s scars. “Adult male werewolf? Fairly large, I’d say.”

Bill seemed taken aback, and Sam cringed. Teddy and Vicki were looking at them with wide-eyes. Bill didn’t seem offended though, just surprised.

“Yeah, didn’t bite me though,” Bill answered. “Just made me look like even more of a bad-ass.”

“You kill ‘m?” Dean asked.

“Someone did, yeah,” Bill answered.

“Good,” Dean answered. Sam cleared his throat and gave Bill an apologetic smile.

“Sorry,” Sam said. “That was rude of us. It’s a pleasure to meet you. Everyone is in the kitchen getting dinner ready, we were just watching the kids for Harry.”

Bill laughed but Sam wasn’t sure what the joke had been. Teddy and Vicki seemed to take it as their cue to leave though, and they wandered off talking about school.

“What?” Dean asked.

“Nothing, sorry,” Bill said. “It’s just... Harry,” he shook his head slowly in disbelief. “When he decides to trust someone, he really trusts them, you know?”

“I don’t-” Dean started to say, but Bill interrupted.

“Yes, I’m sure lots of Wizards meet Hunters and invite them over to their house and leave them alone with their children,” Bill answered, reaching over to pat Lily softly on the head. Lily smiled and then laid her head down sleepily on Dean’s shoulder.

“Oh,” Sam said, as if only then noticing that they were indeed alone with Harry’s children.

Behind them, the kitchen door opened and Ron came up the stairs holding Hugo, while Rose ran in front of him.

“Hey little brother,” Bill said with a smile and Sam watched Ron’s face light up. 

“Hello Bill! You just get here too?” Ron asked. 

“Took the tube from Diagon,” Bill answered. “We’re staying at the Leaky Cauldron tonight.”

“Excellent,” Ron said, “I see you’ve already met Dean and Sam.”

“I did, yeah,” Bill said.

“Harry told me you two were watching the kids,” Ron said, addressing Sam and Dean. Sam thought briefly that Ron had come out to keep an eye on them, but instead Ron just plunked Hugo down on the floor and added, “do you mind watching Hugo and Rose too? I’ll just be a minute.”

“Um, sure,” Dean responded before Sam could get his brain to work. Lily was now squirming in Dean’s arms, so he placed her down on the floor. She immediately tottered over to Hugo.

“Brilliant,” Ron said, “Mum and Dad are in the kitchen, Bill.”

Ron turned and re-entered the kitchen, and Bill threw them a wink before following him.

Sam turned slowly and surveyed the room. Teddy and Vicki were sitting on the couch, chatting about school friends and teachers and a train. James and Albus were still building the complex train track around the couch, but without Teddy’s supervision it had taken a weird detour under the coffee table - a fact which Rose didn’t seem to like at all, as she tried to change it only to have James angrily yank the pieces out of her hand whenever she moved anything. Hugo and Lily were sitting among a group of stuffed animals making incomprehensible noises that Sam could only assume were supposed to be words. They were officially the only adults in a room of seven wizard children.

“How’d we get stuck with the kids?” Sam asked Dean quietly.

“You’d rather go tell Harry's father-in-law about how mom burned on the ceiling?” Dean raised an eyebrow. Sam weighed the options.

“Maybe?” Sam answered, rubbing a hand on his jeans nervously. The last child he talked to was the anti-Christ, and that hadn’t gone particularly well for the poor kid.

“Well not me,” Dean replied, eyeing James, Albus and Rose, who were currently on the precipice of a fight. “Hey guys!” Dean called to them. “Who wants to play horsey?!”

Three sets of eyes turned to them with interest, argument immediately forgotten, and Sam thought that maybe he could just stand back and let Dean handle this. 

Then Dean threw him a wink and Sam realized that Dean had absolutely no intention of being the horse.

Chapter Text

Harry had just finished explaining to Andromeda and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley about what were safe topics of discussion with the Winchesters and what were topics that were better left alone. Having lived through two wars, they immediately understood. Now instead of open curiosity about the Winchesters, Arthur had decided to join Molly in the sad “those poor boys” looks. Of course, once Arthur heard that the car was an encouraged conversation piece, he cheered up again.

Bill had wandered into the kitchen shortly after Harry had begun his explanation. Harry had noted the absence of Victoire, but Bill said she and Teddy were conspiring about school in the other room. Harry nodded and repeated some of what he had told the others to Bill – mainly, to just try not to ask about the Winchesters’ family or the apocalypse too much. They were meant to be on vacation. 

“They sure know their stuff,” Bill said, once Andromeda, Molly, and Arthur had been distracted with helping Ginny set the table and prepare the food.

“How do you mean?” Harry asked.

“First thing they did was name what gave me the scars,” Bill replied, gesturing to his face. “Second thing they did was to ask if the bastard was dead. I can see why you’re having difficulty getting them to relax. I’m sure if I’d said he was still alive they would have gone out and killed him themselves.”

Harry shook his head at the thought of the Winchesters hunting Greyback. The thought of the werewolf still filled his stomach with ice even after so many years. 

Suddenly, a distinct booming “RAWR!” was heard from the other room – even through the thick kitchen door – it was closely followed by the sounds of many children screaming. Everyone in the kitchen seemed to tense at once and turn towards the door. 

“You said-!” Andromeda started, already hurrying towards the door. Luckily, Harry was closer and cut her off.

“And I’m not wrong!” Harry replied. “Everyone calm down, I’m sure it’s all perfectly innocent. I’ll go check – CALMLY – because there’s no need to worry.”

Besides Andromeda, who looked truly spooked, the other wizards just looked vaguely concerned and slightly curious. Harry opened the door and the screaming was clearly audible now, along with Dean’s deep voice yelling “Get’m!” Harry had to admit, it certainly didn’t sound good. He closed the door behind him, just as he saw Andromeda’s wand appear in her hand.

Harry didn’t have to muffle his footsteps, because they were drowned out by the noise coming from the living room. As soon as the door snicked shut behind him, Harry could hear how the screams dissolved into giggles.

He got to the archway into the living room in time to see Teddy launch himself at Sam’s couched back. As soon as Teddy had a grip around Sam’s neck and his legs wrapped around Sam’s middle, Sam straightened to his full height as though Teddy weren’t there at all.

“RAWR!” Sam bellowed. “What was that?!” 

Harry had to stifle his laughter. Sam had Teddy hanging off his back, James wrapped around his right arm, both Albus and Rose were clinging to his left arm, and Hugo and Lily were sitting on each of his feet, laughing while they clung to his calves. Meanwhile, Sam was moving around the room, as though there weren’t six children trying to tackle him to the ground. He kept carefully turning in circles, mindful not to jostle the children hanging from his arms, as he tried to look at Teddy on his back.

Once that gag had played out, Sam started slowly walking across the room to where Dean and Victoire stood by the window. Lily and Hugo squealed in delight every time Sam lifted his foot to take a step. 

“RAWR! I’m going to get you Dean Winchester!” Sam said with a smile. Harry decided this was too good not to share, and he sent a quick Patronus spell behind him to instruct the others to come out of the kitchen, but to do so quietly.

“Oh no!” said Dean in fake fright, then he reached beside him and grabbed Victoire by the shoulders, dragging her in front of him like a shield. “Quick, pretty girl, rescue me!”

Victoire turned around and smacked Dean in the arm, with laughing eyes, just as Harry felt the presence of more people behind him watching the scene unfold.

“You’re supposed to save me!” Victoire told Dean incredulously.

“Who says?” Dean demanded. Victoire furrowed her eyebrows at that, then Sam let out another roar. 

“Well what am I supposed to do?!” Victoire asked as Sam approached, a wide disbelieving smile on her face as Dean comically tried to fold himself into the space behind her.

Harry could see the flicker of mischief in Dean’s eyes as he gave his brother a look before answering.

“Every monster has a weakness, Vicki,” Dean told her, “and I happen to know that the Sammy-monster is...” and then Dean dropped his voice to a loud whisper “...ticklish.”

“Dean, no!” Sam said with wide-eyes, as Victoire smirked and advanced on him. Dean just stood back and laughed. Sam added, “The kids! I’ll crush the kids!” just as Victoire’s fingers reached Sam’s middle. And then Dean was in motion as Sam started to laugh and involuntarily squirm away from being tickled.

“Disengage kids! Disengage!” Dean said, as he swooped in and started scooping children off Sam before they fell or Sam accidentally flung them. As soon as the children were on their feet, though, they just turned on Sam and started tickling him too. 

“Oh god!” Sam said, dropping into the foetal position on the floor. “Stop! Please stop!”

“Alright kids,” Dean said, grabbing a couple of the kids around the waist and yanking them backwards. “You’ve successfully defeated the Sammy-monster. Now let my poor brother up before you kill him.”

The children reluctantly stopped their tickle attack, and Dean reached a hand down to a panting Sam to help him off the floor.

“Dude, you are such a pansy,” Dean said, laughing. “The angels are on crack, I mean – me I get, but you? No way, you’re Luci-”

“Daddy!” James said, spotting Harry in the doorway. “Sammy was a monster!”

Both Winchesters froze and turned towards the door. Harry had to bite his lip to keep from laughing. 

“I know, James,” Harry told his son, “I was watching. We heard you guys yelling all the way from the kitchen.”

Sam and Dean ducked their heads and blushed in unison, and then Dean straightened up a bit and gave Harry a smile.

“Sorry about that,” Dean said. “Um... our game of horsey sort of got out of hand...”

“I’ll say,” Harry laughed.

“Come on,” Ginny said with a smile. “Let’s all return to the kitchen to eat. Thank you for entertaining the children.”

“No problem,” Dean said, ruffling Teddy’s multicoloured hair as he walked by. “They’re good kids.”

As they all filed back into the kitchen, Harry made a point not to catch Andromeda’s eye – the “I told you so” would be too hard to resist.

*

It seemed Harry had had a talk with his in-laws about asking personal questions, because for a good portion of the evening, Sam found himself explaining how the internet worked to Arthur. Sam almost thought he’d prefer the awkward personal questions, though Arthur seemed to be genuinely fascinated by everything Sam told him. 

Sam had managed to catch a bit of the conversation between Dean and Bill about the side-effects of severe lyncanthropic attacks – until Dean made a joke about Bill suffering from PMS, then Sam pretended he wasn’t listening so well that he actually stopped listening. When Sam did tune back into Dean’s conversation during dessert, he found Dean had switched to talking to Teddy about cars. Sam decided he’d skip out on that conversation as well. 

Instead, he asked Molly if it would be possible to come over to her house sometime to have a look around, in order to figure out what had provoked the ghoul. He tried to keep the disgust out of his voice, while he talked about it with her, if only because she seemed genuinely heartbroken that she’d had to kill the thing. Sam ignored the fact that Harry had already told him that Molly had killed a witch before and just treated her as he would treat any civilian after their first kill. It seemed to work, because before her and Arthur said their goodbyes, she said that Sam and Dean could come over for lunch on Wednesday and have a look around.

Once Molly and Arthur had left, Ginny, Hermione, and Ron gathered up the younger children to let them work off their sugar highs in the other room. Victoire and Andromeda were absorbed in a conversation about something Sam didn’t understand – so it was either a witch thing or a woman thing, but either way he decided it was probably best if he didn’t try to join in. Harry seemed to catch on, and pulled Sam into a conversation with Bill about the nature of curse-breaking in the wizarding world. It was extremely fascinating and Sam was so absorbed in asking Bill questions that he only vaguely noted Dean leading Teddy out of the room.

It was maybe twenty minutes later that Andromeda asked where Teddy had gone. Sam didn’t think anything of it and answered casually.

“Dean took him somewhere,” Sam said, and then turned back to Bill to ask more about the morality of Goblins.

“What?” Andromeda said in a voice that made Sam turn back to her in confusion. “How long ago? Why? Where?”

Suddenly, Sam realized there was a tension in the room that hadn’t been there a moment ago. Victoire was looking between him and Andromeda with wide confused eyes. Harry seemed a little sad and exasperated, and Bill just looked concerned.

“Androm-” Harry tried to say.

“Outside,” Sam said, interrupting Harry. He wasn’t interesting in hearing Harry placate the woman, he was interested in knowing just what she was insinuating about his brother. He had a feeling he wouldn’t like it. “Dean took him outside.”

“Why?” she asked, moving to stand. “Whatever for?”

“Andromeda, you saw them earlier,” Harry said. “They wouldn’t-”

“How do you know, Teddy’s-” Andromeda tried argued back before Harry could finish.

“Teddy’s outside looking at my brother’s car,” Sam interrupted. “Worst he’ll do is take him ‘round the block. We don’t hurt children, ma’am. Hell, we stopped an angel of the Lord from killing the anti-Christ, just because he was an innocent kid. You really think we care that Teddy’s a Shifter?”

“Metamorphmagus!” Andromeda said angrily.

“Whatever he is, it doesn’t matter!” Sam said. “Dean wouldn’t hurt one of Harry’s kids. So don’t you dare even suggest it! What the hell do you think of us?”

“You’re Hunters!” Andromeda said.

“And you’re a witch!” Sam replied. “You don’t see me lumping you in with the demon worshipping-“

“That’s enough!” Harry said, cutting Sam off before he could get to the nastier part of the sentence. 

“Dromeda, how about you and I go take a look at Dean’s car as well. I’m sure you’ll be wanting to say goodbye to Teddy before you leave.”

Andromeda seemed to pull herself together and she nodded at Harry and followed him out of the room without a backwards glance. Sam tried to breathe deeply to calm the rushing of his blood. 

“You’ll have to forgive her,” Bill said softly. “It’s not easy raising a boy like Teddy. Until he could control his abilities, he had to be kept away from Muggles unless he was under a constant glamour. Metamorphmagi are rare, even for the Wizarding world. Children can be cruel sometimes, especially towards those who they consider abnormal.”

Sam sighed. His first reaction had been anger, but he could see Andromeda’s point of view too. Hell, overzealous Hunters had tried to kill him before.

“Well, maybe Dean and I know a little about being abnormal,” Sam muttered. “Not like you guys have the market cornered on freaks.”

Bill’s eyebrows drew together at that, but thankfully he switched his attention to his daughter. Sam had actually forgotten she was in the room she had been so quiet all this time.

“Alright, sweetheart,” Bill said. “Go start saying your goodbyes to your cousins. We’ll leave with Andromeda and take the floo to the Leaky – okay? It’s a bit late to take the underground Muggle trains.”

“Yes, Papa,” Vicki said, and slipped out of the room.

“How about I fix you a drink?” Bill asked, making his way over to the highest cupboard in the kitchen, and taking out a whiskey bottle. 

“That sounds great, thanks,” Sam replied. He watched Bill pour two fingers of the amber liquid into two tumblers.

“My wife is part Veela,” Bill said as he sat down across from Sam and handed him one of the glasses. “Do you know what a Veela is?” Sam shook his head. “Eastern European creatures – sexiest women you’ve ever seen, until they get angry,” Bill laughed. “When they’re angry, they’re like harpies – beaked monsters, with scaly wings and an arsenal of fireballs.”

Sam maybe shouldn’t have taken a sip of the his whiskey while Bill was explaining, because not only did he choke on it a little, it was also apparently not normal whiskey, judging by the fire burning down his throat. Bill seemed to take it as solely a reaction to the thought that his wife might turn into a monster occasionally, which saved Sam’s male pride at not being able to handle the drink.

“Of course, first thing to go when they cross-breed are the beaks and wings and fireballs, thank Merlin,” Bill reassured Sam. “So you’re left with the sexiest woman you’ve ever seen – still not a good idea to get her angry though. My wife – she’s just a quarter-Veela, but it’s enough.”

Bill reached into his pocket and withdrew his wallet. He held a small picture out to Sam, so that Sam could see the beautiful woman waving from it. 

“She’s gorgeous,” Sam told him. 

“She is,” Bill replied. “Met her before...” Bill waved towards his face, “I was... tainted. She married me anyway and I loved her all the more for it.” He sighed, “Now I worry a little though – our kids, they’re an eighth Veela, and who knows how the hell...” Bill waved at his face again, “...this might affect them. Mind you, Teddy’s dad was a full werewolf and Teddy’s just fine. I just hope no one singles them out for having a scarred freak for a father – even if he is handsome enough to make disfiguring facial scars seem attractive.”

Sam laughed softly, and let it echo off into the quiet of the kitchen. He knew Bill wasn’t looking for reassurance. He was trying to show Sam that he trusted him.

“When I was a baby...” Sam started, surprised at the sound of his own voice, surprised he was even thinking of just telling a stranger about how much of a freak he was. “There was this demon, and he...” Sam shook his head, remembering seeing the blood dripping into his own mouth. Back when Azazel had shown him, Sam hadn’t known what it tasted like – he wondered if as a baby he had felt that same rush. He couldn’t do this. “There are Hunters who want to kill me,” Sam confessed instead. “Hunters who have tried to kill me – because they... I’m not all...” 

“Sam?” Bill asked, after Sam trailed off. 

“I know what it’s like to be hunted,” Sam said. “We don’t take this lightly.”

The kitchen door opened then and Victoire bounced back into the room. Sam thought maybe he could see it now – the more ethereal beauty to the girl. 

“Hey, sweetheart,” Bill said. “Have you said all your goodbyes?”

“Yes, Papa,” Victoire said, just as the door opened again and Harry and Andromeda came into the room. 

“Did you find Teddy?” Sam asked, and was pleased when Andromeda looked slightly abashed.

“Yeah,” Harry replied. “Outside by the car – just as you said.” Sam nodded. “I see Bill managed to raid my secret liquor supply,” Harry nodded towards Sam’s drink. “How do like fire-whiskey, Sam?”

Sam took an exaggerated swallow, making sure to keep his face still.

“Smooth,” Sam answered, deadpan. Harry broke into a grin and shook his head.

“I apologize for my words earlier, Sam,” Andromeda said. “But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t still concerned about letting Teddy stay here.” Andromeda turned to include Harry in what she said, while she continued “It’s not that I don’t trust your judgment, Harry, you know I do... it’s just the stories - it goes against all my instincts to let Teddy anywhere near Hunters. You have to understand, he’s...”

“He’s all you have,” Sam finished. “I understand... and I’m also sorry.”

Sam could tell that Andromeda still doubted him. It pissed him off, but he really did understand. Bill must have picked up on Andromeda’s doubts as well though, because he stood and patted her reassuringly on the shoulder.

“There really is nothing to worry about Dromeda,” Bill said, focusing solely on her. “Sam and I had a chat while you were checking on Teddy, and I assure you – Sam isn’t the type to throw stones.”

Sam paused in taking his sip of whiskey when the words sunk in, and he felt Andromeda’s eyes slide off Bill’s and over towards Sam. Sam looked over slow, catching her eye. He made no move, but he could tell that she had picked up on what Bill was saying – he could tell that just by meeting her gaze, he had confirmed it. 

His eyes slide over to Bill, who offered him a small smile – kinship. Bill considered Sam to be like him somehow, even without the details – without knowing it wasn’t a simple case of Sam liking raw meat, and getting moody once a month. It was Sam drinking an innocent woman dry. It was Sam loving the rush of the blood in his veins, the power, and the control over the demons. It was Sam’s brother locking him in a cage like an animal, because that’s what he became – hungry, reckless, and stupid. Sam wasn’t like Bill at all – maybe she was right to be afraid of him. He took his sip of whiskey, and was saved from saying anything by the kitchen door opening again.

“Hey, Sammy,” Dean said, from the doorway. “Check it out!”

Dean reached behind him and pulled someone into a room. Sam had been expecting it to be Teddy, but instead it was himself. Sam was looking at himself at the age of 12, only the eyes weren’t quite right. And maybe it was because he had just been thinking of his time in the panic room, but Sam did the only logical thing he could – he freaked out.

Chapter Text

Harry had barely had time to react to the realization that Sam had obviously confided in Bill while Harry and Andromeda had been outside, when Dean was excitedly pulling Teddy into the room. Only Teddy had changed – and he was getting good – if it hadn’t been for the fact that Teddy usually forgot to change his eyes along with his disguises, Harry probably wouldn’t have recognized the boy standing in his kitchen as Teddy. 

Before Harry could put two and two together and realize who Teddy was impersonating, Sam’s chair crashed backwards against the kitchen floor as Sam stood quickly and took a step backwards with an expression on his face that Harry had rarely seen on a Winchester – fear. 

“Whoa,” Dean said. He pulled Teddy back towards him gently by the shoulders. “Better change back kid.”

Harry watched as Teddy’s concerned face morphed back into its usual features. His hair even reverted to a mousy-brown colour instead of the multi-coloured streaks he had been wearing earlier. No one really knew what Teddy’s natural eye or hair colour was, but whenever Teddy wanted to look as normal as possible, he always chose brown hair and brown eyes.

“Sam?” Dean said, taking a step in front of Teddy towards Sam. Sam’s eyes slid shut as he took a deep breath, and rubbed a hand down his face.

“Sorry,” Sam muttered. “Sorry – I just...” Sam’s voice grew stronger, and he smiled at Teddy. “That was so good. You really surprised me, that’s all. Really cool, man.”

Teddy seemed to consider this answer, and by his facial expressions, Harry could tell that he didn’t quite believe that Sam had just been surprised either.

“Don’t worry,” Teddy said. “I’m not allowed to look like Uncle George either. I won’t do it again”

“Sorry, Teddy,” Dean said. “Um...do the other one maybe?”

Teddy gave Dean a measuring look, then shrugged and screwed up his face in concentration. Harry watched as his hair grew shorter and became dirty blond – while his face changed to resemble...

“Freckles,” Sam instructed with a small smile. “And his eyes are green, not brown.”

Teddy made the necessary adjustments, giving a glance up at Dean’s face to create a similar spattering of freckles across his nose and cheeks. Then Harry had two Dean’s standing in front of him. It shouldn’t have been surprising to see proof that the Winchesters had once been children, but for some reason it was. 

“Really awesome, man,” Sam said, his smile more sincere. Teddy smiled back, and Harry nearly laughed at seeing Dean’s grin on his godson’s face.

“Okay, Teddy,” Andromeda said with a smile. “Give me a familiar face that I can kiss goodbye, I’ve got to head home.”

Teddy’s face morphed back into his own – the hair lengthening to its usual shag, and the streaks of colour returning to it. He walked over to his grandmother and reluctantly accepted a kiss.

“Bye, Gran,” Teddy said.

“You be good for Harry, and have a safe trip back to school. Write me when you get there,” Andromeda instructed.

“Yes, Gran,” Teddy said long and suffering.

“Love you,” Andromeda carried on, ignoring Teddy’s tone. Teddy blushed.

“Love you too,” he muttered, then hugged her.

As soon as Teddy had moved over to speak to Andromeda, Dean had made his way over to Sam. Harry was close enough to lend half an ear to their conversation as well.

“You want to tell me why that freaked you out so much?” Dean asked, voice low.

“Detox,” Sam said. “It was a hallucination. I sort of... had it on my mind, so when he walked in, I...”

“Why would that be on your mind, Sam?” Dean asked, and now Harry could hear an edge to his voice.

“Nothing to worry about, Dean,” Sam replied in a sigh. “I’m going to go out back and research.”

Harry turned to see Sam slam back the remainder of his whiskey. 

“It was nice to meet y’all,” Sam said pleasantly, then turned to Harry. “I’m going to head back to the research, man. You know where to find me.”

“Certainly, Sam,” Harry replied, and Sam left for the back garden. 

*

Dean watched his brother stalk off, and cursed himself for the joke gone wrong. He supposed he should have asked Sam who it was he had been talking to – or yelling at – when he was in the panic room, but it wasn’t exactly something either one of them wanted to discuss. Hell, they hadn’t even really talked about what they had done during the summer apart. Sam had told Dean immediately about being Lucifer’s vessel – and Dean had told him about tracking down Raphael with Cas, and about Zach tripping him into the future – but other than that, Dean hadn’t told Sam about any of his other hunts.

Bill and Victoire left right after Andromeda. Hermione and Ron re-emerged from the living room carrying two sleeping kids, and said quiet goodbyes. Then Harry took off to help Ginny put their kids to bed, and Dean was once again alone with Teddy. 

The kid wasn’t so bad – Dean had had fun showing him the car, and then dragging out his meagre stack of family photos when Teddy offered to demonstrate how his abilities worked. When Dean had outright asked him if he had to shed skin like a regular Shifter, Teddy had been pretty grossed out at the idea. Apparently, Metamorph-whatevers didn’t know much about the way normal Shifters worked.

“So, kid, looking forward to school?” Dean asked.

“Yeah,” Teddy replied. “Harry said I could tell my ‘trust-worthy’ friends about you and Sam. They’re going to flip.”

“What about us?” Dean asked.

Teddy shrugged, “Just that you’re Hunters. Wizards usually stay away from Hunters – they don’t normally let them stay at their house.”

“Well, you should remind your friends that just because you have Hunters at your house, it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t still stay away from Hunters, alright?” Dean said.

“I know,” Teddy rolled his eyes. “Harry’s told me a hundred times!”

Dean laughed, and then snagged Sam’s empty glass from the table and the whiskey bottle from the counter. 

“Hey, don’t tell Harry, okay?” Dean said with a wink as he poured himself a drink.

“I won’t if you give me some,” Teddy sing-songed back to him.

“Nice try, kid,” Dean shook his head.

“Hey, Dean?” Teddy asked, after Dean had taken a good gulp – and wow, that went down with a kick. “Have you and Sam ever... hunted werewolves?”

“Yeah, of course,” Dean said. “Though not for a while – there aren’t that many of them. There were a couple when we were young – the first one I took out myself was when I was sixteen or so. There were a couple more since...“

Dean trailed off as he realized that Teddy’s face was changing. His colourful streaked hair morphing into a mousy-brown, his face was becoming a little gaunt, and most disturbingly, there were suddenly faint scars across his face. The scars were similar to the ones on Bill’s face, but made to look even older. Teddy still looked like himself though – not like when he was pretending to be someone else. Then Dean remembered when he had first begun to learn the difference between Wizards and regular humans, one of the first things Harry had told him was that the werewolves were different, that he knew one that had managed it...

“Not werewolves like your Dad, though,” Dean said quickly. “Just bad ones... like maybe the one that bit your Dad... or the one that hurt your Uncle Bill. Those guys probably weren’t good like your Dad.”

That seemed to calm Teddy down, and the scars slowly disappeared. Dean had a feeling that he had just been given a glimpse into what Teddy’s Dad must have looked like. Teddy’s hair remained brown, but Dean thought that maybe it was more by choice now.

“It was the same one,” Teddy said. “Fenrir Greyback hurt both my Dad and Bill. He turned my Dad when my Dad was only a kid. Harry says that Greyback liked to go after children – Bill was hurt trying to protect some children. Also, Greyback might have killed my Granddad.”

“Well,” Dean said, tightening the grip on his glass but keeping his voice level. “Sam and I would have definitely killed him then.”

Teddy gave Dean a huge smile, and Dean would have returned it if he wasn’t too busy wishing that he had been the one that killed the thing. 

“My Dad was really good though,” Teddy continued. “He never hurt anyone. He was really smart – he was the best Professor Harry ever had – but they made him quit when they found out he was a werewolf. Aunt Hermione made laws since then, but back then things were different. So, he only taught Harry for one year, then he had to fight in the war anyway, with my mum and Harry’s godfather, and the Weasleys and ...a lot of other people. But he was still good - even during the war. And he and Mum got married, and they had me, and Harry says they loved me very much and they didn’t mean to get killed, but they were just trying to make the world a better place for me – to protect me. I still miss them though. Are your parents alive?”

“No,” Dean said, swallowing the lump in his throat. Teddy had been chatting all night, but it was about cars, or his friends at school, or how annoying his Gran got sometimes. It had reminded Dean of Sammy, always talking about what he learned at school or whatever book he was reading. Dean wasn’t prepared to talk about dead parents though. “Uh, my parents... they also died trying to protect me and Sam.”

Teddy nodded like he had suspected as much.

“Well, I better go to bed,” Teddy said, then grinned broadly. “Tomorrow we’ll show you the train!”

“Oh... good. Can’t wait,” Dean smiled back.

“Goodnight, Dean,” Teddy said, as he left the room.

“’Night, kid,” Dean replied.

Just as the door had swung shut after Teddy, it reopened as Harry walked into the room. Dean took another gulp of whiskey.

“Should I ask what he said?” Harry broke the silence, studying Dean critically from the doorway. Dean shook his head.

“Wondered if I had killed any werewolves,” Dean said. “Shifted into his Dad – subconsciously, I think – told me a bit about his parents. They sound like good people.”

“They were,” Harry says. “Teddy takes after both of them – smart like his father, outgoing like his mum.”

“It’s one hell of a combination,” Dean said. “He’s a good kid, Harry – you’ve done good.”

“It wasn’t me,” Harry said. “I was only seventeen when his parents were killed. It’s all Andromeda, I just babysit occasionally and keep a room.”

Dean laughed, thinking back on his evening with Teddy talking his ear off.

“Well, that’s not how he tells it,” Dean told Harry.

“Really?” Harry asked, looking at the closed door in confusion.

“Yeah, the kid adores you,” Dean said. “Told me all about how you used to put spells on him, so you could take him to the zoo, or museums, or playgrounds and he could play with normal kids.”

“Oh, well yes, of course,” Harry replied. “Like I said – I’m the fun babysitter.”

“Also, he refers to your boys as his brothers,” Dean continued as if Harry hadn’t spoken. “I’m sure he’d call you Dad, if he wasn’t worried about insulting the memory of his real father.”

Dean pretended that the next sip of whiskey needed all his focus, to give Harry time to control the extremely sappy expression on his face.

“When he was a kid, he used to refer to me as ‘my Harry’, like it was some official position in everyone’s family,” Harry said.

“Sam used to give me mother’s day cards, because he didn’t understand why there wasn’t a Dean-day.” Dean shook his head. “He stopped when the other kids made fun of him though.”

“Didn’t your birthday count as a Dean-day?” Harry asked.

Dean shrugged, “We didn’t have the best track record with remembering birthdays. If it wasn’t some stupid nationally recognized event, complete with ridiculous arts & crafts school projects, it was pretty easy to forget.” Dean suddenly realized his birthday was in a couple of weeks – he couldn’t remember how old he was turning. He felt old. Sam would know, though, he kept track of stupid things like that. 

“Speaking of the kid,” Dean said changing topics. “I need to get something from the car and then go check on him.”

“Teddy?” Harry asked confused. Dean laughed.

“No, the other kid – Sam,” Dean clarified. 

“Only to you, Dean,” Harry laughed. “Just remember to lock everything up afterwards. Tomorrow we’re dropping Teddy at the train and then I’ll show you two around Diagon Alley. Sound alright?”

“Sure thing,” Dean said. Then left to fetch his video camera and some other supplies from the car – Sam and he had a long night of research ahead of them.

*

Sam was nearly finished researching the list of ghosts, when the shed door creaked open with a gust of frigid air and Dean slipped quickly into the small room.

“Hey, man,” Sam said. “Pattern checks out. They’ve all been isolated incidents. Harry only assumed it was due to an increase, but Supernatural incidences are actually at a fairly normal level for the size of the country and the amount of history. This isn’t a widespread problem, it’s Wizard specific. I haven’t checked out the ghoul, poltergeists, or werewolf yet, ‘cause you said you’d handle those-”

“Yeah, just give me a turn on the computer later,” Dean cut in. Sam looked over to realize that Dean was setting up his shaving kit in the corner, and was fiddling with an adapter plug...also, for some reason he had a video camera.

“I wasn’t complaining,” Sam stated. “What the hell are you doing?”

“Thought you might want to shave,” Dean said. “Or did you not notice that Harry doesn’t have any fuckin’ electric outlets in the house.”

“I used the straight razor,” Sam said. 

“Oh, well, just for me then,” Dean shrugged. 

“What’s with the video camera?” Sam tried again. “Have you decided to record your shaves for posterity, ‘cause that’s pretty weird.”

“Ha ha,” Dean said rolling his eyes. “No, I wanted to show you something.”

Sam raised an eyebrow. Dean wanted to show him something on video - the question was did Sam want to see it. Judging by the way Dean glared at him and shook his head, he guessed that maybe he did.

“Alright...” Sam said.

“Ok, check it out,” Dean said, after fiddling with some buttons. He knelt on the floor next to Sam’s chair, and shoved the digital display between them so that they could both watch at once. 

Sam looked down and saw the familiar hood of the Impala. The view was fixed, which meant that Dean had set up the camera to record secretly. Then Sam watched as Dean entered the video frame, followed closely by Teddy. The sound was muffled, but Sam could hear Dean telling Teddy about the car, and Teddy enthusiastically asking questions. 

“Dean, what-” Sam started to ask, confused as to what the point of this was.

“I set up the video camera so that I could record Teddy,” Dean explained. Sam stared dumbfounded at his brother.

“You set up a video camera... so that you could secretly record a twelve year-old boy...” Sam stated slowly. “That is by far the creepiest thing you’ve ever done.”

Dean seemed to clue in as soon as he glanced at Sam.

“Ugh! No, Sam!” Dean all but shouted. Sam held up his hands placating, and Dean softened his look of disgusted outrage to a look of annoyance. “I set up a video camera, so that I could secretly record a Wizard-Shifter,” Dean explained. “Check it out, his eyes don’t flash or anything. There’s nothing that gives him away.”

“That’s great, Dean,” Sam said sarcastically.

“Hey, Sam, ever hear of the power of knowledge or whatever?” Dean replied. “You know, so in the future we don’t accidentally kill a wizard or something.”

“I don’t think we have to worry anyway, Dean,” Sam said. “Bill says wizards like Teddy are rare, and even then, they’d have to do something bad enough to hit our radar.”

Dean shrugged, which meant that Sam was right.

“Teddy does have one tell though,” Dean said. “If he gets emotional, he changes subconsciously.”

Sam glanced down at the video screen, and could just make out Teddy telling Dean about a time when Harry took him to a car museum. While he talked, his streaked hair slowly started turning black. 

“Then check out what happens when his grandmother gives him a hard time about leaving without saying anything,” Dean said, as he fast forwarded through a good chunk of the video. Dean and Teddy disappeared and reappeared in the video-frame at high speeds, and Sam recognized the shift of the car as they got inside and then got out again. Finally, Dean’s thumb slid off the controls and the video returned to normal.

Teddy was talking animatedly to Dean about something, his hair back to being streaked, but the colours shifting a little as he talked. Sam couldn’t make out what he was saying really, but he could tell from Dean’s smile in the video that Dean got a kick out of the kid. Then he watched as Dean and Teddy’s attention was grabbed by something off screen – and Sam heard the equally muffled voice of Andromeda. Teddy’s hair immediately flashed to red, as a stormy expression came over his face. Almost immediately, the colour faded to the mousy brown that Sam had seen in the kitchen not that long ago, as Teddy’s expression shifted from angry to obviously chastised. Dean’s hand then rested on Teddy’s shoulder and Sam could just make out Dean’s “Sorry, Ma’am, I should’ve made sure he told you.” Then Dean said something else that Sam didn’t catch, and he watched as Teddy smiled again and his hair slowly returned to being streaked – though now there was a distinctive dirty-blonde mixed in as well.

“She thought you had taken him out back to shoot him or something, you know?” Sam said, when Dean stopped the video.

“What?” Dean asked. Sam just turned back to the computer, so that he wouldn’t have to look at Dean’s expression. “She thought I-”

“I got mad at her,” Sam stated. 

“Not too mad, though, right?” Dean asked, looking at the video display as though he was re-evaluating the scene.

“Dean-” 

“I mean, I did videotape the poor kid for research purposes,” Dean said. “And she doesn’t know us... and Teddy said that they’re taught in school about why there are secrecy laws and how to recognize and avoid Hunters-”

“Dean-” Sam tried again, not wanting to hear his brother basically say that he didn’t mind if someone thought he was a child-murdering monster.

“I’m just saying,” Dean continued. “Her husband and daughter are both dead. Teddy’s all she has and-”

“For fuck’s sake, I know!” Sam said. “I already apologized, okay?”

“Okay, okay,” Dean said. 

“You better erase that video,” Sam said. “She’ll go from thinking you’re a murderer to thinking you’re a creepy pedo.”

“Yeah,” Dean said, already hitting the delete button.

They lapsed into silence and Sam started on the research Dean was supposed to do while Dean shaved. Even when Dean was finished shaving, he just came and knelt beside Sam, taking down notes in the margins of the incident reports and their notebooks, and occasionally telling Sam to change the research scope.

They worked long into the night, and only talked about the case, but Sam’s mind wandered to the video of Teddy and Dean by the car – how Dean had smiled at Teddy, explained about the car, offered him support when he got in trouble with his grandmother, and took full responsibility for his part in it – and Sam couldn’t help but think that Dean would make a great father, if he were ever given the chance. 

Chapter Text

The Winchesters were, once again, already awake when Harry got downstairs the next morning. Dean had the door open to his and Sam’s bedroom and an assortment of guns lay out on Sam’s oversized bed. Harry waved a good morning at him as he walked by. Sam was in the kitchen with the stack of incident reports and his notebook.

“Morning, Sam,” Harry said. “Sleep well?”

“Uh, sure,” Sam responded. “We finished going over all the supernatural occurrences, and they are definitely isolated incidents that aren’t at all connected with the apocalypse. It also looks as though whatever is causing these events is targeting wizards specifically – now, we still haven’t figured out what the connection between the victims is, but there’s got to be something we’re overlooking. Maybe if we get a look at-“

“Sam,” Harry sighed. “Is today Monday? Am I at work?”

“Um, no?” Sam replied.

“Then, can we just... leave it for a bit?” Harry asked. “Let me have a coffee. Let me drop my kid off at the train. Let me show you and your brother around a bit... and we’ll take this all up on Monday, I promise – once we’re at the office and I’ve got Ron there and I’m being paid to deal with bad news...”

“I guess,” Sam said. “Sorry, we just-”

“Work at a different pace,” Harry finished. “I know, Sam. But the incidents don’t appear to be escalating, we have time.”

“You don’t know that,” Sam muttered, but Harry didn’t bother answering, since Ginny and the kids chose that moment to all come into the kitchen with Teddy following sleepily behind, his hair mostly turquoise.

“Dean said you wouldn’t let me play with guns,” Teddy yawned at Harry. Sam quickly cleared the incident reports and his notebook off the table as Ginny got everyone into their seats.

“And he’s right, Teddy,” Harry confirmed. “Sam, why don’t you go tell Dean that breakfast will be ready in about twenty minutes. I’ll make pancakes.”

“Sure thing,” Sam said, and slipped out of the room.

*

Sam put away the guns while Dean showered, then they both made their way downstairs for breakfast. It was much less chaotic than the day before, but that was mainly because James and Albus’ attention was fixed on Teddy as Teddy rambled on about his school. Soon, they were all leaving the house to head to King’s Cross station, where, Harry told them, Teddy was to catch a train to Hogwarts. Harry and Ginny led the way - Ginny holding Lily and Harry with Albus, while Teddy held onto James’ hand and followed behind. Dean and Sam carried Teddy’s trunk for him and brought up the rear. Sam tried to imagine his own Dad letting him go to a boarding school from the ages of eleven to seventeen, and couldn’t picture it at all. Dean laughed mirthlessly when Sam mentioned the thought. 

“Bet you would have liked that though,” Dean said, adjusting his grip on the trunk. “Some fancy boarding school, somewhere far away from us.”

Sam frowned, but considered it. 

“Yeah, probably,” Sam shrugged, thinking back on how miserable he’d been as a teenager, constantly being shipped from one school to another.

“Teddy, keep yourself still from here on please,” Harry said from in front of them, and Sam realized they were coming up a busy subway entrance. Teddy nodded and Sam wondered what the kid looked like naturally, because his hair and eyes, and even skin tone suddenly made him look quite ordinary. Even though he hadn’t changed his appearance that much, he suddenly seemed much different from the excited, happy, interesting kid at breakfast. Now, he appeared boring, with nothing about him to draw the eye at all.

“Kid’s good,” Dean muttered. 

“Stay close to me,” Harry said, “keep hold of your-... James’ hand.”

They got on the subway without problem, all Harry’s kids wide-eyed and excited about the trip. Even Teddy was looking around like the whole thing was a special treat.

When they got to King’s Cross, they made their way to the train platforms. Harry led them right to platform 9, and then they all stopped next to a wide brick pillar. 

“Do you remember the tree in Boston Common?” Harry asked them. 

Sam thought back to the previous year, how they had walked through a tree in order to get to the American Ministry of Magic. 

“Yeah,” Dean answered. 

“Good,” Harry said. “Dean, hold Teddy’s hand. He’ll take you through. Sam, just keep hold of your end of the trunk and you should be able to pass through as well.”

Dean reached his free hand out, and engulfed Teddy’s small hand with it. Then Teddy turned with a smile and disappeared into the wall of brick.

“Holy-” Dean said, but the rest was cut off as he too disappeared, and half the trunk with him. Sam was a little distracted by how weird it all looked, until he felt a sharp tug from Dean’s end of the trunk, and he found himself stumbling forward and closing his eyes out of reflex.

“You have to step out of the way now so that Harry can come in,” Sam heard Teddy’s voice say, and he opened his eyes to find himself in a very different looking station. He stepped to the side where Teddy directed them, just as Harry and Ginny stepped out of the wall with the three youngest children in tow.

It was just like the station they had just come from, only filled with steam, and somewhat older looking. Dominating Sam’s field of vision was a huge red and black old fashioned train with the words Hogwarts Express boldly written on it. There were a few people on the platform saying goodbye to their children, all teenagers of varying ages. Some of the people were dressed normally; others wore weird robes and garish outfits that seemed to belong more in children’s stories than as something you would actually see.

“How can this possibly exist?” Sam asked the air.

“Pretty cool, yeah?” Teddy answered, his hair turning turquoise and his eyes suddenly swimming with life and colour. 

“Yeah, really cool, kid,” Dean said.

“It exists simultaneously with what we saw before we passed through the barrier,” Harry answered Sam’s question with a smile. “It’s extremely complex spell work, of course, to have a hidden layer to reality.”

“Andrew!” Teddy yelled across the platform, and a Sam watched as a boy with two of the more normal looking parents turned their way. He’s face lighting up with a grin as he saw Teddy. 

“Teddy, why don’t you introduce Sam and Dean to your friend,” Harry said with a smile, then he turned to Sam and Dean “You guys can just leave the trunk here for now. We’re going to wait on Bill and Victoire.”

Sam and Dean both followed Teddy over to the other boy. Teddy introduced them as friends of his godfather, and the boy's eyes got slightly wide. They introduced themselves to the boy’s parents, who promptly picked up on their accents and asked them how they were enjoying their visit to England. 

After the small talk, Teddy waved over another friend named Ignatius, whose parents were dressed like people who would name their kid Ignatius... or maybe Fairy-Moon. This time it was the parents’ eyes that widened when Teddy introduced Sam and Dean as friends of his godfather. Before they could be subjected to another round of small talk about whether they were in town for business or pleasure. Teddy spotted Victoire and Bill and dragged Sam and Dean back over to where they stood with Harry. 

“Andrew’s parents are Muggles, like you,” Teddy said as they walked back towards where Harry and Bill stood talking. “But Iggy’s parents are both Wizards. We share a dorm with another boy named Nathan and-”

“Hi Teddy,” Victoire interrupted. 

“Hello Sam, Dean,” Bill greeted. “What do you think of our train?”

“Bit old fashioned, isn’t it?” Dean said with a small smile. Bill’s brow furrowed a bit in confusion, but Harry laughed.

“Well, that’s wizards for you,” Harry said. Then Harry bent down next to James and Albus and addressed them. “Okay boys, Teddy has to get on the train now. Time to say goodbye.”

Sam watched as both James and Albus looked at Teddy with extremely round sad eyes, before launching themselves at him and hugging his middle . Teddy’s laugh was full of affection.

“I’ll miss you too,” Teddy said, patting each of them on the back. 

Lily clued into the fact that Teddy was going somewhere, and just as Teddy pried James and Albus off of his legs, Lily was reaching for him from Ginny’s arms. So Teddy gave her a quick hug and a kiss on the forehead. 

“Okay, my turn,” Harry said, and then hugged Teddy himself. “Have a good trip to Hogwarts. I love you.” 

“Da-! Stop it, Harry,” Teddy said, squirming away with a pointed look towards where Vicki was saying goodbye to her father, and a glance at Sam and Dean. “You’re embarrassing me.”

“I didn’t see or hear anything,” Dean said, then started whistling and looking up at the ceiling. Sam tried to hide his smile and made a point to look back over at the train, before he looked back at Harry and Teddy.

“Alright, sorry,” Harry rolled his eyes and let Teddy go. “Go on then, I think your friends are waiting.”

“It was nice to meet you, Dean and Sam,” Teddy said, stepping back from Harry and looking a little less annoyed. “I hope you enjoy the rest of your stay.”

“Nice to meet you too, kid,” Dean said, then cast a glance at Harry. “But I think we might be coming up to your school sometime soon, so we’ll probably see you again.” 

“Really?” Teddy turned wide excited eyes towards Harry. 

“I’ll be in touch with your Head Mistress, yes,” Harry said. “If she agrees-“

“She’ll agree,” Teddy smiled. “She always agrees with you.”

“That’s because she likes me best,” Harry said, with a smile.

The train gave a whistle, and Teddy and Victoire’s heads both snapped towards it.

“Go on then,” Harry said. “Love you.”

Harry,” Teddy said, then seemed to take pity on his godfather, because he added, “I’ll write you tomorrow, alright?”

Harry smiled. Teddy grabbed his trunk by one handle and dragged it over to a nearby porter, who tossed it into a baggage car.

“Au revoir, Papa,” Victoire said. “Goodbye, Uncle Harry, Aunt Ginny.”

“Au revoir, Victoire!” Harry and Ginny both waved.

Sam stood back as Harry and his family waved to the train as it left the station like many of the other parents were doing. There seemed to be a collective sigh into silence as the train rounded a corner and disappeared from view, then slowly the platform was filled with soft chatter again.

“Ok, guys,” Harry said. “Are you ready to see the heart of Wizard London?”

Sam took a look around the emptying train station, knowing that on the other side of the pillar there were modern trains and civilians arriving and departing, and none of them even know that they were standing in a place where the physical plane had been split in two...

“I have a feeling it’s definitely something I’d like to see.”

*

Dean smoothed over Bill’s confusion over why they didn’t just apparate to the diagonal-place, by claiming that he would probably vomit if they did. It was a half-truth, and hurt Dean’s pride a bit, but it was better than explaining that his brother was some sort of freak. Sam had told him last night that he had let slip to Bill that he might not be exactly normal – Dean had been sure to whack him in the head for being an idiot – but having a vague notion of ‘not normal’ and knowing that someone specifically had demon-blood inside them were two different things. 

Harry and Bill helped Ginny apparate home with the kids, and then the four men made their way back through the streets of London. Eventually, coming to a stop outside a very shady looking place called The Leaky Cauldron.

“It’s just through here,” Harry said. “Welcome to Wizard London.”

Harry opened the door and they walked into the darkened bar. It looked just as shady on the inside as it had on the outside, only Dean realized that despite the darkness, it was clean – and it also had a fair number of people in it for a Sunday. Not only that, it had a fair number of people dressed extremely strangely for a Sunday. Some were actually wearing pointy hats.

As soon as they were in the door, all eyes in the place glanced towards them, and Dean could hear the low whispers of ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘who’s he with?’ Dean glanced at Harry, but he didn’t seem phased in the slightest. He caught Bill rolling his eyes though, and Dean realized that this level of attention was probably normal – that this is what it was like to hang out with a celebrity.

“Hi Hannah!” Harry called to the barkeeper with a smile, as he made his way over to her. Dean, Sam and Bill followed close behind. 

“Hello Harry, Hello Bill,” Hannah greeted. Dean was sure to give her a smile when her eyes racked over him and Sam. “What’s the official story on these two fine lads, then?”

“Experts,” Harry answered with a smile, “from America. I’ve asked them here to help with the recent problems.”

Dean watched as Hannah smile slipped at the mention of the ‘recent problems.’ Her gaze returned to him and Sam, this time more assessing. Then the smile returned to her face and she reached out a hand in greeting.

“They’ll just be going by their first names, while they’re here,” Harry continued. “Sam and Dean, I’d like you to meet Hannah Abbott.”

“Nice to meet you,” Dean greeted, shaking her offered hand.

“Abbott?” Sam asked. “Any relation-”

“My father,” Hannah answered cutting Sam off. “He was attacked by a ghost in November.”

“Is he alright?” Dean asked.

“Yeah, stayed overnight in St. Mungo’s. Then drove me mad for a week staying at my apartment while Harry’s team made his house safe again,” Hannah answered, but Dean could tell that she had been genuinely worried and cared deeply for her father. “He certainly didn’t need that experience – his life’s been hard enough, I think.”

“Well, that’s why we’re here – to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else,” Dean smiled, and was rewarded with another smile from Hannah.

“Good to hear,” Hannah said, then gave Harry a wicked smile. “Now then, I’ve got the official story – what’s the unofficial story?”

Dean watched as Harry returned Hannah’s smile, and then motioned for her to bend over the bar. He then leaned over and whispered into her ear. Dean watched as Hannah’s smile slipped off her face, as her eyes widened and looked over at Dean and Sam with yet another reappraisal, and perhaps a hint of fear. Dean saw Bill give Hannah a nod out of the corner of his eye. 

“You’re mad,” Hannah all but breathed once Harry pulled away. 

“Experts, Hannah,” Harry said. “I need you to have my back on this one.”

“You know that’s never in question, Harry,” Hannah said, the smile returning to her face.

“Thanks,” Harry said. “Bill and I are showing them Diagon Alley today – so we’d best be off.”

“Have fun then,” Hannah said. “It was nice to meet you, Sam, Dean.” 

“Nice to meet you too,” Sam said, as Dean gave her a nod and a smile.

Harry led them through a back door into a shady cramped alley. Dean wanted to ask why they were in a dirty alley, but Sam seemed to have other questions.

“So, I take it you told her we were Hunters?” Sam said, once the door was shut behind them.

“Yeah,” Harry said. “Had to.”

“Hannah and Harry have a deal,” Bill explained. “She keeps tabs on conversations for him - let’s him know what rumours are going ‘round. In exchange, he tells her what’s true and what’s false. She encourages the rumours that Harry wants encouraged, and discourages the ones that he doesn’t like.”

Dean nodded. It was smart – Hannah was basically a plant, someone that Harry could use to control public opinion and knowledge. It suddenly occurred to Dean that Harry was not only powerful because of his celebrity war-hero status. He was also powerful because he was... well, powerful. That still didn’t explain why they were in a dirty alley though.

“So, um, why are we standing in a dirty alley?” Dean said. “I could see one of these in America, thanks.”

Harry and Bill both laughed, then Harry pulled his wand out of his pocket.

“Ready?” Harry asked. Dean and Sam glanced at each other and then nodded. Harry tapped one of the bricks lightly with his wand, and then the wall started to move.

Dean couldn’t help the instinctual rush of adrenaline that came when the bricks began to shift. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Sam shift on his feet and knew he felt the same way. Slowly, the wall turned into an archway, and Dean could see a narrow street with leaning old buildings, and several people making their way down the cobblestones.

“Welcome to Diagon Alley,” Harry said, and then stepped through the archway into the street. Dean walked through after him, feeling Sam at his heels. As they walked up the street, he could see what looked like a pet store, a bookstore, a shop selling brooms... he could also see how people noticed them. He and Sam were used to blending into crowds, but it seemed walking beside Harry was like wearing a neon sign. No one was exactly subtle with their curious looks and whispers to one another either.

“…Ollivanders sells wands,” Harry was saying, and Dean realized that Harry was now walking beside Sam, narrating the shops. “Gringotts is the building at the end of the street – the bank.”

“It’s technically where I work,” Bill said. “Though I’m in the field a lot.” 

“And over here,” Harry said with a smile, “is Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes!”

They turned a small corner and came to a particularly spectacular shop. There were moving displays in the windows, and on top of the storefront name there was the figure of a man’s head with a top hat on. He had an arm raised to lift his hat, and every second time he did so, there was a rabbit under it. Dean smiled.

“Check it out, Sammy,” Dean said. “Man, you would have gone crazy over this when you were thirteen.”

“It was a phase, Dean,” Sam said, but Dean could tell that he wasn’t as annoyed as he wanted Dean to believe.

“Come on,” Bill said hurrying towards the door. “We’ll introduce you to George. He’s been wanting to meet you.”

Chapter Text

Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes was like a funhouse. There were moving displays, and things packaged in every colour of the rainbow. There was a large picture of two identical redheaded teens wearing shiny suits on the wall. They were laughing and waving at the customers. The shop was mostly filled with parents following around children who all seemed to be under ten. Dean realized it was probably because all the older kids had left on the train that morning.

There were bins of candy, but Dean remembered all too well how it felt to accidentally turn into a canary, so he wasn’t tempted... still, he wondered what else they could possibly do. Before he could read any of the packaging though, a familiar voice called out.

“Dean, Sam!” Ron said, waving from behind a counter at the side of the store, a large antique cash register beside him. “I was hoping Harry would bring you by!”

“Oh, hello, Ron, nice to see you too, dear brother!” Bill said. “How am I? Well, thanks for asking...”

“Oh shut-up, I just saw you last night,” Ron said. “Hey Harry, watch the counter while I go get George, he can give Sam and Dean the full tour.”

“My pleasure,” Harry said. “I’m fine too by the way – seeing my godson off at the train has not emotionally crushed me too much this time ‘round, thanks for asking.”

“Glad to hear it.” Ron rolled his eyes, before turning and walking to the back of the shop, where he disappeared through a door.

Harry slipped behind the counter just as a little boy and his mother approached. Dean bit his lip in order to keep from laughing at the way both the mother’s and the son’s eyes went wide at seeing who was ringing up their purchases.

“Ten Gallions, please,” Harry said. “Did you find everything you were looking for?”

“Yes, Mr. Potter, Sir,” the mother breathed, her hands fumbling with her change purse. She took out some odd looking coins and handed them to Harry, who punched a few buttons on the manual cash register that caused the tray to ding open.

“Brilliant. Thank you for shopping at Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes. Have a nice day!” Harry smiled back. The kids face broke into a wide smile, as he continued to stare at Harry while is mother pulled him out of the store.

“Are you intimidating our customers again, Harry?” A voice came from the back of the shop. Dean turned to see an older version of one of the red-headed twins he had seen in the picture at the front of the store. His hair was shaggier though, falling just past his ears.

“There’s a reason I’m the silent partner, you know,” Harry smiled back.

“Now, introduce us to your friends, Ron,” the guy smiled.

“George, I’d like you to meet Dean Winchester, and his brother Sam,” Ron introduced. “Sam, Dean, this is my brother George. This is his shop.”

“Our shop,” George corrected. “We did make you a full partner, Ron – or don’t you remember?”

Dean watched as Ron smiled widely. He suddenly reminded Dean of Sam, when Dean was teaching him how to drive... smiling like he was part of the coolest thing in the world. Dean had to admit, looking around the shop, that he could certainly see the appeal.

“Fancy a tour of the shop?” George asked.

“Definitely,” Dean smiled, wondering if he could somehow sneak one of those canary candies to Sam... that would be a big canary.

“Do not get any ideas, Dean!” Sam said, glaring like Dean had already done it.

“What?” Dean asked, and then bit back his smile when Sam just stood there shaking his head.

George led them around the shop, enthusiastically explaining the different products and how they had come up with them, and which their best sellers were. It was always “Fred and I” or “we”, as though he never came up with an idea just on his own. There were even a few products where he said that it was Ron’s idea that “we” perfected. And slowly Dean started to realize that George was actually only talking about himself. There was no other person – not anymore. Sometimes George even spoke in half-sentences as though he expected someone else to finish them for him.

Dean thought of the summer when he and Sam had been apart, and remembered how he still scanned take-out menus looking for salads that Sammy might like. He wondered if Sam didn’t survive the battle and he did – if he’d end up like George, talking as though his brother was next to him instead of six feet under – or, in their case, a handful of ashes on the forest floor.

“Oh! I’ve seen these before!” Sam suddenly said, picking up a weird flesh coloured ear on a string. “Harry showed me in that memory-bowl.”

Dean picked up one of the weird things too, wondering what they did. This was the first he had ever seen them – and also, the first time Sam had mentioned anything about what Harry had shown him in the memory-bowl.

George looked equally surprised, glancing across the store to where Harry, Ron, and Bill stood by the counter chatting.

“Why would he use a Pensieve to show you Extendable Ears?” George asked. “He carries a pair in his bag.”

“Oh, it wasn’t about... I mean, I just saw you using them... at the hospital, when your Dad was bitten by the snake,” Sam explained haltingly.  “They worked really well – I thought if you could make one without the string, that’d be even more useful.”

As soon as Sam had mentioned what memory it had been though, George’s eyes went wide and he looked even more confused.

“Why on earth would he show you that night?” George asked.

“Uh, he... wanted to,” Sam said, sighing and putting the Extendable Ears back on the shelf. “Listen, nevermind about it okay. I just... I thought they were cool.”

“No... sorry, sorry. I just... that wasn’t a good night for us,” George said, giving Sam an apologetic smile, and motioning to the Extendable Ears. “There’s a spell you can use with them that will do away with the need for the string, but it can be a confusing experience. I think the Aurors use them that way though.”

Sam nodded, and George moved them on to the next thing. Eventually, when Dean thought Sam was busy reading about Decoy Detonators, Dean pulled George towards a stack of hats, well away from Sam or any other customers.

“What was that memory Sam was talking about?” Dean asked him in a whisper.

George picked up a fedora and placed it on Dean’s head, giving him a smile.

“Our Dad was bitten by a snake,” George said, his smile slowly fading. “And then, when we used the Ears, we found out that it might be possible for Voldemort to possess Harry. It wasn’t a good night. One of the worst, before the war – I don’t know why Harry would show that to Sam.”

“You were all afraid of him,” Sam said, suddenly beside them again.

“No,” George shook his head. “We were afraid for him. Harry’s harmless, always has been. Fred and I were always troublemakers, but trouble follows Harry around like a shadow – and not the fun kind of trouble either, like we made. We sort of adopted him, Fred and I – like a second little brother – and we wanted to look out for him. But we couldn’t do anything about his Aunt and Uncle, and Harry kept getting into situations that we couldn’t handle, or only heard about after he was already recovering in the hospital – and we were useless, really. So, when we heard that – I mean, it was You-Know-Who! We were no match for him – we had every right to be terrified of losing Harry.”

“Oh,” Sam said, and looked at Dean as though it was Dean that was the confusing person between the three of them. Maybe it was because Dean was still wearing the fedora that George had stuck on his head.

“We promised each other that we’d do everything we could to help Harry, no matter what,” George continued. “So, I lost an ear,” George lifted his hair away from the side of his head. Dean swore under his breath at seeing the scarred skin where George’s ear should have been. “And Fred went and died without me, the bastard. Now I’m left sounding more pretentious than Percy, because I’m not used to being just one person.”

There was an awkward silence, because what the hell do you say to that. Dean hadn’t lasted two days without Sam, and Sam had... well, the fact that George seemed sad around the edges, and talked about himself in the plural – he was dealing with things considerably better than Dean or Sam would – and Fred had been his fuckin’ twin.

“Throw this at your brother’s head,” George said, handing a candy out to Sam.

“What?” Sam and Dean both asked at once. George pressed the candy into Sam’s hand and smiled.

“Just do it, Don’t move your arms, Dean”

Sam raised an eyebrow, and Dean was sure he must be wearing a similar expression, then Sam shrugged and lobbed the candy at Dean’s face. Dean debated opening his mouth to try to catch it, but it was still in its wrapper, and George had already shown them the candies that made you puke. It didn’t matter, however, whether Dean opened his mouth of not, because about six inches from Dean’s face, the candy hit some invisible barrier and bounced away.

“What the...?” Dean said.

“It’s the hat,” George explained, though he was lacking a bit of his earlier enthusiasm. “It has a shield charm for the head and face. It deflects simple spells too, but I thought demonstrating that before explaining might not be the wisest move, given who you two are.”

Dean laughed at that “Smart man.”

Dean picked up a bowler hat, reached up and put it on Sam’s hat – then laughed before even throwing anything at him, because it was Sam wearing a bowler hat. Sam’s glare only made it more ridiculous.

“Hey, George?” Dean said. “Do you sell itching powder?”

“Dean, don’t!” Sam said.

At George’s wide mischievous grin, Dean threw a wink at Sam – who was pulling off the bowler hat and making a show of looking huffy. Sam paused for a second and Dean saw the brief flash of understanding.

“Fine,” Sam said. “If you’re going to tell him about the prank wars – then I better make sure he hears how I totally won our last one. When you told Albus, you only told the bits that made you look good.”

“I always look good,” Dean deadpanned, flicking the brim of the fedora he still wore. “Now, George, have you ever heard of Nair?”

“Or contact-glue?” Sam added in.

“You have our undivided attention,” George said, his smile lighting up his whole face. “Please step into our office, dear friends!”

*

Harry watched as Dean and Sam disappeared in the back room of the shop with George.

“I have a vaguely ominous feeling,” Harry muttered.

“Do you think I’d look good in a fedora?” Ron asked.

*

Harry had come to get them out of the office after about an hour. They were still all laughing at George’s story about the mayhem they’d caused for some horrible teacher in their final year of school.

“I hate to interrupt – especially that story,” Harry said. “But Bill has to get home and apparently there’s some business he wants to discuss with George before he leaves.”

“Oh, right, okay,” George said, then turned back to Sam and Dean. “You fellows will visit again before you go back to America, yeah? I haven’t even gotten to the best part yet.”

“There’s more? Oh man, yeah, definitely,” Dean laughed, as they headed out of the workshop area and back into the main shop.

Bill shook their hands and told them it was nice to meet them, before disappearing into the back office with George. Ron was busy with customers. Harry explained that a lot of parents took their younger kids to the shop as a special treat after their older siblings left on the train for school.

Then a young girl accidentally knocked over a small display of daydream potions, and Harry had to jump in before someone hurt themselves on the broken glass or any of the customers accidentally became catatonic for 30 minutes. Dean and Sam just stood out of the way, by the front door, while Harry cleaned up the mess and let the girls and her parents apologize to him for what seemed like forever. Dean looked out the window at the wizards walking up and down the street outside – some in funny outfits, and some looking absolutely normal.

Suddenly, one of the people on the street started looking familiar. He was dressed in a sweeping black trench coat, and Dean couldn’t see his face from the angle he was at – but Dean was willing to bet that there weren’t that many wizards who were that blonde.

“Sammy, check it out,” Dean hit Sam in the arm. “Let’s go say hello!”

“Wha-” Sam started to say, but Dean was already moving out the door. The “Dean!” that he heard a half-second later confirmed that Sam was following him.

He was across the narrow alley way in five strides, and tapped the man on the shoulder.

“Hey Drake!” Dean said, as Draco Malfoy whipped around starred at him with wide-eyes. Dean gave him a smile and then realized that he had a little kid with him - a little kid that looked almost exactly like him, and who was currently looking at Dean and Sam warily, while his father held his hand in a tight grip.

“Hey, this must be your son... Scorpion?” Dean said, dropping into a crouch so that he wouldn’t tour over the little boy so much.

“Scorpius, ” Scorpius said in a small but clear voice.

“Oh, my mistake.” Dean smiled. He glanced back up at Draco to see him still standing with wide-eyes, like Dean was some sort of ghost. “It’s nice to meet you, Scorpius . My name is Dean, and the giant there is my brother, Sam.”

“He’s not a giant,” Scorpius laughed, and then Draco seemed to come out of his stupor.

“Dean, Sam...” Draco said, then he glanced up and down the street as though he were looking for someone else. “What are you doing in London? What are you doing here?”

Draco’s free hand moved to Scorpius’s shoulder as he pulled the kid closer to him. Dean suddenly remembered that Draco spooked easy, so he made sure to smile, as he stood up and mindfully moved a little bit away from the kid.

“Harry asked us to come help out a bit with the recent... uh, problems,” Dean answered, suddenly wondering how much of Harry’s job was confidential – but then, Draco had helped Harry break into confidential files the year before, so maybe it didn’t matter with him.

“Problems?” Draco asked.

“You know... the ghosts problems,” Dean said dismissively, mindful that they were on a public street.

“Oh,” Draco said, shifting on his feet and looking away. “I’ve heard rumours...wasn’t sure...” he trailed off, and then seemed to remember who he was talking to. “If Harry called you then... are the attacks connected with...”

“No,” Sam said. “At least, we don’t think so. We’re only part way through the investigation.”

“Oh,” Draco replied, glancing at Sam and still looking a little wary. Dean wondered how much he knew about what had gone down in May.

“We’ll fix it,” Dean said.

Draco just nodded, but judging by the way Scorpius suddenly squirmed, Dean could tell that Draco had tightened the grip he had on the kid’s shoulders.

“Draco?” a woman’s voice suddenly spoke up next to them. “Are you going to introduce me to these two eye-catching gentlemen?”

Dean turned to see a beautiful woman with long dark hair that was swept back off her shoulders with a low fancy clip. She was wearing wizard robes, but for some reason Dean didn’t think they looked funny on her. She looked almost regal, but not very approachable. Dean gave her a smile, and found that at least she smiled back a little.

“Hi Mummy!” Scorpius said, and Dean noted how her smile became more genuine and soft when she looked at her son.

“Astoria,” Draco said, and if he had seemed out of his depth before, he looked even more so now. “I... would like you to meet Dean and Sam W-”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Astoria,” Sam said, cutting Draco off.

“Americans?” Astoria said, noting Sam’s accent. “May I ask how it is that you know my husband?”

“He helped Harry and us out with something once,” Dean replied, keeping it vague just in case Draco didn’t tell his wife about the illegal activity he got up to the year before.

“You’re friends of Harry Potter?” Astoria asked, smiling.

“Yeah,” Sam replied. “He invited us to come visit, so we thought we’d take him up on it. We’ve never been to England before.”

“He was just showing us his brother-in-law’s joke-shop, and I saw Drake here out the window, so I thought I’d come say hello,” Dean added.

“I want to see the joke-shop,” Scorpius suddenly pouted, drawing everyone’s attention back down to him.

“Scorpius...” Draco sighed, giving them an embarrassed glance. “You know there are some places that... I’m not welcome in.”

“What about Mummy?” Scorpius asked.

“No, Scorpius,” Draco replied.

“I don’t think he’d give me a hard time, dear...” Astoria started to say. “I wasn’t...” she trailed off, and looked apologetically at Draco for whatever she almost said.

“I could take him,” Sam suddenly said, and Dean turned to look at him with the same look of surprise as Draco and Astoria. Sam shrugged. “We just met George, and he was really nice – I mean, the kid didn’t have anything to do with the war... if he still has a problem with it, I’ll just take him back out – but he was busy in the back anyway when we came out here, so it’s just Harry and Ron in there and I’m sure they’d be cool with it. Anyway, I’ll watch out for him.”

Sam always rambled when he was nervous, and Dean knew he meant well – but judging by the death grip that Draco had on Scorpius’ shoulder, he doubted they’d go for it.

“Please, Daddy! Please, Mummy!” Scorpius said trying to twist out of Draco’s grip to face them.

“Is it okay if you go in with Sam, sweetheart?” Astoria asked Scorpius.

“Astoria!” Draco said, jaw dropping open and eyes widening.

“Any friend of Harry’s is a friend of ours,” Astoria said slowly to Draco.

“But-” Draco said, but Scorpius had successfully twisted out of Draco’s grip and was now dancing excitedly in front of his mother.

“Can I buy  something?” Scorpius asked. Astoria reached into her purse and pulled out some coins, handing them to Sam.

“He can spend ten galleons, and that’s it,” Astoria instructed, as much to Scorpius as to Sam. “And if you could have him out within a half-hour, that would be splendid. Draco and I will wait here.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Sam said. He turned to grab Scorpius’ hand, but it was awkward with how tall Sam was and how little the kid was. Sam dropped into a crouch next to Scorpius instead and whispered something to him, to which Scorpius nodded vigorously. Then in one movement, Sam scooped Scorpius up and sat him on one of his broad shoulders. Scorpius let out a delighted giggle, and Sam gave them a wave as he walked across the road – one hand holding Scorpius firmly in place.

Dean smiled and turned back to Draco, only to find him starring at the shop door looking horrified.

“He’ll be fine, man. Relax,” Dean said. “Sam’s fine with kids – little awkward, maybe, but he’s awkward with pretty much everyone.”

“Draco’s a little overprotective,” Astoria said. Dean nodded – he understood better than probably Astoria did. After all, depending how much Draco knew about how Lucifer’s cage was sprung...

“I mean it,” Dean said to Draco. “Your kid will be fine. My brother will protect him with his life. I hope you ain’t judging him based on... we all make mistakes sometimes, you should know that.”

That seemed to do the trick, because Draco looked back at Dean and nodded. Astoria was giving them a quizzical look, so Dean decided a subject change was in order.

“So, um, can I ask about the money?” Dean said. “Because I mean, we used Pounds all yesterday, but ever since we got on this street everyone’s only been talking about “galleons” ...”

“You’re Muggles?” Astoria gasped, then she turned to Draco, “You... they’re friends of Harry Potter and they’re Muggles...”

Dean worried for a moment that he had said something wrong, but then Astoria’s face broke into a genuine smile. He didn’t know what to make of the fact that Draco looked slightly terrified.

Chapter Text

Sam couldn’t see where Harry was when he entered the shop, but there were a fair number of customers. Ron was still on cash and there were a few customers lined up. Sam lifted Scorpius off his shoulders and placed him on the floor, then laughed at the kid’s wide-eyed amazed stare as he took in the store. It only took Scorpius a second to recover before he was wondering around touching everything he could get his hands on. Sam only had to follow and make sure he didn’t break anything. Since George had already given them a tour, Sam was even able to demonstrate some of the products to Scorpius. 

Sam had lifted Scorpius up and sat him on his hip so that he could see something on a higher shelf, when Harry came around the side of the shelf.

“There you are,” Harry said. “I’ve been- Is that Scorpius Malfoy?”

Sam smiled at Harry’s concerned confusion, but noticed that Scorpius clung a little tighter to him. He looked down to see Scorpius giving Harry the same look that he had given the shop when he had first come in. So, Sam patted the kid on the leg, because he didn’t know what else to do.

“Yeah,” Sam said. “Dean’s outside with his Mom and Dad.”

“Malfoy let you take his son?” Harry asked.

“Well, not permanently,” Sam laughed. “But the kid has ten.. um, galleons, to spend, and Draco said he and Astoria couldn’t come in, so I offered.”

“That’s... nice of you,” Harry said. 

“You think it’s okay?” Sam asked. “I mean, George seemed like a reasonable guy, and I figured that Scorpius shouldn’t suffer because of something his parents did...” and damn, Sam thought, his own mother’s final words to him were “I’m sorry” for a reason.

Sam watched as Harry glanced over to the cash, and nodded. Harry then smiled at Scorpius, holding out his hand. 

“Hello Scorpius, it’s nice to meet you. Do you know who I am?” Harry asked.

“Potter,” Scorpius nodded, placing his small hand in Harry’s. Harry laughed, but Sam wasn’t sure why.

“Do you need help finding anything?” Harry asked. 

Sam kept Scorpius on his hip while the kid directed him and Harry around the store, trying to decide what he was going to buy. It seemed he wanted something for himself, but also wanted to buy a present for his dad – Sam wasn’t sure if a four-year-old was supposed to be decisive or not, but Scorpius certainly wasn’t.

“Hey, Draco thinks you kidnapped his boy or something,” Dean said, when he found them by the trick wands. 

“Has it been that long?” Sam asked, looking at his watch.

“Nah, but he started acting like it was a hostage exchange – as long as I was chatting outside with him, you’d come back with the kid,” Dean said, rolling his eyes. “Dude’s a bit messed up.”

“Have you decided, Scorpius?” Sam asked the kid still sitting on his hip. “Sounds like your Dad needs you.”

Scorpius nodded and picked out a trick wand for himself. He had already picked a self-inking quill out for his Dad. All four of them made their way over to the cash. Sam was sort of hoping that whatever George and Bill were discussing in the back would continue to keep George occupied until they got Scorpius out of the shop.

When they got to the cash, Ron only paused briefly when his eyes landed on Scorpius. Sam watched as Ron glanced at Harry, who stood behind him, and then at the closed door at the back of the shop. 

“I hope it’s okay,” Sam said, as Ron punched the buttons on the old cash register.

“I don’t know,” Ron muttered. He didn’t bother looking at them.

“I just thought... if his Dad waited outside-” Sam tried to explain. 

“I like your shop!” Scorpius suddenly announced. Ron’s eyes finally rested on Scorpius, and he gave the kid a smile. Sam breathed a small sigh of relief.

“Thanks,” Ron said.

“Thank you for letting me in,” Scorpius continued, and Ron’s smile faltered a little.

“You’re welcome,” Ron said in a small voice. “That’ll be twelve galleons.”

“Shit,” Sam said, realizing he had forgotten to check the price of the trick wands before telling Scorpius that they had enough money for them. He brought out the coins that Astoria had given him and stared at them, wishing they would multiply. It’s not like he and Dean had been able to get what was obviously special wizard currency at the currency exchange place in Boston. 

Scorpius had clued in to the fact that something was wrong, because the kid’s eyes had grown pitifully larger and he was staring at Sam as though Sam had just promised the kid a trip to Disney World and then burnt it to the ground in front of him.. .and if the kid started crying, Sam didn’t know what the hell he was going to do... and maybe Sam was panicking just a little bit. Maybe he could ask how many pounds were in a galleon. Sam looked at Dean to find Dean already looking back at him with an equal look of contained panic.

“You forgot the discount,” a voice suddenly said from the end of the counter, and Sam turned to see George casually leaning there and observing them calmly.

“Dis-” Ron started to say in confusion.

“First-time customers under the age of five who are escorted by Americans over 180cm tall get a discount,” George explained with a wave of his hand. “A little known shop policy.” George came around to behind the counter and looked down at the coins in Sam’s open hand, and at the two items on the counter. “The discount is that they get any two items for ten galleons.”

“Thank you,” Sam breathed, and emptied his handful of coins into George’s waiting hand. 

“It’s a shop policy,” George repeated. “No thanks necessary.”

“You never give me a discount and I’m your brother,” Ron muttered.

“We don’t have a policy for brothers,” George replied without missing a beat. “Only first-time customers under the age of five who are escorted by Americans over 180 cm tall.”

George winked at Scorpius and handed over the small bag with his purchases.

“Thank you for shopping at Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes,” George said.

“Thank you, Mr. Weasley,” Scorpius smiled back, holding the bag protectively against his chest.

“You’re welcome, Mr. Malfoy,” George smiled, then he held out a folded piece of paper. “Can you do me a favour and give this to your father for me too?”

“Yes, sir,” Scorpius said, small hand plucking the note from Georges fingers carefully.

“Thanks, have a good day,” George said, and then he turned to next customer as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Sam threw a glance at Harry, but Harry just shrugged, so Sam went to return Scorpius to his father.

Draco Malfoy was the picture of tension standing under an awning of a shop across the street with his wife. As soon as Sam set foot on the street, he saw Draco take an aborted step forward – obviously wanting to shorten the distance between him and his son, but trying not to give away how anxious he was. Sam gave him what he hoped was a reassuring smile, but then realized that Draco was only looking at Scorpius, not Sam at all. Astoria, however, returned Sam’s smile broadly.

When Scorpius finally dragged his gaze away from the shop over Sam’s shoulder and towards his father, giving him a wide smile, Sam was relieved to see Draco relax a little and smile back – even if the smile was still a little bit on the forced side. Scorpius squirmed, so Sam placed him back on his feet so that he could cross the remaining distance to his father himself.

“Daddy!” Scorpius said. “I got you a present.”

“You did?” Draco asked, crouching down. Sam watched as Draco seemed to do the same sight-check on Scorpius that Dean usually gave Sam after a hunt – and Sam had to wonder how bad the grudge between Draco and Weasleys really was.

“Yes, but you have to share with Mummy, and Mr. Weasley told me to give this too you,” Scorpius said, handing out the note dutifully. It was only then that Draco’s eyes darted up to meet Sam’s – a question in them. Sam could only shrug.

“Which Mr. Weasley?” Draco asked.

“The nice one?” Scorpius answered, a little confused. Draco looked pleadingly at Sam.

“George,” Sam said.

“Okay,” Draco carefully took the note from Scorpius. Sam watched curiously as Draco took a deep breath and walked several paces away from both his wife and son before he opened the note.

“Draco, what does the note say?” Astoria asked.

Draco was looking at the shop in disbelief and then back at the note, as though he couldn’t decide if it contained good news or bad news. He walked back over to stand next to his wife.

“It umm... says I’m a stupid prat” Draco replied. “And that we are welcome to accompany Scorpius into the shop ourselves from now on.”

Astoria smiled.

*

“Thanks, man,” Dean said, as soon as George had finished with the customer who had been waiting behind Sam in line. “I thought he was going to cry for a minute there.”

“Don’t mention it,” George said, shaking his head. 

“I don’t think Malfoys are allowed to cry,” Ron said. “I’m sure Draco has him trained too well for that.”

“I was talking about Sam,” Dean smiled.

George laughed and winked at Dean.

Sam came in shortly after that and they said their goodbyes to George and Ron. Apparently, Bill had left through the fireplace in the backroom a while ago.

Harry told them that the bank was closed on Sundays, and the goblins hated Harry anyway, so they decided to end the tour of Diagon Alley and head back to the Leaky Cauldron for lunch. Once they were settled into a booth. Dean remembered to tell Harry about Astoria’s invitation.

“Draco’s wife invited me and Sammy over for dinner on Wednesday,” Dean said. “I told her it’d probably be fine.”

“Yeah, she confirmed it with me,” Sam said. “I was kind of surprised, given how Malfoy reacted to us last year.”

“Was it before or after she found out you were my friends and possibly Muggles?” Harry asked, a knowing grin on his face.

“After,” Dean said, wondering why that made a difference. Harry just huffed a small laugh. “What?” 

“Nothing, Malfoy just married well, that’s all,” Harry said. “If you don’t want to go, I could get you out of it.”

“Nah, that’s ok,” Dean said, thinking about how happy it had seemed to make Astoria when he had tentatively agreed.

Harry waved over Hannah then to take their orders. 

“Malfoy asked me what you were saying about your friends,” Hannah said in a hushed voice as she seemed to take an oddly long time to write ‘bangers and mash.’ “I told him what you said. He asked if you had said anything about Muggles, I told him no – Astoria seemed a little put out by that. Also asked about last names, he didn’t seem surprised when I told him you hadn’t said.”

“Thanks Hannah, can we get a round of butterbeers too, please,” Harry said.

“Certainly,” Hannah said and retreated back behind the bar.

“Is there something funky going on that Sam and I should know about?” Dean asked.

“Malfoy’s social standing is far from the best,” Harry sighed. “He married Astoria, I’m sure because he loved her, but probably also because her family was never implicated with the Death Eaters. It was a step-up in standing for Malfoy, but a step-down for her... which when you think about it, probably means that she loves him too. She’s basically made it her mission to change Malfoy’s social status – or at least make him less of a social pariah. It’s all about who he’s seen with. Think of it like a point-system: friends of Harry Potter are a lot of points, more so if they’re Aurors or other law-enforcement officials. Muggles are a lot of points as well. Astoria was probably disappointed that she couldn’t announce that they were having Muggles over for supper.”

“Why does being a Muggle matter?” Sam asked.

“The war was about more than just Riddle taking over – it was also a war over blood-status: Pure-blood wizards versus half-bloods, squibs, and even Muggles. The Death Eaters thought pure-blood wizards – people like the Malfoy’s and the Blacks - were superior. Once they took over the Ministry, they started torturing Muggles, and killing Wizards that were Muggle born or had a Muggle parent.” Harry nodded towards Hannah, who was making her way over with a tray full of drinks. “They killed Hannah’s mum when Hannah was sixteen, and persecuted her Dad a year later for being a blood-traitor.”

Harry’s stopped talking just before Hannah reached the table, setting the pints of frothy drink in front of each of them.

“Here you are, gents,” Hannah said. “Food will be out in a minute,”

“Thanks, Hannah,” Dean said giving her a smile, before she moved away.

“To be honest, I wish I could be a fly on the wall Wednesday night,” Harry said.

“Why’s that?” Dean asked, taking a sip of whatever drink Harry had ordered for them – it was like liquid candy.

“Malfoy’s parents still live there,” Harry replied.

Chapter Text

The rest of the evening was spent at home. Sam went over what they were going to be teaching the Aurors in the morning with Dean, and Harry and Ginny mostly just spent time with the kids like Sam figured normal parents probably did. Apparently three days a week, James and Albus went to a play group, leaving Ginny at home with only Lily to worry about – which, she said, gave her plenty of time to write up her sports articles.

On Monday, the routine was slightly different. Harry actually had to wake them up with a knock on their door, because they had both passed out around 4am. After everyone had showered and eaten breakfast, Harry told them to get everything they needed for the day and meet him in the kitchen. They grabbed the duffle they had prepared, and Sam made sure his handgun was tucked firmly in the small of his back. 

They had decided to wear their suits. Harry didn’t want to lie, but he also didn’t want to advertise the fact that they were Muggles. The suits not only covered the crystal pendants around their neck, but they also were more in keeping with an image of being at the Ministry on official business.

When they got back to the kitchen, it was just in time to see Ginny disappear through the fireplace in a mass of green flame, her hands firmly holding both Albus and James close to her body. Harry was standing there with Lily resting on his hip.

“Once Ginny gets back, we’ll leave,” Harry said. “We’ll take the floo, so that you can see how it works. On the off chance that we need to get out of the Ministry in a hurry, the floo is the fastest way – and also accounts for most of the exits.” Harry nodded towards the table then, and Sam saw two wands and two cloth bags that were tied tightly shut. “Those bags are filled with floo powder, you only need a bit to travel. I’ve given you enough for several trips, just in case.”

“And the wands?” Sam asked. Harry cringed a little.

“At the Ministry, we’ll have to go through security,” Harry explained. “They’ll ask to see your wands. If you don’t have any, it will be obvious that you're Muggles. These are old Black family wands that I found in the attic while cleaning up. I don’t know what’s in the core of them, but they’re long enough and that’s what really matters.”

“Why does that matter?” Sam asked, picking up the shorter of the two, and passing the longer one to Dean.

“Size of the wand is usually proportionate to size of the wizard,” Harry said. 

Dean burst out laughing, and Sam had to bite his lower lip when he realized where Dean’s mind had gone. 

“What?” Harry asked.

“Dean?” Sam said, holding out his hand. “You know we have to trade now.” Dean clutched the longer wand to his chest and looked offended. “Don’t make me get out the ruler again.”

“Oh god...” Harry muttered burying his face in his hands, as Sam and Dean traded wands. “I meant height...”

“Yeah, exactly,” Dean said with a smile. “That’s what we meant to – get your mind out of the gutter, Harry.”

The fireplace roared back to life at that moment, and Ginny appeared out of the green flame. Sam tucked the burrowed wand into his pocket and shifted his backpack. He was both insanely curious as to what travelling by fireplace felt like and nervous that it might not work for him. He almost wanted to tell Harry just to apparate them, because even though Harry said it was dangerous for Sam to do it, they had at least done it successfully more than once.

Harry said his goodbyes to Ginny, and then carefully explained how the floo worked. He told them they could all go together, but people usually only did that with children... not to mention that fitting all three of them into the fireplace at once would be nearly impossible.

Harry went first. Sam watched carefully as he threw the powder on the fire, waited until it turned green, stepped in, clearly stated “Ministry of Magic” and then disappeared in a wash of green flame. Dean had insisted on going after Harry and before Sam – following the rules that were established before Sam could even form long-term memories. 

“See you in a minute, Sammy,” Dean said, perhaps a little on the nervous side. Sam waited thirty seconds after Dean disappeared before he too tossed the powder into the fireplace. It was against every instinct he had to step into the green fire, but he forced himself to – it tickled his calves. Sam said “Ministry of Magic” before he did something stupid like accidentally laugh.

He was falling, turning, there was a blur of colours, openings, indistinguishably sounds – Sam felt like he was caught in a tornado inside duct-work. The grip on his backpack was white-knuckled and all he wanted was for it to stop. 

Then it suddenly did.

“Oof,” Dean said, as he caught Sam. It was quite clear to Sam why Teddy had ended up sprawled on the floor.

“Thanks,” Sam said, righting himself quickly. “That was...”

“Dude, I think I should stop complaining about the way Cas travels,” Dean replied. 

“I think so too,” Sam said as his attention shifted to where they were.

They stood in a long hallway lined with fireplaces. Sam could see beyond them to wear the hallway opened up into a great room -a golden fountain in the middle of it.

“Welcome to the Ministry of Magic,” Harry said, looking happy. “Now, try not to look too much like tourists – I want to project the image that you might be powerful wizards, so...”

“We should pretend to be a bit snooty, right?” Dean asked. “A little like Draco, maybe?”

“Well, I wouldn’t go that far – but yeah, somewhere in between me and Draco.” Harry laughed. They all knew that underneath his Auror robes Harry was just wearing jeans and an untucked dress shirt. Ginny had confided in them that she once caught him trying to go to work still wearing his flannel pyjamas.

“Lead on, Potter,” Dean said with a smile.

Sam put on a mask of indifference as they walked into the large entrance hall. He glanced at the statue in the centre of the fountain, not stopping to read the title plate on it – he instead noted the different creatures represented. One of them was a centaur. He made a mental note to ask Harry later if centaurs were actually real. 

The building itself seemed to be large stone work, with great arches and a high ceiling. A bank of glass elevators rested to one side. The ceiling was bright blue, and the floor dark wood. There were no windows and Sam had the distinct impression that they were underground. 

The people coming and going were obviously government employees. They wore robes, and some even had pointed hats. They were all walking as though they had somewhere important to be. Most everyone found time to notice Harry though, and then cast a curious look at him and Dean directly afterward. Sam was really starting to wonder how Harry could get away with anything with this much attention focused on him at all times. 

They arrived at the security desk. Harry made small talk with the guard on duty, before launching into the cover story about Sam and Dean being expert consultants from America. The guard asked if they had their visitor badges, but Harry waved it away saying that they were officially employees for their time in Britain and didn’t need visitor badges – Harry insisting that Ron had filled out all the necessary paperwork before Christmas.

“Just the wands, then, I suppose,” the guard said. Sam and Dean both produced their wands. The guard did something and then handed Dean’s wand back to him.

“Oak with a dragon-heart string core,” the guard said, then handed Sam’s back to him, “and willow with unicorn hair.”

Sam glared at Dean’s smirk and stuffed the wand back into his pocket. Thankfully, the guard had his head bent as he wrote in a ledger.

“That’s all I need then, have a good day, gentlemen.” The guard smiled. Sam and Dean both gave him a short nod and followed Harry confidently through a golden arch towards a bank of elevators.

It was hard to pretend they belonged there, what with the fact that, once they were in the elevator, Sam had paper airplanes and paper birds flying in lazy circles around his head. It took all his willpower not to bat at them or duck. 

“Sorry,” Harry said. “It was designed before tall people were invented, I suppose.”

Once the elevator started moving, Sam was surprised to find that the numbers were counting down not up.

“I thought your office was high-up,” Dean said, when the other passengers got off on floor five, finally leaving the three of them alone in the elevator. “You had that view of London-”

“Enchanted windows,” Harry said. “The Ministry of Magic is all underground, just like the American Ministry in Boston.”

Sam took the opportunity, now that they were alone, to duck and glare at the memos that hadn’t gotten off the elevator yet. Thankfully, the elevator came to a stop at Level 2, and the elevator voice announced that Level 2 was where the Auror Office was.

They walked down a short hallway, through some doors, and then all of a sudden it was like Sam had just walked into the White House alongside the president. Everyone seemed to jump into action at once – moving around and picking up papers, and generally just suddenly looking extremely busy. A young kid, who looked all of eighteen, rushed forward at the sight of Harry, holding a stack of papers nervously. It was like a bull pen at a cop shop. Beyond the open room there was a hallway with offices, and that’s where they headed while everyone tried to look at them without it looking like they were looking at them.

“Good morning, Mr. Potter, sir,” the kid said, then looked at Sam and Dean and added with a slight squeak to his voice, “Good morning, gentlemen.”

“Morning, Jonathan,” Harry said. Both Sam and Dean just nodded at the kid, because it was obvious he had things to report. Harry didn’t bother to stop walking as the kid spoke.

“Mr. Weasley is waiting for you in your office. There is a half hour until the training session. The Undersecretary for the Minister kindly reminds you that the monthly reports for December are due by tomorrow evening. The Department of International Magical Cooperation left a message for you to-"

“That didn’t take long,” Harry muttered.

“-call them, regarding the correct channels for liaisons with the American Ministry of Magic’s Auror-“

“That’s great, Jonathan,” Harry said. “Send them a note informing them I followed the correct channels for highly classified exchanges and to thank them for their due diligence. Pass them Phil O’Shaughnessy’s contact information. Pass the message about the monthly reports to Ron’s secretary, it’s his turn.”

“Yes, sir,” Jonathan said. “Can I get you or your guests tea? Coffee?”

“Coffee,” Dean said. Jonathan nodded vigorously and looked to Sam.

“Make it two,” Sam said.

“None for me, Jonathan,” Harry said, coming to a stop outside of a closed door. The words Harry J. Potter, Head Auror engraved in the nameplate on the door. He dismissed Jonathan with a nod, and then opened the door to reveal Ron with his feet up on the desk eating a chocolate croissant.

“’Morning,” Ron said around a mouthful of croissant. And then, seemingly in response to a look from Harry that Sam missed, swallowed and added defensively, “I brought enough for everyone.” Ron nudged a bag on the desk with his hand.

“Oh, okau then,” Harry replied. After how authoritative he’d acted towards Jonathan, Sam was half surprised that he didn’t complain about Ron’s feet on his desk or the fact that Ron was sitting in his chair. Instead Harry just sat down on top of his desk and pulled a croissant out of the bag. Harry even folded his legs up under him like he was twelve.

“Awesome, thanks, man,” Dean said, after Harry had thrown the bag to him and he had pulled his own chocolate croissant out.

Sam just smiled his thanks and pulled over one of the other chairs in the room. There was a soft knock on the door and Jonathan poked his head in.

“Chocolate and a coffee,” Dean said. “Perfect.”

“Oh, Jonathan,” Harry said, reaching into his shoulder bag, and pulling out the small stack of papers that constituted the handout for the training session. Sam had neatly typed it up on Harry’s computer the night before. “Enough copies for the whole department please – including Ron and I, and one for the permanent files.”

“Yes, sir,” Jonathan replied, and then rushed back out the door.

“Alright,” Harry said. “It’s Monday, we have a half-hour before the training session, my second-in-command is here... Sam, why don’t you brief us on how the research is going and what conclusions you’ve been able to draw thus far about our recent paranormal incidents.”

Sam dutifully repeated everything he had tried to tell Harry the day before. The incidents were not connected with the apocalypse, but rather were wizard specific. Beyond not being connected to the apocalypse though, there didn’t seem to be any common threads and they didn’t know what had caused the ghosts and monsters to attack. He floated the idea that perhaps the werewolf and the ghoul were separate events altogether, and it might just be a matter of what was suddenly causing ghosts to attack wizards.

“Basically, we need to do some leg-work,” Sam concluded. 

“We need to check out the houses ourselves,” Dean added. “We know what to look for, your guys don’t.”

“That’s over a dozen houses,” Ron said.

“I’ve already made an appointment to see your mother’s,” Sam stated. “We’re having lunch with her on Wednesday. We could start on the rest tomorrow.”

“But the paperwork alone-" Ron started to say.

“Dude, we don’t need paperwork. We’ll just show up and ask to see their houses,” Dean said. “I just need a road map.”

“It will take forever if you travel by car,” Harry stated. “I still have to arrange the Hogwarts lessons with McGonagall too. If Sam could apparate – we could probably do most of them in one day. As it is, I could see how many are on the floo network. That might save some time. You didn’t have any trouble with the floo-travel did you Sam?”

“I don’t know what it’s supposed to feel like,” Sam shrugged. He didn’t like it, but if it saved them time, and didn’t broadcast the fact that he was different, than it was better than nothing. ”You could always apparate me anyway – you’ve done it before. Phil even did it.”

“Sam...” Dean sighed, but Harry nodded.

“We’ll talk about. I’ll see how many houses are hooked up to the floo network and then discuss our options,” Harry replied. 

There was a knock on the door and Jonathan appeared once Harry had given the command to enter. 

“The men are assembled and waiting, sirs,” Jonathan said.

Sam found himself taking a deep breath. It was one thing to plan to teach an entire wizarding police force about ghosts and demons, it was quite another to actually do it.

*

Ron entered the room first, taking a seat in the back row of the training room. Everyone was seated at long tables, parchment, quills and wands ready. It felt like a Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson back at school – only they were all adults, some were trainees, but some had been on the force for both wars.

Only a moment after Ron had pulled out his own parchment and quill, Harry strode into the room with the Winchesters following behind him. Dean was carrying a green duffle bag on his shoulder, and Sam had a Muggle notebook. Ron knew Harry too well to be intimidated by his presence, but the Winchesters were another matter. They looked just as intimidating as the Department’s most senior battle-hardened Aurors. 

“Good Morning,” Harry addressed everyone. “Thank you for attending today.” Ron smiled at that – he could recall the term ‘mandatory’ being applied quite liberally in the announcement of the training session. 

“I’d like you to meet two very important visiting associates, Sam and Dean,” Harry continued. “They are in town to consult on the increase in wizard encounters with paranormal muggle problems. They are also your instructors for today’s training session. During this training session, and furthermore, for however long they are here in Britain, I want you to treat them with the same level of respect with which you treat me. Also, while they are in town, I have decided to grant them the same level of authority as Ron - this means that for all extents and purposes, while Dean and Sam are here, I essentially have three second-in-commands. Debriefing and Confidentiality Protocols are unchanged, but should Sam and Dean issue an order, you are to follow it immediately. Understood?”

Ron watched with a small smile as the slight tremor of disbelief filtered through the room. Everyone replied with an automatic “Yes, sir”, but Ron could see that they were dumbfounded. It was the same tactic that Harry had used on him and Hermione the previous year. Harry put the Winchesters in a command position to show that not only did they have Harry’s trust, but that they were not to be trifled with.

The Winchesters themselves hardly blinked at the announcement, through Ron caught a look pass between them.

“Alright,” Harry said, then turned to Sam and Dean. “All yours then!”

“Thanks, Harry,” Sam said, as Dean pointed to a stack of papers that had been placed on the desk at the front.

“Hand those out for us, Harry,” Dean ordered, and Ron grinned, wondering if Dean was testing the limits of his authority already. There was a slightly wicked glint in Harry’s eye though, and Ron watched as he pulled his wand out and said a quick spell that had the papers flying through the room quickly and landing in front of each of the assembled Aurors. 

Ron watched as Dean shook his head and smiled at Harry, before Harry sat down.

“Okay,” Dean said. “That was the last bit of magic that’s going to be allowed in this training session, so I hope you enjoyed it. Please put your wands away and do not take them out again unless directed by myself or Sam.”

If they had been in school, that command would have been met with groans, but here, it was just met with slight confusion and surprise. The Aurors all slipped their wands back into the holsters under their robes. 

“Alright,” Sam said. “Now, who can tell me about ghosts – Muggle ghosts?”

Ron watched as Maria answered Sam, explaining how Muggle ghosts tended to be malevolent and the bones had to be salted and burned for them to be put to rest. She didn’t, however, know how to protect against them without magic. Henry Gibbons knew about salt, but no one knew about iron.

Ron followed along in the handout. Flipping ahead to see how it followed a progression - ghosts, poltergeists, ghouls, shapeshifters, vampires, werewolves, demons – all with brief descriptions, tracking tips, and lists of what deters and/or kills each one. There were appendixes – an exorcism, a diagram of a devil’s trap, the standard blessing spell to create holy water. 

The Winchesters moved slowly through each enemy outlined in the handout, and mentioned a few rarer ones that they hadn’t included too. They spoke with authority and patience that Ron had come to associate with Professor McGonagall – the sort of voice that seemed to say, “you are an idiot, but you’ll learn.” 

They displayed their weaponry, explaining carefully the use of salt shotgun rounds and silver bullets. It was quickly pointed out that Aurors don’t carry Muggle guns, so the information was pretty useless. Dean just rolled his eyes and told them that they had been asked there to explain what to use instead of magic and that therefore that’s what they were doing – they didn’t care whether it was applied or not. 

Ron caught Harry’s eye at several moments during the training session, and they shared a smile. It was easy to tell that although the Aurors obviously knew that they were being taught about the tools used by Hunters, they hadn’t actually clued into the fact that Sam and Dean were Hunters themselves. In the weeks that it had taken Harry to set this up, he had only ever told the other Aurors that he was inviting “Hunter Experts from America” – and when everyone made the assumption that the visitors were Aurors who kept tabs on the Hunters, not actual Hunters themselves, neither he nor Harry corrected them. 

They broke for lunch after a brief discussion of vampires and how it was important to establish their threat level before lopping off their heads. Harry had Jonathan bring them lunch in Harry’s office. They all agreed it had gone exceptionally well so far, and mostly spent the time discussing the logistics of Sam and Dean’s investigation, rather than the training session. Ron ended up with a ton of paperwork, as he had predicted. Harry spent his time composing a letter to Professor McGonagall about having the Winchesters teach at Hogwarts.

After lunch, it was all demonology. Sam and Dean laid out the crude hierarchy that could be distinguished by demon eye colour. Dean explained how demon possession made a wizard’s magic volatile and unpredictable, but that didn’t mean that demons couldn’t possess wizards – it just meant that they were more dangerous when they did, because even the demon couldn’t be sure what might happen. 

All in all the training session went without a hitch. 

“You’ll have to cut it down for the kids,” Harry said as they watched the Aurors leave the training room after it was all over. 

“Yeah, we won’t go as in depth with the students,” Sam said. “Just the basics.”

“We’ll also leave off the weapons demonstration,” Dean said. 

“Probably a good idea,” Harry agreed. “Let’s go back to my office and see if Professor McGonagall has written back yet. Ron? Could you start calling about the home visits?”

“Yes, Harry,” Ron replied. 

Ron decided to go to the lunch room to get a coffee before he called Mr. Abbott, who was first on the list. As he approached, he couldn’t help but overhearing the conversation already taking place inside.

“Who do you think they are?” He heard Whitehead ask. Ron slowed and stopped just out of sight beside the open door. “I checked their roaster for the American department and there aren’t any Sams or Deans listed. Does anyone even know their last names?”

“They must be special forces or something,” someone, who was probably Smithson replied. “Maybe undercover among the Hunters? Do you think they do that over there. They look... I mean, they’re young, but man, I couldn’t decide who was more intimidating, them or Harry.”

“That’s the other thing,” Whitehead said. “Since when does Harry give anyone that kind of authority, besides Weasley, or Longbottom when he was here. Everyone knows he only trusts his old friends. And did you see them when they were doing demonstrations – they didn’t ask Harry to help them demonstrate. They ordered him, and he obeyed, just like that.”

Ron thought back to the session – remembering how they had, in a response to a question about how to defend yourself from a physical attack without a wand, shown some basic hand-to-hand defensive moves. In order to show that anyone could pull off the moves, Dean had ordered Harry to come up to the front so that Sam could attack him. It was a very effective demonstration due to the height and weight difference. Ron knew that Sam had let Harry disable him – he had attacked as though he were an untrained monster, not a born and raised Hunter.

“They probably had it all planned out beforehand,” Smithson reasoned. “Besides, would you have refused if they’d ordered you to do something? I don’t think I would.”

“I don’t know,” Whitehead said. “Maybe you’re right. I certainly don’t want to get on the wrong side of them. I have a feeling they’d come out on top – and that’s saying something.”

“Yeah, yeah, you were duelling champion three years in a row...blah blah blah,” Smithson replied. “Nice to know it hasn’t gone to your head.”

“You’re not wrong,” Ron finally said, rounding the corner into the break room. “Getting on the wrong side of Sam and Dean would be the last thing you’d do.”

Both Whitehead and Smithson looked at him with wide-eyes. Smithson seemed to choke a little on the coffee he was drinking.

“Who are they really?” Whitehead asked. “You’ll tell us, won’t you, Ron? What kind of wizards know that much about Hunting? If they’re so powerful, how come we’ve never heard of them? You and Harry have been obsessing more about their visit than you have about the bloody apocalypse!”

“That’s all confidential,” Ron replied. It had been his and Harry’s standard reply for nearly a month. “What I will say, however, is that I’ve seen Dean kill a Dementor without magic. I’ve seen Sam harness more magic than he should be capable of... Who they are, whether they’re special undercover forces or not, whether their names are actually Sam and Dean - none of that matters. What matters is that Harry and I trust them completely, and you are to obey them as you would Harry or I while they are here.”

“Yes, sir,” Smithson said, while Whitehead still looked a little put out.

“Also,” Ron said, looking directly at Whitehead, “don’t assume that our visitors and the issue of the apocalypse don’t have anything to do with each other.”

“Yes, sir,” Whitehead replied. 

Ron nodded and retrieved the coffee that he had come for, Whitehead and Smithson fell silent behind him.

“Hey Ron?” Dean’s voice came from the doorway, Ron turned around in time to see Dean nod to Smithson and Whitehead. “Harry wants to know if you can work on Thursday.”

“Shouldn’t be a problem,” Ron answered, realizing that Harry only ever asked Ron to come in on one of his shop-days if Harry himself wasn’t going to be in the office. “Where’s he going to be?”

“Hogwarts - with us,” Dean answered. Ron smiled.

Chapter Text

It was decided, due to Sam’s adverse reaction to apparating, that they’d only visit the houses that were connected to the Floo network the next day. Neither Sam nor Dean seemed particularly enthused about the idea, but Harry pointed out the distance between the incidents and how much driving would be involved – driving on the left, on narrow British roads – and Dean decided that his car was safest parked in front of Harry’s house. So rather than spend all day visiting perhaps three houses, they planned to visit twice or thrice that many by Floo.

They ended up staying a bit late at the office while Ron arranged all the visits for the next day. Arriving home in time for Ginny to shove a crying Lily into Harry’s arms and declare that she was done parenting for the night and was going for a bath. By the time Ginny had returned, looking much more relaxed, Lily had cried herself to sleep, much to Harry’s relief. Harry was thankful that his boys had been happily playing in the living room the whole time without even fighting like usual. 

When he came back from putting Lily down in her nursery, he found Ginny and the Winchesters standing in the kitchen. Ginny was preparing a snack for them, while Sam was finishing up telling her how the training session went.

“What’s wrong with Lily?” Harry asked. 

“I don’t know, she just woke up from her afternoon nap and decided to be the devil’s child,” Ginny replied. 

“Do you think she’s sick?” Harry asked.

“Well, she doesn’t feel feverish at all...” Ginny replied, shrugging.

“She probably just had bad dreams and didn’t sleep well,” Dean said. Harry paused, wondering what sort of life-experiences Lily would have had that could possibly give her bad dreams. Dean continued, “It used to happen to Sammy all the time.”

“Really?” Sam asked. “How do you remember these things, you were what... six when I was her age?”

“Her age?” Dean said. “I’m talking the recent past, man. You are horrible to live with when you have bad dreams.” Harry laughed when Sam rolled his eyes.

It was at that moment that a small dark-haired blur ran shrieking into the room followed by another small slightly more red-haired blur, and Harry had just enough time to recognize them as Albus and James, before Albus suddenly disappeared-

-and reappeared straddling one of Sam’s shoulders and clinging to Sam’s head. 

“Wha!” Sam said. Harry saw his arms come up defensively grasping Albus as if to push him away, then, thankfully, Sam hesitated and settled for awkwardly holding Albus where he was while Sam stared at Harry with wide-eyes. Harry was willing to bet that his own expression wasn’t that different.

“No fair!” James said.

“I DONWANNAEATDASPIDA!” Albus cried, burying his face in Sam’s hair. Sam now looked a little frightened.

“What the hell was that?” Dean said, looking around as though at any moment he could be the victim of a surprise attack.

“James,” Ginny said calmly. “What have we told you about scaring your brother?”

“I wasn’t really going to make him eat it!” James defended himself.

Harry wondered if he even wanted to know. It seemed when he was picking out baby names, James Sirius had been a little too apt in the end. 

“I ... * sniff *... donwanna ... * sniff *... eat...” Albus tried to say through his tears. Sam, very awkwardly, but carefully, eased the boy off his shoulder, until Albus’ face was buried in Sam’s neck and shoulder rather than his hair. Sam looked wide-eyed at Dean as he splayed one hand across Albus’ entire back and patted it gently.

“Make him eat what, James?” Harry asked.

“Spider,” James said, opening his fist to reveal a slightly squished brown spider the size of a galleon. 

“James...” Harry sighed, pressing a hand to his own forehead in frustration. “Do not threaten to make your brother eat dead spiders!”

“It’s not dead!” James protested. 

“James...” Harry winced. As if this could get worse... but James already poking insistently at the spider, which of course, didn’t do much. 

“Daddy!” James whined frantically, tears welling up “Daddy! Fix him!”

“Daddy can’t fix death, Jamie,” Harry said.

“I didn’t meaned to killed him! I didn’t meaned to!” James cried.

“Oh Merlin,” Harry muttered, taking a deep breath. Carefully, he slid the spider out of James’ hand into his own, and then, deciding that throwing it in the garbage bin right in front of James might be even more traumatizing, placed it carefully on the table. “I think it’s time for bed, Jamie-love.”

After gathering James up into his arms, Harry glanced over at Sam, who gave him a nod. Harry could see that Albus was starting to fall asleep while still sniffling into Sam’s shirt. Harry looked at Dean to find his gaze alternating between the two kids as if one or both of them might turn into an alien at any moment.

“Come on,” Harry said to both Winchesters, “I’ll explain while we get them in bed.” Harry turned to Ginny and then reluctantly glanced down at the dead spider. “Gin? Could you...”

“No problem,” Ginny said, shaking her head fondly.

They were half way up the stairs when Dean prompted Harry with a “So...”

“Accidental magic,” Harry replied. “Wizard children sometimes do things by accident when they get upset. That’s the first time Albus has ever apparated, but it’s not the first time he’s accidentally used magic.”

“Isn’t that a little... dangerous?” Dean asked. “I mean, they could accidentally hurt someone or themselves.”

“It’s usually a self-preservation response,” Harry said. “Or, occasionally, a product of an active imagination – like accidentally turning your teacher’s hair blue because you’re bored in class. Wizard parents are usually thrilled the first time it happens, because it means their child is definitely a wizard. I have a friend who was a late bloomer, and an uncle got so worried my friend wasn’t a wizard that he threw him out the window – thankfully he magically bounced, thanks to the self-preservation reflex. I don’t know what the bloody hell his uncle was thinking though... I mean, what if he had been a squib?”

“Squib?” Sam asked.

“Opposite of a Muggleborn – a Squib is a child born to wizards that doesn’t have magic,” Harry replied. “It’s rare, but it happens.”

They reached the boys’ rooms and Harry put James down. He shook out his stiff arms and grabbed James’ pyjamas. James was still a little sniffly, but was mostly just exhausted. He stood docile as Harry got him ready for bed. 

“Is Albus awake or asleep?” Harry asked, while he shoved James into his pyjama shirt. Dean peaked around Sam’s shoulder to get a look at Albus’s face – waving a hand in front of it a moment later.

“A little bit of both?” Dean answered. “His eyes are open, but they’re not tracking very well.”

“They must have faked their nap at the playgroup today,” Harry shook his head. “This is ridiculous.”

“I didn’t meaned to...” James muttered as Harry pulled the blankets over him.

“I know, love, it’s okay,” Harry replied. “Go to sleep.” He kissed James goodnight and then had Sam and Dean follow him to Albus’ room.

“Just lay him down on the bed, I doubt he’s awake enough to stand while I put him in his pyjamas,” Harry instructed. Sam awkwardly leaned way over and lowered Albus onto his bed. Albus seemed boneless, until he reached up and patted Sam on the face just before Sam could pull away.

“Goodnight, Horsey, I love you,” Albus mumbled, before his hand dropped to the bed and his eyes slid shut.

It took all of Harry’s strength not to laugh. Sam blushed deeply as he stood to his full height again, looking anywhere except at Harry or Dean. Dean either was less successful at containing his laughter, or he just wasn’t even trying.

“I’ll just... umm... go downstairs now,” Sam mumbled and walked toward the door, punching Dean in the shoulder and saying, “Shut up!” on his way out.

“You’re never going to let him live it down, are you?” Harry asked, smiling.

*

The next day was spent going from house to house – by Floo. Harry always went first, so that he could catch Dean when Dean stumbled out of the fireplace, and then they’d both wait for Sam – neither mentioning the extra tension in those brief seconds, wondering if this was the time something would go wrong. Every time, though, Sam came through unscathed, and Dean always caught him.

They wore their suits to look official. They also brought their fake wands and even some fake Auror credentials, though they never used either. It was enough that Harry came with them. It was just like when they waltzed into the American Ministry of Magic the year before – as soon as anyone saw Harry, no one noticed who he was with.

Harry would distract the home-owner with small talk while Dean and Sam looked around the house. Most of the time, they couldn’t use the EMF meter – the houses were too steeped in magic. The house of Natasha Jones, the one fatality, was empty though, so they scanned it top to bottom. Unfortunately, there was nothing out of the ordinary.

After Dean and Sam had given each house a walk through, and confirmed that there weren’t odd piles of sulphur or anything else suspicious around, they would join Harry and run their own questions by the home-owner. When did they first notice the ghost or poltergeist? Could they describe what they saw? Could they think of anything they might have done that would have caused the spirit to become restless? And as they day wore on all they got for their efforts was nothing, nothing, and more nothing.

Dean was sick of falling out of fireplaces, and feeling like he was being pulled through chimneys by tornados. Sam kept hitting his head on people’s mantles, and judging by the red spot was going to end up with a really nasty bruise from it all. Dean could even tell that Harry was getting sick of the constant small talk and, if people forced any more tea on them, they were all going to set new records for the longest piss.

So, it wasn’t too surprising that at the end of the day, when they finally got back to Harry’s place. They all just talked to the children instead of each other. Sam decided that he was turning in early, and Dean decided he was hitting the pub down the street again – and that was that.

*

Sam made Dean’s coffee Irish, while he waited for Dean to come downstairs Wednesday morning, because every once in a while Dean decided that ‘hair of the dog’ was a legit remedy for a hangover. Normally, he would have argued medical science, but he wasn’t really feeling up to it and Harry had the whiskey anyway. 

“Did you know in the original Gaelic, whiskey is literally ‘life-water’?” Harry said, as he dished out their breakfasts. Ginny had already left to drop Albus and James off at daycare for the day.

“Ironic,” Sam said. “If Heaven and Hell don’t kill us, the whiskey certainly might.”

Sam expected Harry to come back with a judging look, or a speech about moderation, liver damage, and unhealthy self-medication, but instead Harry just shrugged.

“At least it’d be a death you chose yourself,” Harry said. 

Sam stopped short and suddenly wondered when it was that he had stopped giving Dean a hard time about drinking. He couldn’t help but think about whether it had been, at least subconsciously, a specific decision – maybe they were looking for a way out... albeit an extremely slow one. Sam had been serious, after all, when he had told Lucifer that he would kill himself rather than say yes – he knew he would have done it immediately if Lucifer hadn’t told him it wouldn’t work. Well, he probably would have shipped his stuff off to Bobby and left a message for Dean first, but then he would have put a bullet in his brain without a second thought besides the regret of spending his last days alone. He wondered if the apocalypse would still be going on in the amount of time it would take him and Dean to drink themselves to death – if the angels would still be around to bring them back or if they’d be living in that camp Dean described, with a stoned angel and the world in ruins. Would it still be a victory for them if the world ended anyway? 

“Sam?” Harry’s voice filtered through his thoughts.

Before Sam could say anything, there was a tapping on the kitchen window. Sam’s hand went to the small of his back, even though he was still in his sleep pants and a t-shirt, and there wasn’t actually a gun resting against his spine at the moment. 

At the window were the huge yellow eyes of a deep ebony owl.

“What the...?” Sam said.

“It’s just a letter,” Harry said, calmly walking over to open the window, as though this were an everyday occurrence. Sam saw the jar beside the window sill that said OWL TREATS and realized that it actually was an everyday occurrence.

“Is that an owl?” Dean asked from the doorway, “or am I still drunk?”

“Owl,” Sam confirmed. “I made you coffee.”

“Thanks.” Dean made a beeline for the coffee and took an appreciative sip. “Mm, I think it’s even better with this wizard whiskey.”

“The letter is for you,” Harry said from the window. “I don’t think he’s going to let me take it.”

Sure enough, the owl was looking defiantly at Harry and pecking at his hand every time he tried to reach for the letter tied to the owl’s leg.

Sam looked at Dean – but Dean was already looking at him, so Sam sighed and went over to the huge bird. He reached out carefully towards the letter, hoping he wasn’t about to get pecked for his troubles. Thankfully, all the owl did was hold out its leg to make it easier for Sam.

To Dean and Samuel Winchester
Harry Potter’s Residence
London, England


On the back of the envelope was a wax seal that looked like it had a peacock on it.

“It’s from Malfoy,” Harry said, when Sam looked up at him wondering who the hell knew their last name and that they were staying with Harry. “I recognised the owl.” Harry grabbed a handful of treats and held it out to the owl then, who seemed to have forgotten all about trying to peck Harry thirty seconds before and happily ate up the treats. “Typical...” Harry muttered.

“Open it up,” Dean said. “It’s probably about dinner tonight.”

Sam opened the letter, and read aloud:

Dear Dean, Sam, and undoubtedly Potter who doesn’t know how to mind his own business,

I am writing to you in regards to the invitation to dinner issued to you by my lovely wife on Sunday last. We do hope you are still planning to attend. Due to your circumstances, and preferred method of travel, I’ve taken the liberty of enclosing driving directions to my residence. 

When you arrive, please come to the coach house – not the manor. 

On a more delicate matter, I need to inform you that my parents will also be joining us for dinner. In keeping with the official information concerning your visit, I have informed them that you are from America, and are working closely with the Auror department. I think it would be wise, for all involved, if we were to keep your true profession a secret, as well as possibly your magical status. I hope you understand.

Please reply by owl to my office at the MInistry should you have any questions or concerns.

Dinner will be served at six o’clock.

Yours sincerely,
Draco Malfoy


“He actually gave you driving directions?” Harry asked.

Sam unfolded the second piece of paper and there, carefully written, were step by step driving directions and a small map that looked like it began on the outskirts of London. He passed them to Dean.

“He did, yeah,” Sam said.

“And why the coach house? Why on earth would a Malfoy entertain in the coach house and not the manor?” Harry muttered. 

“How should we know?” Dean shrugged, reading over the directions. “Looks like I’ll have to steal some license plates. At least a two hour trip...” Dean muttered. “Depending on traffic. We’ll leave before rush-hour to be on the safe side.”

“I can charm your car so that you don’t need to steal anything,” Harry said. “I’ll put a notice-me-not spell on the plate itself so that the police won’t check it.”

“You can do that?” Dean asked.

“I could put it on the whole car,” Harry said. “But that’s a bit dangerous – unless you like people driving into you as though you weren't even there.”

“Nah, just getting the cops off our tail would be great,” Dean said.

“Okay,” Harry replied. “Now, about today – I actually have to go into the office, and can’t spend the day with you. I know by now you could probably handle using the Floo to get to The Burrow – Molly and Arthur’s house –on your own, but I asked Ron to go with you anyway. I thought he might like the excuse to fill up on his Mum’s cooking. Plus, any questions you have about the ghoul or the house that Molly couldn’t answer, Ron would probably know.”

Sam nodded along with Dean. He was starting to wonder if there was even any point going to the Weasley’s house, given how completely fruitless all their visits the day before had been. Still though, those had been all ghost-incidents. Perhaps they’d turn up something different about the ghoul attack. As it was, Sam didn’t even know whether or not the ghoul was connected with the ghost incidents.

Harry left for work – via the front door, surprisingly, so that he could charm their license plate before he disappeared. Sam and Dean waited around for Ron to show up – going over everything again to see if they had missed something. Dean ended up making long lists of names, and then long lists of dates, just to see if there were some kind of pattern in timing or anagrams or anything. Sam figured it was good measure on how little information they had that Dean had resorted to anagramming.

After the fifth time Dean anagrammed a name into a lewd phrase, and Sam had given his customary eye-roll and I’m-not-amused glare, Harry’s fireplace came to life and Ron stepped out. 

“Hello!” Ron said. “All set?” 

“Hey, man, yeah,” Dean replied, and shoved the notebook he had been using into his jacket pocket. Sam made sure he had the EMF meter on him, even though he figured it was probably highly unlikely he’d be able to use it anywhere near Ron’s parent’s house.

“Alright,” Ron said. “I’ll go through first. You just have to say ‘The Burrow.’ Harry told me you didn’t have much luck yesterday – and well, I don’t think you’ll find much more at the Burrow, but Mum is looking forward to feeding you, so there’s that.”

“Sounds great,” Sam smiled. “And you never know – yesterday was all ghosts... the ghoul might have left more clues behind.”

Ron smiled back, perhaps a little nervously, and then threw a handful of powder into the fireplace and disappeared in green flame. Dean sighed and followed. Sam figured Dean probably hated Floo travel as much as he did.

When Sam stepped – well, fell out – of the fireplace in the Burrow, he found himself in an extremely cozy country home. Dean quickly steadied him as usual, and then they both turned to be greeted by Molly Weasley, who was waiting excitedly by the fireplace.

“Welcome to my home, my dears,” Molly said. “Arthur’s at work, but he promised he’d stop by briefly to say hello. Plus, I think he wants to show off his collection of Muggle electronikkis in the shed.”

Ron groaned, but it was affectionate. He shot Dean a preemptive apologetic look. Dean just shrugged. After the fuss Ron made over the silly EMF meter the year before, they had fair warning on what his father was like.

“Thanks for having us, Mrs. Weasley,” Sam said. “Do we have time before lunch to ask you a few questions and maybe take a look around?”

“Call me Molly, dear,” Molly said. “And yes, yes of course. I’ll um... or maybe Ron could... show you where the ghoul lived. The stairs are a bit hard on the knees these days, and it’s just – well, I didn’t want to kill the poor thing...”

“It’s okay, Mum,” Ron said. “I’ll take them on a tour of the place, and then we can sit down and go over what happened while we wait for Dad.”

“Okay, thank you, Ronnykins,” Molly said.

Mum,” Ron said, blushing.

Sam bit his lip – hard. Dean’s eyes lit up like he had been given a present, and he slung an arm around Ron’s shoulders and started steering Ron towards the staircase. 

“Come on Ronny, I think I remember you saying that this thing lived in the attic – why don’t we start there,” Dean said smiling.

Sam smiled at Molly and followed behind Dean and Ron. When he got to the staircase, he couldn’t quite believe what he was seeing – even with Dean’s “holy...” that should have warned him. It was a crazy layered vertical labyrinth of staircases – all seemingly rickety and they groaned and squeaked under Sam’s feet as he climbed them. He shot a questioning look at Ron, and Ron just smiled back at him.

“Try sneaking out of this house as a teenager, eh?” Ron laughed.

Each landing seemed to have a room attached to it. Ron named them as he went for whose bedroom they formerly were, until they finally got to the top floor.

“And this is my old room,” Ron said.

“What does this house look like from the outside? That’s what I want to know,” Dean said, now staring down the labyrinthine stairs and out a nearby window in puzzlement.

“I can show you after lunch,” Ron shrugged.

Ron pulled a trap door on the ceiling open and a ladder slide down. They ascended into a typical looking attic. It was half filled with old trunks and boxes and half empty. In one corner was a nest of blankets next to some pipes that must have led away from an old fashioned reservoir back whenever the house was first built, but now just lay unused. Sam didn’t need Ron to tell him that the pile of blankets was the ghoul’s former bed. 

They couldn’t use the EMF meter in the house, but Sam and Dean took a look around the entire attic, trying to find anything out of the ordinary that may have set the ghoul off. As much as Sam believed that having the ghoul in the house was just inviting trouble, he could also see the Weasleys’ side of things – the ghoul had been docile and nonthreatening for decades. Something had to have happened to change that.

There was nothing out of the ordinary in the attic though – it was actually even more ordinary than the rest of the house. They made their way back downstairs to talk to Molly, who was just finishing making lunch. Ron offered to set the table while she talked to Sam and Dean. 

“Could you tell us exactly what happened when the ghoul attacked?” Sam asked, while Dean took out his notebook and pen.

“I was in the kitchen,” Molly began, “cleaning up, mostly, because everyone had just been the night before for a big family supper. Arthur had just apparated off to work from the front laneway and I was all alone. I put on the wireless to have a bit of company, and I suppose that’s why I didn’t hear him coming down the stairs. I had my back turned to the door, but he made this noise when he walked into the kitchen.”

“What sort of noise,” Dean asked.

“An unhappy noise – as if he were in great distress,” Molly frowned. “I was quite surprised. He never liked leaving the attic. He spent a year in Ron’s room during the war, and was quite unhappy about it. So, my first thought was that he was just upset at being downstairs – but then, he had come down himself, hadn’t he? Before I could make heads or tails of it, he was launching himself at me – snarling and making those distressed noises.”

“He was angry at you then,” Dean said.

“No, no, that’s just the problem. It was like he was angry, but didn’t want to be,” Molly explained. “And, well, it was reflex really – to hit him with as many defensive spells as I could. I was just trying to keep him back in the hopes that he would calm down. I should have used a binding spell, or a paralysis spell, but it all happened so fast – and I’ve always been quicker with the protection spells, rather than then the more offensive spell work. But... the next thing I knew, he had found the knives – and was coming at me with a cleaver – so I hit him with a spell that knocked him backwards over the table, quite roughly... and well, he didn’t get back up.”

“The spell killed him?” Sam tried to clarify, because they’d been taught that only decapitation killed ghouls.

“The cleaver,” Molly corrected. “It must have been the way he fell – it sliced right through his neck. That’s when I called Ron, and he and Harry came immediately.”

“So, do you have any idea what would have made him angry?” Dean asked.

“No,” Molly answered. “I don’t even think he was genuinely angry. He seemed confused – it was almost as though he were fighting off the Imperious curse. Only, that couldn’t have been it – because humans can’t even fight that curse, let alone a low-level ghoul.”

“The Imperious curse?” Sam asked. “What-”

“It’s one of the Unforgivables,” Ron stated. “If I were to use it on you – you would basically do exactly as I bid you to do, whether or not it was against your own will. It would basically give me completely control of your body and actions.”

“Like being possessed,” Sam guessed.

“Yes, I’d assume so,” Ron said. “I’ve only ever known one person who could resist it.” Molly seemed surprised at that, but Ron just smiled. “I’ll give you three guesses who, and the first two don’t count.”

“Harry,” Sam answered.

“He was only ever able to resist a little though,” Ron said. “If Harry can only resist a little... there’s no way a ghoul-“

“Still,” Sam interrupted. “The ghoul was conflicted – which itself is unusual for a ghoul. Something made it that way.”

“But what?” Molly asked.

Sam sighed, tucking the notebook back into his pocket. He had hoped that they would have found that the ghoul was an isolated incident from the ghost attacks – but it followed the same pattern. Something was making the spirits, and the ghoul, restless and angry when they had never been restless and angry before. Yet, it had nothing to do with the apocalypse, because the only victims had been wizards. They had figured out what the cases had in common, they just couldn’t figure out what it meant.

Arthur came home moments later and they all sat down for lunch. Ron reported on how the shop was going, and if he knew whether George and Angelina were still considering themselves a couple or not. Apparently, as Sam found out, neither had dated anyone else since the war – yet, occasionally they’d have huge fights and declare the relationship over; though, Angelina never returned the engagement ring and George never cancelled the wedding arrangements. 

Before Ron could explain further, Arthur changed the conversation to cars – and began to engage Dean in a series of rapid fire questions. It eventually led to Dean giving Arthur a mechanical version of the “the legbone’s connected to the hip bone...” only with “the air cleaner’s connected to the carburetor...” and something about valve covers. 

Thankfully Molly interrupted to ask how the training session with the Aurors had gone. Sam and Dean both said they felt it went fine, and Ron said that he thought it was brilliant – informing them that they still had the Aurors guessing as to who they actually were.

After lunch, Arthur led them out to his back shed. Ron followed behind complaining that Sam and Dean probably weren’t interested in his Muggle artifact collection – given the fact that they were Muggles. Sam, like Dean, was interested in seeing the property though. There were fields and forests, and a long dirt driveway that looked like it hadn’t been used in years. Dean was staring back at the house as they walked – stumbling every few steps, and when Sam turned to look he could see why. It was gravitationally impossible for such a house to exist. It looked like it had once been a modest bungalow and then someone had decides to add a haphazard second story – and when that wasn’t enough, they had stacked rooms on the house like a child stacks wooden blocks. No wonder the staircase had been so confusing. 

They arrived at the large shed and Sam discovered it was a lot bigger than Harry’s, but also a lot more crowded. Arthur had shelves upon shelves of random things – light bulbs, wires, floppy discs, and VHS tapes.

“Is this a Commadore 64?” Sam asked, running his hands over the casing, then spotting something else just behind it. “Holy shit – is that an Apple II? I haven’t seen one of those since...um... I was BORN. I bet you could get a lot of money from collectors for some of these.”

“Could I?” Arthur asked with a smile. “Even if I’ve broken all of them?”

“You’ve probably just short-circuited them,” Dean said. “Though, being kept in a shed probably hasn’t done them any favours either.”

“No, no... a mouse built a nest in one of them,” Arthur said. “Still, they are pleasant to look at. And I must say, the mouse was quite adorable. I named him Ichabod.”

Sam wasn’t quite sure what he was supposed to say to that, but Dean just laughed a little and nodded. 

“I’ve got spark plugs!” Arthur announced. “They’re my favourite.”

“Great,” Dean said.

“Oh, and I want to thank you for that screaming device you helped Ron make me last year,” Arthur continued. “It’s ever so much fun. I like to walk around the property with it until it explodes.”

“No wonder I’ve got to fix it all the time,” Ron muttered.

“Sadly, I have to get back to work. Feel free to look around though,” Arthur said. 

“Oh,” Sam said. “I wanted to ask you about the ghoul a bit too.”

“We’ll walk you to the apparition point,” Ron said. “We can talk on the way.”

They made their way around the side of the house to the front, while Arthur confirmed that he hadn’t noticed anything unusual about the house or the ghoul before the attack. They walked to the small gate at the edge of the property and out onto the country road. The gate hung on a low stone wall, and Sam sat on the edge of the wall while he ran his last few questions by Arthur.

“Sorry I’m not much more help, lads,” Arthur said. “But I do hope you and Harry are able to get to the bottom of this – it’s all rather distressing. First real trouble we’ve had since the war, well, since things settled down politically in any case.”

“We’ll sort it out, Dad,” Ron said.

“Of course you will,” Arthur smiled proudly. “Well, it was a pleasure to talk with you fellows again, I do hope you find time to enjoy England while you’re here and it’s not all just work.”

“Thank you, sir,” Sam said politely. Dean nodded. Arthur waved and then turned and disappeared.

“A little frustrating, isn’t it?” Ron sighed. Sam nodded his agreement, absentmindedly running his fingers through some random groves cut into the stone beside his leg.

“I can see why you and Harry called us,” Dean said. “I’ve got half a mind to call Bobby and ask if he can figure any of this shit out...”

“Or Cas,” Sam added.

“Yeah, but there has to be something – something we’re missing somewhere,” Dean replied.

“Maybe we should check out the grave sites?” Sam asked, then clarified. “Of the ghosts, I mean. Maybe someone’s been disturbing them that way.”

“Already looked,” Ron shook his head. “Harry and I oversaw each salting and burning ourselves. I can tell you right now, there was nothing odd about those graves. We went over every inch.”

Sam watched as Dean ran a frustrated hand through his hair, and was half tempted to do the same.

“Come on,” Ron said. “I told Harry I’d take the Floo back with you to make sure both of you made it alright.”

“After yesterday, I think we got the hang of it,” Sam muttered, not really liking the fact he basically had to be babysat everywhere he went in case his freakishness caused some sort of accident.

“Dude,” Dean said. “Speak for yourself, without Harry or Ron waiting for me on the other end, I’d end up face first on the frickin’ floor every single time, and that is not an appealing thought.”

“Oh,” Sam said, because yeah – without Dean there to catch Sam, he’d probably end up with bruises. He hadn’t really thought that maybe Dean needed someone to catch him too.

Chapter Text

When they got back to Harry's, Ron followed them out to the car with the excuse that he should check Harry’s spell work. They all knew it was an excuse. Ron was fidgeting a bit more than usual.

“So, um, have a good dinner,” Ron said. “Call if you need anything.”

“Yes, mom,” Dean replied, rolling his eyes. Ron frowned.

“Just... watch yourselves, alright?” Ron pressed. Again, Sam started to wonder just how bad this feud was between the Weasleys and the Malfoys.

“We’ll be fine,” Dean said, his tone low and warning. “It’s not the first time we’ve met the guy, after all.”

“Yeah, but his Dad’s a git,” Ron said. “I’m all for you hitting him or something, if it comes to that – but you might want to disarm the room first.”

“Noted,” Dean shook his head. “See you around, Ron.”

With that they lowered themselves into the car and Dean carefully eased his way onto the road. Sam held the map that Draco had provided them, and told Dean the general direction to head in order to reach the highway. 

Sam had to remind Dean only a few times to drive on the left side of the road. Dean complained the entire way out of the city, and they both only started to relax once they got on the highway. Until, at least, Sam realized that with the steering column on the left side of the vehicle, Dean needed Sam to tell him whether or not he could pass the car in front of him. It was oddly like driving by voice-command, Sam thought, and then promptly decided that he didn’t like it at all – if he were going to be concentrating this hard on the road, he’d prefer to have the steering wheel under his own hands. The worst were the roundabouts. Sam knew that they were technically more efficient and supposedly prevented more accidents than traffic lights – but it certainly didn’t feel that way.

Finally, they were driving down the country road that led to the Malfoy’s house. Sam looked out the window at the high stone wall that followed the road a dozen feet away. It was covered in patches of vines, or hidden behind shaggy trees and thick brush occasionally. Sam was just starting to wonder what could possibly be behind it, when the stone was broken by a large ornate wrought iron gate. Behind the gate, Sam could see a long laneway leading to possibly the biggest house that Sam had ever seen. It was more like a palace than a house. Dean had slowed the car down, Sam figured he had probably been curious about what was behind the wall too – until he parked in front of the gate.

“Why-”

“He could have left the gate open,” Dean muttered. “Sammy, see if you can open that gate.”

And then Sam clued in.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Sam said.

“What? You want me to say please? Get over yourself.” 

“This is where Draco Malfoy lives? Seriously?!” Sam continued, picking up Draco’s driving directions, and read:  My home is the first on the right. We have a rather nice wrought iron gate . “Fuck,” Sam concluded.

“Sam, the gate?”

“Alright! Fucking... keep your pants on...” Sam said as he flung open his door. He walked up to the middle of the gates to try to see where they clasped together. Only, he couldn’t see a clasp, so he reached out his hand to see if he could just push them open, and his hand passed through the iron as though it were only smoke.

Sam looked back at Dean, who raised an eyebrow in question, and then Sam shrugged and walked through the closed gate. On the other side, he stuck his arm back through the gate and waved Dean to simply drive through. Instead, Sam heard the driver’s side door open and close.

“Oh hell no,” Dean said. “I am not driving my baby through some wacky magic gate. Come on, we’ll walk in.”

Sam rolled his eyes, but didn’t point out that Dean didn’t seem to have a problem with walking through the magic gate on his own.

“So, Drake said to go to the coach house,” Dean stated.

“Right,” Sam said, and took his attention off the main house long enough to spot the matching cottage-sized house, with an empty car port attached, just off the laneway to the left of them. “That would be it.” Sam glanced once more at the huge manor as they made their way over. 

“Hey Dean?” Sam asked. “You remember what the Weasleys house looked like?”

“Yup, pretty hard to forget something like that,” Dean said.

“Do you maybe think that the conflict between the Weasleys and the Malfoys might be a case of socio-economic confict, rather than being caused by a particular event or issue?” Sam asked. Sam waited for response, and when he didn’t get one, he turned to find Dean staring at him. “What?”

“Sam,” Dean said slowly, “money is no excuse for being a douche. Ron’s brother died in a war that was caused by someone that the Malfoys supported. It doesn’t really matter what issues they may have had before that or how much they apologize now... there’s no making up for that.”

Sam nodded. 

“Alright, here goes nothing,” Dean said, as they arrived outside the coach house door. “Is my magic crystal pendant showing? God, that makes me sound like a girl.”

Dean’s pendant was sufficiently hidden under the black t-shirt that he wore, and the popped collar on his blue shirt hid the chain where it looped around his neck.

“No, mine?” Sam asked. Making sure he buttoned the plaid shirt he was wearing one hole higher than he normally would.

“You’re good,” Dean confirmed. He then rapped sharply three times on the door. A moment later, they heard a lock click and the door opened to reveal Astoria who smiled widely at them. 

“Sam, Dean, so pleased to see you,” she greeted, “please come in, let me take your coats.”

Sam stepped over the threshold after Dean, and slipped his heavy jacket off. Astoria hung it on a hanger as though it were delicate and placed it in a small closet next to the door. 

The coach house was small. They were basically standing in the living room the moment they entered. It was a combination living room/dining room, and Sam could see a very small kitchen attached through an open door frame. Draco was sitting on the couch with a large plastic dump-truck on his lap. Scorpius stood next to him, running what looked like a small plastic cement-mixer back and forth on the coffee table while he made engine noises. Sam spotted a toy fire-engine, double-decker bus, and police car on the floor. Draco quickly placed the dump-truck on the coffee table and stood up to make his way over, blushing slightly and looking a little nervous.

“Hello,” Draco greeted. “I’m sorry for...” he waved his hand briefly behind him at his son and the toys. “The coach house doesn’t have a separate playroom.”

Scorpius seemed to take interest in who was actually at the house then, and looked up and smiled widely at Sam. Sam smiled and waved at him.

“That’s ok man,” Dean said, then he too turned to Scorpius. “Cool toys, Scorp!”

“Scorpius, ” Scorpius corrected, rolling his eyes.

“He, uh... has a love for Muggle vehicles... my father doesn’t approve,” Draco stated.

“So you bought him every toy vehicle you could find, right?” Dean winked. 

“Of course not,” Draco said. “Passive-aggressiveness is beneath the Malfoys. I simply bought them so he could see for himself how truly unremarkable they are.”

“Right,” Dean smiled.

Sam huffed a laugh. He was beginning to see why Dean seemed to like Draco, even though he came across as a bit of a stuffy prick.

“Perhaps, after dinner,” Draco suggested, “you might want to show Scorpius how unremarkable your own vehicle is. I heard... somewhere... that it was quite...”

“Unremarkable?” Dean finished.

“Yes,” Draco smiled, and then turned to his son. “Scorpius, please go upstairs and tell your Grandfather and Grandmother that our guests have arrived.”

“Yes, Daddy,” Scorpius said, and then he disappeared down a narrow hallway off the living room, and Sam heard the sound of little feet on wooden stairs.

Astoria disappeared to the kitchen. Sam could see the table was already set. Draco ushered them into the living room, moving a few more toy trucks off a chair so that there was room for all of them.

“I hope you didn’t have trouble finding the place,” Draco said. “I admit, I had never had to write out driving directions before.”

“No trouble at all,” Sam said. “We um, parked just outside the gate, because we didn’t know you could just go right through it.”

“Oh,” Draco said. “Sorry, yes... it actually allows in only those we have invited, but, other than that, it is harmless. I should have included that in the directions.”

Before either of them could respond, the sound of several people coming downstairs was heard. Draco’s father entered the room followed by Draco’s mother, who carried Scorpius on her hip. Sam and Dean both stood along with Draco upon their arrival.

“Father, mother,” Draco said. “I would like you to meet Sam and Dean. Sam and Dean, this is my father, Lucius Malfoy, and my mother, Narcissa.”

“Pleased to meet you, sir,” Sam said, shaking the elder Malfoy’s hand. He could see the resemblance to both Draco and Scorpius immediately, though while Scorpius was young and sweet-faced, Lucius was old with what appeared to be a permanent down-turned mouth; and while Draco came off as aloof and reserved, Lucius appeared haughty and condescending. Sam had the distinct impression as he shook Lucius’s hand, that Lucius had also sized him up and found him to be lacking.

Draco’s mother, who Sam greeted next, did not come across much better. Although she was beautiful, and actually seemed to resemble Andromeda a little despite her blonde hair, she held none of Andromeda’s warmth – and that was saying something, given how poorly Sam and Andromeda had gotten along. Sam suddenly felt as though this dinner were being treated as some sort of chore.

Astoria called for everyone to come to the table, and Sam took the moment when everyone was distracted to shoot a glance at Dean, who raised his eyebrows in response – yeah, this was going to be a long night.

*

It started off well enough, Dean thought. Lucius sat at the head of the table, with his wife on his right-hand side, and Sam on his left. Draco sat beside his mother, and Astoria sat next to Sam with Scorpius beside her. Dean sat at the end of the table, across from Lucius.

Dean explained, when asked, that they were experts from America, who Harry had brought in to run a special training session with the Aurors. Lucius had asked what sort of thing it was that the American Aurors did better than the British ones, but Dean informed him that what they had taught was classified. They were honest about how long they had known Potter – a year – and only partially honest about how they had met – explaining that they had met during the Dementor activity in America. 

When Narcissa, (and seriously, what sort of name was Narcissa?) asked how they had met Draco. Draco simply said, “Department of Mysteries business,” which had launched Lucius on a rant about how annoying it was to have an Unspeakable for a son because there was never anything they could talk about. Dean had to wonder if maybe not having anything to talk about had less to do with Draco’s job, and more to do with obvious tension between the two of them.

It was obvious, when talking about Harry, that neither Lucius nor Narcissa liked him. Not that Dean was surprised; they had been on opposite sides of a war after all. Still, Dean had been under the impression that, like Draco, the elder Malfoys had realized their mistake in supporting Lord Voldemort and would be more repentant. Instead, it was clear that whether or not they realized their past mistakes, the mention of Harry’s name caused them both to look as though someone had shit on their food. Draco and Astoria, in contrast, talked about Harry as though he were someone they didn’t have an opinion on one way or the other. 

Scorpius was too young to pay much attention to the conversation, though whenever anyone looked at him, he would smile at them broadly – even when he had broccoli in his teeth. He seemed excited to have other people besides his family around, and would stare at Dean and Sam with great concentration every once in a while. Dean wondered if it was because Sam had won him over by taking him into the Weasleys’ shop, or whether there was something else going on in his head – because at times he looked concerned, rather than happy.

“Astoria tells me, Sam, that I have you to thank for the Weasleys allowing my grandson into that store of theirs?” Lucius asked. Dean honestly couldn’t tell if Lucius thought it was a good or bad thing with the way he said it.

“Yeah,” Sam said, leaning over his plate a little so that he could smile down the table at Scorpius. “Did he show you the trick wand he bought? It’s really cool.”

“Yes,” Lucius replied unenthusiastically. Scorpius seemed oblivious to his grandfather’s tone and beamed a broccoli filled smile back at Sam. “Both Astoria and my wife assure me that this is actually a step up in social standing for our family – but I loathe to believe society has really regressed so much.”

“Father,” Draco said. “The Weasleys are well respected members of society. Hermione-”

“Oh please, tell me all about how wonderful the mud-” Lucius said overtop of Draco.

“Hermione also happens to be a friend of ours,” Dean stated, interrupting, “and your son is right. Plus, there isn’t a kid alive who wouldn’t want to shop in the Weasley’s store. I bet Scorpius would feel pretty left out if he were the only one in school not able to go in.”

“Right, well, like I said, apparently I’m to thank you for that,” Lucius said. 

“Yes, you made Scorpius quite happy,” Narcissa added.

“So tell me, Mister...I’m sorry, I don’t remember getting your family name,” Lucius said.

“That’s right,” Dean stated.

“Father,” Draco said, “I told you, their family name is confidential.”

“Right,” Lucius waved his son’s words away. “You know, there was a time when confidentially wasn’t a concern when people spoke to me... especially my own son.”

“Really?” Draco drawled, matching his father’s haughty condescending tone perfectly. “And then what happened, Father?”

Dean didn’t think anyone dared breathe during the father-son staring contest that took place in the silence that followed. Then Lucius took a sip of wine, and made a show of turning towards Sam.

“So, tell me, Mister Sam, what Wizarding territory do you and your brother call home?” Lucius asked.

“Um, we, ah... we moved around a lot as kids, actually,” Sam stated. “We’ve really lived all over.”

“Oh, so what school did you attend?” Lucius asked.

“We were home-schooled,” Dean stated.

“Well, moving around or no, you two must have been born somewhere...” Lucius said. Dean tried to think of the map of the Wizarding countries and territories of North America that Harry had left them, but he wasn’t sure where Lucius was going with this anyway, what did it matter where they were from. The brief silence seemed to be enough to have Lucius draw conclusions of his own. 

“More confidentiality, is it? Well, maybe I can guess...” Lucius said, and Dean watched as Draco ran a tired hand down his face. “You aren’t from the savage-”

“Father” Draco interrupted. “Is it too much to ask for you to watch your language? The native territories have full-blooded wizards just as we do.”

“As I was saying,” Lucius said, “you obviously aren’t native, nor do you have the accents indicative of the French or Spanish regions... so, that leaves the Eastern seaboard, or Canada. I know the O’Shaughnessys are quite a large Wizarding family who have a tradition of producing fine Aurors-”

“We aren’t related to Phil,” Dean interrupted. “And this will really get you nowhere. What does it matter where we’re from anyway?”

“If I knew where you were from, it’d be quite easy to figure out your family name – after all, you must be fairly important given how nervous my son has been since you’ve arrived in town.”

“Father...” Draco cringed.

“That’s enough, dear,” Narcissa said, though she said it to her plate, so Dean couldn’t actually tell who she was addressing. To Dean’s right, Astoria bent over and whispered something to Scorpius, who unapologetically grabbed a handful of broccoli off his plate and left the table.

“Why does our family name matter so much to you?” Dean asked. Scorpius disappeared behind him towards the stairs, and Dean figured that was the go ahead for the gloves to come off.

“According to my daughter-in-law, being associated with you is a good thing. If I knew what family you were from, I’d know whether you deserve our respect or not, or if you’re just some sort of American riff-raff. I mean, for Merlin’s sake, look at the way you’re dressed.”

“Lucius please...” Astoria said, and Dean could tell that she was embarrassed that he had pointed out the true intention of her dinner invite. Sure, Dean didn’t usually take kindly to being used – but Astoria and Draco had at least been polite and kind about it.

“Well, luckily for your son and daughter-in-law, respect is earned, not inherited,” Dean said. “If family names really mattered that much, Sam and I certainly wouldn’t be eating here.” Dean watched as Lucius’ jaw clenched and his body tensed. Dean kept his focus on Lucius, but he could see Sam shift in his chair, and Narcissa glare at him. Draco didn’t seem to move at all.

“How dare you-” Lucius started.

“No!” Dean said. “How dare you! Draco and Astoria invited us over for a nice family dinner – which is delicious by the way...” Dean winked at Astoria, which did the trick of briefly removing the distressed expression from her face. “And then you ruin it by being a dick. You are the last person who should be talking about family and respect. You sold yours out to support a crazy racist mass murderer. How did that turn out for you? Your son’s a social pariah; your grandson can’t go into a joke shop-”

“I never approved of the Dark Lord’s methods, Narcissa saved-” Lucius defended.

“Oh, but you approved of his goals?” Dean asked. “And what? Narcissa saved Harry? Right, well great for her, but I have to wonder what her motivations were for turning against your precious Dark Lord at the last minute instead of when her teenage son was holed up in school bathrooms crying his eyes out because of the fate you laid out for him. So, no, I will not tell you my family name – but I will tell you that I feel sorry for Draco. I mean, my father made a lot of mistakes, but at least he taught me and Sammy how to kill evil bastards, instead of teaching us how to bend over for them.”

In a split second, there was a wand in Lucius’ hand and he was standing up in rage. Dean’s own hand flew to his butter knife.

Before Lucius had time to say anything, two things happened at once: the knife collided with his hand, causing him to drop the wand; and the back of Sam’s chair hit the ground as Sam leaped to his feet and pointed his pearl-handled handgun at Lucius’ temple.

“Sit down,” Sam commanded. Lucius sat.

To Dean’s left, Draco was holding his mother’s right arm tightly and both were staring at the gun with wide-eyed fear. To Dean’s right, Astoria was much the same.

“Now shut-up and finish your dinner,” Sam said. Dean watched as Lucius picked up his fork with a shaking hand. His right hand was actually bleeding a little. 

“Astoria?” Sam asked. “Could you please fix my chair?”

Astoria jumped a little, and then quickly set Sam’s chair back on his legs. Sam sat down without taking the gun or his eyes of Lucius. 

“Are you going to try anything again?” Sam asked.

“No,” Lucius muttered.

“Speak up!” Sam commanded.

“No, Sir,” Lucius said.

“Good,” Sam said. “I’m going to lower the gun now, but if you make one wrong move, it’ll be the last thing you do – understand?”

“Yes,” Lucius replied.

True to his word, Sam lowered the gun, placing it in his lap for easier accessibility, and then carefully showed his empty hand to Lucius before he picked up his fork and started to eat.

“It really is delicious, Astoria,” Sam said into the silence. “Thank you for inviting us.”

“Th-thanks for coming,” Astoria replied.

Chapter Text

Draco cleared his throat and then stood slowly. Sam kept his eyes mostly on Lucius and Narcissa, trusting them the least among the dinner party and not wanting to get too distracted. 

“Dean, Sam,” Draco said, staring down at the table with only a hint of nervousness in his voice, but otherwise confident. “I would like to humbly apologize for my father’s behaviour. Please know that this is not the way my family usually conducts itself at dinner or with company. I would also... like to thank you... for not killing my father. He...um... that is to say, that I do care deeply for him.”

“There’s no need for you to apologize, Drake,” Dean said, and Sam watched in interest as Draco now seemed relieved to hear the nickname, whereas Lucius and Narcissa both looked vaguely disgusted. “It’s really your old man who needs to apologize, but I’m guessing it’s probably above him.”

“Father,” Draco said. Sam kept his face impassive, but made a point to draw his right hand out of sight.

“I apologize,” Lucius said.

“What sort of wizards carries a gun!” Narcissa suddenly exclaimed, just as Draco was sitting down again.

“The kind that don’t have last names,” Dean replied.

“Perhaps,” Draco said to the table at large, “my family has now learned that when I tell them the guests that Astoria has invited over are not to be trifled with, I am not exaggerating.”

Sam laughed at that. He didn’t really consider Dean and himself all that dangerous – not now that they knew the difference between blood-wizards and unnatural-witches. But, he had to admit that pulling any sort of weapon on a Winchester was a bad idea.

“Father,” Draco said, “perhaps you and mother should retire for the evening and tend to your injury.”

“To my hand or to my pride?” Lucius muttered.

“A topic you have plenty of time to think about upstairs,” Draco replied dryly.

“Draco, sweetheart-“ Narcissa started to say. 

“Please feel free to join us for coffee after you’ve finished tending to father’s hand, mother,” Draco said. Sam watched as Narcissa smiled politely and stood. 

“Good evening,” Lucius said, not bothering to smile, as he stood as well. Everyone remained silent as Lucius and Narcissa left the room, listening as they climbed the stairs, until they couldn’t be heard anymore.

“Dude,” Dean said with a smile. “Did you just send your dad to his room?”

“I believe I did,” Draco half-smiled. “And I’ve put my mother on a ‘time-out.’ Parenting has really had a positive influence on my life in general. I find its principles have far more applications than just looking after Scorpius.”

“I didn’t invite you for dinner just to improve our social standing,” Astoria said quietly, fidgeting with her cutlery a little. “That was just... an added bonus. I would have invited you anyway – Draco has so few friends because of... I thought...”

“Hey, don’t worry about it,” Sam said. “We don’t mind. Harry told us about how you’ve been trying to improve your family’s image, it’s not like we didn’t already know.”

“We’re glad to help,” Dean said. “Drake stuck his neck out for us last year and helped us out of a tight spot. Plus, Sammy and me know what it’s like to try to make up for past mistakes... it doesn’t help when you’ve got family working against you like that.”

“My father isn’t usually...” Draco tried to explained. “We aren’t used to living in such close quarters. I think it’s made us a little disgruntled – some more than others.”

“Why are you all living in the small house?” Dean said. “The huge swanky one belongs to you too, right? Is the utility bill too high or something?”

“Dean, wizards don’t have utilities,” Sam rolled his eyes.

“I don’t even know what utilities are or what them being ‘high’ as anything to do with where one might live,” Draco added.

“So, why you living here then?” Dean said.

“We’re... having it redecorated,” Draco answered.

“The whole thing?” Sam asked, confused.

“Yes,” Draco said. “Plus, I’ve always liked the coach house.”

“Draco,” Astoria whispered, “perhaps...”

“It’s good for Scorpius too,” Draco continued. “He’s much easier to keep an eye on when there are so few rooms.”

“Yeah, because the kid really seems like a handful,” Dean shook his head.

Draco only smiled proudly at the compliment hidden behind the sarcasm, and launched into a full report on how many words Scorpius could already spell.

Sam quietly asked Astoria where the bathroom was, and tucked his gun away as he stood and left the room. The bathroom was at the end of the narrow hallway at the base of the stairs. As Sam exited it afterward, movement partway up the stairs caught his eye. 

Scorpius sat hugging his knees on a small landing, clutching a small plush grey owl. He looked a little upset. Sam remembered how Scorpius had been sent away from the table when things had started to get heated, and he wondered if maybe the kid was still hungry and didn’t know whether it was safe to come back. Or, worse, maybe he hadn’t gone all the way upstairs and had somehow seen Sam pull a gun on his grandfather.

Sam tried to be as nonthreatening as possible as he slowly made his way up the stairs towards the kid. Scorpius’s brow furrowed a little, but he didn’t seem scared – so Sam decided that he probably hadn’t witnessed Sam pulling the gun on Lucius.

“Hey, Scorpius,” Sam said, keeping his voice quiet. “How’s it going?”

“Daddy says you fight ghosts,” Scorpius whispered. Sam really didn’t know what he was supposed to say to that.

“Yes, we do,” Sam said.

“Are you going to fight the upsidedown lady?” Scorpius asked, eyes wide and hopeful.

“Who’s the upsidedown lady?” Sam asked back, wondering if Scorpius has favourite children’s story with an upsidedown ghost or something.

“She cries and makes Daddy sad – so we have to live here. I miss my room, but I don’t want Daddy to be sad,” Scorpius explained. 

Sam could feel the small flood of adrenaline enter his veins, as he realized Scorpius wasn’t talking about a storybook ghost. He tried to remain calm on the outside though – getting the correct information out of a four-year old would only be harder if he scared the kid.

“Is the upsidedown lady in the big house?” Sam asked.

Scorpius nodded.

“Has she tried to hurt you, or your mommy or Daddy?” Sam asked.

“No,” Scorpius said. “She just cried, and then stopped, then Daddy wouldn’t let me look and hugged me and was sad.”

“How long ago was this?” Sam asked. He knew the Malfoys didn’t have an incident report – Sam had gone over those sheets of paper so many times he could probably recite each one by now. If Malfoy was having ghost problems, he wasn’t reporting them.

Scorpius looked confused and Sam realized that he really shouldn’t have expected a four-year old to comprehend the passage of time that well.

“Nevermind,” Sam said, “it’s ok.”

“Will you make her leave?” Scorpius asked. 

“Yeah,” Sam replied. “We’ll do our best.” 

*

Once Draco wound down from bragging about his kid, Astoria told the two of them to sit in the living room while she cleared the table and put the coffee on. Dean's offer to help was declined, but Draco pointed him towards the couch and then grabbed a stack of plates himself to help Astoria.

Draco and Astoria had just disappeared through the small door into the kitchen, when Sam walked into the room with Scorpius on his hip. Dean smiled and the odd picture the two of them made, but then he caught Sam’s expression and immediately crossed the room until he was next to his brother.

“What is it?” Dean asked.

“Dean,” Sam said. “Check out the thresholds in this place.”

Dean raised an eyebrow, but did as Sam asked – Salt. Draco, a wizard, had every threshold and window decorated with a thick line of salt. 

“Scorpius and I just had an interesting conversation,” Sam said.

Before Dean could ask anything more, Draco came back out of the kitchen. There must have been something in their expressions, because Draco tensed as soon as he saw them.

“Is everything alright, gentlemen,” Draco asked, as he eyed where Scorpius sat in Sam’s arms.

“You tell us,” Dean said.

“I don’t-” Draco started, confused.

“Because I’m thinking you didn’t decide to live here because the big place is being redecorated,” Dean explained. “I think you decided to live here because it’s easier to defend.”

Dean watched as Draco swallowed and took a deep breath, looking more nervous than Dean had ever seen him.

“It’s nothing,” Draco said. “I can take care of it.”

“Well, the lines of salt on your window sills tell me that you haven’t taken care of it yet,” Dean said. “So, how about you take me on a little tour, and I’ll see if I can help.”

“Dean,” Sam said. 

“Stay here with the kid, Sammy,” Dean replied. 

“Why? You don’t even know-” Sam started.

“Exactly,” Dean said. “Which is why you should stay here with the rest of the family.”

“They’re behind salt lines, they’ll be fine,” Sam argued.

“Sam.” Dean sighed. “Just stay here and keep everyone calm, okay?”

“Fine.” Sam sighed back.

“We can play with my trucks,” Scorpius offered.

“Awesome,” Sam said, but it didn’t sound like he thought it was awesome.

As Sam set Scorpius down on the floor, Astoria came back into the room from the kitchen.

“May I offer you gentleman coffee or tea?” She asked. “I’ve got a bit of cake for dessert as well. Draco, shall I go tell your mother that tea is on?”

“Could you delay the coffee for just a little, Astoria?” Draco asked. 

“Certainly,” Astoria said, though she seemed a little confused.

“Draco’s going to take me on a little tour of the big house,” Dean explained. “Sammy’s going to stay here and keep you and Scorpius company while we’re gone, if that’s alright.”

“Oh,” Astoria breathed, and Dean realized she didn’t look frightened or concerned about them going into the house at all – she looked relieved. “We’ll wait until you get back for cake then,” Astoria smiled genuinely.

“Thank you, dear,” Draco said. 

Dean watched as Astoria clasped her hands together and fidgeted slightly, and Draco looked both defeated and amused at the same time. Before Dean could figure out what it all meant, Astoria rushed forward and enveloped Draco in a huge hug. Dean coughed and looked away, as Draco blushed deeply.

“Oh hey, look at that cool fire truck!” Sam said to Scorpius, and then sat on the carpet with the four-year-old and devoted all his attention to the truck as though it were covered in Enochian sigils. 

“I’ll be back shortly,” Draco said rolling his eyes, but he smiled as Astoria disengaged.

“Come on, sooner we get going, sooner we come back for that cake,” Dean said, clapping Draco on the shoulder, as he moved to get his jacket out of the hall closet.

First stop – the car.

“How come you haven’t reported it?” Dean asked as he popped the trunk on the Impala.

“What, so Harry bloody Potter could come to my rescue yet again?” Draco replied. “No, thank you. I can deal with it myself.” 

“Ok, sore spot, got it,” Dean said. Draco was staring into the trunk with a mixture of curiosity and disgust, and only took a moment to glare at Dean’s comment. “So, are we dealing with a ghost or something else?”

“Ghost,” Draco said.

“What’s its M.O.?” Dean asked, picking up his sawed off and pocketing as many salt-rounds as he could.

“It’s what?” Draco asked.

“What does it do? Throw things? Attack people? Whisper in your ear as you’re trying to fall asleep? Beat you at chess?” Dean elaborated.

“Nothing,” Draco replied, “She’s just... there. She won’t leave.”

“Alright,” Dean said, raising an eyebrow. Ghosts never did just nothing – and, from what Harry had explained about Hogwarts, it didn’t sound like normal wizards would be frightened so much by non-violent ghost that they’d displace their whole family. “How about you show me. Are you armed, or do you want to borrow Sammy’s sawed-off?”

Draco looked as though Dean had just asked him if he wanted to lick the bottom of a hooker’s boot. He drew a wand from inside his right sleeve slowly. 

“I’m armed, thanks,” Draco replied.

“Okay,” Dean said, throwing Sam’s gun back into the truck and slamming it closed. "Lead the way.”

Dean wanted to ask more questions as they walked to the house, but Draco seemed to get more and more tense with every step they took – and if anything, Dean could recognize the universal body-language of 'I don’t want to talk about it.

Something white moved in Dean’s peripheral-vision and he levelled the shotgun and turned.

“Don’t shoot the peacocks!” Draco said in a rush.

Sure enough, it had only been a ghostly white bird. It ruffled its feathers, tucked it’s head back under a wing and went back to sleep. Behind it a long tail full of white feathers spread out on the grass.

“What the hell kind of...” Dean muttered. “Peacocks are blue!”

“Albino peacocks are extremely rare,” Draco explained. “My father prides himself on our collection.”

“They’re freaky,” Dean announced.

“Perhaps,” Draco looked back towards the coach house and sighed. “But my father has few joys left in life.”

“Yeah, okay, don’t shoot your dad’s freaky-ass birds, got it,” Dean replied.

“How did you know about me?” Draco suddenly asked, as he stopped walking and turned to face Dean.

“Uh, I met you?” Dean said.

“No,” Draco shook his head. “When you yelled at my father – you said you didn’t understand why my parents didn’t turn against Voldemort when their teenage son was crying in bathrooms... How did you know about that? What has Potter been telling you?”

“It’s not like that,” Dean cringed. “Harry showed me, in the memory bowl-”

“He used a pensieve!” Draco exclaimed, startling the peacock behind Dean, who made a funny noise and disappeared like a ghost into the darkness. “He’s out there showing-”

“I asked him to!” Dean said. “It wasn’t about you. It was last year. In the magic room, Harry looked at my memories without asking, and I was mad-”

“I recall that, yes,” Draco drawled.

“To make us even, he offered to show me anything I asked him to,” Dean explained. “I told him to show me something he regretted.”

“I see,” Draco said. “Well, he did nearly kill me.”

“I think he regretted not trying to help you,” Dean clarified.

“Then he’s a fool,” Draco said, turning to continue their walk towards the manor. “There was nothing he could have done. I wouldn't have let him.”

“Some things never change, huh?” Dean replied. 

“I suppose not,” Draco conceded.

The door swung open by itself as they approached. The inside of the mansion was just as over-the-top as the outside. A large chandelier hug over the entryway and the furniture looked like it was all handmade  from endangered trees by master craftsmen. Draco led them to a pair of large wooden doors and then paused. Dean could see the line of salt along the threshold of the door.

“She’s through here,” Draco said. Dean readied his shot gun. “You really won’t need your weapon – she’s harmless. I just... can’t...” 

Dean waited, but Draco never continued. He wasn’t even looking at Dean anymore, he just stared at the floor and breathed deeply. Carefully, Dean reached for the doorknob and pushed the door so that it swung open. It revealed an elaborately decorated living room – and nothing else.

“Just wait,” Draco said, moving into the room and sitting down on one of the pristine couches. He tilted his head upwards and starred into the middle distance. “The intervals aren’t that long – just long enough for her return to be the most torturous. I spent a day timing her; it was never more than a half-hour at most.”

Dean may have not really known Draco all that well, but it was quite obvious that being in the room was paining him – to the point where Dean was starting to worry that the ghosts M.O. was altering moods. He was thankful that he had left Sam behind, if that was indeed the case – the last thing he wanted was another chest full of rock-salt.

Before he could ask Draco anything, there was a flicker of light in the air where Draco was looking. Dean realised that Draco hadn’t been spacing out. He had known exactly where the ghost would appear. She hung upside down from some invisible means and rotated slowly. Draco closed his eyes and then looked towards the fireplace, and then didn’t seem to like that either and chose to stare at the small coffee table in front of him.

The ghost began whimpering. She was crying. Dean could see the tears fall across her forehead and into her hairline. 

“Severus! Help me!” the ghost cried as she faced the empty fireplace. 

Dean approached slowly from the opposite side of her than where Draco sat, and waved his hand in front of her face. Her eyes didn’t track it.

“She’s a death echo,” Dean said. He lowered the shotgun.

“Her name was Charity Burbage,” Draco informed.

“So you’ve already researched her? It’s the first case of a death echo. The rest of been straight up ghosts-”

“They had changed this room into a meeting room,” Draco continued. “They replaced the furniture with a long table at which everyone sat.”

Dean’s attention snapped away from the death echo and towards Draco immediately. Draco was speaking in a strange unaffected monotone, eyes slightly unfocused and dull. 

“You were-” Dean started to ask.

“I was sitting here, well, close to here – at the table,” Draco said. “Lord Voldemort stood by the fireplace.” Draco motioned towards the fireplace, just as the death echo turned to look at it too.

“Severus... please... please...” she said. 

“Severus... that’s someone important, right?” Dean said. “Harry’s mentioned him, I think.”

The death echo seemed to gag a bit and fall silent.

“He named his second son after him,” Draco said, and allowed a humourless smile to grace his face briefly. “Albus Severus Potter – the ultimate revenge in the form of a tribute.” The smile slipped from Draco’s face as he explained further, “Severus Snape was a double agent – though none of us knew it at the time. It was too soon to reveal his hand – her pleas were useless.”

There was a flash of green light and the death echo stilled, and then disappeared.

“She shouldn’t be here,” Draco said. “I can’t figure out why this is happening.”

“Well, death echoes occur under specific circumstances, but usually some other supernatural force causes the dead to get trapped in a loop, reliving the moment they died over and over,” Dean explained. “It’s rare, but it happens-”

“Not to wizards,” Draco interrupted. “This never happens to wizards – all of the books I found only talked about Muggles...”

“Well, yeah, I mean, it’s different for wizards, or so Harry tells-” Dean cut himself off as he realized what Draco was saying. “Wait, are you saying this death echo is a wizard?”

“Yes,” Draco said. “She was a professor at Hogwarts. I never took her classes, but maybe if I had...”

The death echo came back at that moment, causing Draco to sigh and turn away. The loops began at the beginning, and soon she was once again calling out for Severus. Dean matched over to her and leaned in as close as he could.

“HEY! LADY! YOU’RE DEAD!” Dean yelled.

“It won’t work,” Draco said. “I’ve tried that already. Neither of us knew her well enough.”

“Severus... please... please...” the death echo begged.

“May we leave now,” Draco asked. “I can’t...”

“Yeah, okay,” Dean said. Draco looked back briefly at the now silent rotating woman. Dean couldn’t help but picture Draco younger, sitting at a table full of dark wizards while they murdered the teacher... and he wished Sam had pulled the trigger back at the dinner table.

Draco stood and left the room before the death echo reached the point where she would be killed and disappear. Dean followed him out, and watched him close the heavy wooden door and repair any damage to the salt line.

“Death echoes usually don’t stray that far from their bodies,” Dean said. “Do you know where they buried her?”

“She was eaten by a snake,” Draco said.

“What? It looked like that killing spell...”

“After she was killed, Voldemort fed her to his snake,” Draco said. “Nagini only ate the recently deceased.”

“Okay,” Dean took a deep breath. “Do you know, um...”

“I do not know where her remains might be,” Draco answered. “She was eaten whole. It would have taken Nagini months to digest her completely. The snake had full reign of the house and gardens for the entire time Voldemort resided here.”

“Shit,” Dean breathed. “Okay, um... I have to talk to Sam about this. There has to be another way to get rid of a death echo.” Draco nodded. “How long has she been here?”

“A month,” Draco replied. “She appeared at the beginning of December. I moved everyone out to the coach house immediately.”

“You know death echoes aren’t dangerous though, right?” Dean said. “They’re harmless.”

“I know,” Draco said. 

“Then why move everyone out of the house? You could have just blocked off this one room and still had fifty others to choose from...” Dean waved his hand in the direction of a grand staircase that he imagined led to a labyrinth of ornately decorated rooms. Draco cringed and looked at the floor.

“I don’t know what happened here,” Draco said. “I was at school... if Professor Burbage could come back... I don’t even know how many may have... there was a dungeon in the cellar. I know they used it to torture.”

Dean took a deep breath, and tried to resist the urge to run back over to the coach house and punch Draco’s dad in the face. 

“Father can’t be certain either,” Draco continued. “He says he is, but I’m not sure he... he really doesn’t like living in the coach house.”

“Let’s have a look around then,” Dean said. “You take the top floors and I’ll do this one and the basement – we’ll just make sure that all we’re dealing with is the death echo.”

Draco didn’t look too pleased with that idea, so Dean gave him an encouraging clap on the shoulder – Draco didn’t look pleased about that either. 

“Go on,” Dean said. “If you run into trouble, I’m sure you’ve got a spell that can alert me somehow, and I’ll come running.” Draco rolled his eyes, but didn’t move. So, Dean continued, “Either we split up this search or I do the whole thing myself – do you really want me poking through your wife’s closet, man?”

That seemed to do something, as Draco’s eyes widened and he shook his head.

“We’ll meet back here in an hour,” Draco suggested.

“An hour?” Dean said, “Seriously?”

“It’s a big house,” Draco replied with a shrug, then held his wand at the ready and took off for the stairs.

Dean sighed and moved down the hall, trying to get a feel for the layout of the house so that he could form the most efficient search pattern. In the end, he settled for just going room to room as he came across them – thankfully finding the basement door early on. He made a mental note of where it was, so that he could come back to it after he finished with the first floor. It seemed Draco had bewitched the lights to come on whenever someone entered the room – something else Dean was thankful for, since he doubted his flashlight would work inside a wizard house.

He had just finished scouting out Draco’s home library, and was trying to decide whether showing it to Sam might be a good or a horrible idea, when he heard a distinct, yet muffled, thump. He paused and waited. Something thumped again – it seemed to be coming from underneath his feet. He carefully put his ear to the hardwood floor. 

There was definitely something in the basement.

Chapter Text

Draco was finished searching the upper floors in only forty minutes, and that included five minutes in which he just stared at his bed forlornly. Draco hadn’t been lying when he said that he had always liked the coach house – but it was only a two bedroom, and so Scorpius had to share with him and Astoria... and well, certain things could not be done in such situations. 

He made it back to the drawing room doors with fifteen minutes to spare, and debated whether he should wait patiently for Dean there as planned or go and find him. On the one hand, Dean might accidentally shoot him should he surprise the Hunter. On the other hand, he had just given a Hunter complete access to his house – that had to be a mark of stupidity. What if Dean were to pick up one of Lucius’ more questionable books in the library? Dean didn’t seem to be the type to pick up books – but Draco had underestimated his foes before. Not that Dean was a foe, he was just a Hunter – who could kill Draco with a squeeze of a trigger if he suddenly decided that wizards were evil after all... and it would be quite understandable for Dean to decide that, if, say, he were to read one of Lucius’ more questionable books in the library.

At that moment, Charity Burbage decided to beg Severus to help her again, and even though the heavy drawing room doors were shut, Draco could still hear her – and even though he wasn’t even in the room, all he had to do was close his eyes and he could see her dangling there, alive and crying and then suddenly dead, her body being swallowed by Nagini while Draco trembled in terror and the Dark Lord smiled.

Draco decided it was best to go find Dean Winchester.

He didn’t have to go far, because he found the door to the cellar was open. Draco considered returning to the meeting point and waiting for Dean. Draco really hated the cellar. Staying upstairs and waiting for the big strong Hunter to come protect him would be cowardly, however, and Draco was not a coward – or, at least, not any more... that is to say, that he tried his best not to be, for whatever that was worth. 

Taking a deep breath, Draco started down the stairs... and heard voices.

“There’s no escaping it, Dean,” a smooth voice said. “I told you, we’ll always end up here.”

“No,” Draco heard Dean reply, but something was wrong – other than the fact that Draco and Dean should be the only two people in the house, that is. Draco could tell that there was something wrong with the Hunter – something in his voice that filled Draco with fear. 

Draco reached the bottom of the stairs silently and followed the voices around a short stone wall. Dean was standing in front of a large open storage cupboard with his back to Draco, but between Dean and the cupboard stood Dean’s brother, Sam. Only Draco could tell that it wasn’t the same Sam that they had left in the coach house with Astoria and Scorpius. This Sam was wearing a white suit, his messy hair slicked back, and his expressive face serene and slightly amused. While it was true that Draco did not know the Winchesters well, or at all really, he had spent enough time with them to know that this being wasn’t Sam... even when Sam had leveled that gun at Draco’s father, he had not looked as cold-hearted as the being that stood before Dean now. This was not the Sam Winchester who smiled warmly at Draco’s son. No, Draco knew what this was.

“We aren’t in Detroit. You aren’t really... Sam’s in the small house, looking after the kid-" Dean continued, but Sam cut him off.

“How long did you leave him alone this time, Dean?” Sam asked. “You should really watch out for Sammy better than that.”

“No, he wouldn’t- I don’t-" Dean said. 

“Dean,” Draco said, and Dean turned to face Draco. Draco could see Dean’s confusion and despair, a torrent of emotions swimming in green-eyes. The biggest emotion that Draco could see through the unshed tears was fear. It was all the confirmation that Draco needed. Leave it to a friend of Harry’s to encounter their greatest fear and just stand in front of it while it tore them to shreds. “Dean,” Draco repeated softer than before. “Step away from him. I need you to get behind me.” 

“He’ll kill you,” Dean said, not moving.

“I’ll kill everyone,” Sam amended.

“It’s not... whoever you think it is,” Draco said. “Let me get rid of it and I’ll explain... please.”

Dean looked back at Sam in confusion, but started backing away. Draco breathed a sigh of relief, until he realized that now he had to confront the boggart himself.

“It’s only a matter of time, Dean,” the boggart called to Dean’s retreating figure. Dean shot a look to Draco that was so far from the version of Dean that he knew that Draco began moving forward before Dean had even reached him. He needed to end this now.

Immediately, the boggart changed shape, and Draco heard Dean’s breath catch behind him. The white suit was replaced by black wizard robes. Sam’s prominent nose disappeared as all the colour bleached from the formerly tanned skin. Soon enough, the being that was not Sam Winchester, was replaced with a being that was not Lord Voldemort, but was doing a very good job of looking like him.

Riddikulus ” Draco said, before fear could grip him fully. Suddenly, Lord Voldemort shrunk to the size of an eleven-year old, wearing round glasses and baggy clothes, and looking rather indignant. “Fool,” Draco muttered, as he felt himself smile. He heard a confused huff of a laugh come from Dean behind him, and with another wave of his wand, the boggart disappeared into a puff of smoke.

“Was that the only thing down here?” Draco asked as a means to break the heavy silence.

“Mm, yeah,” Dean said. “He was-”

“It,” Draco corrected.

“It was in the cupboard – shoulda been my first clue that it wasn’t...” Dean trailed off, then chuckled briefly. “There’s a ‘coming out of the closet’ joke I should be making here.”

Draco shook his head and bit back a smile.

“You should have made it while it was here,” Draco said. “It's how they’re defeated – you have to laugh at them, make them amusing somehow.” 

“What was it?” Dean asked. “I’ve never-“

“It’s called a boggart,” Draco said, making his way back to the bottom of the stairs. Boggart defeated or not, Draco really didn’t like the cellar. “They move into places that have been left unattended for a length of time, they like dark places – cellars, cupboards, underneath furniture. They feed off fear. They attack by changing into whatever it is that you are most afraid of.”

“How does it know?” Dean said. “How did it know to change into- I have a fear of flying, why didn’t it change into an airplane?”

“Because an airplane wouldn’t fit in my cellar,” Draco rolled his eyes. Idiot.

“Was that Lord Voldymoron?” Dean asked, and Draco felt his heart seize momentarily – it had taken him years to get rid of the fear of saying the name Voldemort, and he couldn’t help but be struck by how causally Dean mangled the name into a joke that would have gotten him killed instantly if the Dark Lord had heard it.

“Yes,” Draco replied, keeping his voice even. Finally they were out of the cellar, and Draco closed the door with a wash of relief.

“Ugly son of a bitch, wasn’t he,” Dean said as they casually strolled through the halls. It was as though nothing had just happened, yet, it had, and now Draco couldn’t help but feel like something was different.

“Yes,” Draco agreed. “Your brother was a much better looking fear.”

“It wasn’t-” Dean said, but then cut himself off. “Hey, um... don’t tell Sam, okay?”

Draco considered asking who that had really been, because he knew it hadn’t actually been Dean’s brother. Perhaps a demon – but then, Dean dealt with demons all the time. Draco had first-hand knowledge of how Dean could take on demons without fear. He also knew that Sam had been possessed before, and that they had both taken precautions so that it couldn’t happen again. He almost did ask, but when he looked over at Dean, he could still make out the redness in his eyes and he bit back the question.

“Don’t tell Sam that your greatest fear is his horrible fashion sense?” Draco said instead. “Don’t worry, your secret is safe with me.” At Dean’s disbelieving smile, Draco continued, “I’d be frightened too. I mean, was that a cream coloured shirt with a white suit? Really, you must pick out his clothes for him every morning if that’s the way he dresses otherwise.” Now the Hunter was laughing, and Draco felt a boost of pride. “I could recommend him to my tailor, but I don’t think wizard robes are conducive to your line of work.”

“Oh man,” Dean laughed. “Thanks, but no thanks.”

“Your choice,” Draco smiled. They were now standing outside the drawing room doors yet again. Thankfully, the drawing room seemed silent for the time being.

“Anything upstairs?” Dean asked.

“No,” Draco said.

“Let’s head back to the others, I gotta check... with Sam about the death echo,” Dean said, motioning towards the closed doors beside them. 

Draco nodded, and the two of them made their way outside, the heavy doors swinging shut behind them.

*

Dean had to admit that it felt good be out of that house. He wasn’t sure how Draco could live in there really – it seemed oppressive, whether that feeling came from the influence of the death echo, or the antique furniture, Dean couldn’t say. Without a doubt though, the only way you could make old houses like that spookier was by adding a death echo. 

They were only halfway back up the laneway towards the coach house, when Dean spotted movement outside the gates near his car. His first instinct was to reach for his gun and yell at whoever the hell thought they touch his baby, but then he recognized the looming shape of his brother – with a kid on his hip.

“I don’t understand the affinity my son has for your brother,” Draco said from beside him. “It’s unsettling.”

“Hey, despite...” Dean said, then switched gears. “Listen, I don’t know what you think you know, but Sam’s a good guy.”

“Of course,” Draco said. “Forgive me. I did not mean to imply otherwise.”

As they approached the gates, Dean watched as Sam attention shifted from Scorpius towards them, once he recognized Dean, he smiled. Dean felt something unclench in his chest. Sam’s smile faded.

“Hey Sammy,” Dean greeted.

“It’s Sam,” Sam corrected. “Everything ok?”

“Yeah,” Dean replied, rolling his eyes.

“You sure?” Sam asked.

“What are you two up to?” Dean asked as he nodded, which had the desired effect of having Sam smile and focus his attention back on Scorpius.

“Scorpius was getting tired, but I know you guys wanted him to see the car,” Sam said. “So, I was showing it to him. Hey, do you have the keys? I said if you got back in time we’d run it so that he could see and hear the engine run.”

“Well, I certainly wouldn’t want to deprive the kid of experiencing an American classic,” Dean smiled. Scorpius smiled back as Dean jogged around to the driver’s seat. He waited until Sam had opened the hood before he turned the key and the car roared to life. 

Dean jumped back out of the car and came around the front so that he could see the kid’s reaction. He found Scorpius holding his hands over his ears and smiling. Sam was laughing and even Draco looked a little less miserable than usual – his eyes trained on his son, rather than the car.

“Awesome, isn’t it?!” Dean asked Scorpius.

“Yes, sir,” Scorpius replied, as he lowered his hands, getting used to the noise. Dean turned back and cut the engine. He loved it when his baby was appreciated.

“Thank you,” Scorpius said, then yawned impressively, as Sam slammed the hood shut.

“Time for bed now, Scorpius,” Draco said, reaching to take Scorpius from Sam’s arms. 

“Goodnight, Scorpy,” Dean waved.

“Scorpius, ” Scorpius corrected.

“Right,” Dean smiled, then turned to Draco. “Still wondering why they get along?”

Sam looked confused, but Draco smiled briefly.

“Perhaps you two should... discuss things out here, while I return Scorpius to Astoria,” Draco said. “I’ll return shortly.”

“Sounds good,” Dean agreed. 

Scorpius said goodnight to both of them, and then Dean and Sam leaned against the side of the car, watching as Draco walked through the gate and towards the house – Scorpius already laying his head down on his father’s shoulder.

“Nice kid,” Dean noted.

“Yeah, he’s cute,” Sam said. “So, what happened in the house?”

“It’s a death echo,” Dean said. “Except the remains are impossible to burn, so we gotta find another way.”

“Cremated?” Sam said. “That’s unusual for a death echo.”

“Eaten by a snake,” Dean replied. “Though, if you want unusual, it’s the death echo of a witch. According to everything we’ve read up on blood-wizards so far, that should be impossible.”

Sam’s sigh was so heavy, Dean felt it in his own diaphragm.

“What the hell is going on here, Dean?” Sam asked, as they both stared at gates to the Malfoy’s property.

“Wish I knew,” Dean said.

“We’re going to have to call Bobby on the death echo thing,” Sam concluded. “I don’t think we’ve ever come across one that we couldn’t just salt-n-burn.”

“Should get in touch with him anyway,” Dean said. “See how things are back home.”

Dean watched as Draco exited the coach house and made his way back over to them, his dark clothing blending into the night just as much as his impossibly blond hair stood out. It sort of made him look like a disembodied head.

“I wonder what that is...” Sam muttered beside him. Dean was about to say, ‘Um, Draco, who else?’ when he realized that Sam’s attention was a little more to the left. 

“What?” Dean asked, but Sam was already pushing off the car and walking over to the stone wall beside the fake iron gate. Dean watched as Sam reached up and ran his fingers through some odd groves carved into the stone. At first Dean thought that they were protection runes, but then he realized that they weren’t any sort of rune he’d ever seen before.

“Hey, Drake,” Dean said, as Draco reached ear-shot. “What are those runes up there? We’ve never seen them before.”

Draco turned and looked in confusion to where Sam was standing, running his fingers over them.

“I... have never seen them before either,” Draco said, walking to stand next to Sam. “Why are they on my wall?”

“They aren’t just on your wall,” Sam said, turning to look at Dean with a look that Dean would know in the dark. “They were engraved in Weasleys’ wall too, just beside the gate. I didn’t even... I mean, I sat on them, while we talked to Ron.”

“You sat on...” Dean shook his head, then switched his attention back to Draco. “You sure you don’t know what those are? Not a secret Wizard house numbering system or something like that?”

“I assure you, I have no idea what those marks are, what they mean, where they came from, or who put them there,” Draco replied. 

“God,” Sam said, rubbing his forehead. “We’re idiots!”

“Speak for yourself,” Dean replied.

“No, Dean, think about it,” Sam continued. “What have we been doing the past two days?”

“Um, going from house to house, trying to find a freakin’ connection between all these goddamn ghost attacks?” Dean said, and then realized where Sam was going with his question, “...and doing our best not to fall on our asses as we hurtled out of people’s fireplaces. Goddamn it, Sam – we never went outside.”

“Except for here and at the Weasleys,” Sam replied. “Two places that just so happen to have odd carvings near their entrances – how much do you want to bet that Arthur has no clue what they are either.”

“You’d think someone would have noticed though,” Dean said. “I mean, if someone carved up my wall, I think I’d notice.”

“Draco,” Sam said in response. “How often do you come out here?”

“Never,” Draco confirmed. “I travel by floo or I apparate. We don’t even have a coach anymore.”

“Get me a notebook,” Sam said. “I’m going to copy this down and see what I can find about it.” 

Dean reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out the notebook he had been working in earlier that day. Before he handed it to Sam, he tore out the page where he had written down all the names of the wizards that had been attacked. As Sam pulled a pen from his own pocket and started sketching down the strange engravings, Dean handed the page of names to Draco.

“Do you have anything in common with the people listed here?” Dean asked.

Dean watched as Draco read through the list of names carefully. He realized this might in fact be a breach of confidentiality, but at this point, Dean would take whatever help he could get and Harry would just have to forgive him.

“Blood-traitors,” Draco sighed. “If the Death Eaters were still in power, myself and mostly everyone on this list would be considered blood-traitors.”

“So what you’re saying,” Sam said, “is that if Voldemort were still around, there would be a hit out all you guys.”

“I don’t-" Draco started.

“You’d be an enemy to Voldy and his followers,” Dean explained.

“Yes,” Draco said. “Not like the muggleborns... but, well, there were a few Death Eaters who considered it even worse to be a blood-traitor.”

“Call Harry,” Sam said. 

As Dean flipped opened the mirror, he couldn’t help but catch Draco’s wince.

“I’m sorry, man,” Dean said. “I have to get him in on this... listen, we’ll keep it quiet, okay? And I’ll make sure it’s me and Sammy who take care of your problem inside.”

As Draco nodded, Dean spoke Harry’s name into the mirror and waited for Harry’s face to come into focus.

“Dean? What’s-” Harry started.

“Harry, you’re an idiot,” Dean said. “Come to the entrance of Malfoy’s place right now.”

Dean snapped the mirror closed and flashed a smile at Draco’s smirk.

“Thought you might enjoy that,” Dean said. Suddenly there was a popping noise and Harry appeared next to Dean.

“What’s going on?” Harry said, wand held tightly and looking around with wide-eyes.

“Make a copy of this piece of paper,” Sam ordered, handing Harry the sketch of the runes. Harry copied it.

“What is-” Harry started to say.

“Now, we need you to apparate to the end of Molly and Arthur’s walkway,” Dean said. “Let us know if there is an engraving on the stone wall that matches this.”

“What is this?” Harry asked.

“Go, Harry,” Dean said. “Then come right back and we’ll explain.”

Harry nodded a little dumbfounded and then turned and disappeared.

“I’m starting to feel a little better about this, I must say,” Draco said.

“See, it’s us coming to your rescue, not Harry,” Dean smiled. “He just works for us right now... and we come to people’s rescue all the time. You’re in good company.”

“We saved a mayor once,” Sam said. “He was a bit of a douche about it though.”

“We did set fire to his antique taxidermy collection,” Dean said, remembering the hunt well – Sam must have been all of 16 at the time.

“Yeah, well, even if they hadn't been haunted, they would still be creepy,” Sam replied. “Animals deserve to be respected in death too.”

Dean laughed and shook his head, but couldn’t help but notice that Draco was looking at Sam as though he were a fascinating alien from another planet. Dean shrugged it off – maybe Draco liked taxidermy or something.

At that moment, Harry returned, still clutching the copy of the runes Sam had given. 

“It matches,” Harry said. “What is it? What’s going on?”

Dean took the page of names back from Draco and handed it to Harry. Sam ignored them in favour of sitting on the hood of the Impala and writing quickly on a blank page in the notebook. 

“Blood-traitors,” Dean said. “That’s the connection. Every last person would have been considered a blood-traitor. Sounds like a pretty freakin’ obvious connection to me, Harry – why the heck didn’t you pick up on that? It took Drake here all of ten seconds.”

“I considered it,” Harry defended. “But it doesn’t fit for everyone. Natasha Jones was-”

“Very good at hiding the fact that her real name was Karkaroff,” Draco interrupted.

“What?!” Harry exclaimed. “But I searched through her records and-”

“Her, no doubt, falsified records,” Draco interrupted again. “Her brother wasn’t the only one who had something to fear from Voldemort’s return – he was considerably less skilled at hiding though. My father only discovered Natasha’s whereabouts towards the end...and by then Voldemort was too consumed with his desire to destroy you to pay attention to a rogue former Death Eater.”

“I see,” Harry said. “And the werewolf attack? How does that fit in with this theory?”

“Really, Potter, just because I helped, you have to go out of your way to poke holes?” Draco said. “You’d think you’d be more grateful to have a lead in the case – your two American friends here seemed much more appreciative.”

“The werewolf doesn’t fit in,” Dean cut in. “But that doesn’t mean anything – it could just be a coincidence.”

“And these strange stone carvings?” Harry asked. “How do they fit in? What are they?”

“We don’t know,” Sam said from his position on the hood of the car, still bent over the notebook. “But I’m willing to bet that you’ll find them written or carved into something outside every one of the victim’s houses.”

Dean watched as Harry’s eyes shifted to take in the gate and stone wall behind where Dean and Draco stood. 

“Why didn’t you report it?” Harry asked Draco, but his tone wasn’t angry or confused, simply resigned.

“You know why,” Draco shrugged.

“Malfoy, you have as much right to Auror protection as everyone else,” Harry said. “You’re not some sort of second-class citizen.”

“Aren’t I?” Draco replied. Harry didn’t look pleased at the response.

“That’s why... the coach house,” Harry muttered, then addressed Draco in a stronger voice. “Is your family okay?”

Draco nodded.

“It’s just a bit of a complicated death echo,” Dean added in. “Nothing dangerous, and Draco’s already made all the right moves to protect his family. Sammy and I told him we’d take care of it while we were here.”

“And on that note,” Sam said, standing while he carefully folded a couple sheets of paper together before handing them to Harry. “Can you have Hermione send these to Bobby?”

“Sure, what-?” Harry said.

“Just asking his advice on the death echo,” Sam explained. “And I figured we’d get another opinion on the engravings as well – Bobby knows more languages than I do.”

“Okay,” Harry nodded. “I’ll floo her when I get home. Are you done here? I could-”

“Um, Astoria has cake and coffee waiting...” Draco interrupted. “I know it would be rude of me not to invite you in since you’re here, Potter, but-"

Dean nearly laughed at how Harry looked momentarily terrified by the idea that Draco might actually invite him into his house for cake. Draco looked equally unsettled by the idea, so Dean figured it was probably up to him to think of an excuse to break the rules of etiquette.

“But it’s probably not a good idea,” Dean finished for Draco, “I mean, I’ve already stabbed Drake’s dad once today... and Sam’s threatened him at gunpoint... that’s probably enough drama for the night.”

Harry’s eyes went wide.

“Stabbed...” Harry muttered, looking between Draco and Dean.

“Truthfully, my father deserved it" Draco shrugged at Harry. "But you are forbidden from repeating that to Weasley... or anyone married to Weasley... or anyone at all really.”

“Understood,” Harry said, still looking like he had entered the twilight zone. “I’ll just... um, go send this letter then...”

“Thanks, Harry,” Sam said, clapping Harry on the shoulder. Harry still looked a little like a deer caught in the headlights, as he nodded numbly.

“Um, bye, Malfoy?” Harry said.

“Potter,” Malfoy nodded. 

“See you back at yours,” Dean waved, as Harry turned and disappeared.

“Well,” Draco said. “It’s nice to know that even the great Harry Potter can feel out of his depth from time to time.”

“Listen, we don’t know how long it’ll take to work out the death echo business, but, we promise, it’ll be first priority, okay?” Dean said, bringing the topic back to business before they went back inside to socialize.

“Thank you,” Draco replied. “And the engraving? Now that you have a written copy, can I destroy it? I don't like strange things on my property.”

“Leave it for a bit, just until we figure out what it is,” Dean said. “Sometimes these things can be programmed to do something nasty if you try to remove them.”

“Programmed?” Draco asked, “like... cursed?”

“Yeah, like cursed,” Dean confirmed. “Now, let’s go in and have some cake – then me and Sam will solve all your problems.”

“All of them?” Draco asked, sarcastically hopeful.

“Uh, no... you’re on your own with your father and those creepy albino peacocks,” Dean laughed.

“Albino peacocks?” Sam said. “What the hell did I miss...”

Chapter Text

Harry waited up for the Winchesters to get back even after Ginny and the kids went to bed. Ron even came over after Hermione was asleep to wait with him and discuss the case. Sam and Dean got home just before midnight and finally related the story of the Malfoy dinner to them – complete with stabbings and drawn weapons. Ron was delighted to say the least, and begged Dean to give him the memory – but Dean refused, much to Ron’s disappointment.

Dean wouldn’t go into detail about the death echo inside Malfoy manor either, claiming that he had promised Malfoy that he and Sam would take care of it and involve Harry as little as possible. It was frustrating and Harry tried to argue, but Dean wouldn’t budge on the subject – and unlike the previous year, Sam seemed reluctant to argue with his brother. 

Finally, Ron left and Harry said goodnight and dragged himself off to bed, hoping he could still get six solid hours of sleep. He was awoken a short time later by the chimes going off for Lily’s room – signalling that his youngest had woken up and was fussing. 

“Lily,” Harry told Ginny, keeping his eyes shut in an attempt to cling to sleep. Since Ginny had gone to bed first, Harry thought it was only fair that she go tend to Lily and let him sleep.

“Thanks,” Ginny said sarcastically, and Harry felt her shift on the bed.

“Yeah, ‘cause I don’t need sleep,” Harry replied just as sarcastically – really, he couldn’t believe she was giving him a hard time about this. He and the Winchesters had to be at Hogwarts first thing tomorrow morning.

“Mm,” Ginny gave up. Moments later the chimes silenced and Harry let himself fall back asleep in celebration of his victory.

The next thing he knew, someone was tugging at his foot.

“Harry?” Ginny said, “Harry, wake up. Where’s Lily?”

Harry woke up.

“What do you mean ‘where’s Lily’?!” Harry demanded. 

“She’s not in her crib!” Ginny said. “Did you put her back in her crib last night, or did you settle her someplace else...”

“You were the last one with her Gin, where did you put her?” Harry asked.

“No, you were the last, remember?” Ginny insisted.

“No, Gin, you were the-" Harry sighed. “For Merlin’s sake, when the chimes went off last night, I told you to go get her and you did.”

“No, you told me that you were going to go get her, and then you did,” Ginny replied. “You said you didn’t need sleep anyway, or something.”

“I was being sarcastic,” Harry said. 

“What?!” Ginny threw her hands up. “Don’t be sarcastic to people who are half-asleep! I thought you were being sincere!”

“You were sarcastic first,” Harry defended.

“I was being sincere!” Ginny exclaimed.

“What made you think I’d get up to see to Lily when I hadn’t even made it to bed until after midnight? Harry asked in disbelief.

“I don’t know, you said ‘Lily’ and I thought you were explaining that you were going to get her.” 

“Well, I wasn’t!” 

“Then where is she?!” 

“I don’t know!” Harry said. “But damn it, we should probably stop arguing and find her!”

Harry probably should have known that they would laugh about it later, but at that moment both he and Ginny looked at each other and shared the dawning realization that they were horrible parents. Ginny fled upstairs to check on the boys, and Harry fled downstairs to see if he could find their daughter.

She wasn’t in the study, and the Winchesters had their door tightly closed, so Harry barreled down the stairs to check the living room and the kitchen... and discovered Dean Winchester, fast asleep on his back on the living room couch with an arm wrapped around a red-haired toddler that was drooling on his chest.

Harry didn’t have to wait long before Ginny came running down the stairs. He quickly held a finger to his lips and pointed toward the sleeping pair. Ginny made an odd cooing noise at the sight, and then carefully walked over and tried to lift Lily off of Dean without waking him.

“Stay baby,” Dean mumbled, and Harry watched as Dean’s grip on Lily tightened.

“Dean,” Ginny said. “I’ve got her. Let go.”

“k, sa,” Dean mumbled, and Ginny carefully picked Lily up – causing the toddler to blink her eyes open slowly. Dean seemed to fall back asleep for a half-second, but before Ginny had even left, he woke with a start, sat bolt upright and started looking around the room like he was missing something.

“Morning Dean,” Harry said calmly, hoping that all Dean needed was to be reminded where he was and what was happening. “Thanks for looking after Lily last night.”

“Mm,” Dean replied, relaxing back into the couch briefly while he blinked at Harry. “No problem, man. I mean, you didn’t get to bed until after midnight... and I was bored, Sammy fell asleep like a sissy.”

“Normal people sleep, Dean,” Sam suddenly said from behind Harry, and Harry’s nearly jumped out of his skin. 

“And?” Dean asked. Sam looked displeased and then resigned, and then he just shrugged and wandered off towards the kitchen. Harry had to wonder if there was some argument that Sam had just lost.

“Everything alright?” Harry asked.

“Fine, man,” Dean said, rolling to his feet. “I’m gonna jump in the shower. Save me a pancake.”

*

Sam waited patiently while Harry pried his children off himself, so that they could take the Floo to somewhere called ‘The Three Broomsticks’. Harry told them they’d be taking the train back at the end of the day, but in the interest of saving time, they would be traveling by fireplace to a village next to the school that morning. 

“Who knew kids were so clingy...” Harry said when he finally got Albus to loosen the iron grip he had on Harry’s shirt. Dean smiled, giving Sam a smirk that Sam didn’t care to interpret. Harry looked honestly a little bewildered by it though.

“It’s because they love you, Harry,” Ginny said, which got a broad smile out of Harry. 

Finally, Sam watched as first Harry and then Dean disappeared in green flames, then it was his turn to go through the fireplace. He gave one last wave at Ginny and the kids, and then he closed his eyes and allowed himself to be swallowed by the tornado until it abruptly ended and he felt Dean catch him.

“Seriously getting sick of that,” Dean said. 

Sam opened his eyes to find that they were in what looked like a bar store room. There were kegs and wine bottles lining the walls and a very attractive older woman appraising them.

“Mornin’ Harry,” she said.

“Madam Rosmerta,” Harry greeted with a smile. “Thanks so much for letting me use your Floo.”

“Not a problem, dear,” Madam Rosmeta replied. “I’m always up at the crack of dawn hanging around my cellar. It’s not like I run a bar until all hours of the morning... oh wait.”

“I told you that you didn’t have to wake up...” Harry sighed. 

“Oh sure,” Madam Rosmerta replied, “and let you bring two mysterious Americans into my establishment without me being able to give them the once over to see if they were troublemakers? I don’t think so. I’ve been around you kids way too long to trust a single bloody one of you.”

“Kids?” Dean said, offended. “I’m thirty-years old.”

“And such a handsome child you are, at that,” Madam Rosmerta winked. She gave them another once over and then winked at Harry. “I suppose they look trustworthy enough. I couldn’t get the real story out of Hannah, of course, but I suppose I’ll just have to live without it. Alright, love, you make sure the door latches on your way out. I’m going back to bed until I have to open for lunch. It was nice to meet you, gentlemen.”

With that, Madam Rosmerta exited the basement. Sam couldn’t help but watch her go.

“She remind you of Ellen?” Dean suddenly asked. “I mean, just picture Ellen in ten years or so, I bet she’ll-” 

Dean cut himself off, and Sam didn’t know what to say. He’d been thinking it too. 

“Ellen was scarier,” Sam forced out. “She would have had us spilling our guts within five-minutes.”

“Yeah,” Dean agreed, and when Sam finally worked up the courage to look at his brother, he found Dean’s gaze unfocused. 

“Um, we should get going,” Harry said. “It’s a bit of a walk to the castle.”

Sam nodded and followed Harry up out of the basement, through the empty bar – which surprisingly looked like every other bar Sam and Dean had ever been in, and then out into the snowy street. Sam hitched his jacket up around him, and looked around the small village.

“Holy shit,” Sam said. “It looks like the middle ages!”

“Welcome to Hogsmead,” Harry replied smiling. “It’s a Wizarding village. They never change much. I mean, Madam Rosmerta’s been the barmaid at the Three Broomsticks since before my parents went to Hogwarts.”

“How the hell...” Dean said, then rephrased. “How is that even possible? She’d be ancient!”

“Wizards have longer life spans, actually,” Harry said. “We usually live over 150 years, if nothing actively kills us – the women even longer.”

“How old are you?” Dean asked, a note of distrust suddenly in his voice. It wasn’t as much of a shock to Sam really – he had read more of the books on wizard history than Dean and had put two and two together when he started noticing the birth and death dates. 

“Your age,” Harry laughed. “Most people think it’s daft – us having kids so young, me already being Head Auror... but we grew up in a war. I nearly didn’t make it past the age of seventeen... I suppose I’ve never really felt like I’ve had much of a life-span ahead of me.”

“Well, stick with us and you probably won’t,” Dean muttered. Sam really wished he hadn’t heard it, so he just pretended he hadn’t.

“What?” Harry asked, genuinely having not heard Dean's words.

“’s interesting,” Dean replied louder.

Just then, they came to some impressive gates. Harry stopped outside of them and glanced down at his watch. 

*

“I told Hagrid to meet us at the gates,” Harry explained. “He’s Keeper of the Keys at Hogwarts and also the gamekeeper, and sometimes the Care of Magical Creatures professor. We could go in without him, of course, but we’ll be busy all day and I thought it might be nice to visit a bit during the walk up to the castle. I hope you don’t mind. “

“No, that’s fine,” Dean said. “Did he go to school with you guys?”

“Sort of,” Harry laughed. “Remember what I was saying about wizard life-spans?” Dean and Sam both nodded. “Hagrid actually went to school with Tom Riddle, and was already working at the school when my parents went here. He’s... well, I never really thought about it, but I suppose Hagrid’s around 80 years old now.”

“Got it in one, Harry,” a low voice spoke up from behind the gates, and Dean and Sam both turned and realized that the view of the pathway onto the school grounds was blocked – by an enormous chest. Hagrid pulled the gates open as though the heavy iron was made of matchsticks.

“Holy...” Sam said beside him, as Dean slowly craned his neck to look up, up, and further up, until he found a face buried in a deep bushy beard that was going grey in streaks.

“Hello Harry!” Hagrid greeted. Dean watched in fascination as the beard smiled and the two coal eyes glinted with happiness. “An’ these must be your little Hunter friends,” Hagrid continued, appraising the both of them, his eyes lingering on Sam. “Now aren’t you a tall one!”

“Uh,” Sam said, and Dean thought that pretty much summed it up.

“Now, you two better not be plannin’ to go huntin’ in the Forbidden Forest,” Hagrid said, his voice taking on a gruff warning tone.

“No?” Dean guessed, and then thought about it and amended. “Unless, like, there’s something really evil in there...”

“Dean,” Sam said, but Dean ignored him. Sam always got nervous around people who were taller than him. Dean was sort of used to it, though he had to admit, this was a little extreme.

“Don’t worry Hagrid,” Harry reassured. “I’ll be with them.”

“A’right, Harry,” Hagrid said. “Now, come ‘ere. How long’s it been? I think you’ve been workin’ too hard. Always tryin’ to save the world yerself, yeh are.”

Dean watched as Harry hugged Hagrid’s middle, like a kid greeting their Dad when he came home from work. Harry’s arms didn’t even seem to reach half-way around the man. Hagrid patted Harry on the back with one hand that was larger than Harry’s whole head. As soon as Harry let go of Hagrid and stepped back, Dean’s own hand was completely engulfed in one of those hands as well, and then Sam got the same treatment.

“Come on then,” Hagrid said. “Professor McGonagall will be waiting, for yeh”

*

“Hagrid was the first wizard that I ever met,” Harry explained, as they walked beside Hagrid down a tree lined path.

“First one yeh remember,” Hagrid amended, patting Harry on the head as if he were all of five. “That muggle family of his were tryin’ to hide ‘im from us, but I got ‘im easy. Took ‘im away from there, if only fer school. Not that it kept Harry out of trouble, mind.”

Harry rolled his eyes.

“How’s Teddy doing at school?” Harry asked, and Hagrid went into a long explanation of how Teddy reminded Hagrid of Teddy’s mother, but had the look of his father most of the time. Sam didn’t pay that much attention to the conversation, truthfully, he was too busy staring at Hagrid and noticing the size of the footprints the man left behind. 

Sam tried to imagine Harry as an eleven year-old kid, coming into contact with this giant of a man as his very first contact with wizards, and he had to wonder why it was that Harry hadn’t been frightened. Hagrid was twice Harry’s height now, and Harry was full grown. Sam shot a disbelieving look at Dean. Dean rolled his eyes and shook his head.

Hagrid switched into telling Harry about the newest heard of Thestrals, which Sam remembered reading about in the Magical Creatures and Where to Find Them and The Monster Book of Monsters book that Hermione had given them the year before. Sam watched as Harry nodded along enthusiastically as Hagrid told Harry about the young trying to fly for the first time. Hagrid had a deep affection in his voice for both the horses and for Harry, it seemed, and Sam started to understand. 

Sam remembered what Harry had shown and told him in the memory-bowl, how his uncle and aunt had abused him, how at times the school had turned against him... and Sam realized that Harry had never been scared of Hagrid, because despite his size, Hagrid had probably only ever loved and been kind to Harry. Sam couldn’t help but think of Bobby, and how it had destroyed him when he thought Bobby hated him – how when he found out Bobby had been possessed, he didn’t want to mention what he had said, for fear that Bobby actually did feel that way, demon or no demon... and he thought of the relief he had felt when Bobby had told him he was never going to cut him loose. 

“Could yer friends here be trusted ‘round the Thestrals?” Sam heard Hagrid ask. Harry glanced back at them, and Sam read the question in his eyes before he even asked.

“Thestrals are skeletal winged horses that can only be seen by those that have witnessed someone die,” Sam stated. “Although commonly believed to be a death omen, they are actually gentle creatures. Unlike regular horses, they’re carnivorous, but pose no threat to humans unless provoked.”

“Jesus, Sam,” Dean said. “I think he was asking if we were going to freak out, not if we knew what the things had for breakfast.”

“Yeh sound like yeh took my class,” Hagrid smiled. “Or yeh sound like Hermione, either way...” Hagrid put his fingers to his mouth and whistled a high pitched whistle. Then, around a small bend in the path, two large black shapes emerged, pulling a carriage.

Sam took in the large black skeletal horses with wide eyes. Seeing the pictures in the books was one thing, but seeing them up close was quite another. Their skin was tights across their bones, as though they should be dead. Folded against their backs were leathery bat-like wings. Sam only looked briefly at their eyes, but the milky white reminded him too much of the last time he had seen eyes of pure white, and he quickly looked away. 

“Oh wow,” Sam said. Even though he knew they were safe creatures, he couldn’t help but feel the tinge of wrongness through his gut - a lifetime of training screaming at him that what he was seeing wasn’t natural. He chanced a glance at Dean and could tell he was feeling the same way. 

The thestral closest to them whinnied. Sam could see the elongated incisors, used for tearing into flesh. Hagrid walked over and patted it on the head gently. 

“The kids these days can’t see ‘em,” Hagrid said. “But I figured it was a good bet you two would be able ta. Similar line of work as Harry, after all, ain’t it. And I know from Hunters, some of ‘em don’t take to big folks, like myself. Figure I must be some sort of monster, just for being as tall as I am.” Hagrid stroked the thestral while it leaned affectionately into him. Sam suddenly wanted to tell Hagrid that he had demon blood in him, just like he had almost told Bill, just because he suddenly realized that Hagrid probably wouldn’t be disgusted at all. 

“Why are you so big?” Dean asked.

“Dean,” Sam sighed. He didn’t know much about wizard etiquette, but he somehow figured this was a breach of it.

“M’mum was a giant,” Hagrid said, opening the door on the carriage for Harry to climb in, “and m’dad was human.”

Sam shot a look at Dean and immediately foresaw by his bewildered and astonished expression that whatever question he was going to ask next could not possible be good.

“Dean,” Sam said, “don’t.”

Dean shot him a disappointed glare, but thankfully swallowed the question down. Sam pushed him towards the carriage and then climbed up after him. He, Harry, and Dean all sat on one bench, leaving the other free for Hagrid.

“I’ve never had the nerve to ask either,” Harry whispered to Sam as the carriage creaked under Hagrid’s weight.

Once Hagrid was settled, the horses started back down the path. Sam had to admit that he was impressed they could pull so much weight – though, they were larger than the average horse and the cart was moving only slowly.

“Have you had any trouble at the school lately?” Dean asked.

“No,” Hagrid replied. “A coupla the kids had trouble at home, but they’re older, they are, so they’re doin’ alright. The young’uns haven’t had no trouble that I heard of, an’ Hogwarts is as safe as Gringotts.”

Harry laughed at that.

“Ah Harry,” Hagrid smiled. “That don’t count. After all, yeh broke Gringotts too, didn’t yeh.”

“That I did,” Harry nodded and smiled, and then he sobered a little. “We think that whatever is causing this – it’s going after blood-traitors.”

Hagrid frowned at that. 

“Makes sense with what I know, an’ the fact tha’ it’s just the couple of older ones that have had the trouble,” Hagrid nodded. “Leave it to Remus and Tonks to be the only two brave enough to have a baby durin’ the war. All a Teddy’s mates are either pure-blood or muggleborn. Though Vicky’s class is a bit more diverse, what with all the...” Sam watched in fascination as the giant man seemed to blush a little. “Well, you know how it was.”

“Baby boom,” Harry said to Sam, and laughed.

“Have you talked to Neville?” Hagrid asked Harry.

“No, but I will while I’m here,” Harry said. “Ernie too.”

Just then the carriage rounded a corner, and the trees that lined the road disappeared. Sam looked over the meadow in front of him, catching sight of a lake in the distance, and then his eyes were drawn upwards, as he took in the castle that stood high above the water. Gothic towers were all wedges in tight together, with raised walkways, and long windows. Sam had seen it in the memory-bowl last year, but that didn’t stop him from being impressed. He could also see how most of the castle seemed to be made up of newer stone bricks that contrasted with darker bricks that were mostly found towards the bottom of the building. 

“Can you imagine what Dad would say?” Dean said beside him, and Sam snorted a laugh.

“You mean what Dad would say about us being taken to wizard school by a half-giant in a carriage pulled by two winged skeleton horses?” Sam said. “I think... he’d probably have an aneurism.” 

Harry and Hagrid chatted while they made their way around the lake towards the castle. Sam kept his eyes on the water, wondering if he’d get a glimpse of the giant squid again. Dean remained quiet. Sam left him to his thoughts, though by the look on his face, Sam was starting to think it was a bad idea to do so.

Before he could say anything, they arrived at the castle doors, and Hagrid called the thestrals to a halt. Hagrid unhooked the thestrals from the harnesses and patted them both on the twice on the rump, and Sam watched in awe as their wings unfurled and they both took off into the sky. 

“I’ll get them again at the end o’ the day, when I have ta get yeh back to the train,” Hagrid said. “Inna meantime, no reason they can’t be wit’ their family.”

“Thanks, Hagrid.” Harry smiled.

When they entered the building, it was much as Sam remembered it being in the memory-bowl, only, of course, crisper and more real. Dean didn’t seem surprised by anything either, so Sam figured that whatever Harry had shown him last year must have also taken place inside the school. The moving paintings were creepy though, Sam had to admit that. Judging by the way Dean was glaring at them, he felt much the same way.

They climbed staircases and wandered down corridors, and ducked underneath tapestries. If Sam hadn’t known that Harry had attended the school for seven years, he would have a hard time believing that Harry actually knew where they were going. They even got to a large tower full of staircases that shifted and swung from one landing to another at random.

Harry eventually came to a stop in front of a large stone gargoyle. 

“Aberdeen,” Harry said. The gargoyle nodded and moved, revealing a circular stone staircase leading upwards. Sam eyed the gargoyle warily as he passed through the archway and followed Harry and Dean up the stairs. The door at the top of the stairs was open, and Harry walked right in, knocking on the frame as he passed.

“Professor?” Harry said, but there was no response.

The office was a large circular room, with a lot of portraits on the wall – mostly all of which were old white dudes. There were a few chairs by the desk, all upholstered in a tartan pattern. Off to the side, in the sunshine by a large window, Sam recognized what could only be a cat bed. The cat itself was sitting on the desk, and like most cats, seemed to be quietly judging him. Sam pulled himself up a little straighter, and shot a questioning look at the cat, wondering who the heck it thought it was to judge him anyway... and then wondered if he had perhaps lost his mind.

Dean obviously didn’t feel as scrutinized as Sam, because he just walked up to the desk and stroked the cat behind the ear.

“Hey kitty,” Dean said, before turning back to Harry. “So, should we just wait here until she gets back?”

Harry laughed and shook his head.

“Didn’t expect that, did you?” Harry asked, and for a second Sam was confused until he realized that Harry was talking to the cat... and then he was more confused. 

The cat narrowed its eyes at Harry, ducked out from underneath Dean’s hand, and then leaped from the desk onto the large ornate chair behind it – where the cat promptly turned into an old woman wearing glasses and a tartan dress.

“I’ve always found,” the woman said, as though cats turned into people every day, “that one can judge someone’s character very well by the way they treat animals. You’re aunt and uncle, for instance, chased me off with a broom on more than one occasion.”

“Well,” Harry said, nodding to Dean who stood in front of the desk with his jaw dropped open and his hand still raised where it had been scratching the ears of the cat... woman. “Did they pass your little test then?”

The woman cleared her throat and nodded. 

“Unexpectedly so,” she said. “Gentleman, please have a seat.” 

Dean’s hand finally dropped and he awkwardly sat on the closest chair. Sam could tell he was still trying to figure out what exactly had happened, and if there had possibly been something about the cat that could have tipped him off. He glanced at Sam, and Sam shrugged. 

Sam had thought the cat was a little weird, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on why he had thought that. Harry and Sam both pulled up a tartan chair each.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, gentlemen. I’m Headmistress Minerva McGonagall,” Professor McGonagall greeted. “Now, which one of you is Sam and which one of you is Dean?”

“I’m Sam,” Sam answered. “That’s my brother, Dean.”

“So, Sam, how was it that you knew I was not an ordinary cat?” Professor McGonagall asked. Sam heard Dean shift in his chair, but didn’t look over at him. 

“I didn’t,” Sam admitted. “Not really. It’s just... you were staring. I’ve never had a cat stare at me like that.”

“Interesting,” the professor replied. “So, Harry tells me that you’re the Winchesters.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Sam said, not sure whether being the Winchesters was a good or bad thing... well, for the professor anyway – Sam had his own opinion about the subject.

“I’ve looked over the lesson plan that Harry sent me,” the she said, pointing to some papers on her desk. “I find it to be apt, given the current... problem... that has... arisen.”

Sam winced.

“The school ghosts have decided to go into hiding for the day,” Professor McGonagall continued. “It seemed they formed the consensus rather quickly after the Fat Friar listened in on my staff meeting on Monday evening. Peeves has been... warned.”

“Peeves is the corporeal poltergeist, right?” Dean asked. “Do you think he’ll go into hiding too? I mean, we promised Harry we wouldn’t shoot the ghosts... but-"

“Dean,” Sam warned, knowing that Dean getting trigger happy was probably not going to endear them to someone in charge of a school of wizard children.

“Sam,” Dean replied, obviously wondering if Sam was missing the point that they would actually have an opportunity to shoot a poltergeist. Sam had to admit, after being thrown into walls since he was twelve, and strangled more times than he could count, it would be pretty damn satisfying to be able to blow away a poltergeist.

“On that topic,” Professor McGonagall interrupted Sam and Dean’s silent conversation. “I’d like you to disarm yourselves while you are in this school.”

“No,” Dean and Sam said at the same time.

“Excuse me?” Professor McGonagall replied. “This is a school full of children, I don’t think it’s appropriate-“

“A school full of armed children,” Dean said. “Who are all being watched by armed teachers. Unless you agree to disarm the entire school, Sammy and I are keeping our weapons, thank you very much.”

“They have a point,” Harry said.

“Very well,” Professor McGonagall conceded. “But Harry, you must stay with them the entire time they are in this school. Also, Professor MacMillan will be sitting in on both teaching sessions.”

“Agreed,” Harry said. Sam and Dean both nodded.

“You will teach years one to three in the morning session,” Professor McGonagall continued. “and years four to seven in the afternoon session. You are, of course, welcome to explore the school while you are here, as long as Harry accompanies you.”

“Thank you,” Sam said. 

“The copies of the course material, as well as the supplies that you requested, are prepared and waiting for you in the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. We’ve temporarily expanded it to accommodate the larger class sizes today,” Professor McGonagall stated. “Professor MacMillan is waiting for you there.”

“Thanks Professor,” Harry said.

“Harry,” Professor McGonagall said. “Don’t make me regret this.”

Chapter Text

Ernie Macmillan was a short man with dirty blond hair. Dean wasn’t sure whether he was friend or foe when they first met him. He smiled when he saw Harry, but it didn’t quite reach his eyes. 

“Hi Ernie,” Harry greeted. “I’d like you to meet Sam and Dean.”

Dean stepped forward to shake Ernie’s hand, and realized that this was where the guy’s problem with Harry lay – because instead of a warm smile, he was met with an intense assessing look, which was then repeated on Sam.

“Nice to meet you too,” Dean said sarcastically.

“Harry, I don’t like this,” Ernie said, seemingly able to ignore Dean and Sam while not taking his eyes off of them.

“I know,” Harry said. “Thanks for indulging me.”

“That’s another thing I don’t like,” Ernie said, and then turned his assessing gaze to Harry. “If this ever gets out... if anyone ever finds out that Harry Potter brought Hunters to... brought the Winchesters to Hogwarts, and we all just indulged him... Harry... aren’t you ever worried about how much power you have, what it looks like.”

“Been talking to Hannah have you?” Harry smiled.

“I’m not an idiot, Harry. It doesn’t take a genius to put two and two together,” Ernie said, rolling his eyes.

“I’m not worried, Ernie.” Harry sighed. “Not when I know I’ve got people like you watching out for me. I promise, the moment I get two big for my breeches, I’ll drop everything and become Headmaster of Hogwarts... but I’m not him, Ernie.”

“I didn’t mean to imply-" Ernie started, and then shook his head. “It’s good to see you, Harry.”

“Good to see you too,” Harry smiled. “How are things?”

“Good,” Ernie said. “Except that my house was ransacked by a poltergeist in November. Apparently, they’ve got some experts looking into it though.”

This time, when Ernie glanced over at Dean, there was a cautious humour behind his look, though he still seemed wary of their presence. 

“We got a good lead yesterday,” Dean said. 

“You didn’t fill out-" Sam started to say.

“My friend Justin filled out the report,” Ernie answered. “He looks after my place while I’m teaching. Justin Finch-Fletchley.”

“Oh,” Sam said. “Property damage only. That one wasn’t so bad.”

“Tell that to my china cabinet,” Ernie sighed.

“Finch-Fletchley was the name on the report,” Dean explained to Sam. “But the residence was listed as MacMillan, so that’s the name I put on list that we showed Dra-...um, our friend. So, Ernie here should fit into the pattern.”

“Pattern?” Ernie asked, glancing between Dean and Harry like one of them had to be lying to him. “But Harry said they were... that it was because of...”

“The apocalypse?” Dean asked. “Not so much, as it turns out.”

Harry shrugged at Ernie’s disbelieving expression.

“Don’t tell me you, of all people, thought I was infallible,” Harry said with a laugh.

“What’s the connection?” Ernie asked. Dean glanced at Sam, and Sam glanced at Harry, and Harry glanced at Dean, and Dean shrugged, because he really wasn’t sure what decision they had reached, but the dude probably deserved to know why something had broken all his collectables.

“Blood-traitors,” Dean said. “Everyone who’s been hit by something – ‘cept for maybe one of the victims – would have been considered a blood-traitor during that war you guys had.”

Dean wasn’t sure what he expected Ernie’s reaction to be, but he was surprised when Ernie broke into a huge smile and seemed excited.

“Wait until I tell Justin,” Ernie said. “For once it’s not him they’re going after!”

Harry laughed too, and then seemed to catch Dean and Sam’s quizzical looks.

“Justin is Muggleborn – he was targeted for it on more than one occasion, and things got a bit rough for him during the war,” Harry explained. “As a result, I guess he’s become a bit paranoid, because he was certain that poltergeist had shown up because it was Justin who was looking after Ernie’s house... and not because it was some random event, or because it was Ernie’s house.”

“Anyway,” Ernie said. “It’s not like me being targeted for being a blood-traitor is good news, but hopefully it’ll mean Justin will stop doing free labour around my place as penance... on second thought, maybe I won’t tell him.”

There was a deep chuckle from the back of the room at that, and Dean and Sam both whipped around to see another guy their age leaning casually against the closed door. He was fit, with blond hair and ears that stuck out just a little bit. Down one cheek there was a faint scar, but he didn’t appear threatening or menacing at all. On the contrary, he looked sort of like an overgrown kid who had just come in from playing in the dirt.

“If you don’t tell him, I will,” the guy said. “He’s been at me for warding ingredients. Now what’s this talk about blood-traitors?”

“Neville,” Harry smiled. “Mate, we miss you down at the office.”

“Neville Longbottom,” Dean smiled, placing the name to the books Harry had given them the year before. “The snake-slayer! We read about you!”

Dean nearly laughed when Neville actually blushed.

“Really?” Neville said, then glanced at Harry. “Did you tell them that I’m just a herbology professor?”

“The best herbology professor!” Harry laughed. Then he turned to Dean and Sam and added, “He’d be a brilliant Auror, if he hadn’t loved herbology so much that he left the department.”

“Hey, nothing wrong with liking a little herb,” Dean said.

“Not that kind of herb...” Sam sighed.

“Manners, Harry, bloody hell,” Harry suddenly said. “Neville, I’d like you to meet Dean and Sam Winchester.”

“Nice to meet you,” Neville said, then winked at Harry’s look. “Hannah may have given me a little warning, even before McGonagall called the emergency staff meeting.”

“Ah, so that’s how it is now,” Harry laughed, and Neville blushed again.

Dean really couldn’t picture this guy leading an army and killing a giant people-eating snake. But then Neville suddenly turned serious, and yeah, there was a set to the jaw that was suddenly familiar.

“What’s this about blood-traitors though, Harry?” Neville asked. “Who’s bringing up that nonsense again?”

“I’ll meet with you about it at lunch,” Harry said, glancing at the clock that hung at the back of the room. “Let’s let Dean and Sam prepare for the lesson.”

“Oh, right, sorry,” Ernie said, quickly running around the desk. “I’ve got the course material you provided here, and the chalk for the blackboard is... um... by the blackboard.” Ernie then seemed to gather himself together and fixed them both with a stern look – Dean was willing to bet it was practiced. “I’m staying in the room during all lesson. I’m not leaving a pair of Hunters unsupervised amongst the children. I don’t care whether Harry Potter vouched for you or not. This whole exercise is daft in my opinion.”

“Your continued support means the world to me,” Harry deadpanned.

“It’s cool, man,” Dean reassured the guy. “Whatever you feel you need to do.”

“I’d like to stay for the first half of the lesson this morning, if that’s alright,” Neville added in. “I don’t have a class at the moment, and I think... times being what they are... I should probably know this sort of stuff too.”

“Yeah, sure,” Sam said. “No problem.”

“Ernie really, calm down,” Harry said. “If anyone should be worried, it’s Sam and Dean. I mean, they’re about to face a room full of your students – I highly doubt they’ll be as well behaved as the Auror department.”

“Point to Harry there,” Neville said. “After all, I have it on good authority that he threatened the entire Auror department with suspension should they put a toe out of line around the Winchesters.”

Dean raised an eyebrow at Harry. Harry punched Neville in the shoulder.

“Mind your own business, Professor,” Harry said, just as the door creaked and a few small faces peaked into the room. “Come on, let’s grab ourselves a seat.”

“Come on in,” Ernie called to the kids by the door, and then the doors were opening wider and more students were filling up the room. One student was easily recognizable among the others, due to the fact that his hair couldn’t decide if it wanted to be turquoise, black, or dirty blond.

Teddy smiled as he took his seat, giving Harry a wave, and then smiling at Sam and Dean broadly. Dean recognized the two boys beside him from the train station – Andrew and Iggy... who must have heard Sam and Dean’s true professions since then, because they were staring as though someone had just let them into a tiger’s cage.

The rest of the students just seemed curious – or completely distracted by the fact that Harry Potter was in the room. Speculative chatter and excitement were soon a constant buzz in the room. Dean saw Victoire take her seat in the front row, as she gave him and Sam a bright and friendly smile. The gaggle of girls around her all giggled when Dean smiled back.

“Students! Students! Listen!” Ernie called. “As you know, this is a special Defence Against the Dark Arts lesson organized by Mr. Potter. He’s kindly arranged for two experts to come in and teach you all today in non-magical defence against the dark arts. Can I please have the younger students at the front of the room and the older students towards the back – this way all will be able to see clearly.”

There were only a few who had to change seats, allowing some timid eleven year-olds to nervously come towards the front of the room. Once everyone was settled, Ernie spoke again.

“I’d like to introduce you to your visiting professors, Sam and Dean. You will all behave for them just the same as you behave for any other professor at Hogwarts.”

“Oh, I was sort of hoping they’d behave better than that,” Dean interjected. “I mean, me and Sam are way cooler than you guys.”

There was a soft patter of giggling from the students, and Ernie looked a little annoyed at Dean undermining him, but Dean just smiled and winked at him.

“I’ll be in the room at all times,” Ernie continued. “Anyone who misbehaves will serve detention. Now, this is not a practical lesson, so wands away.”

There were surprisingly deep groans from the students at that, as they put their wands in their robes, or their backpacks with suddenly drooping shoulders and pouting faces. Dean picked up at least one kid saying, “Harry Potter brings experts, and it’s not even practical... I’d have rather gone to divination.”

“Alright, listen up,” Dean said, and the students quieted, some picking up their feather pens like Dean was about to dictate an essay to them. “How many of you are allowed to use magic outside of school?”

No hands were raised.

“Alright, so, I’ll have you know,” Dean began, “that this is a practical lesson, made especially for you. Now, what would you do if you were attacked by something in the summer – when you aren’t at school and you can’t use magic?”

There were no hands raised at first, as the students all looked at each other. Then Dean saw Teddy smile and raise his hand.

“My man Ted, what’s your answer?” Dean smiled.

“If under immediate threat, underage wizards are allowed to use magic in self-defence,” Teddy recited.

“Excellent,” Dean replied, catching Harry’s proud nod out of the corner of his eye. “That’s true, good point. Now, how many of you bother to carry your wand around with you at all times in the summer?”

Teddy’s hand went back up, but there were only a handful of others. Some of the students were starting to realize the problem.

“Now, keep your hands up,” Dean said. “Do you bring your wand everywhere? Like, let’s say you’re in your room, and you decide to go to the kitchen for a snack... do you always bring your wand with you.”

Teddy’s hand lowed at that, so did everyone else’s.

“So, what would happen, if you got down to the kitchen, and something attacked you there?” Dean asked.

The room was silent.

“Don’t worry if you don’t know the answer,” Dean said. “This is why Sam and I are here. Now Sam’s going to hand out some papers for you all, so you can follow along. If you have any questions at any point, feel free to ask.”

As Sam handed out the papers, Dean turned to the chalk board and thought back to cheap motel rooms and backwoods cabins and loose-leaf paper and crayons swiped from roadside diners - and he couldn’t help but wonder if it would be as easy to teach a roomful of students as it was to teach just Sam. 

“Alright, who can tell me about ghosts?” Sam asked behind him, as Dean picked up a piece of chalk and pressed it to the blackboard. “More specifically, who can tell me about muggle ghosts?”

As Dean wrote the first topic of the day on the board, he couldn’t help but think that, at least this time, he didn’t have to teach alone.

*

“I’ll be honest,” Ernie said to Harry, as the morning session was winding to a close, “I didn’t expect them to be this good with children.”

Dean and Sam were busy showing the class some simple defensive moves, since they had a few minutes left before lunch. Harry tried not to dwell on the fact that they knew how to train small children perfectly. The class had run very smoothly – the youngest children had been enthralled, and the older children impressed. In the end, they had covered demons, but only to the extent of “If you see someone with black, white, red, or yellow eyes, go tell a responsible adult and alert the Auror department, then secure yourself behind salt lines.”

Of course, that was when Teddy had decided to see if he could make his eyes go all black – Harry had watched his irises darken, and caught his attention and gave him a head-shake and that had been that. Harry doubted Teddy had much control over the whites of his eyes, but nevertheless, he wasn’t willing to risk any misunderstanding with Hunters. Teddy stood out enough as it was without being mistaken for a demon as well.

“They’re full of surprises,” Harry replied, because in truth, he hadn’t expected the two hunters to be as good with kids either. It’s true, even now, Sam stood slightly awkwardly to the side as Dean showed Timothy Barnswallow how to get out of a choke hold, but Sam was gentle with the kids as they demonstrated; and, more importantly, he talked to them like they were adults, which Harry knew from experience children appreciated. Some of the smaller kids seemed intimidated by Sam’s size, but Harry could tell that the youngest Winchester was making a point to smile more to try to lessen how intimidating he appeared.

Neville had snuck out midway through the morning session, because he had a class to teach. Harry told him to meet him and Ernie in the Great Hall at lunch. He wanted to call Ron first, to see if the Auror department had gotten anywhere with the investigation now that they had possible motive. He also wanted to touch base with Hermione to see if Bobby Singer had responded to Sam’s letter yet. The Winchesters had been too busy preparing for the teaching session at Hogwarts to look into the strange engravings themselves, but Sam had assured Harry that sometimes it was faster just to ask Bobby, especially when it came to languages.

The children all groaned in disappointment as the morning session came to a close, and Dean told them the time was up. For a classroom that had spent the first part of the session sullen over the fact that there wouldn’t be magic, their moods had certainly turned around quick. 

As the children filed out, Teddy ran over to Harry, his two friends in tow. 

“Are you eating lunch in the Great Hall, Harry?” Teddy asked. Iggy and Andrew looked hopefully up at him from where they stood just behind Teddy. 

“I’ve got some business with Professor MacMillan and Professor Longbottom,” Harry said, and then tried not to wince as Teddy’s expression fell. “So,” Harry continued, “I was wondering if you could do me a favour and keep Sam and Dean company during lunch?”

Teddy's smile returned and Iggy and Andrew both looked a little like someone had just told them to ride a hippogriff.

“Hey, Teddy,” Dean said, coming up behind the three boys. “How’d me and Sammy do? Do ya think we’d make good professors?”

“Yes!” Teddy replied. “You were great!”

“Thanks,” Dean said, and he ruffled Teddy’s hair. “How about you two?” Dean addressed Iggy and Andrew. “You think we did alright? ‘Cause I think Teddy’s here’s biased, given that his old man was the one that brought us in.”

“You were fine, sir,” Iggy said with wide eyes. “It was very interesting.”

“Good,” Dean said, and then he paused and looked more closely at both Iggy and Andrew, both of whom seemed to shrink a bit under Dean’s stare. “I take it Ted’s told you the truth about us.” Andrew nodded timidly. “Well, you shouldn’t be scared of us, alright?”

“Okay,” Andrew said.

“I’m not saying you shouldn’t be careful of Hunters,” Dean clarified. “Because just like there can be bad wizards, there can also be bad Hunters. But you don’t have anything to fear from either Sam or me.”

“Yes, sir,” Iggy said.

“Good,” Dean smiled.

“Harry has to have a meeting,” Teddy declared into the silence. “So I’m going to take you to lunch!”

“I’ll walk you down to the Great Hall,” Harry said. “Ernie and I are meeting Neville there anyway.”

“Plus, you promised cat-lady that you’d chaperone us the whole time we were here,” Dean pointed out.

“Yeah, there’s that too,” Harry nodded. “And don’t let her catch you calling her that.”

“Ah, none of you guys will tell on me, will you?” Dean asked, winking at Iggy and Andrew, both of whom laughed.

“No, Professor Dean,” Andrew said.

“Professor? That’s a new one.” Dean said. “Hey Sam, maybe we should add that to the list. We could get some tweed jackets...”

Harry laughed at Sam’s dramatic eye-roll as the group of them left the now empty classroom.

*

“Have you killed demons before?” Iggy asked. Teddy watched as Dean looked at Sam briefly, before lowering his voice and saying yes. Iggy and Andrew had been curious about the two Hunters since Teddy first confided in them. Now that they were sitting in relative isolation at the end of the Hufflepuff table, Teddy’s friends had decided it was time to ask as many questions as possible.

Harry and Professor MacMillan had walked them all down to the great hall. Then Harry had given a nod to Professor Longbottom, and the three wizard adults had slipped out one of the faculty doors. Lunch was always a little more informal than dinner, and some teachers didn’t come down to the great hall – and some who did, chose to eat with their house instead of sitting at the faculty table. So, it wasn’t too out of the ordinary for Dean and Sam to sit at the Hufflepuff table with Teddy and his friends. The other students seemed a little too shy to sit close though, and that suited Teddy fine. As did the fact that although he could tell Headmistress McGonagall had her eye constantly on them, she was too far away to hear any of their conversation.

“How about werewolves?” Andrew asked next. Teddy didn’t look up from his plate. He already knew the answer to this one.

“Muggle werewolves are different,” Sam said. “Remember, we talked about this in class. They can’t... there isn’t any other way.”

Teddy knew that meant that yes, they had. He wondered what would have happened if his Dad had been a muggle. How long he would have lived before someone had found him – Teddy wondered if maybe he should just be thankful that his dad lived at all, given the circumstances.

“What’s your favourite thing to do here, Teddy?” Dean suddenly asked, and Teddy looked up to find Dean smiling at him. “At school I mean? Do you play sports? Do you have a favourite part of the castle?”

“I’m not very good at sports,” Teddy smiled, feeling his hair go a little pink. “I’m too clumsy. I like the lake... down by the edge of the forest. We aren’t allowed to go in the forest, but I like just the edges... the whomping willow too. I mean, you can’t get close, but I like to watch it swat at birds.”

“Yeah?” Dean said. “Maybe if we have time you can show me.”

“Teddy’s always making us do our homework there,” Andrew complained. “Even in the winter.”

“It’s nice,” Teddy defended. “No one bothers us, and Iggy needs to practice his warming charms anyway.”

“I like the Quidditch pitch,” Andrew said. “It’s cool, and someone’s always practicing – some don’t mind you watching. I want to try out for Chaser next year, I think. Aggie Price is graduating and-“

“What’s Quidditch?” Sam asked.

Teddy laughed at Iggy’s stunned expression, and Andrew’s squeal of delight. Both launched into explanations, talking over each other and interrupting each other to clarify. Sam and Dean both laughed and Teddy could tell they were doing their best to understand. Sam kept asking follow-up questions, from what Teddy could tell, he was trying to relate it to football.

When Dean rolled his eyes and popped another ketchup covered chip into his mouth, Teddy suddenly realized that this was his window of opportunity.

“Dean, what’s going on?” Teddy asked softly, while Iggy opined loudly about the importance of the snitch. 

“What’s going on with what?” Dean asked, dragging another chip through his pile of ketchup and looking at Teddy in concern.

“With Harry?” Teddy clarified. “Why’s he talking to Professor MacMillan and Prof- Neville? What’s wrong? Is there something... is there something bad happening?”

“No,” Dean said. “No, nothing... why would you think something bad was happening?”

“They were in the DA with Harry, if he has to...” Teddy tried to explain, but he didn’t know how to put it into words. “I just thought... the DA was formed to fight Voldemort, if he’s getting them together again, does that mean that... can Voldemort come back?”

“What?” Dean said. “No...no, that evil sack of shit is dead. Harry killed him dead. You understand?”

“Okay,” Teddy said. “But then... what IS going on? It must be bad...”

“No,” Dean said. “Just... don’t worry about it. It doesn’t affect you, okay?”

“How do you know?” Teddy asked. “Florence in Ravenclaw says that her mum was hit in the head by a poltergeist, and last month someone was attacked right near-“

“Teddy!” Andrew said. “You should ask Eliza if Sam and Dean can watch practice after school!”

“What?” Teddy asked.

“Is everything alright, Teddy?” Iggy asked. “You’re hair’s going grey.”

“What?” Teddy repeated, lifting a hand to his head, as though he could feel the colour.

“His hair always goes grey when he worries,” Iggy told Dean.

“Shut-up,” Teddy said. “Don’t tell them that.”

“And now he’s angry with me, see,” Iggy said, pointing to Teddy’s head again. “It goes red when he’s mad.”

“Stop talking like I’m some sort of weird creature, you wa-"

“Boys!” Dean said. “Enough.”

“Sorry, sir,” Iggy said. Teddy stared down at his plate again, and tried to force his hair to be brown.

“Teddy,” Dean said softly. “There is nothing for you to worry about, okay?”

“Okay,” Teddy said, even though he didn’t quite believe it.

“Okay,” Dean repeated. “Now, we’ll have to check with Harry to make sure we have time for this... Kwiddish thing, so don’t get Sammy too excited about it.”

“Dude,” Sam said. “I’m twenty-six... you sound like Dad.”

Teddy watched as Dean’s jaw clenched oddly, and then he turned back to the table as if looking for something.

“What’s a guy got to do to get some goddamn pie around here,” Dean said. “I really deserve pie.”

An apple pie appeared in front of him. Teddy couldn’t help but laugh.

“Holy-" Dean said. “Is this for real?”

“Yes, it’s real,” Harry’s voice suddenly said from behind Teddy. “I’ll have to take you down to the kitchens if we have time... what’s this about a Quidditch practice?”

“Andrew wanted me to see,” Sam answered. Teddy realized then that Andrew was quiet and glancing back and forth between him and Iggy with concern. Teddy smiled to make sure Andrew knew that he wasn’t really that mad at Iggy – Andrew always worried. Sometimes Iggy was just a wanker, but it didn’t mean that Teddy was going to stop being friends with him. 

“Well, last train out is after supper, I could call Gin and see if she minds if we have dinner here,” Harry offered.

“Can you?” Teddy asked. “You could eat dinner with us!”

“We’d have to sit up at the staff table,” Harry said, placing a hand on Teddy’s shoulder. 

“Oh,” Teddy said. 

“Or I suppose we could all just sneak into the kitchens...” Harry smiled. “No promises though.” 

“No promises,” Teddy repeated, but he knew it was one.

“Okay, now don’t you have afternoon classes to get ready for?” Harry asked. “Sam and Dean have to get ready for their afternoon classes too, I think.”

“You didn’t eat lunch,” Teddy pointed out. “Nana Molly will be mad at you.”

Teddy laughed as Harry rolled his eyes and grabbed a sandwich off the plate in front of Dean. 

“Hey!” Dean said. 

“Happy?” Harry said, taking a bite. Teddy nodded. “Good. Now go get your books. We’ll come find you in your common room after school.”

“Yes, Harry,” Teddy said, and he followed Iggy and Andrew out of the great hall, waving a see you soon at Sam and Dean. 

“What colour is everything now?” Teddy asked Iggy, once they were in the corridor. Iggy glanced at Teddy’s hair.

“Turquoise and black,” Iggy announced with a smile, because they all knew what that meant. Then, his eyes rested on Teddy’s eyes, and he added, “and the brightest green eyes I’ve ever seen.”

“I think I’ll keep it this way for a while,” Teddy said, his earlier worry forgotten and replaced with excitement for the end of the day.

Chapter Text

The afternoon session went just as smoothly as the morning one. Only, the older students groaned deeper when they were told to put their wands away. They also were a little better at hiding the fact that they spent a lot of the time sneaking looks over to where Harry sat at the side of the classroom. Actually, the Winchesters reminded Harry a little of being taught by Mad-Eye, or, well, Barty Couch Jr. pretending to be Mad-Eye. The way they were able to keep the class in line with a mixture of actual respect for the students and pure intimidation. 

They covered demons with a little more depth, providing copies of the standard exorcism and devil’s traps. This meant that there wasn’t really time at the end of the session to get into self-defence, so Sam decided that they should take questions instead. Sam seemed a lot more comfortable with the older students than he had with the younger ones, so he did most of the talking while Dean sat back and watched. 

During lunch, Harry had brought Neville and Ernie both up to date on the current investigation. Not so much the details, but the fact that they had put together that whatever was going on – it was targeting blood-traitors and enemies of Voldemort. Ernie and Neville fell into both categories because of their involvement in the war and their personal lives. Ernie’s house had obviously already been hit, but so far Neville had been left untouched. Harry had to wonder if it was because Neville lived at the school while he taught, and at Hannah’s when he wasn’t teaching. Still, there was Neville’s Gran to consider. She was getting on in years, but still lived in her own house – if someone did want to target the Longbottoms, they could always go after her.

Harry had also had a brief chance to chat with Ron. They had decided the night before that Ron would start the investigation by questioning all former Death Eaters that were not currently in Azkaban. So far, all Ron had found was that three of them – like Malfoy – were victims of attacks themselves and had not reported it. Well, two hadn’t reported it. The third, sadly, had been a bit of a loner, and none of his neighbours had noticed the smell. 

It also meant that starting the next morning, he and Ron were going to have to take a team to Azkaban to question the prisoners – just in case one of them had a man on the outside doing their dirty work for them and they felt like admitting it.

Harry was startled out of his thoughts as Ernie called an end to class, handing out assignments for the next week. Sam and Dean packed up the few props they had used, and smiled at those students who thanked them as they left the room. 

“Well, that went well,” Harry said.

“Yeah, man, the kids weren’t half bad,” Dean said. “I thought for sure we’d get substitute teacher treatment.”

“Not with Harry in the room,” Ernie laughed. “The younger ones are too busy picking their jaws off the floor, and half, if not all, the older students want to work with him some day. It’d hardly do them any favours to make a bad impression.”

“You think any of them caught on that we aren’t wizards?” Sam asked. “I mean, there were a couple of specific questions that I had to sort of... um... talk my way around.”

“You did great,” Ernie said. “It’s actually rather disturbing how much you sounded like a real Auror when you talked about how further investigation was needed into the effects of muggle weapons on a Gytrash, but that the fundamentals of salt, silver, and iron should always be kept on hand.”

“I couldn’t remember what it was,” Sam admitted sheepishly. “I know it was in that book Harry gave us... but, yeah...”

“Well, you covered splendidly. Thanks for coming in,” Ernie said. “I’m going to send a copy of this handout home to Justin, so that he can lay salt on my thresholds the next time he’s over at the house. I still think Harry’s mad for bringing you here, but I’m certainly starting to see the use.”

“Thanks Ernie,” Harry rolled his eyes. “You let me know when you decide that I’ve finally gone mad with power, okay?”

“Will do,” Ernie said with a smile.

*

They said their goodbyes to Ernie, and then made their way down to the Hufflepuff common room. Dean really didn’t like the paintings – the way they moved and stared at him and Sam as they walked down the hall. It was unnerving and Dean was itching to torch them all. Maybe they knew.

They went down staircases and through doorways that Dean didn’t even really see until they were right beside them. Dean had to wonder how on earth any of the students found their way around. Not to mention there was this giant pendulum that could take a person out if they weren’t paying attention.

They had just entered an empty corridor, when Sam tensed and stopped walking. Dean tensed because Sam had tensed and that was reason enough for him. Harry continued walking for a few steps and then seemed to realize that something was up. He turned to them in confusion.

“There’s something in here with us,” Sam said. Dean reached his hand into his pocket, grasping the handle of his gun, while Sam’s stance shifted. He had packed silver and Sam had packed iron – they had left the shotguns at Harry’s – but Dean had bottle of salt in one of his pockets.

“It might just be one of the school ghosts,” Harry said calmly. “Please don’t... worry. Hogwarts is safe, there’s nothing-“

“You don’t know that,” Dean said. Sam was looking up and to the left, where a column met the ceiling. He wanted to ask Sam what the hell he thought it was. If they’d been found by Heaven or Hell, they had to get the hell out of dodge before they put any of the students at risk.

“The Great Harry Potter couldn’t be odder, something’s gone wrong with his head. Hunter friends will turn some heads, then soon we’ll all be dead,” a voice sing-songed through the corridor. 

“What the hell is that?” Sam asked, as he drew his gun, pointing it where he had been looking.

“Peeves,” Harry said calmly. “It’s just Peeves. Don’t... well....”

“The poltergeist?” Dean said. 

“Peeves!” Harry called. “Why aren’t you hiding with the others?”

A small man peeked around the edge of the column up near the ceiling. Dean looked at him in fascination – he appeared to be floating, like a ghost might, but he seemed solid. He looked somewhat like a court jester in colourful clothes. But there was something off about him, either the skin tone, or the facial structure, or both. He was also carrying water balloons.

“Peeves,” Harry said. “I think you should go.”

“Just wanted to have a look,” Peeves sneered, eyeing Sam, who still had his gun drawn, though it was pointing at the floor. 

“Well, you’ve had your look,” Harry said. “Now I suggest you go. And don’t sing songs about Hunters, people aren’t to know!”

“Potter’s a poet,” Peeves laughed. “What’s the next verse?”

“Peeves...” Harry said. “Do you honestly think anything good can come of this?”

“Oh, you’re no fun,” Peeves said, and he hurled a water balloon at Harry, who diverted it with a wave us his wand.

“It’s just water, Sam,” Harry said. “He won’t hurt you.”

Dean turned to find that Sam had now trained the gun on the poltergeist.

“Sam doesn’t like poltergeists,” Dean said. 

“Racist,” Peeves said.

“Would it be so bad if we tried to kill him?” Dean asked. “We’ve never seen a corporeal one before – we could at least try out the iron and the silver – see if one hurts more than the other.”

Sam cocked the gun, and Dean watched with a smirk as Peeves eyes widened, and he turned and disappeared through a wall. The solid water balloons breaking against the stone and dripping down over some very annoyed paintings.

“Damn it,” Sam said. “I should’ve-“

“He may be annoying,” Harry sighed, “but he fought on our side during the war. He doesn’t deserve to get shot.”

A group of students poured into the far end of the corridor, joking around and laughing. Sam put the gun away so fast that Dean was afraid Sam was going to shoot himself in the ass. But when the students caught sight of them a half second later, Dean was thankful that Sam had been quick. Some of the students Dean recognized as having just been in the afternoon class. 

“Hey guys,” Harry said. “Did you happen to see Teddy in the common room?” 

“Yes, sir,” one of the older boys answered. “He’s waiting with Andrew, Iggy and Nate.”

“Could I get the password off you?” Harry asked.

“Um, we aren’t supposed to-“ the boy said fidgeting.

“Mate, it’s Harry bloody Potter,” another boy interrupted. “I think we can trust he’s not going to murder Lupin.”

“No, you’re right,” Harry said. “I shouldn’t have asked. I’ll just ask one of the paintings to go in and tell him I’m waiting outside.”

“Whackspurt,” the second boy said, then shrugged at Harry’s look. “Our head of house is on a Quibbler kick.”

“Thanks,” Harry said. 

“Just don’t murder Lupin and make me regret it,” the boy laughed, reaching an arm around his friend who had refused to give the password and hitting him in the arm affectionately. The boys passed them and disappeared laughing around the corner. 

“Come on then,” Harry said, and they rounded the corner to find a large painting of some people gathered around a large dinner table, laughing at each other’s jokes.

“Hello,” one of the men said. “Here to see Teddy are you? Did he give you the password or shall I go in and fetch him for you?”

“Whackspurt” Harry said. “But thank you for the offer.”

“Oh, it wouldn’t have been any trouble,” the man said. “Have a nice day!” His dinner guests all echoed the well wishes as the painting slid to the side to reveal a round hallway. 

Dean followed closely behind Harry, until the hallway opened up into a cozy room. Potted plants hung from the ceiling, and vines crept up the walls. Round tunnels led off to either side, with vines partially covering them like beaded curtains. The windows in the room were high and close to the ceiling, causing the sunlight to come in on angles that turned some of the leaves on the walls more golden than green.

There was a grand fireplace directly in front of them with a roaring fire in it, and yellow plush couches and chairs were laid out around it. Teddy and his friends sat on one of the couches, sprawled nearly on top of each other, passing back and forth trading cards of some sort.

“Wotcher!” Teddy said, tumbling onto the ground and then standing to face them. His hair was still turquoise and black, like it had been at the end of lunch. Dean took that to be good sign – Teddy hadn’t gone back to worrying. 

“Hey man,” Dean greeted. “You all set to show us around?”

“Yes,” Teddy replied with a smile. “Nate’s going to come with us too. He likes watching the Quidditch practice – he wants to try out for seeker next year.” He motioned to the other boy who was with Iggy and Andy on the couch. He was a slight boy with black hair and a shy smile. Dean recognized him from the morning session, where he had been sitting with the group of girls a row in front of Teddy. 

“Hey Nate, nice to meet you,” Dean said. “How come you didn’t sit with us at lunch.”

“I um-” Nate blushed a little.

“Nate like to hang out with the girls,” Andrew explained. 

“Yeah, he even lets them paint his nails, it’s bizarre,” Iggy said. Nate looked a little mortified. Dean thought he was starting to get the picture. 

“Ah, well,” Dean said, patting Nate on the shoulder in an attempt to put him at ease. “I’m sure you’ll be thankful to have a man on the inside in the coming years. So, don’t burn any bridges with this dude, guys.”

Iggy, Andrew and Teddy all looked at Dean in confusion. Dean just shrugged. He looked up at Sam to find him biting back a smile.

“It’s true,” Harry said. “Two more years, and Nate’s going to be quite the asset. I know Hermione was.”

“You guys aren’t making sense,” Teddy said.

“Let’s just go see the castle,” Sam said. “I’m looking forward to seeing this Quidditch game in action. Did you play this sport in school, Harry?”

“He was a seeker!” Nate suddenly said. “Some think he could have gone professional, only he became the youngest full Auror ever instead and-" Nate cut himself off and blushed deeply when Harry started chuckling.

“People talk me up,” Harry said. “But yes, I did play seeker position in school. I never really wanted to be a professional player though.”

The talk of Quidditch lasted a good long time, as Harry related some of the more amusing catches he had performed in school. Nate hung on every word. Dean thought it was pretty funny that most everyone they had met was starstruck by Harry because he had defeated Voldemort , but Nate was star-struck because Harry had once caught a golden ball in his mouth by accident. 

Teddy bounced around the group of them narrating about where they were, and where his classes were, and where they were going next. They had an hour before Quidditch practice started, so Teddy took them through the different wings of the castle – pointing out the astronomy tower, the potions room, and where the different common rooms were. Harry tried to explain about the different houses, but Dean sort of got lost on the part where a talking hat read their minds. 

He did get that there were different traits associated with the different houses though, and that where Harry’s house was noted for bravery, Teddy’s was loyalty. Nate had a friend in the one for smart people, and Iggy’s cousin was in the other one – there was some discussion as to what trait went with the fourth house. Harry said they were ambitious. Andrew said that most people thought they were evil. Iggy took offense to that on behalf of his cousin, and then Teddy explained that it wasn’t really fair to judge a whole house on the mistakes their parents made.

They finally came to the library. As soon as Dean saw it, he knew he had just lost his brother. It was huge, and old, just like all of Sam’s favourite libraries. A librarian sat off to the side, waving a wand at the books students left on her desk, causing the books to fly up into the air and resort themselves onto the shelves.

“Dean...” Sam said.

“Quidditch first, Sam, then we’ll see if we have time,” Dean answered.

“But Dean...” Sam repeated. He wasn’t even looking at Dean anymore. 

“The train doesn’t leave until seven,” Harry said. “You can get a good hour or so in after dinner.”

“Only?” Sam said. 

“Come on, Sam,” Dean said. “You’re the one that wanted to see this sport in action. And the boys are looking forward to it.”

“Right, yeah,” Sam said. 

“Come on,” Teddy said. “It’s almost time for practice, and I want to show you the grounds.”

Dean grabbed Sam’s elbow and tugged until Sam stumbled back out the library doors.

*

Teddy led them around the grounds. Sam tugged his coat tighter to himself, as the wind whipped off the lake. Sam thought of the sunny warm version of the grounds that he had seen in Harry’s memories the year before, and wished fleetingly that it weren’t currently January. He couldn’t imagine Teddy and his friends sitting out here to study, but then Teddy led them to the edge of the forest, where a little alcove of evergreens shielded them from the wind. Teddy cast a fire in the middle of the clearing and dusted the snow off some fallen logs, and Sam had to admit that it actually was quite a cozy secluded place even in the winter time. 

Teddy brought their attention up the slope next to the little secluded alcove, where he pointed to a large willow tree on the ridge. 

“That’s the Whomping Willow,” Teddy explained. “Watch this!” 

Sam watched in curiosity as Teddy packed a snowball and then ran up the slope towards the large tree.

“Not to close, Teddy!” Harry called.

“He knows,” Andrew reassured. 

Teddy launched the snowball towards one of the branches – though, his aim was off, because it was going to sail right over the branch - except that the tree moved, reaching its branch up and swatting the snowball violently, so that it broke into pieces that sailed back towards Teddy. Teddy giggled like he was playing a game with a friend, and then jogged back over to them.

“Did you see?” he asked. 

“What-" Dean started to say.

“It hits anything that comes close to it,” Teddy explained. “Andy was thrown ten feet his first week here, because no one thought to tell him!”

“Isn’t that a little dangerous?” Sam asked.

“It protects a secret passage way,” Harry explained. Teddy nodded.

“It’s so werewolf kids can come to school,” Teddy continued. “They’re taught how to stop the tree, and then they go in the passage way and stay someplace safe while they change. It’s what my Dad did. Isn’t it cool?”

“Very cool,” Dean said. 

“Come on, let’s get to the pitch,” Iggy said, running up the hill – keeping a good distance from the willow. 

“Do you want some warming charms?” a small voice said next to Sam. Sam looked to see Nate, nervously biting his lip. “You look a little cold, and... um... Teddy said that, uh... I mean, he told me that I can’t tell anyone, and I haven’t, but I know that you’re not... that is... I mean, I could do a warming charm for you, if you like?”

“What does it do?” Sam asked, feeling odd asking what was probably a stupid question after a full day of pretending that he could do magic if he wanted to.

“If I cast it on your clothes, it’ll make them warm,” Nate explained. “Like um... like electric blankets?”

“Can you do it on my socks?” Sam asked. Nate nodded, and both of them stopped walking, falling behind the others. Sam pulled up his pant leg and then tugged his socks above his boots, while Nate knelt down and muttered something, touching the tip of his wand to Sam’s sock.

“What the hell are you doing?” Dean suddenly said, just as Sam’s foot was engulfed in a very pleasant warmth.

“Dude, you have got to let him do it to you too!” Sam said, while he pulled up the other pant leg so that Nate could do the other sock too. “It’s awesome.”

Nate looked nervously at Dean, but then focused his attention back at Sam’s sock and muttered the spell again.

“What the hell is it, Sam?” Dean asked again.

“Warming charms,” Teddy explained. “Sorry, I should have thought to offer you some. I forgot that you can’t. Nate’s really great at them. So, you should have him do yours too.”

“Or I could, if you’d prefer,” Harry said.

Sam watched as Dean and Nate shared a look - Dean raising an eyebrow and Nate looking slightly nervous.

“Nah, the kid can do it,” Dean finally relented.

While Nate charmed Dean’s socks, Sam asked Harry if he could do his coat too. Now that he knew what a warming charm felt like, he figured it would only make things better...especially if they were going to be sitting in some sort of outdoor stadium to watch the game.

They arrived at the pitch just as a large group of students in yellow and black robes and padding arrived. A tall blond girl, who Sam put somewhere around sixteen years old, bounced over to Harry. 

“Hello Mr. Potter, Professors,” the girl addressed them. “Teddy told me that you’d like to watch practice. If you want, you could participate too. The others would be excited to play alongside you.”

“Thanks, Eliza,” Harry said. “But I think I’ll just watch with my friends.”

“They can play too,” Eliza tried. Sam looked past her to the field, where he saw some of the kids mount their broomsticks and kick off the ground – soaring high into the frigid January air and then, if that wasn’t daring enough, they started to do loops and play aerial chicken with one another. 

“No,” Dean said. “Thanks. Uh, we’ll watch. Just watch.”

Sam didn’t have to look at Dean to tell that he was watching the same thing Sam was. Forget the fact that he and Dean probably couldn’t ride brooms – even if they could, there was no way they were going to.

“Okay, it was worth a try,” Eliza smiled warmly. “But do feel free to give us any tips! We’ll be dividing the team and playing a mock match on half the pitch. Best seats would probably be to the left or right of the goal posts on that side there.” Eliza pointed to where three large rings stood on tall pillars.

“Thanks again, Eliza,” Harry said. 

Harry led them up a staircase until they reached the top of the bleachers. Then they let the kids run down ahead of them and pick out whatever they thought would be the best seats. The team was already flying in lazy loops around the pitch. Then Eliza opened a trunk below everyone and Sam couldn’t quite see the balls, until suddenly they were flying up towards the players – seemingly of their own free will. 

“Snitch in play!” Eliza shouted, just as Sam saw a small gold ball dart out of the trunk and seemingly disappear into thin air.

Harry started explaining the game to him and Dean, while Andrew, Nate, and Iggy talked about what positions they might like to try out for. Sam couldn’t imagine a stranger sport. It was like basket ball, only without dribbling – so it was like wheelchair basket ball on broomsticks. Only, there were also two players with huge bats that seemed like they had decided to play an extremely violent version of dodge-ball. On top of that, there was a smaller kid who was circling everyone overhead and occasionally hurtling themselves downward like a bird of prey before pulling up just before they hit something. Sam had heard about the bludgers and the snitch, of course, and Harry was explaining it all again now – but it was quite another thing to see it in action.

“You want to do this?!” Dean asked Nate and Andrew in disbelief.

“Yeah!” they chorused. 

“What happens if someone falls!?” Dean asked. Sam looked over to see that Dean had his fingers clenched in fists on his thighs, and seemed to be breathing just a little oddly. Okay, so maybe Dean’s fear of flying had less to do with airplanes and more to do with... well, flying.

“No one falls,” Iggy laughed. “You’d have to be a pretty rubbish flyer to- OUCH! What the bloody hell did you do that for Ted?!”

“Um,” Harry said. “If it’s during a match, there are the teachers and the referee that can perform quick charms to cushion the fall. If it’s during practice, the captain is expected to keep an eye on the players and know basic healing charms.” Harry then looked over at Iggy, who was holding his foot and glaring at Teddy, and smiled apologetically. “Sorry, Iggy, I think that was Teddy’s way of telling you that I fell off my broom in third year and fell nearly fifty feet. But, you know, I was being attacked by Dementors, it was hardly because I was a rubbish flyer.”

Sam watched as Iggy’s eyes went huge, and so did Dean’s.

“You FELL!” Dean said. “You were fifty feet in the AIR and Dementors ATTACKED you!”

“Well, attacked is a strong word I suppose,” Harry said. “They came too close. I was highly susceptible.”

“Dumbledore saved him though,” Teddy said. 

“Right,” Harry said. “So, no harm done, except we lost the match of course. Hardly fair, if you ask me,”

“Oh god,” Dean said. “Teddy, don’t ever play this sport, okay?”

“Uh, ok, Dean,” Teddy said, giving Dean a bemused look. “I’m not very good at it anyway.”

“Good, good,” Dean said. “Keep it that way.” Dean threw a concerned look over at Nate and Andrew, but then shook his head and turned his attention back to the game.

“So, as you know,” Harry said. “I played Seeker in school. Ron played Keeper. Fred and George were Beaters.” Sam pictured George and a copy of George violently chucking heavy balls at their fellow students, and thought that it actually fit somehow. He wondered if George had ever played dodgeball – probably he would have found it boring. “Ginny was a professional Chaser with the Hollyhead Harpies.”

“THIS is the sport that Ginny played?” Dean asked. “Holy... no wonder she said the professional players don’t last long. Man... she’s awesome.”

“How come Ginny is awesome, but I’m not allowed to play?” Teddy asked. 

“Because I don’t want you to fall to your death,” Dean said.

“But-"

“Just leave it, Teddy,” Sam said. “He never makes sense when he gets like this.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Dean asked. Sam sighed.

“So the match ends when the Seeker catches the Snitch, right?” Sam asked Harry.

“Yes, but this is practice, so, it’ll also end in about ten minutes regardless.“

“Well, I think he’s got it,” Sam said, pointing over to where the smallest player was currently flying as fast as he possibly could towards the ground, where a small golden object could be seen coasting just over the white snow.

“He’s going to kill himself,” Dean muttered.

They watched as the kid reached out and grabbed the snitch, and then attempted to pull up from the ground. It didn’t quite work though, as broom caught on a snowdrift and launched the kid into a snow bank at the side of the stadium.

Everyone seemed to pause what they were doing for a second, as they all looked to the boy shaped hole in the snow bank, until finally a hand reached out holding the Snitch.

“Game over!” Eliza called. “Great job! Caught the Snitch in under an hour that time!”

The boy was now completely out of the snow bank and shaking the snow out of his jacket rather vigorously. Eliza called the team down to go over plays and concerns, Sam deduced from the snippets of conversation that he could hear from the stands. Harry stood and motioned for them to go down as well. Teddy and his friends eagerly plied him and Dean with questions about how much they had enjoyed the game, and how real matches were better because you had proper sized teams and played with the whole field.

When they got down to the pitch, Harry motioned them forward and began shaking all the players’ hands like some sort of politician. Sam just thanked them as a group for allowing him and Dean to watch the practice, and told them they had done a great job, even though he had nothing to compare it to. 

Finally, when Harry was done with the last of the requests for his autograph on his wife’s trading card, and Teddy, his friends, and Dean were looking somewhat bored, Harry said goodbye to Eliza again and motioned them back towards the castle.

“Library?” Sam asked.

“Food,” Dean answered.

Harry laughed, and turned to the four young boys. 

“Food first, I think” Harry said. “Now, please tell me you guys are on good terms with the house elves.”

“House elves?” Dean said, and Sam flashed back to the miserable looking portrait in the corner of Harry’s kitchen. This, he thought, was going to be interesting.

Chapter Text

Nate excused himself before they got to the kitchen, stating that he had already told his other friends that he would eat dinner with them.

“They’re going to gossip about you two,” Teddy told Dean, once Nate had run off.

“Isn’t he a bit young for that?” Dean asked. Teddy looked at him in confusion.

“The girls all think you’re good looking,” Teddy said. “When they found out Nate was going to the Quidditch practice with you, they made him promise to tell them everything at dinner.”

“Right,” Dean said. “The girls.”

They stopped in front of a large tapestry of a bowl of fruit. Harry reached out and stroked the pear. Dean was about to ask him if he had a strange fetish for medieval tapestry art, when the pear morphed into a doorknob. 

“Welcome to Hogwart’s kitchen, fellows,” Harry said, swinging open what was now a door and stepping into a room that was swarming with activity.

Dean felt his jaw drop as he realized that activity wasn’t all it was swarming with. Everywhere he looked were little elfin creatures – pointed ears, large eyes, and oddly disproportionate noses – all of them only as tall as Dean’s knee caps. They were scurrying back and forth carrying large plates of food. 

Dean could feel his pulse start to quicken as every instinct wanted to take over. He shot a look at Sam, who had his eyes wide, but shook his head at Dean. The kids were smiling, and Harry was scanning the room quickly as if looking for someone in particular. It was only a second before one of the creatures spotted them and managed to pause all activity in the kitchen for a moment.

“Harry Potter!” it squeaked, and suddenly there were over a hundred doe-eyes staring at them. Dean couldn’t help but think of that scene in Jurassic Park 2, when the little girl had been murdered by the swarm of cute little dinosaurs. The kitchen was soon a mess of squeaky whispers, and an elf scurried forward.

“Harry Potter, Winky is happy to see you, but Harry Potter and his guests should be eating in the Great Hall,” the elf said. Dean scanned the room wondering which one of the creatures was Winky and why they didn’t just speak for themselves.

“I’m happy to see you too, Winky,” Harry said, and Dean realized this was some sort of Yoda deal. “If I ate in the Great Hall though, I’d have to sit at the staff table and I wouldn’t get to visit with Teddy.”

“Plus, this way it’s easier for my brother to sneak off halfway through the meal and go to the library,” Dean added, raising his eyebrow as Sam’s denying glare, which immediately turned into a shrug.

“We has heard Harry Potter was bringing Hunters to Hogwarts,” Winky said. “We is not approving. It is making the house elves nervous.”

“I’m sorry,” Harry said. “But none of you need worry. Sam and Dean know not to hurt anything at Hogwarts. Also, don’t tell anyone they’re Hunters. It’s a secret.”

“We is not telling our master’s secrets,” Winky said. “We is good house-elves.”

“Yes, but I’m not your master,” Harry said with a sigh. 

“No, you is not,” Winky agreed, sounding depressed. “Winky’s master is dead or worse, and Winky is a free-elf. But we is not telling Harry Potter’s secrets, because they is Hogwart’s secrets too.” Then the elf snapped its fingers and a table and six chairs appeared beside them. “Harry Potter and Teddy Lupin and their friends can sit here, and Winky will serve them their meal.”

“Thanks, Winky,” Harry smiled.

Dean waited until the elf scurried off, before turning to Harry.

“Care to explain what the hell I’m looking at?” Dean asked.

Harry laughed, and launched into an explanation of house elves. He didn’t pause in his explanation when Winky came back with burgers and fries for Dean, a salad for Sam, and shepherd’s pie for Teddy, so Winky added in a few details too – mostly about how being paid wasn’t necessary and house elves were happy to serve. Then Harry talked about his friend Dobby and how he had been a free-elf, and when Winky refilled their juice cups (and man, their juice was really weird), she added in about how Dobby was a strange elf, but had always been nice to her and had helped her when she had been depressed and drinking too much.

Dean tried to imagine an alcoholic house elf, and thought it’d probably be pretty hilarious – but then it occurred to him that if Winky had been an alcoholic, then there was probably alcohol to be had. So he flagged her down like a waitress and asked if Hogwarts had any whiskey. That of course earned him a frown from Sam, but whatever. He’d been sober for way too long in his opinion... besides the wine at the Malfoy’s the previous night, he hadn’t had anything. Well, there was the whiskey he snuck from Harry’s kitchen just before Lily had started crying the night before, but that hardly counted.

Sam ducked out not long after. He gave Dean a nod while Harry was chatting with Teddy, and Iggy and Andrew were in a deep Quidditch debate. It was a full three minutes before Harry even noticed he was gone, and Dean really had to hand it to Sammy – usually tall people were not that sneaky.

“He’ll get lost,” Harry argued.

“Nah,” Dean replied.

“I’m supposed to be with you two at all times,” Harry replied. “She’ll murder me if she finds out.”

“That’s a bit extreme,” Dean said. “Sam’s just going to the library. He’ll follow the smell of old books.”

“Winky?” Harry said, and the house elf appeared beside him. “Can you make sure Sam finds the library and doesn’t get lost, and tell him to wait there until I come get him?”

Winky nodded and disappeared with a loud cracking noise. Five minutes later, she was back, taking their empty plates and reporting that Sam was in the library and would remain there.

They had desert – which was very delicious pie for Dean, and something called a treacle tart for Harry and the boys. Dean mostly just listened to Teddy ramble about his first week back at school, and Iggy and Andrew talk about their holidays. He kept his back to the wall and observed the creatures around them as well, still not being able to shake the feeling of unease. But then, they really did seem harmless. Dean wondered if house elves existed in America too – if they did, they obviously never turned evil, or he and Sam would have known about them by now.

Soon everyone was finished. Winky took their plates and Dean’s empty whiskey glass. They all got up and Harry thanked the room at large for the wonderful meal and wished all the house elves a busy term. Dean was a little thankful to get back out in the corridors, where the only strange things he had to worry about were enchanted paintings and wizards. 

They made their way to the library and found Sam holed up behind stacks of books on a back table. He also seemed to be surrounded by students with blue patches on their robes, who were scurrying back and forth between the shelves bringing him even more books. Dean was about to make a joke, when he recognized the insignia of the smart-person house – so he just rolled his eyes. Apparently, Sam had found his people. 

“Is it time to go already?” Sam asked a little fearfully. The young girls around him looked distressed, and the boys looked a little disappointed.

“We still have a bit,” Harry laughed. Dean watched as Harry read the spines of some of the books, and the smile dropped from his face a little. “Sam, what are you reading?”

“Oh,” Sam said. “Well, I’ve got the guys here researching alternative means to get rid of death echoes and I’m reading some other stuff.”

Dean reached over and pulled the book out of Sam’s hands and scanned the page he had been on quickly before Sam growled and yanked the book back.

“Possessions?” Dean said. “You’re researching possession?”

“I just-” Sam started. Dean took in the other titles in the books close to Sam:  The Apocalypse, Angels and Overlords, Dark Magic for Protection and Defence .

“Sam, are these books from the restricted section?” Harry asked. Dean knew Sam’s newfound studying buddies weren’t reading anymore... no one had turned a page since Dean had yanked the book out of Sam’s hands.

“They told me that you needed special permission from a professor,” Sam said. “But I thought – you know, I am a professor, at least today. So, I have them looking up stuff in the regular part of the library and I’m researching the restricted section – I haven’t let them read any of it.”

“Sam, some of the books in there are dangerous. You shouldn’t have-" Harry said.

“Dark magic, Sam? Really? What the hell do you-" Dean said.

“I just thought that maybe-“ Sam tried to say.

“He did stab one of the books,” the girl sitting next to Sam said.

“What?” Harry and Dean both asked. Sam glared at her for tattling, and to her credit, she only dropped her eyes back to the book in front of her, rather than run from the room.

“It screamed at me,” Sam muttered. “It was reflex.”

“Where’s the book?” Harry sighed and ran a hand through his hair.

“I put it back on the shelf,” Sam said. Harry nodded and made his way towards the back of the library. The students around Sam, not to mention Teddy and his friends, were all still doing a very poor job at pretending they weren’t hanging on every word of the conversation.

“I just thought there might be something to help us,” Sam said softly. “Something they... they have in the books here... that we aren’t aware of. There’s just... so much, I mean... until last year we didn’t even know about...”

“But we know all we need to about possession, Sam,” Dean said, pointing to the book in Sam’s hands. “Besides, last time I checked, neither one of us was planning to get possessed.”

“Of course not,” Sam said. “No, no, of course not. I just thought...” Sam sighed. “I don’t know what I thought. I just... the colt didn’t work Dean, and I don’t know-"

“Put the dark magic books back, Sam,” Dean instructed, not wanting to get into anything in front of an audience of school children. “We’re never going to be that desperate – not again. Keep the books on the apocalypse out though – you’re right, there might be something we haven’t read yet.”

Sam nodded slowly, keeping his head down as he stacked a few books and then picked them up and disappeared towards the back of the library. Dean grabbed a book that Sam had left behind, and opened it, pointedly ignoring the looks from the students around them. 

“We’ll just, um...” Teddy said. “Do our history homework, I suppose.” Dean looked up and noted that the table was fairly full of the older students who had been helping Sam, but that there was still plenty of room at the table. 

“Could you guys bunch up a bit, so that there’s room for Teddy and his friends?” Dean asked. There was the sudden noise of chairs and books shifting, and two seconds later there was a wide open spot at the table next to Dean. 

“Why are you researching the apocalypse?” a voice asked to Dean’s other side. It was an older girl, one from the smart house. 

“It’s a hobby of ours,” Dean answered, with perhaps not enough joy to make the statement convincing. As Harry and Sam returned to the table though, Sam asked if anyone had found anything interesting about death echoes yet, and the girl lost the opportunity to question Dean further.

They read and talked until Harry announced that they had to leave if they wanted to catch the train. Sam was a little dejected about it. Dean had to admit that the possibility that they could find something useful in the library made it tempting to just stay at Hogwarts all night and read, but they still had to figure out a way to help Draco, and see if Bobby had written them back about the runes yet. They had sent one of the students to find them books on runes in the library, but the ones they found didn’t appear to be the same.

Sam said goodbye to his study buddies, and they waved a goodbye to Iggy and Andrew too. Teddy followed them down to the main entrance, where Hagrid stood waiting.

“Bye Teddy,” Harry said. “Do your homework and mind your teachers, and remember to write me occasionally.”

“Yes, Harry,” Teddy said, then turned to Sam and Dean. “Thanks for coming to the school. Your class was great! It’s cool to be able to do things without magic.”

“Thanks, you’re a good kid,” Dean said. “And thanks for showing us around. It was a lot of fun.”

“Yeah, Teddy,” Sam said. “That Quidditch thing was something else. Wish Iggy and Nate good luck from me on their try-outs next year.”

“I will,” Teddy smiled. 

“Alright, goodbye kid,” Dean said. Teddy’s eyes were still green, and his hair was still black and turquoise, and Dean wondered what memory of Teddy he was going to keep – this one, or the mousy-brown haired kid, or the one with a strand of colour in his hair from everyone in his family. Dean figured it didn’t really matter – the kid’s smile was always the same.

After they waved their goodbyes, they followed Hagrid down to the carriage and the creepy flying horses. Dean had to admit, as he watched Hogwart’s glowing warm windows disappear behind the trees, that although it set every one of his trained instincts on edge, Hogwarts was a pretty damn cool place. Judging from the look on Sam’s face, he probably felt the same way – or, perhaps he was just mourning the fact that they hadn’t been allowed to take any of the books home with them.

*

Harry wished that the Winchesters had been able to enjoy the ride through the highlands during the day, but they were thankfully blessed with a very clear moonlit night – and with what light there was reflecting off the snow, it was still a gorgeous trip. He left Sam and Dean alone with their thoughts, and the view out the window, while he used his mirror to check in with Ron. Sam and Dean both swivelled their attention to Harry when Ron mentioned that Hermione had received a letter from Bobby – but the letter had only said that he hadn’t immediately recognized the runes, and would look into it and get back to them as soon as possible.

The children were already asleep when they finally got back to Grimmauld Place. Ginny was still awake and waiting up for them in the kitchen. She had a plate of cookies made, and some butter beers ready – as well as what remained of Harry’s firewhiskey.

“They sleep better when they’ve had it,” Ginny whispered to him as he leant in to kiss her hello. Harry nodded. 

“Neville sends his love,” Harry replied.

This, of course, prompted Ginny to ask how it had all gone, and what they had thought of Hogwarts, and had they met Neville and Hagrid and had Professor McGonagall given them a hard time. They were in the middle of recounting the Quidditch practice – Ginny was offering to show them the photos and newspaper clippings from when she played professionally – when suddenly there was another man in the kitchen. 

Ginny had her wand in hand and a stunner headed towards him, before Harry could get over his shock at having an angel appear in his kitchen. Sam had leaped up in an effort to block Ginny’s stunner, but was of course just a fraction too late. Still, all Castiel did when the stunner hit him square in the chest was sway a little and look confused. 

Sam quickly blocked the angel from any more attacks, while Dean scrambled around the table to the angel’s side.

“It’s okay! He’s with us!” Sam said, while Dean spoke over top of him,

“Cas, are you alright?”

“Gin, he’s-"

“There are a lot of magical wards on this house,” Castiel said, and then squeezed his eyes closed as if he had a headache. Harry wondered if angels even got headaches. 

“You need to sit down?” Dean asked the angel.

“No one’s supposed to be able to get through the wards,” Ginny said. “How did you get through the wards? Who gave you our address?”

“Ginny, he’s-" Harry tried again.

“Bobby Singer told me that the Winchesters were with Harry Potter,” Castiel answered. “I simply located Harry Potter.”

“But how did you-"

“He’s an angel, Ginny,” Harry finally managed to interject. “I don’t think magical wards work on him.” Dean turned his attention away from Castiel, who looked perfectly fine now, and towards Harry. And bloody hell, Harry hadn’t thought this though... still, he could cover easily if asked, after all, Dean had called him Cas – Harry could claim he recognized the name as belonging to an angel, and Dean would assume that he hadn’t recognized the man himself. 

“I apologize for startling you, Ginevra,” Castiel said. “I tried to call, but neither Dean nor Sam’s phones are functioning at the moment.”

“Ginevra?” Dean raised an eyebrow and smirked.

“Ginny, um, please call me Ginny,” Ginny said. “I’m so sorry about the stunner.”

“Perfectly understandable,” Castiel replied, and then glanced at Dean. "I've had worse."

“Ginny, Harry,” Dean said. “This is Castiel”

“Pleased to meet you,” Ginny said. Harry kept quiet, technically, he had met Castiel before – but Dean and Sam didn’t know that.

“What brings you by, Cas?” Sam asked, taking a seat on the edge of the table.

“The runes you found,” Castiel said. “They’re demonic.”

“What?” Harry and Dean both chorused. 

“Also, Bobby asked me to tell you that next time you leave the country, you should let me know” Castiel said. “I believe he was upset that I woke him up, because I had not been able to find you for quite some time.”

“Right, sorry,” Dean said. “But could we get back to the demonic stuff for a second?”

“The runes,” Castiel said, pulling a piece of paper from his pocket. Harry recognized it as the letter that Sam had sent Bobby. “Bobby asked me if I knew of them. I do. They are demonic in origin.”

“We’ve never seen anything like them before,” Sam said.

“You would not have,” Castiel replied. “They are very old – ancient, by your standards. Not seen nor used for millennia. Whoever has used them is playing with very dark forces, if they are not a demon themselves.”

“Shit, okay,” Dean said. “How about removing them? Can you just scratch them out of the stone, or do they have any sort anti-removal curse on them? And if you remove it, does whatever it called up go away or do you have to deal with that separately?”

“I can remove them from the stones,” Castiel answered. “Removing the curse will not rid the area of whatever spirits the curse brought into unrest, those must be dealt with separately. Tell me where the words are carved and we can go now.”

“Wait, Cas, now?” Dean said. “Dude, we just spent the day teaching a bunch of kids – we need to sleep.”

Harry was shocked to see that the angel actually looked annoyed at this announcement.

“For how long?” Castiel asked. 

Dean looked at Sam, who shrugged. Harry debated answering on the Winchester’s behalf. He knew Dean had slept at least a little bit the night before, but he didn’t have any evidence that Sam had. Not to mention the fact the original reason for this visit was for the Winchesters to actually get some rest – not that Harry had been entirely successful at ensuring it. He certainly hadn’t expected there to actually be a demon problem of all things.

“Four hours, maybe six?” Dean said, a note of hope in his voice.

“Eight,” Ginny spoke up. “You’re welcome to stay and rest too. I’ll make up another room.”

“Thanks, Gin, but Cas doesn’t-” Dean started to say.

“Angels do not require sleep,” Castiel said. “I’ll just wait here.” With that, he pulled out a chair at the table and sat down. Harry was pretty sure that he mirrored Ginny’s slightly stunned expression. He wondered if he’d be able to go to bed knowing that there was an angel sitting in their kitchen staring blankly at the wall.

Dean sighed and ran a hand through his hair. Sam, who Harry realized has been mostly silent since Castiel arrived, gave Dean a look that Harry couldn’t interpret.

“Um, listen Cas,” Dean said. “Maybe... maybe if we gave you the list of places, you could go and get rid of the writing while we slept.”

“Yeah, that’s a good idea,” Sam said. “It’d be much quicker that way.”

“We’d have to get permission from the homeowners to-“ Harry started to say, but Dean cut him off.

“Nah, we’ll do it unofficial like – plus, it’s not like whatever son of a bitch put the carvings there in the first place had permission,” Dean said. “Could you do that for us, Cas?”

“Yes,” Castiel said. 

“I’ll go get the reports,” Sam muttered, and he left the room. Dean pulled the chair out next to Castiel and sat down, pulling his unfinished whiskey closer to himself. 

“Um, would you like a drink, Castiel?” Ginny asked.

“It would do nothing,” Castiel answered. Dean rolled his eyes.

“Okay,” Ginny said. “Something to eat then?”

Castiel actually seemed to consider it for a moment before he shook his head.

“Angels don’t really require food and drink either,” Dean explained.

Sam returned with the incident reports then, laying them in a stack next to Castiel, before he sat down in a chair on the other side of the table.

“What were the other three, Harry?” Sam asked. Harry reached into his pocket and pulled out the details he had jotted down while talking to Ron that afternoon over the mirror. Three names only, no addresses.

“Um, I’ve got the names, but not the addresses,” Harry said. “I could easily find them though, I’d just need to-“

“I know where they live,” Castiel said. “It won’t be a problem.”

“Great,” Dean said with a put on smile. “Just, don’t do the Malfoy house tonight. Sammy and I have to go see him anyway about a death echo.”

“A death echo?” Castiel asked. “Can you not destroy the remains?”

“No, gotta find another way,” Dean repeated.

“I should have the power to lay a death echo to rest,” Castiel said.

“Really?” Dean said. “’Cause we were just going to put these mojo bags in his walls – and I figured that’d piss him off, considering the holes we’d have to make in all that fancy wallpaper.”

“There’s no need for such crude measures,” Castiel said. Harry couldn’t help the little laugh that escaped him. As all eyes in the room turned to look at him, all he could do was shrug.

“I think Malfoy’s going to like him,” Harry said.

“Of course he will,” Dean clapped Castiel on the shoulder – then seemed to flinch and shake his hand out a bit when there was absolutely no give to Castiel’s body. “Cas is a great guy... little uptight, but then-"

“So’s Malfoy,” Harry finished for him.

Dean smiled, and Harry wished he could be a fly on the wall tomorrow. Sadly, after making Ron work the Auror department solo all day, Harry had promised that he’d help him out, which meant that while Draco would be meeting an angel of the Lord, Harry would be on his way to Azkaban. 

Chapter Text

The next morning was strange, to say the least. Sam woke up after Dean had already left the room, which wasn’t too unusual these days. Sam showered and went downstairs. The house seemed oddly quiet. All week, Sam had always been able to tell if the kids were awake, because either James or Albus or both would be chatting away, or Lily would be crying or squealing, and usually Harry and Ginny’s voices would be pitched at a level that could be heard over the children. This morning though, things seemed very quiet. 

Sam entered the kitchen to find that everyone was indeed awake. Also, Castiel was back from his assignment – and, well, that seemed to make all the difference. Castiel was sitting in the same chair he had claimed for himself the night before. Albus and James both sat at the table, absentmindedly eating their eggs and sausage while they stared at Castiel. Lily sat in her highchair at the end of the table, a plate of scrambled eggs in front of her, and all her attention focused on Castiel. Castiel just stared right back at the kids.

Sam laughed under his breath. It had to be perhaps the strangest staring contest he had ever seen. He felt like he should warn the kids that they could never win. Dean looked over at Sam from where he sat next to Cas at the table and rolled his eyes. Sam shrugged and pulled out the chair across from them. Harry was sitting next to Lily, making sure some food got in her mouth instead of just down her front, and Ginny stood in the kitchen, preparing some plates of food.

“Good morning, Sam,” Ginny called. “I’m just making up your plate.”

“Morning,” Sam said. 

Ginny walked over and placed a breakfast plate in front of Sam and then she glanced over at Castiel.

“Are you sure you don’t want anything,” Ginny said. “It wouldn’t be any trouble-"

“No, thank you,” Castiel said. 

“Not even tea or coffee?” Ginny pressed.

“No,” Castiel said.

“You’re so awkward, Cas,” Dean said. “A coffee won’t kill you. Ginny’s trying to be hospitable here.”

Sam watched as Cas looked at Dean, tilted his head in that weird way, and then turned back to Ginny.

“A coffee would be very nice, thank you,” Castiel said.

Ginny seemed surprised, but recovered quickly. She put the second plate down at her own place at the table, and then turned back to the kitchen. Sam watched in fascination as she drew her wand and waved in the direction of the coffee pot, which then rose by itself and began to pour coffee into some waiting mugs.

“Gin,” Harry said, but Ginny was already waving her wand differently and the now full mugs were floating across the room and settling themselves down in front of Castiel, Sam, and Ginny. Sam looked to see that Harry and Dean already had a mug of coffee in front of them. 

“Cream and sugar?” Ginny asked, already floating the creamer and the sugar dish over towards Sam. 

“I don’t know,” Castiel said, peering into his mug and then looking over at Dean.

“Take a sip,” Dean instructed. Castiel did, and then raised an eyebrow. “And - how do you like it?”

“It is... quite disgusting,” Castiel said. Dean laughed. Ginny looked a little mortified.

“Sam, maybe you should mix it for him.” Dean took Castiel’s cup from him and passed it across the table. Sam nodded and thought back to when he had first started drinking coffee and mixed Cas’ coffee the same way.

“Try it now,” Sam said, surprised that his voice was still a little rough from sleep.

Castiel glanced at Sam and then took another sip.

“And?” Dean said. “How is it now?”

“Better,” Castiel said. Sam wasn’t sure if the surprise in his voice was Sam’s imagination or not.

“Good,” Dean said. “Maybe someday you’ll be a real boy, Pinocchio.” 

“I don’t understand,” Castiel said. 

“Of course you don’t,” Dean replied. “Drink your coffee.”

Sam rolled his eyes at his brother, and turned his attention back to Harry and Ginny, who were both looking at Dean and Castiel as if they were aliens. Sam knew it was just because the two wizards weren’t used to having an angel around, and apparently the kids still didn’t quite know what to make of him. All in all, it was a rather awkward breakfast.

“So, what’s the plan today?” Sam asked Harry, for lack of any other ideas about how to break the silence.

“Uh, I have to go to Azkaban – it’s the wizard prison,” Harry said. “Ron and I are questioning the incarcerated Death Eaters to see if they know anything about what’s going on.”

“Cas removed all the runes from the houses last night,” Dean added. “So, after breakfast we’re driving back out to Malfoy’s, so Cas can take care of the death echo.”

“Does Malfoy know you’re coming?” Harry asked. 

“Uh, no,” Dean said, suddenly frowning. “I didn’t think of that... the guy has a job, right? I guess he’s probably working, huh.”

Harry stood and threw open the kitchen window, letting the cold air into the room. He whistled, and moments later a very small brown owl landed silently on the window ledge. Harry closed the window behind the owl, and then picked up a piece of paper, an envelope, and a feathered pen from the stand next to the open window.

“I’ll write him a note. Fin will take it to him and wait for his response,” Harry explained. “You can wait until you hear back before you leave, that way you aren’t showing up unexpectedly.”

“Thanks,” Dean said. 

“If he’s already at the ministry, than Fin will probably be back within the hour. If he’s at home, you might have to wait longer,” Harry explained. He folded the note he had just written and stuffed it into the envelope. 

“Muffin!” James yelled. Sam watched as Harry blushed and the owl bobbed its head excitedly. 

“Fin... Muffin?” Dean laughed. “The owl is named Muffin?”

“I...” Harry said. “James named him.”

Muffin made a squawking noise and then spread his wings and flew over to land on James head. James and Albus both let out delighted laughs, and then Albus started patting his own head and saying “Me too, Muffin! Me too!” and Muffin flew over to land on Albus’ head, causing the boys to laugh more. Lily put an egg covered hand in her own hair in an attempt to get Muffin to land on her next.

“Lily!” Harry said exasperated. “Ugh, now you’ve got egg all over...”

Muffin flew over and perched on the back of Lily’s chair, instead of her wildly swinging head, and Lily let out some delighted baby noises.

“This is why Muffin lives in his very own owl house outside,” Ginny sighed. “He’s always riling up the children"

Sam watched as Muffin’s big eyes turned away from the laughing kids, and over towards Dean – who was... patting Castiel’s head.

Ginny and Harry both seemed to pause what they were doing and look with wide eyes between the owl and Castiel, who was furrowing his brow indignantly at Dean. Then Muffin launched himself into the air and settled on Castiel’s head. Dean broke into laughter, the children were laughing too, and Sam couldn’t help the snort of laughter that escaped him. He quickly bit his lip and tried to wipe the smile off his face as Castiel turned to glare at him... with the owl still on his head.

“Dean,” Sam said, trying to sound reprimanding. Sam stood and leaned over the table, reaching out his hand to the bird. Muffin looked at him, then made the short hop over to perch on Sam’s thumb. Surprisingly, the owl seemed to have found a way to perch on people without having to dig its claws into the skin. Sam slowly pulled his hand back and started walking the bird back over to Harry. Before he turned though, he couldn’t help but catch the small smile on Castiel’s face, as Dean and Harry’s kids continued to laugh.

“Um, thanks, Sam,” Harry said, as Sam placed Muffin back on the little perch by the window.

Sam watched as Harry fastened the envelope to the owl’s leg, allowing Muffin to grasp it in his talons as well. Harry opened the window again, and the bird bobbed its head and flew off into the cold January morning.

The kitchen was now as loud as it usually was. James and Albus were happily recounting what had happened only two seconds before, as though no one had seen it but them, and Lily was fussily trying to prevent Ginny from getting the egg out of her hair. Dean was nodding along to Albus and James, as if this was the first time he had heard that there had been an owl on Castiel’s head... and Castiel was drinking his coffee like nothing had happened.

Sam smiled and looked down at Harry. 

“At least the owl broke the ice,” Sam said.

“I really can’t decide if I should be horrified or amused,” Harry said. He nodded towards Castiel. “He kind of makes me nervous.”

“Yeah, he used to make me nervous too,” Sam said. 

“He doesn’t now?” Harry asked softly. Sam looked over to see Castiel take a sip of coffee and then stare at the mug as though it were some sort of encrypted message from God.

“No, not after I realized he's just as lost as the rest of us,” Sam said.

*

Dean and Sam said goodbye to Harry when he left for work. Ginny disappeared briefly with Albus and James, to take them to play group. She left Lily playing with toys in the living room and all Sam and Dean had to do was sit there and make sure she didn’t swallow anything. Castiel seemed to take the charge of looking after Lily a little too seriously, and basically just stared at the poor kid for ten minutes without even seeming to blink. Lily was a trooper about it though, and Dean had lost track of the number of times both toddler and angel had tilted their heads quizzically at each other in the exact same moment.

Ginny arrived back just as Dean was starting to fear that Cas’ eyes were going to dry up and fall out of his head. She swept Lily upstairs to play in the study while Ginny wrote an article about the latest draft picks. Ginny dropped a scrap book into Dean’s lap before she left. On the cover was a trading card of a slightly younger version of Ginny, sitting on a broom with the wind flowing through her hair, clutching a small ball, and smiling brightly.

“What’s that?” Sam asked, sitting down on the couch next to Dean. Dean didn’t bother answering, because as soon as he opened the pages, it was quite obvious that it was the photographic and journalistic record of Ginny’s professional sports career.

The headlines were mostly sensationalist: Ginny Weasley – War Veteran and Quidditch StarGinny Weasley to Wed Harry Potter: Will She Continue Playing?Ginny Potter leads league in goalsGinny Potter Announces Retirement from Quidditch. There were moving pictures with the articles: shots of Harry cheering from a box seat, and Ginny and Harry kissing in the crowd after a win. There was an official engagement press release with a picture of the smiling couple. Between the articles were pictures that were obviously taken by Harry during games, some where you really had to know Ginny’s number in order to pick her out of the confusion of players... even with her distinctive red hair. 

On the very last page of the book there were two articles. One was a birth announcement for James Sirius Potter. The other was the first article Ginny wrote for the newspaper as their sports reporter. Dean sat and read both through completely.

“The owl has returned,” Castiel announced in the quiet of the room. Dean looked up to see the owl at the living room window. As soon as he looked at it, it flew away from the window and disappeared around the side of the house.

“I think it only comes in the kitchen,” Sam said, as he stood and made his way out of the living room. Dean carefully closed the scrap book and placed it on the coffee table, then followed Sam. He got to the kitchen just as Sam had begun to untie the letter from the owl’s foot. 

“Thanks... uh, Muffin,” Sam said.

“Give him some treats,” Dean told Sam, and Sam passed him the letter and opened the owl treat jar – which caused the owl’s head to bob up and down excitedly.

Dean and Sam Winchester
Harry Potter’s Residence
London, England

Dear Dean and Sam,

I will be home at noon to meet you. 

Sincerely,
Draco


“What time is it?” Dean asked.

“Ten?” Sam said, cringing as Muffin missed a treat in Sam’s hand and pecked him instead.

“Shit, we gotta hit the road,” Dean said. “Cas, go tell Ginny we’re leaving and then meet us by the car.”

A flutter of wings and Castiel was gone. The owl looked a little spooked. 

*

Ginny was trying to decide if she wanted to use the word ‘accomplished’ or ‘seasoned’ when there was an odd noise. She looked up from her parchment to find Castiel standing directly in front of the desk. 

“Merlin’s beard!” Ginny said, clutching a hand to her chest.

“We are departing for Draco Malfoy’s residence now,” Castiel said.

“What? Okay, yes, great,” Ginny sputtered. “Thanks for letting me know.”

Castiel nodded and Ginny closed her eyes briefly to try to calm down. When she opened them, he was gone.

Ginny looked across the room to Lily’s playpen, where Lily stood looking at the empty spot in front of Ginny’s desk with wide eyes.

“Don’t worry angel,” Ginny said. “It’s just... an angel.”

Ginny shook her head. She had thought, perhaps foolishly, that the years of Harry attracting odd people and creatures would have ended with the war; but no, Ginny had stumbled downstairs this morning to make coffee and found an angel sitting ramrod straight in one of her kitchen chairs – picking small pieces of stone out from under his fingernails. He looked kind and he was a friend of the Winchesters, but he was a pretty poor conversationalist.

Downstairs Ginny heard the front door shut, a moment later three car doors slammed and a very distinctive engine roared to life.

“Looks like it’s just you and me now, Lily,” Ginny said. “What do you think, ‘accomplished’? or ‘seasoned’?”

“Sa!” Lily said.

“’Seasoned’ it is,” Ginny replied.

*

“You alright back there, Cas?”

“Yes.”

“You ever been to England before, Cas?”

“Yes.”

“We haven’t.” 

“I know.”

“How about some music?”

“I don’t care.”

“You aren’t really a road-trip kind of guy, are you, Cas?”

“I have wings.”

“Fair enough.”

*

Draco had been standing outside his front gates for ten minutes already when he spotted the black car approaching. It contrasted starkly with the layer of light snow that had fallen that morning. Draco watched as Dean pulled the car off the road – still not driving it through the wrought iron gate, but instead parking it where he had the other night. Dean smiled at him from behind the steering wheel. Sam was already opening his door – and that’s when Draco noticed that there was someone in the backseat. 

“I thought you said you’d take care of it yourself,” Draco said to Dean, as soon as Dean had exited the car. Dean raised an eyebrow and looked over at Sam. Draco looked to Sam, and discovered that the man in the backseat was now standing outside the car. Draco didn’t remember hearing a car door open or close.

“This is a friend of ours,” Dean said. “Cas, this is Drake-“

“I know,” the man, Cas, said without emotion.

“-Drake, this is Cas,” Dean finished.

Draco studied the man in front of him – he wore a muggle suit and trench coat, his tie loose and crooked – which wasn’t that unordinary for wizards, as they tended not to know how to wear muggle clothing. Yet, Draco had a feeling this wasn’t a wizard – another American Hunter, perhaps.

“What’s your real name?” Draco asked him. The man turned his attention to Draco, and tilted his head, then smiled just a little bit.

“Castiel,” he said. “And your name is Draco Malfoy. I see you’ve grown accustomed to Dean’s habit of... nicknames.”

Draco saw Dean roll his eyes, and Sam smirk. 

“Nice to meet you, Castiel,” Draco said. 

“And you,” Castiel said. “May I now destroy the engraving?”

“Yeah, man, go at it,” Dean said, waving his friend off. Draco watched as Castiel’s intense focus shifted to the stone wall over Draco’s shoulder. Draco moved to the side as Castiel strode purposefully towards where the runes were etched. Yet, Castiel had no tools, nor a wand, so Draco was a little confused as to how he was going to get rid of the runes... until Castiel simply reached up and scratched the runes out with his bare fingers – as though the stone wall were made of bread pudding.

“What is he?” Draco asked.

“Don’t freak out,” Sam said. Draco thought that perhaps Sam’s statement was having the opposite effect than what he had intended.

“Cas is an angel,” Dean said. Draco briefly considered the possibility that Dean’s remark was meant in the same vein as Sam’s – that Draco shouldn’t be afraid of Cas, because he was kind and harmless. Then Cas turned away from the wall, and flicked a piece of stone out from under one of his fingernails, and said,

“Shall I now put the death echo to rest?” 

And Draco could only nod dumbly as he realized that Dean was not using metaphors. 

*

Sam watched as Draco seemed to go into some sort of strange shock. Sam shrugged at Dean and nodded to Castiel for them to start walking towards the house. After a few seconds of walking, Draco seemed to have found his voice again, and the questions Sam had been expecting finally came.

“What were those engravings?” Draco said. “What did they do?”

“They’re demonic,” Dean said. 

“They are a curse,” Castiel elaborated. “To stir into unrest any spirits that are associated with the property”

“But, there’s only Professor Burbage-" Draco started to say, but cut himself off when Sam glanced over at him. Sam cleared his throat.

“Also, it doesn’t explain why everyone else was attacked by violent muggle ghosts, and Draco’s house has a death echo of a wizard,” Sam added, “Everything I’ve read seems to indicate that wizard death echoes shouldn’t exist.”

“Which is precisely why this case is so unique,” Castiel answered. “The engravings work best on, as you say, Muggle spirits. It is not necessarily meant to be used on wizards, except, no Muggles have died on this property. And so, it should have had no effect; however, the curse must have had a powerful intent behind it, because it was able to drag Charity Burbage’s spirit from rest. Due to the unnaturalness of this accomplishment, Charity Burbage only manifested as a death echo rather than the intended violent spirit.”

“So, we’re looking at a curse gone wrong?” Dean said. “Whoever put it there, actually messed up?”

“Yes,” Castiel said, just as the broad doors to the manor opened in front of him. Sam took the time to look around and take in the opulence of Malfoy’s actual home. It seemed a cold and impersonal place compared to the coach house, but then, Sam had grown up in motel rooms and a car – it was hard to imagine what it must be like when you don’t share one room with your entire family.

“She’s in here,” Draco said; as he appeared to visibly steel himself before opening a door with a thick salt line at its base. The room was empty at the moment.

“Where does she appear and for how long?” Castiel asked.

“Right here,” Draco said, walking over and pointing to the empty air just over the coffee table. “She remains present for approximately 45 seconds. The intervals between her appearances vary.”

“I’ll have to work quickly, but that should give me enough time." Castiel said. "Please move out of the way.”

Draco quickly ducked away from the area, though Sam noticed that he never took his eyes off where the death echo was set to appear. Sam was both curious to see the death echo himself, and curious to see how Castiel planned to dispatch it, so he actually moved forward a little, but was careful to stay out of Castiel’s way.

“Have you told Astoria that you guys are moving back into the big house yet?” Dean asked Draco.

“No, I wanted to make sure-" Draco said, but then there was a flickering in front of where Castiel stood, and Sam saw the upsidedown ghost of a woman appear – bound and crying. Draco fell silent.

“I bet Astoria will be happy to get out of the small house,” Dean continued as if nothing were happening. Sam looked over to where Dean and Draco stood – saw Draco’s anguished expression and understood that Dean was doing his best to distract the wizard. 

Castiel meanwhile had raised his hands and was holding them an inch away from the hanging ghost. He had begun to chant under his breath. Sam watched as the ghost stopped crying, and began to actually make eye-contact with Castiel as she rotated by him, rather than focusing on the spot near the fireplace that had held her attention before. It was as though she were becoming aware. 

“I’m sorry,” Draco said softly, his eyes were fixed on the death echo. “I’m so sorry.”

Castiel’s voice rose with the last few syllables he spoke, and then a look of peace washed over the death echo’s face, and she began to turn into a light that had Sam’s eyes slamming closed on reflex. He forced himself to open his eyes immediately and saw the death echo fading, still glowing brightly and peaceful, and then he saw Castiel sway oddly. Reflexes had him taking the two steps that separated him from the angel, and gripping Castiel’s elbow.

“You alright?” Sam asked softly. Castiel turned a surprised look at Sam and nodded. Sam suddenly felt awkward, thinking he had misread the angel’s movements or his eyes had played a trick on him as they had adjusted to the brighter light in the room. He quickly dropped the angel’s elbow and stepped away, he looked over towards Dean and Draco, who still had their eyes closed.

“She is at rest again,” Castiel announced. “It is safe to open your eyes.”

Now that only the living were left in the room. Dean gave Castiel a broad smile and Draco looked relieved.

“Thank you,” Draco said. “If there is any way I can repay-“

“Nah, man,” Dean said. “Glad we could help.”

“She knew you were sorry,” Castiel answered. “She was worried about you – she feared for your soul.”

Draco nodded.

“You are safe now,” Castiel concluded.

“Thank you,” Draco repeated, even more emphatically.

“Come on, man,” Dean said, placing a hand on Draco’s shoulder and gently nudging him out the door. “Let’s go tell the rest of your family the good news.”

They all made their way to the couch house. Astoria threw open the door just as they arrived. 

“And?” she said.

Draco smiled and Astoria rushed forward and hugged him, which only caused Dean to chuckle at the blush that rose up Draco’s face. Once Draco had pried his wife off himself, she only switched her affections to the Winchesters – first hugging Dean and thanking him, and then giving the same treatment to Sam. When she released Sam, she turned and seemed to spot Castiel for the first time – she hesitated in her hug and held out her hand instead. Castiel looked grateful.

“Sorry, I don’t think I’ve had the pleasure, my name is Astoria,” she said, politely. “You’ll have to forgive my exuberance; I’ve been quite excited at the possibility of moving back into our home.”

“Castiel,” Cas greeted.

“Are you also... in the same line of work as Sam and Dean?” Astoria asked.

“In a manner of speaking,” Castiel answered.

Before Astoria could ask her next question, a small voice yelled out from the house.

“Sam!”

Sam laughed, and sure enough the small blond boy appeared next to his mother in the doorway.

“Hey Scorpius,” Sam said. “How’s it going, kiddo?”

“Hi Sam, Hi Sam’s brother, Hello Daddy! Hello...um...” Scorpius greeted all of them, looking at Castiel in confusion and slight shyness.

“This is my friend, Cas” Sam introduced. Castiel looked at him oddly, but Sam just continued speaking. “He just got rid of the upsidedown lady, so you can move back home.”

“Hi Sam’s friend Cas!” Scorpius smiled. “Thank you!”

“You are welcome,” Castiel said, finally moving his unblinking stare from Sam to Scorpius.

“Would you like to come in for tea?” Astoria asked. 

“That’d be-" Dean started to answer, when all of a sudden there was a popping noise from the direction of the front gate, and voice called out,

“Dean! Sam!”

Sam turned to see a familiar red-haired man waving at them from next to the Impala. 

“What the hell is Weasley doing here?” Draco said.

“Excuse us,” Sam said to Astoria, before he and Dean started jogging over. Oddly, Ron didn’t make a move to meet them half way. He just stood waiting on the other side of the gate. Jumping when Castiel appeared right beside him, both Ron and Castiel said something to each other, but Sam couldn’t make out what it was.

“What’s going on?” Dean asked, as soon as they reached him, the wrought iron of the gate dissolving like smoke as they passed through it.

Ron held up a thick black book – a book he and Dean had encountered more than once before.

“We’ve got a problem,” Ron said.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Dean muttered.

Chapter Text

*Earlier*

Harry watched as Azkaban slowly emerged from the mist of the North Sea. The Dementors that were once so many were now regulated to a perimeter loop only. It was part of the post-war reforms, which tried to make Wizarding society more humane – even to criminals. While Harry could see the point of those who argued that the former Death Eaters locked away in Azkaban deserved Dementors, whenever he had to come out here for interrogations he was always thankful that the reforms had won out in the end. 

Now, instead of Dementors suppressing magic-use through depression (a method that was far from foolproof, as Sirius had thankfully discovered), they administered a potion thrice yearly to all inmates, which suppressed their ability to use magic completely. Sure, their wands had been confiscated or destroyed, depending on their sentences, but a wizard’s ability to use wandless magic should never be underestimated. 

Ron’s hair stood out as oddly too colourful for the drab prison. Harry knew Ron hated visiting Azkaban just as much as he did. Usually, they sent other Aurors, ones more skilled in interrogation – but the interrogators always told Harry that their methods were much more effective when Harry Potter was standing in the room. His presence made even the more skilled Occlumancers nervous, and sometimes gave the interrogators the edge they needed to get the information. 

They started with an interview of the prison guards – wizards now, not Dementors. They fell under the command of the Auror department, but had their own separate protocols and command structure. They met with the higher-ups, and then the head guard of each floor. None reported any suspicious activity. The prisoners who were usually well behaved had been well behaved, the prisoners who were usually disruptive had been disruptive. No one seemed particularly more pleased than usual lately nor had they been surlier. 

Once the guards had been interviewed, they moved on to the actual prisoners. Harry and Ron used separate rooms and interrogated different prisoners at the same time – in an effort to cut down the amount of time they would have to spend on the island. Also, if they interviewed the prisoners separately, for the most part, they could divvy them up so that they weren’t interviewing a prisoner that they had a particular history with. Mostly all Death Eaters made a point to sneer at Harry – but for the most part, he had never been in direct duel with anyone he interviewed. It was likewise for Ron, who tended to be react more emotionally than Harry to begin with. 

By noon, Harry’s skin was beginning to crawl, and he took a short break between interrogations to have a sandwich. He hoped Ron was having better luck than he was. So far, everyone Harry had interviewed had been just as antagonistic as ever, but none of them had seemed to be hiding anything – nor could any of them name anyone on the outside that might be trying to get revenge against so-called blood traitors.

Harry idly scanned through the list of prisoners still left to interrogate. If Ron was running at the same pace Harry had been, then next up were the Carrows. Harry would take Alecto, and Ron would take Amycus. Harry wasn’t sure which of them would have an easier time of it. 

Just as Harry was banishing the sandwich crumbs so as to look professional, the room was filled with a blaring alarm and all the guards snapped to attention with horrified expressions on their faces. There was only one reason for an alarm to sound at Azkaban.

“Harry,” Ron’s voice spoke from the mirror in Harry’s pocket. Harry took it out and flipped it open, and before he could ask anything, Ron continued. “Level D. Cell 259. Now.”

As Harry flipped the mirror shut and ran out the door, he saw all the guards reach for their own pockets as the head of Azkaban sent the orders to secure the island over their communication devices – a prisoner was loose, possibly disguised.

Harry made it to Level D in less than 30 seconds. As he rounded the corner towards Cell 259, he could hear Ron’s voice echoing off through the corridor.

“I want reports of the prisoner’s day to day activities for the past year, a list of any and all visitors, a list of the guard schedule for this floor for the same amount of time. I want to interview all guards assigned to this floor. I want to know about every single bloody breath that’s been taken in this corridor and I want to know about it yesterday.”

There was a scrambling of footsteps and the captain of the guard scrambled past Harry with his subordinate in tow, both ashen faced and blanching even further when they caught Harry’s eye. He ignored them and didn’t stop running until he reached Ron, who was standing in an open cell.

“Who is it? How-" Harry started to ask, but Ron cut him off.

“Take a look for yourself,” Ron said, stepping out of the doorway. Inside the cell, there was an unconscious guard.

“Is he-"

“They’re fine, just knocked out” Ron said. Harry noticed the other unconscious guard shoved hastily into a corner. And then Harry saw it: At the end of the bed, in a far corner, was a pile of blood, skin, and goo, all soaking into the recognizable cloth of a prisoner’s uniform.

“Oh, god,” Harry said. “That is disgusting, what the bloody hell happened-"

Ron actually huffed a little laugh, and Harry tried to figure out what was so amusing about someone being reduced to gooey sludge.

“The thing is,” Ron said. “We don’t use video-cameras, do we? So, like they said – the only way we could be able to tell one is if we have animals or find where they’ve shed their skin.”

Harry’s eyes shot back to the pile of human sludge in the corner, realizing, that maybe it wasn’t so human after all.

“Are you telling me-" Harry started, but cut himself off as two more guards arrived at the cell door, reporting that they were sent to follow any and all orders from Harry and Ron. Harry glanced at the cell, which for its meagre contents was in quite the state of disarray.

“Inventory every single thing in here,” Harry ordered. “I want to know how the bloody hell a shifter got into Azkaban.”

“Yes, sir,” the guards replied. Then a question of equal, if not more import rushed to the forefront of Harry’s mind.

“Whose cell is this, Ron?” Harry asked. Ron looked vaguely sick, and Harry suddenly got the impression it had nothing to do with the puddle of skin in the corner. 

“Amycus Carrow.”

*

The good news was that Alecto was still safely behind bars. Harry had ordered her to be interrogated, before leaving to help search for the shapeshifter. Ron watched as the guards sifted through the contents of the Amycus’ cell, once their unconscious comrades had been carted away to the infirmary. He could see the guards visibly trying not to gag whenever they had to go near the pile of fleshy slop in the corner. Ron waited in the hall, inspecting each item they came out with and writing it on an inventory after inspecting it. 

He’d recorded the bed linens, pillow, toothbrush, and two Muggle history books about the Middle Ages from the prison library, when one of the guards dropped yet another library book in front of him. Ron glanced at it before returning to his inventory list, where he was half way through writing the title of the previous book, and then he hand stilled before his brain had even caught up with what he had seen. 

Slowly, Ron looked back at the third book. It was black hardcover, and that in and of itself was nothing to be concerned about. It had the nice little label on the side that indicated it was from the prison library. The cover, however, had a very unique design on it. One that Ron had seen before – on Monday, while the Winchesters had been conducting their training session. 

“Merlin’s goat... he wouldn’t...” Ron breathed. 

“Sir?” One of the guards spoke up.

“What is this book doing in the library?” Ron asked. 

“Can’t say that I know, sir, I’m not a librarian,” the guard answered. “Most of what’s there has been donated over the years.”

“And is there no censor?” Ron asked. “No control over dangerous materials? This book should not be in the prison library... it’s a book on witchcraft for Merlin’s sake!”

Ron watched as the guard glanced down at the book, and raising an eyebrow at Ron like maybe Ron was insane.

“Well, like I said, not exactly my job...” the guard said. “But, I mean, it’s just muggle nonsense, isn’t it? It’s not real magic.”

Ron felt like hexing him, he really did, but it’d be unprofessional.

“Muggle witchcraft is magic too, you daft-" Ron cut himself off, picked up the book, and handed his clipboard inventory at the guard. “I have to go see Harry, you finish this up.”

“Yes, sir,” the guard said, looking suitably nervous.

“Wait, sir!” the second guard spoke up from inside the cell. “You might want to see this before you go.”

Ron quickly poked his head in the room, and his eyes landed on the last thing he wanted to see. The guard had moved the mattress off the bed, and there - drawn onto the stone floor in dried blood - was a very strange pattern of lines and markings. Ron recognized it too, though, from a completely different part of the Winchester’s training session.

“Oh fuck us,” Ron said. “It’s a summoning.”

The mirror in his pocket suddenly flashed hot, and Ron brought it out and flipped it open, watching Harry’s face swim into focus.

“Harry-" Ron started. 

“We’ve got it,” Harry said. “Meet me in the courtyard.”

“I’ll be right there,” Ron said. “I’ve got a few questions of my own.”

He snapped the mirror shut and addressed the guards.

“Stand guard, and don’t touch anything else. I’ll be back.”

*

“If you cooperate, tell us everything we want to know, then will let you go free, understand?” Harry offered the man standing in front of him, just as Ron walked into the courtyard. Prison guards stood at every exit, and Harry had both his team of Auror interrogators and the head prison guard behind him. In front of him, held by the arms on both sides by guards, was a man in a guard uniform – only, he wasn’t really a man. The small missing skin from his hand verified the fact that he was a shapeshifter.

The shifter laughed bitterly, and shook his head, but Harry had a feeling that the shifter at least wanted to believe him, and hopefully that was good enough.

“How’d you get here?” Harry decided to start small.

“Goddamn demon bitch brought me here. Tricked me,” the shifter said. 

“A demon? How long ago? What happened?” Harry fired back.

“Few months, it was,” the shifter said. “The bitch tells me she can bring me to a place where I’ll get three square meals, sleep above ground in a nice bed, not be treated like a freak. Knew it was too good to be true, but I was drunk – had Hunters on my tail after I-“ the shifter cut himself off, and then started again with a smirk. “Anyway, that don’t matter. I took her up on it. She tells me all I have to do is look like this ugly looking bloke, so I do. Didn’t say anything about it being a fuckin’ prison. No, nothing about that. Still, better than I had before, and better than getting shot through by those bastards who’re lookin’ for me. So I stayed. Did as I was told.”

“I know how you work,” Harry said. “When you change, you can hear their thoughts, can’t you? What’s Amycus planning?”

“I ain’t him anymore, am I?” the shifter sneered. “How should I know?”

“You were him for months,” Harry countered. “Something must have filtered through. You tell me or I’ll run you through with silver right now.”

“Does it have anything to do with this,” Ron suddenly asked from Harry’s side, holding out a black book for the Shifter to see. “Or was this some light reading on your part?”

“I’m not that stupid,” the shifter said. “Demon already tricked me once – I’m not about to sell my bloody soul to the foul thing.”

“But Amycus Carrow – you’ve read his mind; he’s pretty stupid, isn’t he?” Harry hedged.

“Bloody imbecile,” the shifter replied. “I was actually sort of glad when I realized the jig was up and I had to get going – sick and tired of that moron’s stream of consciousness.”

“Smart enough to escape prison though and put you in his place,” Ron said, and Harry raised an eyebrow at the fact that it actually sounded like Ron was defending a Carrow.

“That was the demon,” the shifter said. “Sold his soul, didn’t he? Idiot. She’s the one that thought up how it’d work. He didn’t want anyone to know he was gone, see. Figured once you knew, Harry Potter would catch him in no time – have the whole world under your thumb, don’t you Mr. Potter? So, she brings me in, and brings him out. And that’s her bit done. Then all he has to do is wait for that stupid potion to wear off so that he can use magic again, course, the bugger is impatient – so he goes ahead and uses demonic stuff out of the books he read to get a little revenge while he waits for the main event.”

“And what’s the main event? What’s so important that he has to sell his soul?” Harry asked.

“Destroy you, of course,” the shifter smiled, as though Amycus wasn’t the only idiot they were discussing. “Most of the people I’ve met in here would love to succeed where the Dark Lord failed – or just get their revenge on you. Destroy you. Leave you with nothing, like you’ve left them.”

“They did it to themselves,” Harry said on reflex. 

“How’s he going to destroy Harry?” Ron asked.

“Same way, you bastards are planning to kill me – he’ll go for the heart,” the shifter rolled his eyes. “Though, in your case, I think he means it poetically.”

Harry felt the blood chill in his veins. 

“He’s going to go after my family?” Harry asked.

“I’ve told you everything I know,” the shifter said. “Now let me go.”

Harry surged forward and grabbed the shifter by the shirt.

“IS HE GOING TO GO AFTER MY FAMILY?!” Harry yelled. 

“It would destroy you, wouldn’t it?” the shifter smiled. Suddenly the shifter twisted, and Harry and the two guards who had been holding the shifter were left with handfuls of clothing that was slowly melting into fleshy goo, while a half-formed man made up of shifting musculature sprinted across the court yard, dodging hexes, and then dove over a low stone wall and plunged into the North Sea.

The guards and Harry all quickly dropped the remnants of the shifters body, stepping back and muttering cleaning charms on their hands.

“Damn it!” Harry said. “He shifted the damn clothes too – why didn’t we think of that.”

“Poor bastard,” Ron said. “Even if he manages to steal one of our boats, the Dementors will get him.”

“I’ll feel sorry for the Shifter later, Ron,” Harry said. “Right now I think I have more important things to think about, like for instance, how long do we have before the magic-suppressing potion wears off of Amycus? And how the hell does he think he’s going to get near me or my family?”

“Sir,” the head of the prison said, looking pale. “The prisoners are made to drink the potion the first of January, April, and September. Assuming the prisoner was present for the September dosage, the potion should be wearing off... um... any day now.”

Harry made sure to breathe. He counted to eight, because he felt it was a nice looking number to count to. He decided to give Ron his orders first, though, judging by the way Ron was already flipping open his mirror, he probably knew what was coming.

“Ron, I’m going home to my family. Order the Auror’s accordingly,” He said evenly, then he turned to the head of the prison. “I want a full inquiry. I want Muggle witchcraft books removed from the library. I expect a full report of new security measures on my desk by Monday. I want you to lift the anti-apparation jinx in one minute for approximately one minute.”

Ron opened his communicator to send a message to all teams and the head office, as the head of the prison started muttering under his breath and moving his wand carefully in the air.

“Code Harry,” Ron said. “I’ll be issuing further orders in-“

“Ron,” Harry suddenly said, interrupting. “Get Sam and Dean too. Send them to my house.”

“-I’ll be issuing further orders in fifteen minutes.” Ron finished, after he gave Harry a nod. “Where are they?”

“Malfoy’s,” Harry said. “If they’re not there, then they’re on the road, and you’ll have to find them by broom.”

“Right, I better hope I catch them then,” Ron said.

“The anti-apparation charm has been lifted, Sir,” the head of the prison said. “You have approximately one minute.”

“See you soon, Harry,” Ron said. “Give Ginny and the kids my love.”

Harry nodded, and they both turned – twisting through space towards different destinations.

*

Ron arrived just outside the gates of Malfoy Manor, a rush of relief flooded him upon seeing the huge black American car parked neatly outside. He put his hand on the wrought iron gate – solid. Well, it’s not like he expected any different. Malfoy couldn’t set foot on Ron’s property either. Ron peered onto the property, and spotted Dean and Sam standing at the coach house doors with Malfoy and his wife, and a man in a trench coat that could only be the angel Castiel. Harry had told Ron this morning on the long boat trip to Azkaban just how unnerving it had been to have an angel over for breakfast.

“Dean! Sam!” Ron called out, and watched as their heads swivelled towards him. He beckoned them over and they came, Malfoy walking sedately behind, and the angel – the angel appeared right beside Ron and looking at him intently.

“Melin...” Ron muttered, looking sideways at the angel as the Winchesters reached him, passing through the gate like it was so much smoke.

“Castiel,” the angel replied. 

“Uh, right, sorry,” Ron said.

“What’s going on?” Dean asked, him and Sam coming to a stop and looking at him in concern.

“We’ve got a problem,” Ron said, and held out the book, knowing that Dean would recognize it right away. 

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Dean said.

“Who had it?” Sam asked. “Were they the ones who put the runes up?”

Ron’s eyes slide over to behind, Sam and Dean. Malfoy was just now reaching them.

“Malfoy,” Ron greeted, trying to be polite.

“Weasley,” Malfoy replied, the look of uncomfortable wariness on his face that he had worn since the war.

“Ron,” Sam said, breaking the awkward silence, but looking between Ron and Malfoy with a frown. “Was the person who had this book responsible for the runes? Did you catch them? Draco probably has a right to know too, if this is a confidentiality issue or something...”

Ron frowned at that. Not because Sam didn’t have a point, there was a confidentiality issue, but if Malfoy was a target – or could possibly be a target, he probably had a right to know who was coming for him. That being said, the slimy git might just help Carrow in the hopes of saving his own skin... but, then again, Harry always insisted that Malfoy had learned his lesson.

“I um, suppose Sam’s right,” Ron said, and turned to Malfoy. “This isn’t to leave this... pavement, um, gateway... but, there’s been an escape from Azkaban.”

“Who?” Malfoy asked, noticeably paling further, as though that were possible.

“Amycus Carrow,” Ron said.

“How?” Malfoy asked. 

“With this,” Ron held up the book again. “It’s Muggle witchcraft. It appears as though he used it to summon a demon, in order to make a deal for his freedom. The magic suppressing potion in Azkaban doesn’t work on demon-magic. Apparently, we wrongfully assumed no self-respecting wizard would stoop to such disgusting measures.”

Castiel reached over and took the book from Ron’s hands. Ron was a bit startled, but Sam gave him a smile and shrug, which basically told him that the angel was not known for being overly polite.

“And he... was here, at my house?” Malfoy asked. “He carved those things into my wall. He’s out to get revenge on me for betraying the Dar- um, Voldemort?”

“Yes,” Ron said. “Well, no... that was just, well, we’re not sure. According to our source, it was something to do while he waited.”

“Waited for what?” Dean asked.

“The prisoners are given a potion three times a year,” Ron explained. “It suppresses all magical abilities for four and a half months. Apparently, he didn’t want to attack his real target until he was at full strength. This... demonic rune plan, it was just something to pass the time with – to get revenge on blood-traitors as well.”

“Who or what is his intended target then?” Malfoy asked. 

“Three guesses,” Ron sighed. “And it’s not me or Hermione.”

Malfoy nodded. After the well publicized threats shouted at Harry during the war trails, this really wasn’t a surprise for any of them. The only surprise was the method with which Carrow was going about it.

Sam and Dean were looking back and forth between them, obviously missing information. Ron would have to debrief them once they were back at Harry’s. 

“It’s the children you need to protect,” Malfoy said. “He’ll go after Harry’s children first.”

“How do you-"

“It’s what he always used to tell us in class, when he made us... practice,” Malfoy explained, looking vaguely sick. “When he made us practice on the younger students, he’d tell us that it was to ‘get over our stupid morals, because in the art of... in the art of torture, there’s no better way to break someone than to use their children.’”

“Who the hell was this guy?” Dean asked, now looking as sick as Malfoy.

“I’ll um, tell you later, okay?” Ron said. “He’s no one good, as you’ve probably picked up by now.” Wanting, for some odd reason, to put Malfoy at ease, Ron focused his attention back on the pale blonde. “Harry’s already gone to round up Ginny and the kids, and keep them safe at home. Like I said, I don’t think Carrow has any interest in you anymore, but just in case, maybe you and your family should enjoy a nice weekend on the grounds of the Manor. I’ll, um, I’ll let you know as soon as we catch him. And if you see or hear anything – you know how to get in touch with us.”

Malfoy nodded, then turned slightly to look back at the coach house, where Astoria stood with Scorpius on her hip, watching from a distance in concern. Malfoy waved, and Scorpius happily waved back, but Astoria did not look comforted.

“Come on, Sam, Dean... uh, Castiel,” Ron said. “Harry wants you back at his place.”

“Right,” Dean said. “You can tell us more on the way.” He pulled out his car keys and moved towards the Impala. “Uh, take care, Drake.”

“You too,” Malfoy replied, and Ron never thought he’d see the day that Malfoy actually let someone get away with calling him a nickname without even making a face at it.

“Tell Astoria we’re sorry for not being able to come in for that tea after all,” Sam said. “And tell Scorpius... um, bye for me?”

“I will,” Malfoy replied. Sam smiled and both Winchesters got into the Impala.

“Castiel?” Ron asked, the angel only then looking up from the witchcraft book he was still flipping through. “Do you want to travel back to Harry’s by portkey or on your own?”

In response, there was a brief flicker of a shadow behind the angel, and then he was gone.

“Okay,” Ron said, at least taking comfort in the fact that Malfoy looked as uncomfortable as Ron felt. “Um, see you, Malfoy.”

“Weasley,” Malfoy said, giving Ron a nod.

With that, Ron touched his wand to the bonnet of Dean’s car, vaguely hearing Dean exclaim something through the glass.

Portus,” Ron said, placing his other hand flat on the cold steel, and leaving Draco Malfoy standing outside his enchanted gates alone.

Chapter Text

Castiel arrived first. Ginny was setting Albus and James up in the kitchen with crayons and parchment. The poor boys had both been woken up from their nap at the playgroup, and Ginny just knew she was going to pay for that later. Still, she couldn’t argue with the fact that she much preferred to have her children with her when things like this happened. The Auror team that she could hear Harry debriefing in the other room helped too.  When the angel in the trench coat suddenly appeared right beside her, she felt a sliver of relief, even if she did almost hit him with a stunner again out of reflex.

“My apologies,” Castiel said, wincing as he had done the first time he had arrived.

“That’s okay,” Ginny said. “Though, maybe if you used the front door, the wards wouldn’t hurt you as much.”

“Cassy!” James greeted. 

“Samdean?” Albus asked.

“They will be along shortly,” Castiel answered. “I must speak with your father, excuse me.”

Castiel walked out of the room, his trench coat billowing behind him – and Ginny realized it was the first time she had seen him walk anywhere. She quickly moved towards the door of the kitchen, to eavesdrop on the Auror meeting currently being held in the living room. Harry only allowed a select few Aurors to know his address.

“It’s okay stand down,” Harry was saying. “He’s a friend. He uh... works under Sam and Dean – He’s a... specialist.”

“Harry,” Castiel said. “Amycus Carrow may still be able to sum-“

“I’m just saying that a little WARNING would have been nice!” Dean’s voice interrupted as Sam, Dean, and Ron spilled in through the front door. “You don’t just send a man’s wheels careening through space and time without letting him know first! What if she had been running! Who knows what that might have done to her!”

“I’m sorry,” Ron said. “I thought it was clear that we were in a rush. I didn’t mean to-“

“Harry, where the hell are your kids?” Dean asked.

“The kitch-" Harry’s voice came from the living room, but he was cut off by two small bodies running past Ginny and into the foyer.

“Here we are!” James said.

“Guys, I told you to-" Harry started.

“Lily is sleeping!” Albus declared.

“Not for long at this rate,” Ginny muttered to herself.

“Hey guys!” Dean said. “You staying out of trouble?”

“We’re drawing! Come see!” James answered.

“In a minute,” Dean said. “We gotta talk to your daddy first.”

Ginny stepped forward, and called the boys back to her, as Harry dismissed his team to take up their positions. Ginny was sure to keep the kitchen door open.

As she parked Albus back in his chair in the kitchen, she could hear Ron checking in with Hermione, while Castiel talked about what pages had been ripped from some book, and the fact that one of them could be a summoning ritual. Finally, Ginny got tired of not being included in the conversation. After all, she had more personal experience with Amycus Carrow than Ron and Harry put together. 

*

“So, fill us in, who is this Carrow guy?” Dean asked, sitting himself down on the couch. “Malfoy seemed to have personal experience with him-“

“Well, he would wouldn’t he,” Ron started to say.

“So do I,” Ginny’s voice suddenly added in, as she appeared in the room with James and Albus walking obediently in front of her, their drawing supplies clutched in little hands. Ginny waved the boys over to their usual play area. “So don’t go bad mouthing Malfoy unless you’re talking about his father.”

“Gin, the boys-" Harry started to say. Ginny waved her wand in the air, and Dean felt the hairs on the back of his neck prickle.

“Won’t hear a word now that I’ve muffled this half of the room,” Ginny said. “Now, it may have been under different circumstances than Malfoy, but I believe out of everyone here, I’ve spent the most time with Amycus Carrow, and seeing as how he’s after my husband, I feel like as though I should be included in this little meeting, wouldn’t you agree?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Dean said, surprising himself.

“Good,” Ginny said. She sat down between Harry and Ron on the couch facing Sam and Dean. Castiel stood stiffly off to the side. “Now, Sam, Dean - Amycus Carrow was a Death Eater, and also a teacher at Hogwarts during the year that Voldemort was in power, which is why both Malfoy and myself are acquainted with him.”

“What did he teach?” Sam asked. 

“The Dark Arts,” Harry answered. 

“Is that what it sounds like?” Dean asked. “I thought you said they don’t teach that sort of stuff at Hogwarts. I mean, weren’t we there teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts? Why would they-"

“They don’t teach it,” Ron said. “Only that year – only under Voldemort.”

“His specialty was torture,” Ginny continued. “Before the war, Harry broke up with me in the hopes that it’d stop them from trying to use me to get to him – it didn’t work. I had sessions with Amycus, as he tried to get me to tell him where Harry was, what he was doing. In class, his favourite lessons were the ones where he had the students practice their torture techniques on each other.”

“Malfoy said he’d go after Harry’s kids,” Dean said. Ginny nodded.

“Anyone you love is a point of weakness – something that can be used against you,” Ginny said. “And children’s screams can affect even strangers, if they’re still in possession of their soul in any case. To love is to invite your own destruction.”

Dean nodded. These were all things he had heard before, in a different place – for years.

“Ginny, stop now,” Harry said.

“He can handle it,” Ginny said, and Dean didn’t quite know what she meant, until he saw the concerned look Sam was giving him.

“Maybe,” Harry said, “but I can’t.”

Dean looked away as Harry reached over and carefully picked up Ginny’s hand, and kissed it gently.

“So, you’ve got the teams outside,” Sam said to Ron. “And I heard you send a team to your own house-”

“Yeah,” Ron cleared his throat. “We’ve got a protocol for this type of situation – Harry and I, we’re the most in the public eye, and my family was heavily involved in the war. We receive the most threats against us from former death eaters and Voldemort sympathizers. So, when this happens, Hermione or I barricade ourselves in our house with a full Auror team outside. Harry does the same. We also send a team out to watch over my parents, and sometimes my siblings. The rest of the Aurors are off poking at our snitches and gathering information. In this case, actually trying to find Carrow is the priority. So a lot of our best men are off doing that. This is usually the part where we try to convince Harry to stay here, but he insists on going out in the field and tracking down Carrow himself.”

“And who do you have at Hogwarts?” Dean asked.

“Hogwarts?” Harry repeated, “No one. Why?”

“You don’t have anyone up at Hogwarts?” Sam asked again.

“No, Hogwarts is safe,” Ron said. “It’s warded to the gills, and Ernie and Neville are both there, and Carrow is after Harry anyway, so-"

“Listen, maybe me and Sam don’t usually deal with humans, but ghosts were all once human, and we know ghosts really well,” Dean explained. “And if we had a ghost who targets children and used to teach at a school, well, that’d be where we’d figure on finding it.”

“Yes, but Harry is the target,” Ron said.

“And the guy works through children,” Sam said.

“Exactly, he-" Harry started.

“Harry, man, not all your children are here,” Dean said.

Dean watched with no measure of satisfaction as all the blood seemed to drain from Harry’s face.

“But Hogwarts is safe,” Ron said, though the conviction was gone from his voice.

“Like it was while we were there?” Harry snapped, jumping to his feet. 

Dean got to his feet, and nodded to Sam, who nodded back. They had the knife, and rosaries. They didn’t have any holy water, but hopefully there’d be time to make some when they got there. Castiel looked concerned, but Dean didn’t have a chance to ask him why, because at that point James and Albus realized something was horribly wrong and came running over to their mother. 

“Neville?!” Harry was shouting into his mirror, but he didn’t seem to be getting an answer. Albus was looking at his father with wide watery eyes.

“Calm down, Harry,” Dean said. “You’re freaking out the kids”

“The map,” Harry said to Ron. “The map is in the study”

Ron disapparated.

“Try the coin, Harry,” Ginny said, hugging James tightly to her side. 

“Right, the coin,” Harry was patting his pockets, then finally produced a small pouch. He pulled out a small gold coin, and then touched his wand to it. Nothing happened. Harry didn’t seem surprised though, so Dean figured maybe nothing was meant to happen.

Ron appeared then with a ratty looking folded piece of paper, which he laid on the coffee table.

“I solemnly swear that I am up to no good,” Harry said, touching his wand to the paper. 

“Uh, something you want to tell us, Harry,” Sam said.

“It’s how it works... my Dad - and Teddy’s dad - they made it,” Harry said. “It’s Hogwarts.”

Dean watched in fascination as ink slowly spread across the paper, revealing what looked like a floor plan – little dots with small flags on them moved slowly throughout the building.

“Wow,” James whispered, leaning over from where he sat with Albus on their mother’s lap.

“Look for Teddy,” Harry said. “It’s Friday, at... two in the afternoon. He... would have class. What class? Goddamn it, why didn’t I ask for his schedule!”

Dean and Sam both knelt next to the coffee table. Dean didn’t know much about the layout of Hogwarts, even after having been there; so, he just started reading names wherever people were gathered, figuring they must be the students in their classrooms.

“McGonagall’s in her office,” Ron said. “I’m going to go floo-call her from the kitchen.”

“He’s not in Ernie’s classroom,” Harry said, disappointed. 

“They had all day DADA yesterday,” Ginny said. “It would have messed up the schedules for the week. They would have some of their classes changed. I don’t think anyone would have class with Ernie today.”

“Ernie is in the library,” Sam said, pointing to the name.

“Go tell Ron to tell McGonagall that Ernie’s in the library!” Harry commanded, and Sam leapt up and left the room.

Dean was starting to go cross-eyed from reading the little labels, so he decided that maybe he should look outside the building, to see if there was a label on its own that said  ‘Sonofabitch lying in wait to hurt innocent kids’  or something equally useful. Instead, he found another clump of children. This time, with names he recognized.

“I found him,” Dean said. “But what the hell is he doing in the woods?”

“What?” Harry said. Dean pointed to the clump of labels at the very edge of the map, deep in a large section of the map labelled ‘ The Forbidden Forest ’. The clump of students were slowly moving back towards the castle, all being lead by a label that read ‘ Neville Longbottom.

“Oh, I found Neville too,” Dean said. “He’s already with him.”

“Bloody hell, it’s the winter harvest,” Harry said.

“The what?” Dean asked, just as both Ron and Sam re-entered the room.

“Certain plants need to be harvested in the middle of winter in order to be potent,” Ron explained. “According to McGonagall, Neville’s got his class out collecting. She’s gone to tell Ernie to be on alert, but Neville shouldn’t be back until the end of class.”

“He’s headed back now,” Harry said. “He must have the coin on him.”

“Good,” Ron said. 

“No, it is not good,” Castiel suddenly said. Dean nearly jumped out of his skin, because he hadn’t realized that Castiel had been nearly plastered to Dean’s back for the past who-knows-how-long, in order to look over his shoulder at the map. Castiel reached over Dean’s shoulder, and pointed at another label, also traveling through the woods, but on an intercept course with Neville and his clump of students – Amycus Carrow.

“Let’s go!” Harry said, and before either Sam or Dean could react, Harry’s hand clamped down on Sam’s arm and Dean watched as his brother and the wizard disappeared right in front of him.

“Son of a bitch!” Dean said. “He can’t-"

“I guess you two are with me” Ron said, and Dean felt a hand on his elbow, and he only had a second to glimpse Castiel’s startled expression before they were pulled into the tight darkness.

*

Harry steadied Sam as they apparated in front of the gates to Hogwarts. Even through his spiked adrenaline, and fear for Teddy, Harry had noted the difference when apparating with Sam. Last year, he would have noted it because it was remarkable, this year – it was because it was not.

“That was normal,” Harry said.

“What?” Sam said, confused for probably multiple reasons.

Before Harry could answer, Ron arrived with Dean and, surprisingly, Castiel. Harry had assumed Castiel would travel on his own, and it seemed Castiel had assumed that too, if the expression on his face was anything to go by.

“Sam? Are you ok?” Dean asked, even though Dean looked a little green himself.

“He didn’t pull at all,” Harry said. “It was just like apparating a normal person, I don’t-“

“Oh,” Dean said. “Then it was just the-, right... that’s good then. Hey, Cas? You ok?”

“Yes,” Castiel said.

Harry didn’t understand what could have possibly changed or why the Winchesters suddenly seemed to be having a silent conversation with their eyes and shoulders.

“Come on,” Harry said. “If you’ve all recovered, we’ve got to run – you can’t apparate on the grounds of Hogwarts.”

“I could go ahead,” Castiel said. 

“No,” Harry replied, “Neville doesn’t know you, neither does Teddy, you’d only confuse them.”

“I could tell them I’m an angel of the Lord,” Castiel replied.

“Just run with us, Cas,” Dean said. 

“Fine,” Castiel replied.

They took off through the gates, Harry ran off the path in what he hoped was a straight line towards Neville’s approximate location in the Forbidden Forest. He sent a snow clearing charms ahead of them, to ease their way through the various snow drifts that filled the forest. He could hear Ron yelling orders into his mirror, as he took up the rear of the group. “Target is at Hogwarts, inform the Headmistress that Harry Potter already has a team taking up position. Possible student hostages, proceed with caution.” Harry tried not to think of that last part. He had wanted better for Teddy – he had wanted Teddy to never know fear like he had. He tried not to think of how he had left Ginny to deal with James and Albus, who had heard all of that last part of their conversation – who were no doubt terrified for their big brother. Harry was as rubbish a father.

Then suddenly, sitting directly in their path, Harry saw a silver boar. He stopped running and held up his hand, the others coming to a stop immediately behind him.

“Whose?” Dean asked, just as the boar turned, and calmly started walking away.

“Ernie,” Harry said. “We’re close, everyone quiet – we still have surprise working to our advantage.”

Slowly, they all followed the boar, Harry’s nerves wanting him to run blindly forward instead – just run up to Carrow and give him anything he wanted, just as long as he left Teddy alone – but if he played his cards right, they could possibly catch Carrow without anyone getting hurt.

Finally, they rounded a copse of trees to find Ernie lying on his stomach near the top of a small hill. They could hear voices, from whatever lay beyond the hill. Ernie turned sharply at the sound of their approaching footsteps, and the boar vanished. Ernie beckoned them up, so Harry quickly dropped to his knees and crawled up beside him. The others followed, though the angel looked confused about it. Ernie gave Castiel a curious look, but Harry just gave him a nod, and that seemed to be enough to set Ernie at ease.

“Neville’s been keeping him talking,” Ernie said softly. “Most of the kids aren’t sure what’s going on, but they know it’s not good. Teddy’s been keeping his form still – I think he knows he’s the target.”

Harry pulled himself to the top of the hill and peered over. Sure enough, Neville stood in front of his small class – about nine boys and ten girls, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw – his wand at the ready. Ten feet in front of them stood Amycus Carrow in a black robe, his wand also held out – and a slight shimmer of light encasing him. Neville and the class had almost made it back. Beyond Carrow, Harry could see Hogwarts looming on the hill, only the rounded curve of the lake and an open field separated them from the safety of the castle walls.

“Just give me what I want Longbottom,” Carrow said.

“No,” Neville replied. 

“Cas?” Sam said softly. “You think you could zap you and me behind those trees over there?” Sam pointed across clearing to a copse of trees that would shield him from Carrows view, but put him close to the students.

“Yes,” Castiel said.

“You can’t apparate-" Ernie started to say, but before he could finish, Castiel reached over and touched Sam gently on the arm, and they were gone. “How did-...what-"

“Not important,” Harry said, focusing his attention across the clearing where he could see Sam and Cas had successfully reached their destination.

“I could just kill you,” Carrow said, so far oblivious to what was going on around him, “it would make this so much easier. Is that what you’d like Longbottom?”

“You won’t,” Neville said. “If you wanted to, or maybe if you could, you would have done so already – surrender Amycus, it’s really in your best interest.”

“Why doesn’t Neville just throw some goddamn magic at him?” Dean asked Harry. “For that matter, why aren’t you guys?”

“You see that subtle bit of shimmering light around Carrow? That’s a form of magical protection. Also, once someone starts firing, the children could get caught in the crossfire,” Harry said. “Neville needs to be ready to throw up shield charms. If he attacks, he’s leaving his defenses open. The children are too young to defend themselves against someone as strong as Carrow.”

Harry watched as Dean pulled out a silver handgun.

“I could peg him off right now,” Dean said, “easy. I bet his protection is just for magic.”

“You really want to blow a man’s brains out in front of twenty twelve-year-olds?” Harry asked. 

“It’s better than that sick fuck hurting them,” Dean argued. Below them, Carrow continued to tease Neville about never learning his lesson, Harry could only listen with half an ear, as he signalled Ron that he was going to circle round and find Sam, then they’d have Carrow flanked by wizards and Hunters. He knew Sam was up to something, and he wished the younger Winchester had told him what it was before he disappeared. 

“I saw plenty of things get their heads blown off as a kid, and I turned out okay!” Dean pressed.

“Dean,” Harry said.

“Yeah, okay, I see your point,” Dean conceded. 

“I’m going to go find your brother, you stay here,” Harry said. “If he tries to lay a finger on Teddy, you shoot him... to hell with the emotional consequences.”

“Yes, sir,” Dean said.

*

It only took a second for Sam to reorient himself once Cas transported him. 

“I could just kill you,” Carrow said to Neville, and Sam knew that so far he hadn’t been seen. While Carrow continued talking, Sam made a small snow ball and lobbed it close to the ground towards the nearest Ravenclaw girl. She jumped when it hit her shoe, and looked towards him. He quickly put his finger to his mouth to tell her to keep quiet, and then beckoned her over.

“You won’t,” Sam could hear Neville say, as the girl darted a glance towards where the two adults stood and inched two steps closer to Sam. “If you wanted to, or maybe if you could, you would have done so already – surrender Amycus, it’s really in your best interest.” Carrow started to laugh, and the girl darted behind the trees to join Sam.

“Hey, hey,” Sam said. “Emily, right?” 

The girl nodded. She had been one of the younger students helping him in the library the night before. 

“Alright, listen Emily,” Sam said. “This is my friend Castiel. He can send you guys to the castle where you’ll be safe, but you need to tell the others about him. Alright? I need you to tell them that the man wearing the trench coat is a friend and they need to trust him. If I tell you guys to run, I need you to run this direction, okay? I need you to run to Castiel.”

“But, how?” Emily asked. “You can’t apparate on school grounds, and Professor Longbottom told us to stay calm and not to move.”

“Castiel knows special magic, okay, Emily?” Sam said. “You have to trust me on this. Now, can you pass the message on? Do you think you can go back to your friends without being seen?”

Emily nodded, giving one last look to Castiel, before moving to the edge of the thicket once again, and peaking out towards where Carrow and Neville still stood talking.

“I just want his beloved freak, Longbottom,” Carrow was saying. “We can solve this stalemate all the quicker if you just hand over the boy.”

“Do you honestly think I would do that?” Neville laughed. “You must have lost your mind in Azkaban, Amycus.”

“On the contrary, you fool...” Carrow said. Sam watched as Emily ducked and took the few steps needed to get back to her position at the back of the group of students. The girl next to her had already noticed her absence, and had been watching her and Sam talk. As Carrow continued talking, Sam watched as Emily whispered to her friend, and her friend gave Sam a nod, and turned to the person beside her.

Sam leaned back and turned to Castiel, who was staring at him with a weird expression on his face.

“This is kind of a dangerous message to pass by broken telephone,” Sam said. 

“I don’t understand, they have no phones,” Castiel responded.

“Just,” Sam shook his head. “When the shit starts hitting the fan, zap as many kids as you can back to the Castle, okay?”

Castiel nodded.

*

Teddy didn’t know what was going on. It had been a normal class, they had been doing winter harvesting for the past two weeks. Teddy loved it, because it meant that they were allowed to venture into the Forbidden Forest. He knew Neville kept them on a safe path and that they were far from Centaur territory, but it was still a little thrilling. Today though, Neville had suddenly stuttered halfway through his lecture on the acidic properties of conifers and turned his back on the class for a minute. When he turned back around, he announced that they had to return to the castle at once. The thrill of being in the Forbidden Forest suddenly swooped into a much different feeling in Teddy’s stomach. 

He had been so relieved when Hogwarts had finally come into view, just around the lake, but then a man in black dress robes had stepped out from behind a tree in front of the group of them. Teddy didn’t know who he was, but he found himself go still on reflex. He knew without asking his friends that his hair and eyes were mousy brown, because that’s what Harry had taught him to do around strangers since he was little – be so unremarkable that looking at Teddy made them bored. 

“Stay calm, don’t move, and let me handle this,” Neville said to the class in a hushed voice, before turning back towards the man.

“Hello, Longbottom,” the man said. “I see you still have a souvenir from our time together.” The man gestured to his cheek – a mirror to the scar that Teddy knew lay on Neville’s face.

“Amycus,” Neville said. Teddy watched as Neville’s wand appeared in his hand.

“That’s Professor Carrow to you, Longbottom, or do I need to teach you yet another lesson in respect,” the man, Carrow, said. Teddy recognized the name, and fought to keep his hair still as his stomach dropped. Carrow was the name of two death eaters, siblings, during the war. They were supposed to be in Azkaban. Teddy needed to get a message to Harry. This was very bad. 

“You’re welcome to try, Amycus,” Neville said. “Just allow the children to pass unharmed and you can try to teach me whatever lesson you like.”

“Sorry, Longbottom,” Carrow replied. “But it’s actually one of the children I’ve come for, though, I must say, the offer to hear your screams again is tempting.”

Teddy felt his blood run cold. He heard the nervous whispers and gasps of his friends, but he couldn’t join in – it was taking all his concentration to keep his hair still, to not show his fear. He needed to be strong for his friends, he needed to make sure nothing bad happened to any of them. The best way to do that was to remain so unremarkable that Carrow wouldn’t notice him – maybe if he was boring enough, he could slip away and run and get Professor McGonagall to call Harry. He knew Harry would come right away. 

He felt Iggy step closer to him. Maybe he was scared. Teddy tried to give him a reassuring look, but it didn’t seem to help. Then Nate moved closer to him too, and Teddy thought that was odd, since Nate was better friends with Penelope, and surely he would take better comfort in her presence than Teddy’s – but then, Penelope was towards the back of the group with her friends in Ravenclaw, so maybe Teddy was just closer.

While Neville and Carrow talked, Teddy tried to think of a plan. Neville had told them to stay calm and not move, so that was a good plan, but Teddy thought he needed another plan in case he had to move – in case he had to protect one of his friends. Professor MacMillan had taught them the protego spell and Teddy was pretty quick with it, but Professor MacMillan had also said that their spell casting wasn’t as strong as an adult wizards. Teddy knew the chances were good that the spell would only slightly lessen the blow of an offensive attack, but not prevent it completely. Still, maybe it would be enough. If he knew who Carrow was going after, he could move closer to that person slowly.

The problem was, Teddy couldn’t figure out what Carrow could possible want from any one of them. Teddy didn’t know everyone as well as he knew Iggy and Andy, but as far as he knew, no one’s parents had a particular history with Carrow. Teddy wondered if maybe Carrow was after someone like Andy, who was muggleborn – the Death Eaters had hated the muggleborns. But why would Carrow break out of prison just to attack a kid he had never met before? And why Andrew, when there were plenty of muggleborn wizards to choose from? Teddy couldn’t figure it out.

Then suddenly, almost against his will, Teddy’s attention was pulled back to the conversation between Carrow and Neville, because he suddenly realized who Carrow was after.

“I just want his beloved freak, Longbottom.”

It was him. There was a Death Eater after him – Teddy Lupin. Teddy had been so focused on trying to figure out everyone else’s connection to Carrow, he hadn’t even considered that his parents had died in the battle that had won the war. He hadn’t considered that his godfather was the head of the Auror Department, the Saviour of the Wizarding World, and the man that had sat in on every single trial after the war was over. To Teddy, Harry was just Harry, but to everyone else he was so much more - a ‘symbol’ his Gran had explained to Teddy once. Harry was a symbol and Teddy... Teddy was his beloved freak.

“Keep still,” Nate whispered beside him, and Teddy refocused, willing his hair and eyes to remain brown and boring. Brown and boring so that eyes just slid away from him, never lingering – Harry had told him how Teddy’s mother had always been able to hide in plain sight and that’s what Teddy needed to do now. Make Carrow believe he had skipped lessons today – or that Carrow had the wrong class altogether.

“You must have lost your mind in Azkaban, Amycus,” Neville was saying. Then Carrow laughed.

“On the contrary, you fool,” Carrow said. “I gained far more than I lost. It’s amazing, the books one can pick up at their local library. I’m fighting with much stronger forces now – magic you’ve never even encountered. Now give me what I want.”

“No,” Neville said. “You’ll have to go through me and, I promise, you will lose. Now, let the children return to the castle, and we’ll settle this like men – in a duel, just the two of us.”

“Longbottom,” Carrow snickered. “You really think I’d come alone?”

Suddenly, Teddy was tapped on the shoulder, and he turned to Iggy who was glancing behind them in some confusion.

“What?” Teddy said, perhaps a little frantic.

“Sam says run back and trust the trench coat,” Iggy whispered.

“What?” Teddy said, in front of them, he could here Carrow saying something, but it sounded like a different language.

“Pass it on,” Iggy said.

Teddy nodded and turned to Nate, still trying to make sense of everything.

“Nate,” Teddy said, grasping Nate’s hand to get his attention. “Sam says run back and trust the trench coat.”

It was as he said the nonsense words to Nate that he realized what they really meant. They meant that Sam was here somewhere, and that meant that Dean was here too, which could only mean that Harry was here as well. Teddy felt a rush of relief.

“When?” Nate asked. Teddy shrugged. 

“Pass it on,” Teddy said, and smiled.

“Stay still,” Nate whispered back, and he squeezed Teddy’s hand, before he turned to the Ravenclaw girl next to him and whispered the message.

Suddenly there seemed to be a change in the air, and Teddy’s grip on Nathan’s hand tightened as a woman seemed to appear from nowhere.

“My being at your beck and call wasn’t part of our deal, Amycus,” the figure spoke, a lilting drawl to her words, as though she hadn’t a care in the world.

“Who-“ Neville started to say.

“But you did promise you’d help me get my revenge,” Carrow said. “Now tell me, which child is he?”

Teddy held his breath and tried to stay still, but the newcomer looked directly at him as though Teddy were wearing his name on his forehead.

“That one,” she pointed. “And you already have the audience you want. I think I might just stick around and watch the fun.”

Teddy watched in horror as the newcomers eyes turned completely black as she smiled. Teddy felt his hair go white from the roots to the tips, and then Carrow laughed and raised his wand at the same time as Neville.

“NOW!” a voice suddenly bellowed from behind them.

And then everything became chaos.

Chapter Text

*a minute or two earlier*

“Zap as many kids as you can back to the castle, okay?” Harry heard Sam say as he approached, low to the ground and behind the hedges, so that Carrow wouldn’t see him. Sam tensed when he saw Harry, and then relaxed.

“Sam, what are you doing?” Harry asked, coming to a stop beside Castiel.

“Emily from Ravenclaw is passing around a message for me,” Sam said, while Carrow gloated about something to Neville in the background. “Cas is going to make sure they get to the castle, once the fighting starts.”

“You could have told me-" Harry said.

“Shh!” Sam said, holding up a hand, and Harry fell quiet. “Shit,” Sam muttered peering around the edge of the thicket, Harry crawled over until he was practically on top of both Sam and Castiel, but he didn’t care – Carrow was speaking Latin.

“What’s he doing?” Harry asked, gripping his wand tightly.

“Summoning,” Sam said, just as Carrow finished. “Dean has the knife – he’ll kill it, don’t worry.”

“But who will it be inside? Can’t you pull it out like you did last year? The host will die otherwise!” Harry said. He knew Dean had some sort of rule against Sam using his powers, but certainly saving someone’s life was worth breaking a rule.

A woman appeared just behind Amycus, dressed plainly – probably a muggle.

“I can’t,” Sam said, looking at Harry with an odd mix of sadness and fear. “I can’t do that anymore. Things have... changed.” Then Sam turned with a hopeful look towards Castiel, “Cas! You can-"

“No,” Castiel said, and looked down, though his jaw suddenly had an angry set to to. “I tried with the one you call Meg... but I... no longer have the ability.”

Harry watched as Sam gave Castiel a sympathetic look.

“Sucks, doesn’t it?” Sam said, Castiel looked up at Sam, but before he could say anything, the demon spoke.

“My being at your beck and call wasn’t part of our deal, Amycus.” 

“Who-" Neville started to say.

“But you did promise you’d help me get my revenge,” Carrow said. “Now tell me, which child is he?”

Harry felt his heart seize. Sam and Castiel both shifted beside him, as though a command had been issued. 

“Please don’t know, please...” Harry whispered.

“That one,” the demon pointed right at Teddy. “And you already have the audience you want. I think I might just stick around and watch the fun.”

Harry watched in horror as Teddy’s hair turned faster than he had ever seen it turn before, and Amycus raised his wand. Before Harry could process the movement, Sam was standing and running out from behind the thicket.

“NOW!” Sam yelled, and suddenly all the children were running towards them.

There was a flash of light from where Amycus’ spell hit one of Neville’s protective shields, and Harry caught sight of Dean launching himself into the clearing brandishing a long silver knife and heading right for the demon. As children ran towards him, Castiel was moving through them, whenever he touched them, they’d disappear. Harry only had eyes for Teddy though, as he fought through the surge of children to reach where he could see Teddy and his friends. Sam seemed to have Teddy as a destination too.

Ernie and Ron had entered the battle as well – Ron running behind Dean, trying to draw a devils trap in the snow beneath the demon’s feet. Then Dean went flying through the air, lying in a pile some yards off. The ground seemed to split as the demon laughed – the half-completed devils trap ruined by a fissure through the packed snow. Ernie tried to hit Amycus with something, but he was protected by the magical shield, and then the demon was throwing Ernie too. 

“Cas, Dean!” Sam yelled, and Cas disappeared only to reappear next to the eldest Winchester, who was getting to his feet. “Run and hide!” Sam yelled at the remaining kids.

Neville fired a hex at Amycus, and it seemed to be the opening Amycus needed, because he managed to hit Neville with a spell that knocked him backwards momentarily, and Harry was almost there – almost close enough to throw up a shield around Teddy, and then he was being slammed backwards into a tree by an unseen force. And that’s when he heard it,

CRUCIO!

“NO!”

*

*A Few Seconds Before*

Sam hadn’t thought this part through, because having twenty kids rushing towards you made it very hard to move forward without hurting them, but he could see Teddy towards the back – what had been the front –of the group of children. Nate seemed to have him by the hand and be pulling him along, towards Sam and Castiel. Iggy was beside them, his wand out, glancing back at where Amycus and Neville were fighting. Andrew seemed to be pushing his way both towards Castiel, and towards Teddy, as though he weren’t sure which destination were more important. 

Then Sam saw his brother go flying, and the ground seemed to shake a little. The demon was laughing. He made a quick decision, and with two words told Castiel to go help Dean – evacuating the children was taking too long, and Carrow was only interested in Teddy anyway, as long as Sam could reach Teddy – protect him, the other kids could just run and hide in the woods. Cas nodded and disappeared, and Sam yelled at the remaining kids to run and hide. Then Ernie was thrown too, and all of a sudden Neville was down, and then Harry was slammed into a tree and seemed to be stuck there. Thankfully, Sam was almost there, one more step and he could grab Teddy and carry him away.

CRUCIO!” Amycus said, and pointed his wand right at Teddy’s back.

“NO!” Sam yelled, and without thinking, leaped between Amycus and Teddy, the full force of whatever spell Amycus had just used hitting him.

*

*30 seconds before*

Dean had gotten distracted - Ron had been whispering their location into the mirror, and Ernie had been trying to question Dean about what Sam was doing (and how the hell would Dean know what Sam was doing, besides the fact that it looked like he was playing some sort of weird game of broken telephone) - and Dean hadn’t clued in to the fact that Carrow had started a summoning until there was a demon.

“Shit,” Dean said, and he switched the gun for the knife, and then Ron was back asking what was going on. 

“Demon,” Dean said. “Ron, you’re with me. Ernie, you help Neville. Sam and Cas will protect the kids.”

Then the demon pointed right at Teddy, and Dean managed to catch Sam’s eye as Sam darted out behind the kids and yelled,

“NOW!” and that was as good an order as any for Dean. He threw himself down the hill into the clearing. The demon was surprised to see him, and that gave Dean a satisfied thrill, but unfortunately, the demon recovered too quickly. The next thing Dean knew, he was airborne, and fuck, but he hated the strong ones.

He didn’t think he blacked out, but sometimes it was hard to tell. The snow was cold. Thankfully, he was still gripping the knife.

“Dean,” Castiel said from right beside him. Dean quickly rolled onto his feet and turned back towards the battle, just in time to see the demon fling Harry onto the trunk of a tree and then hold him there.

Then someone was screaming. The screaming was nearly inhuman it was so loud. Dean’s heart seemed to recognize it before his brain did, because for a split second Dean couldn’t breathe. Sam. He was running back into the battle without even knowing where Sam was – who had done what to him – or whether he should be stabbing the demon or the wizard to make it stop. All he knew was that he was going to be stabbing someone.

“Stop it, you fool!” The demon yelled at Carrow. “He can’t give consent if he’s brain-dead!”

*

Sam was in pain. He was on the ground and he was in pain. So much pain. It felt like he had been lit on fire while being stabbed in every part of his body. It felt like he was seizing like he had in the panic room, only ten times worse. There wasn’t a single inch of him that wasn’t in excruciating pain. Distantly he could feel Teddy’s hands tugging on him – alternatively pulling on his clothing and then wrapping around him as though Teddy was trying to drag him away, but also keep him still. Teddy was yelling Sam’s name, but Sam could hardly hear him over his own screams.

*

Dean watched as Castiel beat him to Carrow. Castiel appeared right beside the wizard, and then punched him into a tree. Sam stopped screaming. 

Neville scrambled back to his feet and firing spells at Carrow, who was too dazed to block them. Dean switched targets to the demon. He approached more cautiously this time, not wanting to be thrown. Harry was still struggling against the invisible force that held him to the tree, but Dean saw Ernie getting up from where he had been thrown. 

Then Cas disappeared and reappeared by the lake, only few yards behind where the demon stood. Dean watched as he crouched down and touched the water, then nodded at Dean. 

*

Sam didn’t know how long it lasted, because every second felt like an eternity, but then just as suddenly as it had started, it was over.

“Sam, Sam?” Teddy was repeating. There were tears in his eyes and on his face and his hands were twisted in the collar off Sam’s shirt. Sam could see Nate, Iggy, and Andrew standing close by, all with their wands out, they were as pale and as frightened as Teddy looked. Sam could also hear Neville yelling curses, and he realized that Teddy and the kids were still in the middle of a battle – trying to protect him of all stupid things. Sam used the fact that Teddy was already straddling him to his advantage, and he quickly wrapped shaking arms around the boy and tucked him as close as possible while he rolled to his feet.

“Quick, let’s go,” Sam said, and ran with Teddy away from the sounds of fighting, until they were behind another thicket and a small hill. Sam quickly crouched down and set Teddy on the ground, looking him over for injuries. 

Sam’s head swam, as he realized that the unbearable pain he had just experienced had been a curse that had been aimed at Teddy – aimed at Teddy’s back. Sam was filled with so much rage, his vision actually greyed out a little at the sides.

“Are you okay?” Sam asked looking into Teddy’s worried brown eyes.

“Sam...” Teddy said. Sam looked at the other three boys.

“Is everyone alright?” Sam’s voice cracked, rough, and slightly painful. Sam wondered how long he had been screaming for.

“We’re fine,” Iggy said slowly.

“Are you okay?” Nate asked. “You’ve just been tortured, Sam.”

Sam had to think about it for a moment, his adrenaline was too high really. His head hurt and he kind of wanted to go home, but besides that, he was just a little shaky. 

“I’m okay,” Sam said, patting Teddy gently on the shoulders. He couldn’t believe anyone would aim a curse like that at a twelve year old. “You stay here. I have to go back and help.”

“No, Sam,” Teddy said, grabbing Sam’s arm, “Stay too! You don’t... you don’t look so good.”

Sam tried to smile reassuringly, as he gently removed Teddy’s hand from his arm. His head did kind of hurt, but Teddy was probably just reacting to his voice – there were worse things in the world than losing his voice.

“I’ll be fine,” Sam said. “Don’t worry. Just stay safe. I have to go help my brother and Harry, okay?”

“Okay,” Teddy said, but he didn’t seem convinced. It didn’t matter, just as long as he stayed out of harm’s way, Sam would be satisfied. 

Sam ran back to the clearing, the cold air hitting the warm skin at his neck. It seemed Teddy’s frantic efforts to help Sam had managed to tear the top part of his shirt open. Sam knew he’d have to fix it later, but right now the breeze actually felt refreshing, and Sam hoped it would help clear his dizzy head.

When he got to the clearing, he found that Neville had subdued Carrow. Well, Sam figured it was Neville – Carrow was wrapped head to toe in vines. He looked like a green mummy. They seemed to come up from beneath the snow. One of the branches worked as a makeshift gag, and the vines seemed to grow tighter the more Carrow struggled. Neville sat a little ways off, his wand focused on the mummified Carrow. He gave Sam a concerned look, but didn’t say anything, so Sam figured that the plant spell needed continued focus.

Dean, Castiel, Ron, and Ernie, were all facing the demon, which stood with its back to the lake in a defensive position. Harry was still struggling to pry himself off of the tree trunk – he looked rather desperate to do so. When Harry’s eyes met his, Sam gave him the “okay” sign, in the hopes that Harry would calm down a bit. It seemed to work. 

“Sammy,” the demon purred. “We were just talking about you. About how I’m going to hand deliver your pretty ass to Lucifer and get my reward.”

“And I was telling her she was dreaming,” Dean said without taking his eyes off the demon.

“She is,” Sam agreed, his voice thankfully coming out strong. He took a step closer, out from under the shade of the trees and into the open field that led up to the Castle, and then his head throbbed and his vision swam a little.

“Oh, poor Sam – things not as easy for you as they used to be, are they?” the demon said. “You know, a little drink would clear that headache right up... plus, it’d make you nice and strong for Daddy.”

“Go to hell,” Sam ground out, wincing at the pain in his head.

“I got a better idea.” Dean tossed the knife from his right to his left hand and then back again.

“Please, I am thousands of years old, you really think that whittling knife is going to do the job?” the demon taunted.

“Still just another black-eyed son of a bitch,” Dean said. “Five against one sweetheart, and we’ve got an angel” 

“Please.” The demon laughed. “Some angel – from what I hear, he’s useless.”

“Oh, he’s useful enough,” Dean said. “Now!”

Sam watched as Ernie rushed forward on the demon’s left, the demon raised a hand and he flew backwards. Before Ernie had even landed, Dean was rushing forward as well on the demon’s right, the knife oddly held low instead of high. The demon quickly threw up her other hand and threw Dean back – and then Castiel tackled her from the front where she had left her defences wide open. Sam watched as Castiel slapped a hand over her mouth and ran her backwards the handful of steps to the edge of the lake, and then fell in to the shallow waters right on top of her.

The water around them started to steam and sizzle. Before Sam could even process that someone had blessed the lake, Ron was running forward, picking up the knife that Dean had dropped just before he had been thrown by the demon. Harry was finally dropped from the tree trunk as the demon writhed in agony under Castiel; its screams drowned out by his hand and the icy water. Castiel shifted to the side as Ron reached him, and then Ron plunged the knife into the demons chest. There was a tell tale flash of light from within the body, and then Ron pulled the knife out.

“Get her to the hospital wing,” Ron said. “Maybe she can be saved.”

Castiel and the body disappeared.

Sam smiled at Harry even though his head was pounding - they had done it.

“Where’s Teddy?” Harry asked. 

“In’a woods,” Sam said.

“Sam?” Harry said. “Are you okay? Your nose is bleeding.”

“Just a headache,” Sam said, his voice rough, but he brought his hand up and felt under his nose. Sure enough, his fingers came away red and sticky. His head really hurt, and something was wrong with his eyes. The world around him kept flickering oddly. Mainly though, he just wanted to go home. He really wanted to go home. It was a little better if he closed his eyes. His head still hurt and he still wanted to leave, but at least the world stopped swimming in and out of focus.

“SAM!?” 

Sam opened his eyes, because that was what he was always supposed to do when Dean yelled at him like that. It was a mistake though, because his headache was so much worse. Sam winced and felt his knees buckle. Dean’s hands were suddenly on his arms, trying to hold him up, but then Dean was just kneeling next to him in the snow.

“Sammy? What’s going on?” Dean said. “What happened?”

Sam tried to look at Dean, but something about the landscape behind him kept changing, so he slammed his eyes shut again.

“Sam?” Harry’s voice came, and Sam felt him kneel on the other side of him. “Are you hurt? Did you hit your head?”

Sam shook his head. It had just been pain, that was all. He may have accidentally hit Teddy while Teddy was trying to keep him still or move him or whatever, but he didn’t remember hitting anything with his head. 

“Is it a vision? You haven’t had one of those in years-” Dean asked, even as he started feeling around Sam’s scalp for bumps.

“No,” Sam said. “Dean, I just want to go home. Can we go home?”

“Yeah... yeah, Sammy,” Dean said. “Just, can you open your eyes for me? I just want to see if you have a concussion?”

Sam forced his eyes open again to find that now Neville was also kneeling next to him, looking more than a little terrified.

“How long was he under the cruciatus?” Neville asked.

“I don’t know,” Harry said. “A minute? Neville, it shouldn’t have been long enough to-" Harry cut himself off, but Sam could guess based on the worry written all over Neville’s kind face that there must be side-effects to the spell he was hit with. Still, it just made it all the better that he had taken that hit for Teddy. Though now that Teddy was safe, Sam thought maybe he and Dean deserved to go home.

“Sam, over here, look at me,” Dean said, putting his hands on Sam’s face and turning it in his direction. 

“Can we go home?” Sam asked, his voice coming out a whisper where he had meant it to be strong. Dean’s gaze shifted back and forth between Sam’s eyes.

“Sure Sammy, I’ll get the car in a minute,” Dean said, and then he turned to Harry. “He doesn’t have a concussion. What the hell, Harry!?”

“Dean...” Sam whined, he knew he was whining, but his head hurt and he wanted to leave. He wanted so badly to leave. Hadn’t they left a stove on somewhere? Did they have a stove? Maybe an appointment, maybe they were supposed to see Bobby... maybe Bobby left the stove on.

“Shh, Sam, how about you lie down, okay, buddy?” Dean said, and Sam felt Dean wipe the blood from underneath his nose with his shirt sleeve. That was gross. Maybe they should leave and do laundry.

“I’ve never seen this happen before,” Harry said. “I mean, people who are tortured for hours can go catatonic, but Sam was only under for a minute at most.”

“We could get him to St. Mungo’s,” Neville said. “My parents’ healer might-"

Sam made a whining noise unashamedly. His head hurt, and he just wanted to go home, and now they were talking about taking him someplace else. He turned his head to the side. The snow actually felt kind of nice against his sore head, even though Sam was pretty sure he was shivering from lying in the snow this long. The landscape had finally stopped flickering too, and from this angle Sam could see what was behind Dean.

He felt his heart seize in his chest.

*

Dean was trying really hard not to freak out, but Sam was having some sort of episode. He hadn’t been this whiney when he was hurt since he was thirteen, and even then he had never begged to be brought home. Dean didn’t even know where home was! Did Sam mean Harry’s house? Bobby’s? A motel? Lawrence? At that point Dean would have brought him anywhere just to get his brother ‘s weird nose bleed to stop. It was like his brain was rebelling against itself.

Harry and Neville were talking about people going to catatonic from whatever curse Sammy had been hit with... and some sort of special hospital, and Dean did not have fake magical travel insurance, goddamn it!

Then suddenly Sam was trying to scramble up off the ground.

“NO!” Sam said. Dean and Harry both grabbed him, to keep him sitting. Whatever was wrong with his head, it couldn’t be smart for him to try going anywhere. “No, no... the kids!”

“Sam, the children are fine,” Harry said in a very calm way. “Stay still, you aren’t well. You saved the children, remember? Castiel sent them to the castle.”

Sam let out a desperate whining noise.

“Oh god, Cas, oh god... what happened?! What happened to it?” Sam asked, and it hurt just to listen to him, his voice was rough from the screaming.

“What happened to what, Sam?” Dean asked.

“The castle,” Sam said, trying again to get up. “We were all right here! How could we not notice! What did they do?! Oh god, it’s just GONE! How is that even possible!

His brother had gone insane. Sam was insane. Dean even checked, on the off chance that maybe he was the one that was insane, but no... the castle was still there, and Dean thought that Harry and Neville would be freaking out a lot more if it weren’t. 

“The castle’s fine, Sam,” Dean said. “It’s right there. It’s perfectly fine. Just stop talking. Rest your throat.”

“No!” Sam said. “It’s RUINED. Everyone’s dead. Everyone’s dead because of me. Oh god, I just want to go home. I think we left the lights on.”

“Bloody hell,” Harry suddenly said. “He’s not crazy.”

“Really?!” Dean said, and okay, maybe he was freaking out a little, “Because he sounds pretty fucking crazy to me!”

Dean watched in confusion as Harry ripped Sam’s shirt open even further than it already was and started feeling him up. Sam made a half-assed effort to bat Harry’s hands away, but seemed more interested in looking at the perfectly fine castle and whimpering while blood gushed from his nose. Then Harry grabbed Sam’s face and forced Sam to look at Harry instead.

“Sam, stop looking at the castle; it’s only making it worse,” Harry said. “Look at me, just focus on me. You can see me just fine, right?”

“Yeah,” Sam said.

“Okay,” Harry said. “Sam, what happened to your pendant – the necklace you were wearing with the crystal on it, Sam? Where is it?”

The pendant – it was such a simple thing. Dean was so used to his amulet that he had gotten used to the magical one quickly and had pretty much forgotten about it. But he knew from last year that if he weren’t wearing it, he would walk right by things like Hogwarts and not even see them – more than that, he’d be filled with a desire to be any place besides there. Only, he wasn’t sure you were supposed to go into fits or have your brain start bleeding out your nose. In any case, last year Sam’s pendant had just been for show – Sam was able to see everything just fine without it and the repelling magic didn’t seem to have any effect on him, but then again, last year Sam had been... high.

“Blimey,” Neville said, and Dean had honestly forgotten he was even there. Distantly, he wondered where Ron, Ernie, and Cas were in all this confusion. “Is that what happens when-"

“No,” Harry said, without breaking eye contact with Sam. “Sam’s... unique.”

“Maybe I left it at home?” Sam said. “I want to go home.”

“I know,” Harry said, and then Harry was yanking Sam up to sitting. Before Dean knew what Harry was doing, Sam was being pushed into his lap.

“Dean, hug your brother!” Harry said. “It may at least stop the hemorrhaging.”

Dean wrapped his arms around Sam mostly on reflex, and was sure to give Harry a good what-the-hell look. Then he realized that Sam was shivering and his back was all wet from where he’d been laying in the snow, and Dean tightened his hold. He made sure to press Sam tightly against him if only to help warm up the poor kid. Harry stood up and walked a couple of paces off, and waved his wand in the air oddly.

Sam stopped whimpering almost immediately.

“Dean, I’m confused,” Sam whispered.

“Yeah? That makes two of us,” Dean muttered, even as he realized that his own pendant, now being pressed painfully into his chest, must be working on Sam too.

“No, I mean, the castle looks alright now and why did I think we had left the stove on? We don’t even have a stove,” Sam said, in a calm, though extremely scratchy voice, as though they were chatting over beer instead of hugging each other awkwardly while sitting in the snow. Actually, it was Dean that was doing the hugging, Sam was mainly just sitting there all limp like a rag doll... that is, until he suddenly shoved his very cold hands in the space between Dean’s ribs and Dean’s jacket.

“Jesus!” Dean exclaimed. “SAM! You’re freezing!”

“Yeah, well, I’ve been lying in the snow,” Sam mumbled. 

Dean turned his head to see Neville biting his lip to keep from laughing, and that was just not good.

“Yeah, laugh it up, Mr. Wizard,” Dean said. “Why don’t you make yourself useful and do some of those warming charms on my brother.”

That seemed to snap Neville to attention, and he blushed, and pulled out of his wand.

“Sorry, sorry... I should have...” Neville said, but then broke himself off and muttered spells at Sam’s back. Dean could feel the fabric of Sam’s jacket dry beneath his hands and then start to warm, and Sam stopped shivering quite so much.

“FOUND IT!” Harry said. Dean saw him catch something out of the air, before he jogged back over. Dean could see the crystal pendant hanging from a chain in his hand.

“Oh thank God,” Dean said, “because this current solution is starting to get a little bit awkward.”

Harry held the pooled the chain in the palm of his hand, as he knelt down beside Dean. Dean could see where the links were broken. Sam had broken it himself the year before, and had just tied the chain in a knot when they were told they needed the pendants again. Obviously, somewhere between the front gates of Hogwarts and the end of the battle, the knot had come loose without anyone realizing.

Reparo,” Harry said, and the links joined themselves together again as though they had never been parted.

“What’s going on?” Sam asked from Dean’s shoulder, where really all he could see was the castle.

“You lost your necklace, dude.” Dean said. “Harry just fixed it so that you can put it back on.”

Sam started to pull away from Dean, but Harry placed a hand on his back and held him still.

“Not so fast,” Harry said. “Let me put it on you first so that you don’t go mental again.”

“Tactful,” Sam huffed.

Harry managed to squeeze his hands between Dean and Sam so that he could loop the chain around Sam’s neck and do it up. Then he patted Sam on the back twice.

“Okay, Sam, see if that’s better,” Harry said, and finally Dean was able to let go of his brother, who quickly scrambled up. Sam did back up the snaps at the top of his shirt awkwardly, hiding the pendant where it lay on his chest. 

“What the hell was that?” Sam asked, sounding awful and looking a little shaky – and bloody, but otherwise fine.

“The muggle repelling charms,” Harry explained. “They make muggles see ruins instead of the castle, and they make them believe they’ve got urgent appointments, or have to go home for some reason. It lasts just long enough for them to walk away from the Hogwarts grounds.”

Sam nodded. The blood that had leaked out of his nose was already caking on his face, smeared all over by both Dean’s sleeve and, no doubt, his shoulder.

“Hey, Neville,” Harry said, “would you go tell Ernie that it’s safe to bring Teddy back, please.”

Neville nodded and took off towards the woods.

“Where’d Ron and that Carrow guy go?” Sam asked.

“The Aurors arrived just as you... um, lost track of things,” Harry said. “Ron’s taken over Carrow’s transport back to Azkaban, since I was... trying to help you. Ernie went into the woods to round up the children who were hiding. I think he’s holding off bringing them back though, until he knows Carrow is removed completely.” Harry took a breath. “Sam, what happened? Last year the charms didn’t even affect you – yet this year... you didn’t even pull at all when we apparated... did you... do you not have demon blood anymore?”

“Um,” Sam said. “I still... I mean, I can’t ever... there’s always going to be a little, but I don’t have... as much?”

Chapter Text

Previously: “Um,” Sam said. “I still... I mean, I can’t ever... there’s always going to be a little, but I don’t have... as much?”

Dean sighed as Sam seemed to wince in anticipation of the next question, and Harry’s brow furrowed in confusion.

“There’s some stuff about last year you don’t know,” Dean said, noticing a few child-shaped blurs running towards them from the forest with the two Professors following more sedately behind with another group of kids. “I’ll explain later, alright? It’s not something the kids need to hear.”

“Harry!” Teddy yelled. Dean could see Harry’s entire focus change in an instant. Teddy’s hair was brown as he ran up – which was much better than the sickly grey it had been when Dean had last seen him. He flung his arms around Harry, crushing his face into Harry’s chest. His hair went black and then turquoise and then pink... which Dean would have ordinarily teased him about, but now didn’t seem the time.... and then finally back to a mix of brown and black.

Nate, Iggy, and Andrew jogged up as well, and stood slightly awkwardly off to one side. Teddy disengaged from Harry , even though it looked like he didn’t really want to.

“Hey guys,” Dean said. “Everyone alright?”

The boys nodded, eyes wide and darting between Dean and Sam – mostly resting on Sam.

Neville rejoined them, giving Ernie a wave as he did so. Dean saw Ernie leading a few more students off towards the castle; they were all staring over at him and Sam and whispering to each other as they passed. Dean turned to look at his brother and once again noticed the amount of caked blood on the lower half of his face.

“Sammy, fix your face,” Dean said. “You’re traumatizing the kids.”

Sam seemed confused, and then he dragged his bloody fingers across his bloody face, and his eyes widened.

“Shit,” Sam said in his now strained voice. “Uh, don’t worry guys, it was just a bad nose bleed. It happens, you know?”

“Why don’t you three head on in and check in with Professor MacMillan,” Neville said to Teddy’s friends, “I think Harry would like a little one on one time with his godson, and Sam needs to wash up.”

“Yes, Professor,” Iggy said. 

“Um, see you later?” Andy offered tentatively.

“See you later, guys,” Dean said.

Once the boys had started jogging back to the castle, Neville turned to the remaining adults and clasped his hands together.

“Now then, how about we all go to the green houses for tea,” he offered with a calm smile. “I have just the brew to both sooth your throat and calm your nerves, Sam. And I also have a very nice sink you can use to wash up.” Neville caught Harry’s eye, and added. “Also, a comfortable couch, should some people want to sit next to each other.”

*

Neville’s green houses were cozy. They were led through several that had tables upon tables of different plants, until they came to one in which only the outside of room was covered in creeping vines. Towards one wall was a desk with filing cabinets behind. In the centre of the room were a red couch and a few comfortable mismatched chairs. The glass ceiling seemed to filter out the cold blue light of the winter sun, and leave only a warm yellow hue, though, that might have had to do with the imminent sunset. There was also a small stove, and a large laundry sink with a mirror behind it. The sink itself seemed to be used mostly for washing dirt off Neville’s hands. A fine layer of soil lay at the bottom of the basin. There were fresh linens on a small shelf beside it and a small bottle of something that looked like a wizard version of baby soap. Sam made his way to the sink, and when he raised his eyebrow at the soap label, Neville just shrugged and said that he had sensitive skin. 

Sam caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror and could see why everyone had seemed so concerned about him. He was pale, and the caked blood obscuring his lower face almost looked like he’d been... well, except for the fact that most of it seemed to be smeared up his right cheek. Sam felt a little shaky, and the pounding headache he had felt only ten or so minutes before had left him sleepy. After so much pain at the hands of that curse, Sam really expected to have more long-lasting effects. He still couldn’t believe that the curse had been meant for a twelve year-old. He wanted to find Carrow and send him to hell ahead of schedule.

As Sam washed up, Neville put a large kettle on and then pulled five cups from a cupboard. He then started to pull out bottle after bottle of dry tea-leaves – carefully reading the labels. Dean sat down in one of the chairs, taking off his jacket now that he was in the warmth of the greenhouse. Harry and Teddy both sat on the couch.

Teddy had walked stoically inside with them, and now he sat calmly beside Harry – close but not touching, his hair a mousy brown. The kid looked a little shell shocked, and Harry looked a little awkward. He kept shooting worried glances at Teddy’s head, while Teddy glanced at Neville, Dean, and Sam in turn, and then seemed to only glance at Harry’s knees.

Sam frowned into the mirror, trying to use the washcloth to get blood out of his ear – how it had migrated from his nose to his ear, Sam didn’t want to know. 

“After the battle of Hogwarts,” Neville suddenly started speaking into the quiet of the room. “Which was, of course, after I killed the snake Nagini and helped Ron bring down Greyback...” Sam paused what he was doing, watching as Neville glanced at Teddy, who was staring at him with wide curious eyes. Harry and Dean, much like Sam, were looking at him in slight confusion.

“...I wanted nothing more,” Neville continued, “then to hug my Gran very hard for a very long time and never let go. In fact that was indeed precisely what I did, as soon as I had a chance – and I certainly don’t think anyone would think less of me for it. Actually, I’m quite certain that both Sam and Dean would agree that a nice long hug after a traumatic experience is a good thing.”

Sam bit his lip, as he realized what Neville was trying to do. Teddy’s eyes flew to Dean, wide and slightly hopeful. Harry also shot Dean an unashamedly hopeful look that Teddy couldn’t see.

“Uh, yeah,” Dean said, awkwardly clearing his throat. “You uh, probably didn’t see, Teddy, but... um... Sam and I just hugged outside for like... a long time.”

Teddy’s eyes flew to Sam, and Sam nodded, as though he and Dean hugged after every hunt or something.

“I’m sure that Harry had similar feelings after the battle of Hogwarts,” Neville said. Now Teddy’s gaze finally landed on Harry, and Harry nodded.

“I did, yeah,” Harry said. “Only... you know, my parents and... my godfather... were dead, so I didn’t actually have anyone to-“

And then Harry had a lapful of Teddy Lupin, who was burying his head in Harry’s chest, and wrapping his arms around Harry’s torso and squeezing. Harry’s arms quickly came up around the boy. Sam turned back to the sink to rinse the washcloth again.

“There we are,” Neville said. “Now, everything is as it should be.” He turned back around and started sifting different tea leaves into different mugs, while the kettle slowly came to a boil on the stove. 

Over top of the whining kettle, Sam could hear Harry whispering ‘I love you so much’ into Teddy’s ear, while he stroked Teddy’s hair. Sam watched in the mirror as Teddy’s hair switched back and forth between turquoise, pink, black, and mousy brown.

“How’s the face, Sam?” Dean asked. “Are you human again?”

“As much as I’ll ever be.” Sam shrugged, and tossed the dirty wash cloth into the sink, making his way over to one of the other comfy chairs. 

“I’m sure you’ll feel better after a nice cup of tea,” Neville said, and he came over and handed Sam a steaming big red mug. Sam wasn’t much of a tea person, but he had to admit that it smelled wonderful. “I added honey to help soothe your throat.”

“Thanks, man,” Sam said, his voice cracking on even those two words.

Neville then passed a blue mug to Dean. Harry got a green mug and Teddy was given a white one. Teddy didn’t even dislodge himself from Harry. Just accepted the tea, and turned his face a little so that he could get the cup to his lips. Harry meanwhile gripped his mug in his left hand, while his right continued to stroke Teddy’s hair. Neville perched on the edge of his desk, facing them all, with his own garish orange mug.

After blowing across the surface of the tea once or twice, Sam finally took a tentative sip. It was surprisingly good. Sam took a bigger sip. The tea both soothed his throat and seemed to calm his rattled nerves. It actually made Sam feel, well, pretty damn good all around. He looked up in surprise at Neville, who just smiled a small smile. Then Sam looked at Dean, and found that Dean was looking at his mug of tea as though he didn’t know where it had come from.

“Dude,” Dean said. “Did you... did you make us special tea?”

Harry smiled, so did Teddy. Neville just winked.

“Well, I am a Professor of Herbology. One of the first things you learn is how to make a good cup of tea.”

“Man, you’re awesome,” Dean smiled.

“Each of you have something a little different, of course,” Neville said, sobering. “Research on the curative effects of certain plants is a hobby of mine – particularly when it comes to the cruciatus curse. So, in particular, I’m interested in how Sam likes his tea.”

Sam took another sip and felt how his tension in his muscles seemed to relax further, the slight shakiness he had been feeling gradually fading away. 

“I feel really good,” Sam said. “I remember it happening, but it’s also like it never did, because my nerves and muscles are all relaxed. Even my throat feels better.”

“I’m glad,” Neville said.”There’s sadly nothing I can do for the mind. You’ll always remember, or, some victims will never be able to remember, no matter how much tea I brew. As I said, this is only a hobby. I don’t expect to work miracles, so you can stop looking at me like that, Harry. I hold no false hopes.”

Sam looked over to Harry just in time to see Harry lose a very sympathetic look, and drop his gaze down to Teddy’s hair.

“What’s in my tea, Neville?” Teddy asked.

“Teddy-"

Professor Longbottom,” Teddy corrected while rolling his eyes.

“Just something to soothe your nerves,” Neville said. 

“You haven’t drugged my godson too much, I hope,” Harry said.

“Drugged?” Neville raised an eyebrow. “Really, Harry. It’s only tea. You’re paranoia seems to be acting up again.”

Harry laughed. It seemed odd to Sam to be sitting around drinking tea and joking, like they were all just friends hanging out – as though there hadn’t just been an escaped convict trying to kill a twelve year old. 

“Neville, why didn’t you have your mirror with you?” Harry asked, and immediately the laughter died out, and Neville sighed.

“I’m not an Auror anymore, Harry,” Neville said. 

“What does that matter?” Harry said. “I made you keep the mirror for a reason.”

“I know, Harry, but I leave it in my desk for a reason too,” Neville said. “You will always have my loyalty, but I’m not a soldier anymore.”

“You still have the coin,” Harry countered. Sam watched as Neville smiled, nostalgic, and maybe a little self-deprecating.

“True,” Neville said. “The kids like it”

“Right,” Harry said. Sam wondered what sort of truce they had come to, because Harry seemed oddly accepting. “Can you do a paranoid veteran a favour, Neville?” Harry asked.

“I suppose I could, yeah,” Neville stated.

“When you are with one of my kids, can you carry the mirror?” Harry asked.

Neville nodded, then darted forward and caught Teddy’s mug just as it left his slack grip. Sam wondered when exactly the kid had nodded off.

“There we go,” Neville said. 

“You did drug him!” Harry said, his outrage only mocking as he laughed. “You bloody herbologist bastard, he’s going to be so mad at you.”

“No, he won’t,” Neville said. “He’ll have a nice nap, and when he wakes up the day will just seem like nothing more than a bad dream. Do you want to lay him out on the couch?”

“No, he’s fine where he is,” Harry said, and pulled Teddy tighter against him. In sleep, Teddy was less still than awake. His face slowly shifted – from tanned and heart-shaped to pale and pointed. His hair lengthened and then shortened, fading in and out of all the colours, dwelling longest on the colours Teddy usually used – turquoise, black, brown...

“Do you have any idea what he actually looks like?” Sam asked.

“He looks like Teddy,” Harry shrugged. 

“The science on metamorphmagi is actually very interesting,” Neville said. “There’s a very good book in our library here that explains the genetic p-“ 

Castiel appeared just in front of Harry. 

“Uh, hello,” Neville said, eyes wide. Cas sat down on the couch and looked relieved to be off his feet. Sam noticed that his clothing was still wet from the lake.

“Hey Nev?” Dean asked. “You mind drying our buddy Cas off with some magic?”

“Oh, certainly,” Neville said. Sam noticed how he still drew his wand slowly, giving Castiel enough time to protest. Castiel never did though, just gave Neville what was probably a pretty unnerving stare as Neville muttered drying charms on Castiel’s clothing.

“Thank you,” Castiel said. “Normally I repair my clothing myself, but it is... troublesome at times.”

“You’re welcome,” Neville replied. “Would you like some tea?”

“Only if it’s a social requirement,” Castiel replied.

“That means, ‘no, thanks’,” Dean explained, then Dean focused on Castiel. “I thought you would have flown off by now, what’s up?”

*

“The woman whom the demon possessed will live,” Castiel answered Dean. Harry felt a momentary pang of guilt at not even having thought of her since Castiel took her to the hospital wing. “Ron Weasley allowed me to see Amycus Carrow before he began the journey back to prison. He knows nothing of who you and Sam are, or about the apocalypse, and he only knew how to summon that specific demon. I decided there was no need to kill him.”

“But if he had known who Sam and Dean were...” Neville said, staring at Castiel with wide-eyes.

“If there were any danger of him revealing Sam and Dean’s location to Heaven or Hell before they could get to safety, then I would have ended him, yes,” Castiel replied.

Harry realized that Neville had no idea who Castiel was – what he was - or, more importantly, why there was a difference between Carrow knowing who Sam and Dean were and Neville knowing.

“Thanks, Cas,” Dean said with a smile. Harry wasn’t sure how he had thought the Winchesters would react to Castiel admitting that he had considered murdering someone, but he wasn’t expecting the affectionate gratitude Dean’s words were laced with or the way Sam simply nodded.

“I thought...” Neville said to Harry. “I thought you keeping their last names and occupations secret was just to save your own skin, Harry...”

“It was,” Harry admitted. “But um, you see-“

“What can we say - we’re wanted men,” Dean said with a smirk. “Isn’t the first time somebody wants to jump these bones.”

“Dean,” Sam said.

“Yeah, alright,” Dean said. “Don’t worry about it Neville. It’s not like you’re planning to rat us out to Lucifer, are you?”

“No,” Neville said, still a bit bewildered. “Why on earth would I speak with-“

“See, nothing to concern yourself about,” Dean said.

“So, if I can ask,” Neville started tentatively, looking at Castiel. “How is it that you can apparate?”

“I cannot apparate, only wizards can apparate,” Castiel replied. “I merely travel.”

“Travel,” Neville repeated. “Okay... so you aren’t a wizard and you can’t possibly be a muggle...”

“I am an angel of the Lord,” Castiel replied.

Neville nodded slowly, his eyes darting to catch Harry’s. Harry nodded.

“How long do you plan to remain with Harry Potter?” Castiel asked Dean, before Harry could say anything further to Neville.

“Uh, I guess we’ve done everything we came to do,” Dean said, shrugging. 

“You’ll stay for a couple more days though, right?” Harry said, trying to keep the slight panic out of his voice. Bobby Singer had asked for him to give the Winchesters a vacation, and he had done anything but – actually, Harry felt like he could use a vacation after today. 

“Uh, sure,” Sam said. “A couple more days wouldn’t hurt, I suppose. I mean, no one knows where here yet, right, Cas?”

“Not to my knowledge,” Castiel replied, and then stood. “Call me when your phones are functioning again. If I need you before then, I’ll simply locate Harry.”

“Okay, see you later man,” Dean said.

“Thanks for your help,” Harry added in. “Nice seeing you.”

“It was nice to see you again too, Harry,” Castiel replied, as though he were reciting lines from a play he was being forced to participate in. Then he turned back to Dean. “Despite the demon not surviving, I do not think it wise to stay with Harry very long. The more you anchor yourself to one place or person, the more danger there is of-“

“Wait a second,” Dean said. “What do you mean ‘again’?”

“What?” Castiel asked.

Harry wondered what the hell Dean was talking about too, until he replayed what Castiel had just said in his head, and cringed.

“You said that it was nice to see Harry again...” Sam spoke up.

“When did you see him the last time?” Dean finished. Harry watched as Castiel glanced between Dean and Sam, and then over at Harry. Harry didn’t know whether Castiel was asking for his help in getting out of the mess, or whether he was blaming him for having fallen into it in the first place – but whatever the case, Harry wasn’t quite quick enough, or maybe it was just that he knew he’d have to tell them sooner or later.

“Good idea, Cas,” Dean said. “Why don’t we ask Mr. I-Must-Not-Tell-Lies what you meant by ‘again’”

Now all eyes were on Harry.

“Neville, um, the mandrakes...?” Harry said.

“Need watering, of course,” Neville replied, placing his mug of tea on the counter. “Thanks for reminding me, I’ll just – um... be in the next greenhouse should anyone need me.”

Harry tried to figure out the best way to put everything as Neville walked out of the room. He pulled Teddy tighter to him, the sleeping boy was completely unaware, and Harry had the very guilty thought that the Winchesters wouldn’t dare hurt him as long as he had the boy in his arms.

“I met Castiel last year,” Harry said. “When we were in the American Department of Mysteries.”

“Why? And why didn’t you tell us?” Dean asked, and Harry wasn’t quite sure which one of them he was addressing.

“He told me not to,” Harry said, then cringed at his own weak defense.

“I had orders,” Castiel added in. His words seemed almost meek and completely at odds with the strength and resonance of the angel’s usual speaking voice. But then again, with the way Dean was glaring at Castiel, Harry wasn’t really surprised that even an angel could be intimidated by a Winchester.

“There was a prophecy,” Harry said. “In your files... Malfoy... that is, I mean... he doesn’t know that I never told you, I don’t think.” Harry took a breath, “Malfoy found a prophecy in with your files, but it wasn’t the whole thing – just um, just the first few lines. So, I went to go see if the whole thing was stored there. Castiel showed up then and uh, basically told me not to tell you.”

“Orders,” Dean repeated. He rubbed a hand over his face, then turned to Harry and added, “And you just listened to him?! You didn’t think that maybe, just maybe, Sam and I might deserve to know about something that obviously concerns us!?”

“He’s an angel of the Lord!” Harry said. “I thought he knew better-"

“Yeah, well he didn’t!” Dean cut Harry off. Dean then turned to Castiel. “Is there anything else you did last year under orders that we should know about?”

Harry watched as Castiel’s stared unblinking at Dean, who didn’t even flinch under the gaze but instead just stared right back with an angry crease between his eyebrows. Then Castiel’s eyes darted towards Sam for the briefest of moments, before landing on the floor.

“You have got to be kidding me,” Sam said, in a cold tone that put Harry on edge. “It was you. You let me out of the panic room.”

Chapter Text

“I was ordered-“ Castiel started.

“I can’t BELIEVE you!” Sam cut him off, getting up off his chair and walking towards the sink, his back to all of them. He then spun around and towered over Castiel, even though the angel was also standing. “You’ve given me so much SHIT about...EVERYTHING. And it was YOU WHO MADE IT ALL POSSIBLE?! YOU HYPOCRITICAL DICK!”

“I may have let you out,” Castiel said, and a deep thrum of anger seemed to fill the whole room as he spoke. “But it was you who left your brother and Bobby Singer. It was you who drank that demon, and it was you who killed Lilith and unleashed Lucifer. I did everything I could – I rebelled, I died - in order to get Dean there in time to stop you, and you still did it . So this is not my fault.”

Harry’s mind was racing along with his heart. Carefully, he slid Teddy slowly off of him, tucking him in the corner of the couch where he slept on unaware. 

Sam was breathing heavily in anger, but Harry could see how Castiel’s words cut into him – how the angel spoke the truth, because only the truth could possible inflict that much pain. When Sam spoke again, there was a waver in his voice that was either anger, or sadness, or both.

“Everyone told me, for a whole goddamned year, that Lilith needed to die for it to stop – that if I just got strong enough to kill her, I could save-" Sam cut himself off, turned away once again to rub a hand over his face. 

“Okay, that’s enough,” Dean announced. “Arguing about fault isn’t going to get us anywhere.” Harry watched as Sam nodded, but stayed facing away from them. “Were there any more orders that we should be aware of?”

“Nothing that concerns you, no,” Castiel said, reverting back to staring at the ground instead of at either of the Winchesters.

“Good,” Dean said. “Okay then... Cas, just because you were under orders, doesn’t make what you did any less douchy. You letting Sam out... that was a shitty thing to do to both of us, you understand me?”

“Yes.”

“Okay,” Dean said. “Now, I forgive you because you came to your senses in the end. Sam?”

Sam turned then and Harry pretended to fuss over Teddy, so that he could pretend not to have noticed the shine to Sam’s eyes.

“Yeah, Cas, thanks for helping us out,” Sam closed his eyes briefly as he replied. “It’s really nice to have a friend like you.” 

“I...” Castiel started to say, and then trailed off seemingly confused. “Are you no longer angry with me?”

“Of course, I am,” Sam said, flopping back down into his chair. “Doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate what you’ve done for us.”

“This prophecy,” Dean said, rolling his eyes at Castiel’s confusion. “What did it say?”

“I only read the first two lines, the rest only you and Sam can access,” Harry replied. “It’s kept in the American Department of Mysteries.”

“You already know it,” Castiel said. “It is irrelevant now.”

“Oh,” Dean said. “It’s just the usual then?”

Harry couldn’t help but stare at Dean. This whole time, ever since he heard that Lucifer was set free. He had kicked himself for not telling the Winchesters about the prophecy. Not only that, but he had feared for his life should they ever find out that he had kept it from them – and now, now Dean was acting like it wasn’t anything important. More than that, it seemed he was already well aware of its contents. 

“You know about it already?” Harry asked. “How? It’s sealed in the archives... the Seer killed himself. How can you possibly-"

“Yeah, we know it,” Dean interrupted. “Now.

“You know how many times I’ve heard ‘It always had to be you’ in the past year?” Sam spoke up, looking at his empty cup with a disappointed frown. “They only kept it from us until I sprang Lucifer from the cage, then they had no problems with sharing, believe me. So, yeah, maybe if you had told us last year, things could have been different, but apparently we’re not arguing about fault right now.”

“Oh,” Harry said, now realizing he’d much prefer it if all his worrying had actually been for naught. “What um.... what is it?”

“How much of it do you know?” Dean asked.

’Two brothers, torn apart by Heaven and Hell, the alpha and omega of the end,’ ” Harry recited. “I thought it meant that you were going to stop it, like you said. I didn’t think it meant-“

“We are going to stop it,” Sam said.

“You didn’t think it meant that I would break the first seal and Sam would break the last,” Dean spoke over top of Sam and then nodded. “It’s alright Harry, I mean, yeah, I wish you would have told us then, but I understand that most people think they can trust angels.”

Harry dared a glance at Castiel and caught him frowning at Dean. Dean didn’t even bother looking at the angel.

“How did Sam break the final seal?” Harry asked. “I know it was an accident, or he was tricked, or-"

“He ganked the wrong demon,” Dean said. “Remember Lilith?”

“The demon that was breaking the seals,” Harry said.

“Yeah, turns out she was a seal herself. Sammy, um... got himself powerful enough to gank her, thinking he was stopping everything, when in reality him killing her was the final seal.”

“And the demon blood?” Harry asked. “You said... outside you said you didn’t have as much demon blood as before and when Castiel was yelling at you just now, he said you drank... um...”

“You saw how strong it made me,” Sam sighed. “The more I drank, the more powerful I became. I saved Phil with it, I-"

“I knew you were lying when you said you used the Latin,” Dean said. “Damn it, Sam.”

“I killed Alistair,” Sam continued louder. Dean glared at Sam. Then Sam’s gaze dropped to the floor, remarkably in a similar fashion as Castiel’s had before. “I got addicted to it... I liked the power.”

Harry nodded, now trying to reconcile in his mind the fact that the Sam he had known the year before – who protected his brother like a pit bull and looked like a kicked puppy when he thought he had done something wrong – had been drinking demon blood the whole time. Harry wished he knew what to say to get Sam to stop looking so dejected and ashamed of himself, but he really didn’t.

“I accidentally got my godfather killed,” Harry said, and wondered where he thought he was going with that statement. Judging by Sam and Dean’s expressions, they wondered where he was going with this too. “What I’m trying to say is... well, it’s not... drinking demon blood and setting Lucifer free... but, uh... we all make mistakes?”

There was a pregnant pause, in which the Winchesters and their angel all stared at Harry, and then, as one, Sam and Dean both started laughing – at Harry, splendid. Castiel just looked confused.

“Thanks, Harry,” Sam said, giving Harry a rare smile. 

There was a soft knock at the door then, and Harry turned to see Neville poking his head back in the room.

“Judging by the happier voices, I assume the danger has passed,” Neville said. 

“Uh, yeah man,” Dean said. “Sorry to make you leave your own office like that.”

“Not at all a problem,” Neville said, then he turned to Harry. “While I was... tending to the mandrakes... Professor McGonagall stopped by. I told her you couldn’t be interrupted at the moment, and so she asked me to pass along an invitation to stay for dinner in the Great Hall – you and your guests.” Neville’s eyes rested on Castiel for a moment.

“I have no need for sustenance,” Castiel said.

“Do you two mind staying for dinner?” Harry asked the brothers. Sam and Dean both shrugged. “Excellent. Neville, could you inform her that we’ll be staying. I need to call Gin and tell her everyone is fine.” Harry glanced over at Teddy, thinking that maybe it’d be nice if Teddy could be conscious for the call. “Um, Neville, how do you wake him up?”

“Oh,” Neville said. “I uh... have a tincture that might-"

In two strides, Castiel was standing over Teddy, touching him gently on the forehead. Harry watched as Teddy’s eyes blinked open, blue-eyed and confused.

“Hey Teddy,” Harry said gently. “You fell asleep.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw Castiel turn to Sam and Dean briefly, before vanishing.

“I did?” Teddy said. 

“Yeah, you must have been tired after all the excitement this afternoon,” Harry replied. Teddy seemed unconvinced.

“Are you sure it wasn’t because Uncle Neville gave me special tea?” Teddy said, looking amazingly like his father for a moment.

“Um, maybe that too,” Harry sighed. “Come on, I need to call home and show everyone you’re okay. I left everyone in a horrible state of worry.”

*

Neville took off to tell McGonagall that they’d be staying and Dean decided that he should probably get the bloodstains out of his jacket before dinner. While Harry and Teddy called Ginny, Dean made his way over to the sink. He briefly wished he had worn the leather jacket, because it was so much easier to clean – but, it wasn’t very warm, so he’d been in one of his warmer coats for the past few weeks. He fished a small canister of salt out of his pocket and sprinkled some of it over the small blood stain Sam had gotten on the shoulder.

“Hi Ginny,” Harry said from the couch. “Everyone is alright.”

Dean used the washcloth to gently lift the now blood-saturated salt out of his jacket.

“I know, I watched the map,” Ginny’s voice came from the small mirror in Harry’s hand. Dean wondered what it had looked like on the map – little dots moving around, no way to know who was winning or losing, just who was still alive. “Teddy are you alright, sweetheart?”

“Yes, Ginny,” Teddy said. He was plastered against Harry’s side so that he could see Ginny in the mirror and she could see him. “Sam protected me.”

“I saw,” Ginny said. 

Dean smiled, glancing over at Sam – and noticing the bloodstain on the front of his shirt. It really had been an impressive nosebleed. 

“Dude,” Dean whispered, catching Sam’s attention. He pointed at the bloodstain and made the universal hand sign for ‘give me that.’ Sam nodded, and quickly unsnapped his shirt.

“Sam got tortured,” Teddy said from the couch. “With an Unforgivable. It was scary.”

“Is he alright?” Ginny asked.

“Yes, he’s fine,” Harry said.

“He’s there with you,” Ginny said. “Let me see him.”

Harry turned the mirror just as Sam stood and handed Dean his shirt. Sam gave Ginny an awkward little wave and a smile.

“Oh, well, he does look fine,” Ginny said, and Dean could hear the smile in her voice. “Sam, are you alright?”

“Yes,” Sam said, shifting awkwardly. “Uh, I had a nose bleed, but I’m good now.”

Harry turned the mirror back towards himself.

“Maybe I wasn’t finished checking-" Ginny said.

“Gin. Really? Is this the time?” Harry rolled his eyes. Ginny laughed.

Dean smirked and Sam blushed, then Dean refocused on the bloodstain on Sam’s shirt – rewetting the washcloth and reaching for the salt.

“Harry, who are James Novak and Sofia Robbins?” Ginny asked. 

“Who?” Harry asked.

“Sofia Robbins is now in the hospital wing,” Ginny said. “And James Novak was in the green house with you until right before you called and then he just disappeared how did-"

“Castiel was just here,” Harry said, though he still seemed a little confused. “But there was no one named James.”

“He goes by Jimmy,” Sam said.

“Vessels,” Dean clarified. 

“Castiel is in some fellow named-" Harry spluttered.

“Jimmy Novak,” Dean said. “I’m guessing Sofia was who the demon was riding around in.”

“I didn’t realize that angels used vessels too,” Harry said.

“His true form would burn out our eyes,” Sam shrugged.

“Oh,” Harry replied. Dean remembered when he had first met Castiel. He hadn’t known then either, though it made sense once Castiel told him. 

“Isn’t that... bad?” Harry asked. “I mean, how is that different from what the demons do?”

“The angels need consent,” Sam explained. “Of course, you could argue that most people consent without knowing what they’re consenting to, but there you have it.”

Harry nodded. Dean turned back to the task of washing Sam’s shirt once Harry had refocused on Ginny in the mirror.

“Are the boys there with you?” Harry asked. “I thought maybe they should see for themselves that Teddy’s okay.”

“Yes, I wanted to make sure you were alright before I let them see,” Ginny said. “I’ll get them.”

Dean poured more salt onto Sam’s shirt and listened to the noise of James and Albus greeting Teddy and Harry enthusiastically. James launched into a convoluted retelling of how his mom watched the magic map and they had to draw pictures, so he drew a picture of Teddy, and Albus drew a picture of dead bad guys.

“That’s mildly disturbing,” Sam whispered from beside Dean.

“Kid’s four,” Dean shrugged. “It’d only be disturbing if he drew dead good guys.”

There was an eruption of giggles from Harry’s mirror, Dean turned to see Teddy making funny faces – and really, Dean had never considered that application of Teddy’s shapeshifting abilities, but the kid could make some really funny faces. Dean laughed along with Harry’s kids, as he held Sam’s shirt up for inspection. He declared it good enough and tossed it to Sam.

“Now it’s all wet,” Sam said.

“Being damp is a lot less disturbing to children than being bloody, Sam,” Dean argued. “Oh, and you’re welcome, please stop complimenting my superior stain-removal abilities.”

“Thank you, Dean,” Sam said as he rolled his eyes. “Great job.”

Dean smiled. 

*

Harry ended the call with Ginny. He still had to call Ron and find out how the transportation and interrogation of Carrow had gone. He couldn’t imagine how much more difficult his job would be without Ron as his second in command. It was nice to be able to get away with hiding away with his godson instead of overseeing the transfer of Amycus Carrow. It was also nice that he knew Ron would leave no stone unturned in making sure that Carrow was working alone, and the danger had indeed passed. 

Neville came back in the room then and told them that Andromeda Tonks was on the floo in McGonagall’s office, insisting to talk to Teddy.

“How on earth did she find out already?” Harry asked.

“We could hardly keep the children from their owls,” Neville replied. “I’ll accompany Teddy to the Headmistress’ office, if you like. I can make sure the little group of friends waiting patiently in the hallway for him doesn’t delay things.”

“Thanks, Nev,” Harry said. “Sam, Dean, do you mind going along too? I just want to... that is, I still have to check in with Ron and make sure everything is going well.”

Harry hoped the Winchesters would understand what he meant – he hadn’t had a chance to check whether Carrow was working alone and whether Teddy was truly safe.

“Confidential Auror stuff again, I get it,” Dean said, winking as he stood. At first Harry wondered if Dean really didn’t understand that Teddy might still need protecting, but then there was something in the way Dean moved next to Teddy and the way Sam shifted on his feet as he stood – and Harry knew that they understood.

“Maybe one of us should stay here,” Sam offered softly. “Or you know, just in the hall... in case something comes up?”

Harry was confused for only a moment before he realized that Sam was trying to protect him.

“I just need to check in with Ron,” Harry said. “If I don’t meet you at the Headmistress’ office, then I’ll just stay here – no sense wandering around the castle looking for each other.”

Sam nodded.

“Go on then,” Harry said. “Teddy, make sure she’s not too mad at me, hey? I know your Dad was a bit daft picking me as a godfather, but I do like the job, despite the fact that I seem to be a bit crap at it.”

Teddy laughed, his eyes flashing green and his hair going black, yet he still managed to look the spitting image of Remus Lupin. Harry felt the familiar swell of total love for the boy.

“Don’t be silly, Harry,” Teddy said. “You’re the very best ever – my dad was a genius.”

“Well,” Harry said. “I can’t argue with that, can I?”

“Come on, squirt” Dean said. “Let’s not keep your Grandmother waiting.”

“Yes, sir,” Teddy said. “See you in a bit, Harry!”

Harry watched as Teddy left the room, wondering if he knew Harry had sent him off with his very own personal guard. They already had the formation down, with Neville leading the way through the greenhouses, Dean at Teddy’s side, and Sam taking up the rear. They all looked casual, but Harry could see that each of the grown men had their arms loose, ready to pull a weapon at a moment’s notice.

*

Once they exited the greenhouses, they were accosted by a small gaggle of children. Well, it was really just Iggy, Andy, Nate, and Victoire. Vicky ran up first and threw her arms around Teddy, which caused Teddy to blush to his hair. Dean made sure to wink and smirk at him.

“We heard the screaming during arithmacy,” Victoire said. “After class Hilda from Ravenclaw told me what happened. Are you alright?”

“I’m fine, Vicky,” Teddy said, pushing her off of him. “Didn’t the guys tell you I was fine?” Teddy glared over Vicky’s shoulder at his three friends.

“Only a million times!” Iggy rolled his eyes.

“Come on guys, walk and talk,” Dean said. “Teddy has to get to Cat-lady’s office before his grandmother comes here personally and kicks Harry’s ass.”

“Oh, sorry, Dean,” Vicky said, and the kids all fell into step beside them as they started walking down the hall again. Dean shot a look to Sam, who still hung out behind them all. Vicky twisted around and started walking backwards in front of Teddy, though her focus now was on Sam. “Are you alright, Sam? Nate says that was you screaming... did you really get the torture curse? You were screaming so-"

“I’m fine, Vicky,” Sam said. “It just hurt a lot at the time. Sorry if it frightened you or disturbed your class.”

Dean watched Neville turn around briefly and raise an eyebrow at Sam, then he shook his head and kept walking through the corridors. 

“Professor MacMillan made us all go to his classroom and talk about what happened and what we can learn from it,” Andy said. “We asked him how it was that the man in the trench coat could turn students into portkeys, and he didn’t know! He said that maybe the man knew house elf magic. Does your friend know house elf magic, Dean?”

“Something like that, yeah,” Dean answered. 

“Where is he now?” Nate asked. “Is he still with Mr. Potter?”

“No,” Dean answered. “Cas doesn’t like to stick around very long. He’s got some important stuff to do.”

“Are there more people going to be trying to kill Teddy?” Iggy asked.

“No,” Dean said.

“Maybe,” Teddy shrugged.

“Whoa!” Dean said. “No maybe...Teddy, you’re safe now. It was just that one guy.”

“Sure, that’s why I can’t walk to the headmistress’ office without three armed guards,” Teddy rolled his eyes.

“Harry just needed to make a confidential phone-call,” Dean said.

“Right, yeah,” Teddy said smiling.

“Teddy! There yeh are!” A booming voice suddenly sounded through the corridor, and Dean tensed until he looked ahead of their group and saw the giant outline of Hagrid, waiting by the gargoyle that guarded McGonagall’s office.

“Hi Hagrid!” Teddy said, running ahead and nearly disappearing as he hugged Hagrid’s right leg, while Hagrid patted him gently on the back with a giant hand. Teddy stepped back after a moment. “I’m alright Hagrid, don’t worry.”

“I heard the whole story,” Hagrid said. “All anyone’s talkin’ about.”

“Hagrid, if you’ll excuse Teddy, his Gran’s waiting on the floo,” Neville said, then turned and said the password to the gargoyle, who leapt to the side to reveal the staircase. Teddy waved and ran up the stairs. 

Before Dean could decide whether he was meant to follow Teddy into McGonagall’s office, or wait out in the hall with the kids, Hagrid was walking purposefully over to Sam – who Dean could tell was trying not to freak out.. .Dean was trying not to freak out too, since it appears the giant man was on the verge of tears.

“Sam!” Hagrid said. “I heard what you did for our Teddy. You’re a good man!”

With that, Hagrid enveloped Sam in a giant hug, patting him on the back with seemingly a little more force than he had with Teddy. Sam’s eyes went really wide and he threw a familiar ‘save me!’ look to Dean. Dean had to bite his lip to keep from laughing.

“Was in the unicorn glen, I was. Could hear you scream on the breeze, you had 'em all quite worried,” Hagrid said. 

“Um... sorry?” Sam said, bringing his arms up and trying to pry himself out of the hug. Hagrid seemed to take the hint and let him go. 

“Ain’t nothing to be sorry fer,” Hagrid said. “You saved little Teddy. I knew his parents, I did... his grandfolks too. Good people. Boy’s the spitting image of all of ‘em!”

Dean was still trying to wrap his head around whether Hagrid’s observation was correct or not, when Neville reappeared without Teddy.

“Everything alright?” Dean asked.

“Yes, just thought I’d give him some privacy,” Neville explained. “The Headmistress will send him down when he’s finished. Also, she’s already talked with Ron, and apparently the school is no longer in danger, so we needn’t worry.”

Sam and Dean both leaned against the wall, watching as Neville engaged Hagrid in a conversation about fertilizer and the kids broke off into their own conversations ranging from whether Hilda’s account of what had happened was accurate, to whether or not they were still expected to do their homework over the weekend when clearly some of them might be quite distraught. Neville chimed in with an ‘when I was your age...’ story that had all the kids groaning. 

Eventually Harry showed up and gave them a nod that meant everything was alright. Dean and Sam gave him a nod to confirm and then laughed when Hagrid smothered Harry with a hug too. Harry just grinned and hugged Hagrid right back. Dean figured he must be pretty used to it.

Finally, after nearly a half hour, Teddy re-emerged from the office. Teddy’s hair was jet black and his eyes were green, and if Dean were meeting Teddy for the very first time, and he didn’t know that Teddy was a metamorphwhatever, Dean would have sworn that Teddy was Harry’s son. 

“She hasn’t banned me then?” Harry asked.

“’Course not, Harry,” Teddy rolled his eyes.

McGonagall descended the stairs behind Teddy, and looked around the waiting group.

“Hello Professor,” Harry said. “Sorry about the ruckus today.”

“No apologies necessary,” McGonagall smiled. “Save for the fact that you did not give me the opportunity to have a crack at Amycus myself, of course. Though, I must say, I had the, perhaps foolish, idea that once you graduated you would somehow cease to become engaged in wizard battles on school property. I feel as though I may choose to retire before your other children attend school here – as they will surely cause me to have an aneurysm. At least Teddy has the benefit of inheriting Remus’ good sense.” 

Dean thought it hilarious how all week everyone had seemed to fall over themselves in order to please Harry, and yet, here was Professor McGonagall treating him like he was still in school. By Harry’s smile though, he didn’t seem to mind in the slightest. Oddly enough, he even looked proudly at Teddy when McGonagall had mentioned how he took after his biological father instead of Harry.

“Now children,” McGonagall continued. “How about you run along to the Great Hall ahead of us, it’s almost time for the evening meal, and I must say – I’m sure Harry’s entrance will be much more dramatic if he’s the last to arrive.”

Harry laughed, ruffling Teddy’s hair before he and his friend ran off down the corridor. Neville nudged Hagrid, and they also took off down the corridor with a quick “see you in a few” as parting words.

“Gentleman,” McGonagall addressed them, just after the children disappeared out of earshot. “I’d like to thank you personally for your assistance today.”

“No thanks necessary, ma’am,” Sam said. “It’s kind of our job, you know... saving people.”

“Yes, well, nevertheless, it is appreciated,” McGonagall said. “From what I understand, Hunters are often persecuted by Muggles, rather than applauded. I suggest you enjoy this evening as the rare treat it will be.”

“Uh, what do you mean?” Dean said, just a little bit confused. 

“Come along, and you’ll see,” McGonagall smiled, and then they all began to walk down the corridor. “Now, Harry, I’ve invited Ron to join us as well. He told me that he had to wait to check in with you before he could accept the invitation. Have you spoken with him?”

“Yes, Professor,” Harry said. “He’s on his way back from Azkaban now, I think he may be fifteen or twenty minutes still, but I promised him I’d save him some food.”

“Oh excellent,” McGonagall replied.

They continued to walk down the corridor. McGonagall asked about Sam’s health, and they assured her Sam was fine. Like Neville, she was worried that the wards had such an extreme effect and wondered about the health of any Muggles that might wander by Hogwarts by accident. Dean was actually impressed that Harry was able to explain that Sam was a unique case, without actually going into what it was that made Sam unique. 

Finally, they arrived at a pair of giant wooden doors. Dean could hear a multitude of children’s voices chatting away behind them. Professor McGonagall gave Harry a wink, and then opened the door with a wave of her hand.

Dean was not prepared for what met them on the other side.

Chapter Text

The Great Hall erupted in applause as Professor McGonagall led Harry and the Winchesters towards the staff table. The Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw rose to their feet and seemed to be in competition for who could cheer the loudest. Above them, the enchanted ceiling displayed the starry night sky. Along the wall, banners hung. Harry wondered who had designed them on such short notice – but it appeared as though someone had made the Winchesters their very own coat of arms. The standard shield displayed a unique design that involved rifles and a 1967 Chevrolet Impala. On either side, instead of animals, the shield was held by two familiar silhouettes, one taller than the other.

Harry turned and grinned at the Winchesters, who seemed to not be able to decide if they should be overwhelmed or bashful – the effect was actually quite adorable, judging by the way some of the older girls were sighing and whispering to each other.

When they reached the table, Harry sat to the right of the Headmistress’ chair, with Dean beside him and Sam beside Dean. Neville sat beside Sam, and Ernie sat beside Neville. Hagrid was at the very end of the table and the other teachers were squished to Professor McGonagall’s other side. Once everyone was seated, Professor McGonagall silenced the hall. Harry could see Teddy shush his own friends, his hair still black, but oddly a little longer than usual. Harry could also see a smattering of freckles across his nose.

“May I have your attention,” Professor McGonagall said, as the room quieted. “As I’m sure most of you have heard by now from your fellow students, there was an attack today on the Second Year Hufflepuff-Ravenclaw Herbology class. The perpetrator was a former Death Eater and is on his way to Azkaban as we speak. I would like to thank Harry Potter and the Auror Department for their swift response to the threat and for the services they have rendered to Hogwarts today. I would like to thank our visiting Professors, Sam and Dean, who used their unique knowledge and talents to help against a summoned force of evil during the battle. In particular, I would like to thank Sam, who used his own body to shield a student from an Unforgivable curse. Certainly, such a sacrifice is a reflection of a noble character, and gives us all pause to consider whether we ourselves could make such a decision so instinctually if we were presented with a similar situation. It goes without saying, that if I were to sort Sam and Dean into a House at Hogwarts, they would certainly fit into Gryffindor for their bravery, Ravenclaw for their intelligence and cunning, Slytherin for their ability to keep their own confidence, and Hufflepuff for their loyalty to each other and their care for others.”

Each table applauded as they were named. The Hufflepuff table erupting the loudest of all, with Teddy beaming up at them proudly. Harry glanced over at Sam and Dean to find them both blushing. 

“It’s... what we do,” Sam whispered, as though someone were thanking him for breathing.

“I hope that today also serves as a reminder to us all,” McGonagall continued, “that no matter what our abilities we should always endeavor to defend those who cannot defend themselves. Always remember that it is ignorance that creates bigotry and hatred, and through knowledge and friendship we can stand against it. Please, enjoy the feast.”

The tables were suddenly covered in full plates of food, and pitchers of pumpkin juice, and the applause of the students dimmed into the clatter of cutlery and happy chatter.

“What usually happens when you finish a job?” Harry asked Dean.

“We get the hell out of town before the cops show up,” Dean answered.

“You know,” Harry said. “Sometimes I understand why Hunters try to hide the truth from the rest of society, but other times I have to wonder how much easier it would be if you were celebrated instead of persecuted.”

“We protect people,” Dean shrugged. “One way or another.”

“Besides,” Sam added. “If we were legit, we’d have to file taxes. I did those for three fuckin’ years, man. Not fun.”

Harry shook his head and smiled.

Ron showed up about ten minutes into the meal. Harry’s attention was drawn to the open doors as soon as Ron strode in. Ron was in full auror mode still, Harry had grown used to it over the years, but there were times when it still caught him off guard. There was a harder set to Ron’s jaw, and a seriousness that Harry would never have associated with him when they were kids. He could feel the children’s conversation in the hall dampen a little bit, or turn nervous. 

When Ron caught Harry’s eye, Harry smiled, and pointed to his own mouth while doing it. Ron raised an eyebrow and then seemed to clue in. Harry watched as Ron’s whole body seemed to shift into the more familiar visage of Ron, his shoulders slouching casually, and his demeanour shifting from intense to friendly and open. He glanced away from Harry and immediately found first Teddy’s eyes at the Hufflepuff table and then Vicky’s eyes at the Gryffindor table. He walked past Teddy and ruffled his hair. 

Beside Harry, Professor McGonagall stood up and conjured a chair to squeeze between her seat and Harry’s seat at the head table. 

“A round of applause for Auror Weasley for his crucial help this afternoon,” Professor McGonagall announced, and the hall broke out into cheers and clapping. Harry laughed as Ron blushed, though he smiled proudly and bowed with a flourish before he sat down.

“How’d you like the banners?” Ron asked, looking past Harry to Dean and Sam. “When McGonagall asked, I put her in touch with Hermione – since I was transporting the prisoner and all.”

“They’re awesome, man,” Dean said. “It’s like we’re fuckin’ royalty, instead of just a couple of drifters.”

*

Dean was really enjoying his steak. Beside him, Sam was talking to Neville about meadowsweet or something equally lame. Harry and Ron were talking to McGonagall about something vaguely political sounding. Dean scanned the student tables until he found Teddy, who was surrounded by his friends and, it appeared, a few students from other tables that had switched seats once the feast had started. 

Teddy seemed to be fielding questions. Dean couldn’t see his face from where he was sitting, because Teddy was leaning across the table in the opposite direction, and his hair was longer than usual and was hiding his face. Dean watched in interest as Teddy’s hair seemed to be changing from mousy brown to a more honey-coloured brown, the ends of it curling ever so slightly at the back of his neck. 

Then someone on Teddy’s other side seemed to ask a question, because Teddy turned back towards the head table, tucking his long hair behind his ear in a familiar gesture. Dean couldn’t help the gasp that left him at the sight of Teddy’s face. Sure, he had seen Teddy’s abilities just a week before, when he had shown Teddy and old picture of Sam and had him mimic it, but this was different somehow.

“Dean?” Sam asked him.

“He looks like you,” Dean said. “He looks like he could be your son.”

Teddy’s eyes had the slight slant that Sam’s had, and the same slope to his nose. Only, he wasn’t exactly like Sam, because his eyes were still green, and he had freckles across his nose, and his mouth was different.

“He must be talking about us,” Sam smiled beside Dean. “I think he looks more like you, actually.”

Dean shook his head, denying it – Teddy definitely looked just like Sam, or rather, just like Sam’s son would look like, if things had been different and Sam had married Jess like he wanted. It was as though Dean was looking at what might have been, if they had been dealt different cards in life. More so than ever, he wanted a chance to start over, a chance for at least one of them to escape their fate.

*

It was during desert that Harry realized that Dean and Sam were holding a private conversation in hushed voices, and Harry had been so caught up in Ron’s report of Carrow’s transfer that he hadn’t realized it.

“...just because we can get in, doesn’t mean we should...”

“...we needed Malfoy to move the stairs, what are we going to do, use a grappling hook? We don’t even know which door the prophecies...”

“...useless anyway, we know what it’ll say...”

“...could be something in there that might help...”

Harry realized with a sinking feeling that he was far from off the hook when it came to withholding the prophecy from the Winchesters. He thought back to what Castiel had told him in the American Hall of Prophecies. He tried to consider whether knowing his own prophecy had really changed anything – he wasn’t sure that it had, and besides, as the Winchesters had said, they already knew the prophecy. It had already played out and was over. He wasn’t sure why they would desire so much to hear it from a different source – maybe it was that they needed help interpreting it, maybe hoping for a clue as to how to reverse it.

Trelawney was still the divination teacher at Hogwarts, so Harry knew the only way she would be of help would be the off chance that she went into a trance upon sight of the Winchesters. No, Harry needed someone else if he was going to make amends for this, and he could really only think of one person that he trusted.

*

Sam said his goodbyes to Neville and Ernie after the dinner. He shook Professor McGonagall’s hand and thanked her again for the meal and kind words she had said. Only about a quarter of the students were still in the great hall – though, Teddy and his friends were obviously just waiting there for Harry, Dean, and Sam to be finished with their meals. As soon as Harry made his way out from behind the staff table, Teddy and his friends were on their feet and bounding over. Victoire was with them too, having moved over to the Hufflepuff table sometime during the meal.

“Hey mate,” Ron greeted Teddy. “Harry tells me you’re still better adjusted than he ever was.”

“I am,” Teddy confirmed, with a smile that indicated to Sam that this might be a running joke between the two of them.

“Have you owled your Dad yet, Vicky?” Ron asked, turning to his niece. 

“I’ll do it tomorrow morning, Uncle Ron,” Vicky replied, rolling her eyes. Ron nodded.

“Alright, well, I’m going to apparate home,” Ron said, turning back to Harry. “Do you want me to take Dean with me or are you guys going to go by train or floo?”

“Actually, there’s someone I want to talk to before we leave, so you can just go on ahead and I’ll get Sam and Dean home on my own, thanks,” Harry answered. Sam gave Harry a curious look, but Harry wasn’t looking at him.

“Who?” Ron asked.

“Maybe it’s none of your business,” Harry smirked.

“Your business is always my business, Harry,” Ron said.

“Last time I checked, I was married to your sister, not you,” Harry replied.

“You wound me,” Ron said, clutching a hand to his heart. Then he sobered. “Why do I get the feeling you’re about to do something completely daft?”

“Because I am?” Harry replied. 

Ron just shook his head, told Harry they’d talk later, and made his goodbyes, slipping out the door and into the waiting carriage outside.

“Alright, guys,” Harry said, turning back to Teddy and his friends. “Sam, Dean, and I have to go for a walk in the woods. Nate, how about you warm Sam up?” Harry said. Sam gave Nate a sympathetically embarrassed smile as Nate blushed. “Teddy, do you think you can handle the warming charms for Dean?”

“Yes, Harry,” Teddy said. 

Sam smiled as Nate came up to him and asked what articles of clothing he wanted the charms on.

“My socks and jacket again, please,” Sam said, taking a knee in front of the kid to make it easier for him.
Nate made quick work of the warming charms. It was a little unnecessary inside the castle, and actually made Sam sweat a little, but he knew that as soon as he got outside, he’d be thankful for the extra warmth – especially on his feet.

“Thanks Nate,” Sam said. “You’re going to make someone very happy someday, man.”

“Thanks,” Nate replied.

Sam looked over to where Teddy was casting similar spells on Dean and he watched as Teddy smiled brightly and laughed in response to something Dean said. Dean smiled softly at Teddy, and Sam was inexplicably reminded of the way Dean had smiled at that kid, Ben, in Cicero.

Teddy came over to Sam next.

“Thanks for everything, Sam,” Teddy said, shaking Sam’s hand politely.

“Anytime,” Sam said, not knowing what else to say. Teddy looked at Sam like he was insane, but his smile was broad and happy.

Then Teddy turned to Harry, and Harry pulled him into a brief one armed hug.

“Are you sure you don’t want to come home for the weekend?” Harry said. “I bet I could arrange it with Professor McGonagall.”

“I’m fine, Harry.” Teddy sighed. “I’ll owl you every day until you believe me, if you like.”

“Okay,” Harry said. “I’m really sorry about today. I’ll do my best to make sure it never happens-”

Teddy abruptly turned to his friends, cutting Harry off.

“How about you guys go on down to the common room,” Teddy said. “I’ll be right behind you, okay?”

Teddy’s friends all seemed a little surprised, Vicky included, but then they all nodded.

“Goodbye Sam and Dean!” 

“It was nice to meet you!”

“Have a safe trip back to America!”

“I hope you enjoy the rest of your time in the UK!”

“Goodbye Uncle Harry!”

“Nice to see you again, Mr. Potter!”

Sam waved and called his own farewells as the group of young students disappeared down a corridor. Then Teddy gave him and Dean a meaningful look before turning back to Harry. Dean stepped closer to Sam, and they both stepped a little bit away from where Teddy and Harry stood, though with the way the Entrance Hall echoed, they could hardly step out of earshot.

“Harry, I’m going to tell you something, and then that’s going to be the end of this discussion okay?” Teddy said, his hair turning black and his eyes burning green, and if anyone assumed that Teddy was mimicking Harry at that moment, he would have been wrong, because his tone of voice was definitely something inherited from Andromeda – and Sam would know, having been on the receiving end of the witch’s stern look just the week before.

Harry nodded, and actually looked a little terrified.

“There is absolutely no reason for you to apologize. What happened today wasn’t your fault,” Teddy said. 

“But, you didn’t get much choice in who-"

“Harry,” Teddy interrupted again. “Even if Voldemort himself came back from the grave and made it his personal mission to kill me to get revenge on you, I still wouldn’t regret having you as my godfather.” 

Teddy shot another look over to Sam and Dean, and they both tried to pretend like the painting on the wall beside them was extremely interesting – although, Sam wasn’t sure what good it did, given that the occupants of the painting were all listening intently to what Teddy was saying.

“I love you,” Teddy said in a low voice. “I love my brothers and sister, I love Ginny. I’m proud to be your beloved freak, okay? So don’t apologize for loving me too.”

“I don’t deserve you,” Harry said. “And don’t call yourself that.”

“It’s not a bad thing,” Teddy laughed. “Just think how boring I would be, if I weren’t the son of a metamorphmagus and a werewolf!”

“I love you,” Harry said, pulling Teddy into a hug.

Teddy’s laughter filled the corridor.

“I think we established that, yeah,” Teddy said. “Now don’t cry or anything or you’ll embarrass all of wizard-kind in front of the Hunters.”

“Right,” Harry said. “Okay, owl me tomorrow, alright?”

“Dear Harry, it’s been twelve hours since I last saw you and I am still alive,” Teddy recited sarcastically.

“Don’t joke,” Harry said, but the sternness in his voice was ruined by a chuckle. “I’m allowed to be ridiculously overprotective.”

“Just as long as you don’t start calling me Teddykins,” Teddy replied.

“Oh god, nevermind about the owl then,” Harry said. “Goodnight, Master Lupin”

“Mister Potter,” Teddy mocked a formal bow. 

“You’re both ridiculous,” Dean laughed from beside Sam. 

“Oh,” Harry said, checking his watch, looking at Sam and Dean as though he had forgotten they were there. “We better get going.”

They said their final goodbyes to Teddy, ruffling his hair, which changed from black to dirty blond, to mixture of both – while his eyes turned hazel. Then they finally stepped out into the cold night – which was a relief after spending the past ten minutes in the warm castle with warming charms on their jackets.

“So, who is it that you need to talk to?” Dean asked.

“Someone who might be able to help with you with your prophecy,” Harry answered, and Sam’s interest was immediately piqued.

“What do you mean?” Sam asked. He and Dean had argued about it over dinner – in the end, even though it had been Dean who brought it up, Dean had decided that the risks of breaking into the American Ministry of Magic were too great for something that probably wouldn’t help. After all, Castiel had told them that the prophecy in there was irrelevant.

“I overheard you at dinner,” Harry said. “I thought, maybe, since you already know the prophecy and it’s already happened, there wasn’t much point in risking your lives to break into the American Ministry, but you clearly have questions. So, I thought maybe you’d like to talk to someone that might know something about interpreting prophecies.”

“There isn’t much to interpret,” Dean sighed. “It’s pretty straight forward.”

“Who is it that you think could help? A psychic?” Sam asked, wondering why it was that they were heading into the woods.

“He’d hate to be called that,” Harry said. “He’s just someone who knows a thing or two about this sort of thing. There are a few rules I’ll have to impose on you though. Rule number one, you absolutely must not draw your weapons unless I say. Rule number two, you have to be polite as possible – I have to have your word that you will not insult anyone we talk to tonight... we’ll find ourselves quickly outnumbered and in a heap of trouble if you do. Do I have your word?”

Sam nodded, even though he felt something inside him shift at Harry’s words – his mind and body clicking into hunting mode, instead of being relaxed. 

“Dean?” Harry asked.

“I’ll do my best,” Dean said. “Who the hell are you taking us to see, man? I’m not sure I like the sound of this.”

“Firenze”

“Friends?” Dean repeated. 

Harry laughed.

*

“F-I-R-E-N-Z-E,” Harry spelled out. “He’s a centaur.”

“A what? You’re joking” Dean said, but then he remembered the fountain in the Ministry – the one with the weird creatures. He had thought it was just strange art, but now when he thought back on it, he recognized that one of the things in the statue had been a house elf, and if they existed, than it made sense that the others may exist as well.

“So they are real?” Sam said beside him, and Dean figured he must have had a similar thought.

“Yes, they’re real,” Harry said. “They don’t really like humans very much though, which is why it’s very important that we mind our manners and don’t appear threatening at all. Firenze is alright, but I can’t promise anything about the others.”

“How many?” Dean asked.

“I don’t know,” Harry replied.

They walked in silence for a few more minutes. Harry had taken out his wand and made the end light up like flashlight. It cast everything in an eerie bluish light.

Dean was contemplating whether he should tell Harry that the prophecy hadn’t happened, at least, not completely – not yet. It’s not like he hadn’t caught Harry’s wording. It’s not as though Dean didn’t know that Harry wasn’t aware of the full truth. Harry had assumed that the prophecy was only about the seals, and part of Dean didn’t want to ruin that. Part of Dean didn’t want to explain that he and Sam were supposed to destroy half of the world – destroy places like Hogwarts – maybe kill the kids they had just saved.

Dean cut a glance to Sam and could see the same questions in Sam’s eyes, along with a now familiar edge of fear as Sam glanced at Harry. Would Harry’s opinion of Sam change when he knew that Sam was destined to be Lucifer’s meatsuit? Dean didn’t know. Sam refocused on the path in front of him, and Dean found himself missing the days when all it took to cheer Sam up was a piggyback ride to the corner store to buy a candy bar.

“Harry,” Sam said, after clearing his throat. Dean’s attention was back on Sam, because this was Sam taking the decision to tell Harry away from him. Dean knew it simply by the way Sam said Harry’s name.

“Mm?” Harry said, glancing back at Sam.

“Harry, the prophecy, it’s not-” Sam started, but then Harry cut him off with a wave of his hand.

“Who’s there?” Harry asked the darkness behind Sam.

Dean tensed and turned his attention to trees and low lying bushes. Standing beside a large pine was a young man, only, midway down his torso, his body changed into that of a horse. His skin was brown, smooth on the part that was a man, and fur coated on the part that was a horse. His hair was long and blond. He couldn’t have been more than sixteen.

“You trespass,” the boy said, instead of answering Harry.

“I seek audience with Firenze,” Harry answered. “My name is Harry Potter – he knows me.”

“Everyone knows you,” The teenage centaur said.

“They only know of me. It is not the same,” Harry replied.

“This is true,” the centaur replied. He’s gaze then shifted to Sam and Dean and Dean really regretted telling Harry he wouldn’t draw a weapon, because he was feeling pretty uneasy – especially given the fact that he could see the quiver that the centaur held casually at his side, an arrow already nocked, though the string was still loose. “And your company?”

“Sam and Dean Winchester,” Harry replied. Dean watched as the Centaur shifted on his four feet – like an uneasy horse, rather than a man. It was the first Dean had seen the animal part of him surface in his behaviour. The young centaur glanced up at the night sky, concerned. 

Dean then heard whispers from the woods around them, and the centaur glanced over his shoulder and nodded at someone unseen. Dean realized that there was more than just the teenager with them now. There was an unknown amount of centaurs hiding around them, perhaps some with their arrows nocked and their bowstrings pulled tight.

“My name is Gali,” the centaur spoke. “I will give your request to Firenze. Remain here.”

“Thank you, Gali” Harry said. 

Dean watched as the brown colt disappeared into the darkness of the woods, his blond tail swaying with his gait.

“Harry-” Dean said.

“We’re being watched,” Harry said. “Rules are still in effect.”

“Yes, sir,” Dean said before he could stop himself. Dean didn’t know how to ask his questions without the risk of being rude. He couldn’t draw his weapons, and he didn’t know how many centaurs were currently watching them nor how many arrows might possibly already be aimed at them. Dean moved closer to Sam, who was already moving closer to Dean.

They waited in silence for what seemed like forever, but was probably only ten minutes, and then Gali appeared on top of a rise in front of them. Dean expected him to speak, but instead the young centaur just turned and watched as an older centaur climbed the hill slowly. This centaur was a palomino and walked with a slight limp.

“Firenze,” Harry greeted. “Thank you for seeing me.”

Chapter Text

“It is not you I have come to see,” Firenze replied, as he walked down the hill towards them slowly. “Nevertheless, I am pleased that you are well.”

“Likewise,” Harry replied. Dean watched warily as Firenze circled them. He came to a stop at the spot that had been behind Sam, and then, much as Gali had, he looked up at the night sky.

“You’ve come to me about the prophecy,” Firenze said.

“For your wisdom, yes,” Harry replied. “Sam and Dean had a prophe-”

“Have,” Firenze said, interrupting.

“Sorry?” Harry asked.

“The Brothers,” Firenze said. “There is a prophecy they are attempting to defy.”

“No,” Harry replied. “It’s already happ-"

“Harry,” Dean sighed. “I’m sorry, but he's is right. The seals were only act one... or maybe that was act two, I don’t know... there’s more to it than that.”

“What?” Harry asked. 

“You are wondering,” Firenze said, ignoring Harry completely and focusing on Sam and Dean, “if there is a way out - a way to stop the earth from turning, the stars from burning, and the end from arriving.”

“Is there?” Sam asked. 

“At great distances two stars can appear as one, yet it is from these great distances that your prophecy comes to us.” Firenze said, waving a hand towards the sliver of sky that Dean could see through the trees above them. “The very ancient reaches of the galaxy contain your fates. The message of which has traveled to us for thousands upon thousands of years – so long, that we are not to know whether the stars whose lights are said to foretell your destiny even still exist.”

“What does that mean?” Dean asked.

“If what you seek is hope, I am afraid I will leave you disappointed,” Firenze replied. “I am not powerful enough to provide you with such a thing. I can only tell you what lights the night sky. I have not the vision to see beyond - no earthly being does.”

Dean nodded. He figured as much. It was the same spiel that Castiel had given them when they had found Chuck.

“The angels-” Sam started to say.

“Cannot see beyond either, though they may feign otherwise” Firenze finished. “Even with Harry’s prophecy, there was a possibility that Voldemort could prevail. It is why I chose to join the fight, through my brothers thought the matter beyond our concern. Your prophecy is also of concern to us, but sadly, the only help we can provide, I have already given.” 

The centaur started to move away from them then, back towards the woods. Dean didn’t see how that had been any help at all really. It was just the same doomed message they always got.

“Thank you,” Sam said, but Dean didn’t know what there was to be thankful for.

*

“Harry,” Firenze said, pausing to level Harry with a heavy stare. “It would be good for you to remember that your war is over.”

Harry nodded, though he wasn’t sure what Firenze meant. Harry knew full well that the war was over. He had even stopped having flashbacks.

“I wish you well on your journey, Winchesters” Firenze said.

“It was nice meeting you,” Sam said. 

Firenze nodded and then turned and walked back up and over the small rise, giving a nod to Gali, who still stood guard. Gali waved his hand in silent signal, and then gave the Winchesters a long stare.

“It was nice to meet you too, Gali,” Harry said. 

Gali glanced at him, nodded once curtly, and then turned and disappeared into the woods. Around them, Harry could suddenly hear the sound of multiple hoofs moving away through the woods, no longer masking their presence. Harry couldn’t see the numbers, but it sounded like practically the entire herd had been hiding around them in the woods.

“Holy...” Dean muttered, eyes darting into the woods at the noise.

Sam smiled widely at the noise.

“Centaurs!” Sam said. “Centaurs, Dean!”

“I know, Sam, I was there too,” Dean rolled his eyes.

“Where the hell is their center of gravity?” Sam mumbled.

“What’s the rest of it?” Harry asked, and both Winchesters turned to each other before they turned to him, and that was enough for Harry to know that the rest of it wasn’t ‘And then Sam and Dean defeat the devil and save the world and we all live happily ever after.’ Harry knew logically of course, that it couldn’t be anything good – the Seer had killed himself, the Winchesters were... depressed. Harry could see it now, the haunted looks weren’t just from being overworked like Bobby Singer’s letter had implied – there was more to it than that.

“Angels need vessels,” Sam said. “It’s... sort of the rules. In order to roam the earth, they need vessels. Castiel has Jimmy, and well, the other angels have other people... it’s not just anyone, it’s specific people, it's bloodlines, you understand?” Harry nodded, and Sam continued. “The rest of the prophecy is that Michael has to fight Lucifer – they have to do it on earth, because it’s the only neutral ground between Hell and Heaven. So, they need vessels. They need... their true vessels.”

Harry looked from Sam to Dean, trying to piece it together in his head. Maybe Sam and Dean wanted to stop the vessels from accepting the angels. Only, no, because now all the parts of the day that hadn’t made sense to Harry suddenly lined up – the demon yelling at Carrow that Sam couldn’t consent if he were brain-dead – the demon taunting Sam about having a drink to become strong for “daddy” – it was all falling horribly into place, and Harry wished it would stop, because he didn’t want it to be true.

“You...” Harry said.

“We’re the vessels,” Dean said. “Me and Sammy, we’re supposed to... well, we’re supposed to say yes, and then...”

“No,” Harry said. “No, that doesn’t make any sense.”

Both Winchesters were now looking at Harry like he was the one that had been doomed, and maybe he was at this moment, because there was no reason for them to be lying to him right now. 

“Dean is Michael’s vessel,” Sam said. “I’m... well... he’s supposed to kill me. That is, Michael is supposed to kill Lucifer, and-“

“And the battle will wipe out more than half the planet,” Dean said. “If they really get going, maybe more.”

“But you love each other,” Harry said. “You wouldn’t-"

“No, no,” Sam said. “We aren’t going to say yes, Harry. We’re going to find another way. We are. I mean, if it were just a matter of Dean killing me, that wouldn’t be so bad, but we have to save everyone else... we can’t have that battle take place. We’ve got to stop it before it gets to that.”

“Sam,” Dean said, and it was a warning.

“And before you ask,” Sam continued, shooting Dean an apologetic look. “I already thought of killing myself so that Lucifer couldn’t get his vessel, but he told me that it wouldn’t work – that he’d just bring me back. More than that, right now we’re hidden from heaven and hell, if one of us dies, then they’ll know where to find us, one way or the other... so unfortunately, it’s just not an option.”

“Of COURSE it’s not an option,” Harry practically yelled. “I wasn’t even thinking- Why would you- I would never-...wait, wait... you already thought-“

“Harry, Harry” Dean repeated. “It’s alright.”

“No, it’s not,” Harry said. “None of this is alright!”

Harry’s mind was racing – there had to be a way out of this. If he used his authority to pull Hermione out of her job at the Ministry, then he could have her researching full time. Prophecy and the gods were usually covered by the Department of Mysteries and Harry’s only contact there was Draco – but surely they could set aside their differences for this, after all, Draco seemed to get along with Dean for some reason. He could get Ron to take over as Head Auror, and Harry could- but no, there was Ginny to consider. She’d be livid if Harry left for America, and what would he tell his kids? He couldn’t imagine being apart from them for so long. Or Teddy, god, what if something happened to him and Teddy lost yet another father-figure – Harry knew what that was like... no, Harry couldn’t do that to Teddy. He could send Ron to America, but Hermione and the kids would kill him if-

“Harry,” Dean said. “I’m sorry, this is why we didn’t want to tell you.”

“We’ve got it covered,” Sam assured. “We’ll take care of it, I promise. We’ll figure something out. Don’t worry. We’ll do everything we can to keep everyone safe.”

Harry ran a hand through his hair and tried to calm down. What had Firenze said about the prophecy – it had come from the ancient skies or something and...

“Harry,” Dean said. “Let’s just go back to your place, okay? Come on, warming charms or not, it’s cold out here, and I could use a drink.”

...and Firenze had told Harry that he’d already fought his war. Harry looked over at the Winchesters, their broad shoulders and concerned faces... 

“Yeah,” Harry said. “Let’s go home.”

*

Harry apparated them back to the steps of Grimmauld Place once they left Hogwarts’ gates. 

“I think I liked it better when Sam was a delicate flower and we had to take the train,” Dean said, trying to keep his dinner in his stomach.

Harry smiled softly, and it was the most Dean had gotten out of him since they told him about the prophecy. Well, that and a promise not to tell anyone else about how doomed they all were – at least, not until Dean and Sam left. Harry had agreed once Dean told him how nice it had been to hang out with people who didn’t know. Dean glanced at Sam in time to catch the look of concern and regret directed at the back of Harry’s head, just before Harry opened the front door and they walked into another world. 

The warmth of the house enveloped them. Dean and Sam quickly shrugged off their coats – the warming charms the kids had done now fading. There was a duel exclamation of “Daddy!” from the direction of the kitchen, and then Harry’s two boys were barrelling toward them down the hallway. Ginny followed behind them with a huge smile on her face, and a sleepy toddler in her arms.

“Our heroes are home!” Ginny singsonged, more to Lily then to them, though she winked towards them while she said it. “Hugs for everyone!”

Lily’s hug for her father was actually more of a complete transfer of body weight, as she leaned out of her mother’s arms, forcing Harry to carry her instead.

“Someone is sleepy,” Harry said, kissing Lily’s forehead. Ginny hugged him herself then, before turning and hugging Sam and Dean as well. The two boys hugged their father too, and then hugged Sam and Dean’s legs.

“Thank you for saving Teddy,” James said. “He’s my favourite.”

“Mine too!” Albus said.

“Uh, well, it’s a good thing you both agree on that,” Dean laughed.

“Boys,” Harry said, with a distressed look on his face. 

“Relax, Harry,” Ginny laughed. “They don’t mean it like that – watch: Boys!” Both boys looked at Ginny, “I think I’ll send Albus off to live with Uncle Charlie.”

“No!” James said, suddenly hugging Albus to him. “He’s my favourite!”

“Dragons!” Albus exclaimed, and Dean wasn’t really sure if that was a vote for or against living with this Uncle Charlie person, since the poor kid just looked confused.

“Mum doesn’t mean it,” Harry said. “She’s just being silly.”

“Can Lily come too? And Daddy? And Jamie? And Samdean? And Mummy?” Albus asked the room at large.

“Yes, we can all go visit Uncle Charlie,” Harry sighed. “But not tonight.”

“Oh, my mother flooed,” Ginny said. “It seems um... well, we’re about to have a lot of visitors. She’s decided a feast at Hogwarts isn’t nearly enough.”

*

The next morning was spent getting the house ready for guests. Dean and Sam watched the kids play in Harry’s study, while Ginny and Harry tidied up downstairs. Well, really, it was Dean watching the kids and Sam reading every book in Harry’s personal library. Dean didn’t mind.

At lunch, they discussed what other tourist attractions Sam and Dean might want to see before they went back to the states. They talked about maybe seeing a professional Quidditch game, or maybe a soccer game – they hadn’t really decided how long they were staying, but Dean figured a couple of more days would probably be alright, but then they’d absolutely have to go. The longer Dean and Sam slept in Harry’s house, the more they ran the risk of placing Harry’s entire family in danger.

The first person to arrive just as they were finishing lunch was Andromeda, who swept into the room from the fireplace with an unreadable look. Dean saw Harry tense beside him, but Andromeda seemed to have picked Sam as her intended target, which of course, had Dean tensing on reflex.

Sam just stood still as the witch approached him though, a look of faint concern on his face. Then he was being hugged, and surprisingly that was what caused him to look terrified. Dean laughed.

“Thank you,” Andromeda said pulling back from Sam, but keeping a hold on his forearms. “Teddy told me what you did for him.”

“It wasn’t-“ Sam started to say, but then cut himself off. “There’s no need to thank me.”

“You seem to have made it your mission to humble me,” Andromeda laughed, patting Sam on the arm before stepping away. “You’d think I, of all people, would know better than to judge someone too quickly. I apologize again for my words last week, I realize now that my Teddy couldn’t be in safer hands than when he is in the company of you and your brother.”

Andromeda glanced at Dean then, and Dean felt an unexpected blush rise to his cheeks. He ducked his head to try to hide it, and his eyes landed on Albus, who had decided to eat his lunch with his hands and now had sauce and cheese up to his elbows. It was a pretty good excuse to flee the room.

“Come on, Ally,” Dean said, scooping the kid up by his arm pits. “Let’s get you washed up for company.”

Albus giggled as Dean carried him out of the room, and he heard Sam quietly tell Andromeda not to worry about it.

*

“An’ Uncle Charlie said tha’ I couldn’ pet da dragon, ‘cause I was too cute, an’ dey’d eat me,” Albus was saying, as Dean used a washcloth to scrub between the kid's fingers. 

“Now dragons I have a hard time believing,” Dean said. “But I agree on the rest of it.”

“Dean,” Sam’s voice came from the bathroom door. “Bill’s here.”

“Oh cool,” Dean said. “I like that guy.”

“He brought his wife,” Sam said. “You have to see her, Dean – he showed me a picture, but it really didn’t do her justice.”

Dean raised an eyebrow.

“Aunt Fleur is pretty,” Albus explained to Dean, then turned to Sam. “Dommy ‘n Lou?”

“Your cousins?” Sam said, “yeah, they’re here too.”

Albus smiled, now starting to fight Dean’s hold on his arm.

“All clean, Dean!” Albus said.

“Hold on, I’ll be the judge of that!” Dean said, slowly inspecting Albus’s hands. 

“All cleeeaaaannnn, Deeeaaaannnn!” Albus struggled some more. 

Dean laughed and let Albus go, then watched as the kid ran out of the bathroom past Sam’s long legs, and started making his way down the stairs.

Sam led Dean downstairs to the living room. The first newcomers Dean noticed were the two additional children playing with James – and now Albus. There was a girl with braided red hair that looked to be around eight or nine, and a boy with strawberry blond hair that was probably James’ age or maybe a year older. Both children were perhaps the most beautiful children Dean had ever seen – the boy’s features were so delicate that it was really only the short hair and more masculine clothes that told Dean he was looking at a boy.

Then a blond woman stepped into the room from the direction of the kitchen, and yeah, Dean could see what had Sam nervously smoothing down the front of his plaid shirt.

“’ello,” the woman smiled, beautifully too. “You must be Dean, eet ees a pleasure to meet you. I am Fleur, Beel is my ‘usband.”

“Pleasure’s all mine,” Dean smiled, taking Fleur’s offered hand – then realizing it wasn’t offered for a handshake. Blushing, Dean bent slightly and kissed her knuckles.

“Dean,” Sam said beside him.

“No wonder your kids are so beautiful,” Dean said, and for the life of him he wasn’t sure why he was saying it – the woman was married, for God’s sake – not only that, she was married to some dude who took on a werewolf without any guns.

“Ah, ze cheeldren,” Fleur said. “I weel introduce you. Cheeldren!”

“Oui, mama,” the young girl said, as she and her brother appeared by her mother’s side.

“I would like you to meet Dean, ‘e ees Sam’s brother,” Fleur said, then Fleur touched the heads of both her children. “Dean, dees ees my daughter Dominique, et my son Louis.”

Dean dropped to one knee and kissed Dominique’s hand like he had her mother’s, making the girl blush. Then he shook Louis’ hand.

“Nice to meet you guys,” Dean said.

“Nice to meet you too,” they both chorused.

“Now, go play,” Fleur said, as Dean got back up to his feet. “Victoire wrote us dees morning to tell us of Sam’s bravery – I ‘ave to say, eef I were not already married...”

Dean watched as Sam blushed and seemed to no longer know what to do with his hands. 

“Fleur, love,” Bill’s voice came from behind his wife, surprising Dean who hadn’t even noticed him enter the room. “It’s not nice to tease... plus, you wouldn’t want me to become insecure, would you?”

“Ah darling,” Fleur said, gliding over to where her husband was leaning casually against the door frame. “Eet ees not often I meet such ‘andsome men, but you know you are all ze man I need.”

“Oh god, not more of that,” Ron’s voice rang out as he entered the room, giving Fleur and Bill a disgusted look. “Honestly, you’d think after so many years and three kids, you’d stop being so... well, whatever the hell you two are.”

“And you are not ze same wit’ ‘ermione?” Fleur challenged.

“Well, that’s different, isn’t it,” Ron protested. “Hermione’s brilliant.”

“And yet eet was mee you asked to ze Yule Ball,” Fleur said.

“Only because of your,” Ron waved a hand vaguely, “ways.”

“Alright, no talking of my wife’s ‘ways’ please,” Bill said.

As Bill, Ron, and Fleur teased each other further, Dean pulled Sam down into a whispered conversation.

“Some sort of succubus or something?” Dean asked. “She’s gotta be. I was practically hitting on another man’s wife, dude, couldn’t even stop myself.”

“Veela” Sam said. “Bill told me about it last week, but I didn’t realize what it- She’s a quarter of something called a Veela.”

“Never heard of it,” Dean said. 

“Some European thing,” Sam said.

“Evil?” 

“Apparently not, or... well, you don’t want to make them angry.”

“Huh” Dean said, appraising the blond woman with fresh eyes. Now that she was talking with Ron, she seemed almost ordinary – still beautiful, but not the sort of beauty that had caused Dean to kiss people’s hands and flirt so openly with a married woman. Then Fleur caught his eye and smiled, giving him a wink, and Dean completely revised his opinion yet again. Sam laughed.

“Whatever it is, it seems she knows how to use it to her advantage,” Sam said.

*

Harry couldn’t help but watch the Winchesters during the celebratory get-together that Molly had orchestrated on such short notice. He watched them lean in with avid interest, as Fleur recounted the story of the second task – and how it was that she came to respect and care for Harry. She told them a bit about Beauxbatons too, with Hermione chiming in as usual to cite information from Hogwarts: A History. Once George arrived, he watched the Winchesters laugh along with more stories of old pranks and mishaps at the joke shop.

At some point, Harry lost track of them and found Sam talking with Bill and Fleur, while Dean was nowhere to be found – and for that matter, neither was George. Sam didn’t look worried though. Before Harry could run through all the worst-case scenarios in his head, Dean and George were coming back into the room, with Dean clutching a familiar looking box, eager to show it to Sam. It was Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes’ Auspicious Accessories for Aurors. When Harry asked George if he really thought the gift was a good idea, George had just said, ‘yes’ without elaboration.

Later, Harry watched Dean break up a fight amongst the children that had Albus crying again – and oddly enough, Albus went to Sam, who was closer, to be consoled, rather than seeking out Harry or Ginny. Sam might have looked a little scared and awkward at first, but he soon had the small boy giggling. Harry caught Dean look over fondly at Sam’s bright smile, before he returned to organizing the other kids into more cooperative games.

As Harry watched all this, he really couldn’t imagine Sam or Dean fighting – he knew they did fight on occasion, he had seen it himself – but not any sort of battle to the death. It didn’t make sense that they were the vessels for Michael and Lucifer.... well, ok, maybe it made sense, but it wasn’t fair. It wasn’t right. Somewhere, someone had made a mistake. 

Harry couldn’t picture Dean without Sam or Sam without Dean – and if this fight happened... but then, Harry had never been able to picture George without Fred either, and yet, there he was across the room chatting with Ginny, and giving Harry odd looks.

Harry quickly schooled his features and decided it was a good time to go into the kitchen for a drink.

*

“Are you going to tell me what’s wrong?” Ginny asked that evening, long after all their guests had left, the children put to bed, and the Winchesters retired to the spare room. Ginny waited, but Harry only snuggled tighter against her, burying his face in her neck and practically covering her like a blanket. “George is worried – said you were sad when you looked at him tonight. He thought it was something to do with Fred, but it’s not is it? I told him it wasn’t, anyway – told him you’d been off since you got back from Hogwarts Friday night. You have been, you know. I expected you to tell me what the matter is by now.”

“I told them I wouldn’t tell anyone until they left,” Harry said into her shoulder.

“Hm, the Winchesters?” Ginny said. “What don’t they want me to know?”

“They found out about the prophecy,” Harry said.

“Oh Harry,” Ginny said. “You said you were going to tell them – were they very angry?”

“Only a little,” Harry replied. “Castiel seemed to take most of the blame.”

“He seemed like a nice man - or angel, I suppose,” Ginny said, correcting herself, and still trying work her head around the fact that she had met an actual angel. Harry nodded. “So, are they going to kill you, but they don’t want me to know, lest I stop cooking for them?”

Ginny was expecting a laugh, but instead she got Harry scrambling up and looking at her earnestly.

“They wouldn’t,” Harry said. “They’re good people, Ginny – they wouldn’t-”

“Joking, love,” Ginny said. “I was only joking. Of course they aren’t going to kill you – they’d be terrible house guests if they did.”

“Oh,” Harry said, and flopped back down on top of Ginny, hiding his face again. Ginny brought her hand up and started idly stroking Harry’s hair.

“So, if they were only a little angry...” Ginny prompted.

“They knew the prophecy, Ginny – and it’s so much worse than we thought. And it’s not fair, it’s wrong... it’s... I feel so useless, Gin.”

“Shhh,” Ginny said. “Tell me what it is, and we’ll figure it out.”

*

The next morning, just as they were sitting down to breakfast, Hermione and Ron arrived by floo, complete with kids.

“Morning,” Hermione said, then waved a white envelope in the air. “We’ve come with post.”

Harry watched as Hermione handed the letter to Dean, who promptly tore it open.

“From Bobby” Dean muttered to Sam, as he scanned the contents. Harry put down his fork as he watched the crease between Dean’s brows deepen. Finally, Dean turned to Sam. “You remember Donna? Babysitter... from... um... what was it? ’94?”

“Yeah,” Sam said, and then smiled. “She was nice. I liked her... maybe not as much as you did though.”

Dean handed Sam the letter and as Sam read, Dean shifted his attention back to Harry. 

“Can you portkey my car anywhere or does it have to go back to Boston?” Dean asked.

“Anywhere, as long as I have coordinates,” Harry said. “And as long as you can be sure you won’t be landing on anything – or anyone.”

“Okay, looks like Sammy and I have a gig, so, uh... guess our stay at Hotel Harry has to come to an end, man.” Dean smiled. “We’ll hit the road after breakfast.”

“What?” Harry said, shocked that the Winchesters might actually leave that abruptly.

“Sounds like a poltergeist,” Sam said.

“Can’t it wait a little longer?” Ron said, “I mean – we’ve barely had time to visit what with all the-”

“No,” Dean said. “It’s an old friend, and her daughter’s been attacked. It can’t wait.”

“Oh,” Harry said. “I understand then, of course. Is her daughter okay?”

“Sounds like it, but we won’t know until we get there,” Dean replied, and dug into his breakfast.

Harry had lost his appetite.

*

Sam packed while Dean showed Harry the coordinates of a safe drop place on a faded road map of the US. Then Harry watched as Dean and Sam loaded the car with their large duffle bags and then jogged back to the house to say their goodbyes. 

They both crouched down low to say goodbye to the kids, Hermione and Ron’s included, since Harry’s friends had stayed after realizing that it was their last chance to spend time with the Winchesters. Ginny squeezed Harry’s hand and gave him a reassuring look, as Dean patted Ron on the back and Sam said goodbye to Hermione.

“...would have loved to spend more time at that library,” Sam was saying. “Maybe next time.”

“Let’s hope,” Hermione said. “It’d be lovely to research with you.”

“Are you trying to steal my wife away from me?” Ron joked.

“I’m sure she’d refuse me if I tried,” Sam laughed. “It was nice seeing you too, Ron. Thanks again for looking after everything while I had uh, that nosebleed the other day.”

“It was great to see you too, Sam,” Ron said. “Stay safe.”

“Kind of a hard promise to make in our line of work,” Sam said. 

“Right, well, relatively safe then.” Ron smiled.

“Hermione,” Dean said. “It was great to see you again, thanks for the tour of London.”

“Oh, you’re welcome,” Hermione replied. “I only wish we had time for more. Maybe next time?”

“We’ll always have that magic farmhouse and a field full of exorcised demons,” Dean winked. “Ron’s a lucky man.”

Harry laughed as Hermione blushed, and then seemed to get annoyed at herself for doing so.

Next the Winchesters said goodbye to Ginny, thanking her for everything. Finally, Sam, Dean, and Harry left the warmth of Grimmauld place and walked to the car.

“Listen,” Harry said, before Dean and Sam could speak. “I spoke to Ginny last night and... well, she agreed that if I wanted, I could come with you – to America that is – and help with... the prophecy. The library at Veracruz has an extensive collection on the apocalypse and maybe it’d make a difference if you had a wizard in your corner, so- of course, I can’t come right away, because I’ll need some time to uh, get affairs in order, put Ron in charge of the department, that sort of thing-"

“Harry,” Dean interrupted, and Harry saw him look towards Sam, and then Harry’s house, before meeting Harry’s eyes again. “Can you access those books from here at all?”

“Well, I suppose there are inter-library loans,” Harry said. “But I-“

“Harry,” Dean interrupted. “Stay here. Stay with your family, man. You don’t want to do this.”

“I do, I could help,” Harry insisted, worried that in the confusion of their early departure, he had come across as insincere in his offer.

“Well, I don’t want you to,” Dean said. “You belong here. Me and Sammy... we only get our friends killed, Harry. Don’t do that to those kids.”

“I...” Harry started, but he didn’t know what to say.

“Harry,” Sam said, giving Harry a sympathetic look. “We really appreciate what you’re offering, but the best way you can help us is to stay safe and look after your family...” then Sam smiled softly. “And read books. Maybe recruit Hermione though, I trust her research skills a little more than yours.”

Harry couldn’t help the huff of a laugh that escaped him. He really was more of an action-oriented person, and Sam and Dean both knew it... which is why he really didn’t understand why they’d refuse the help.

“We’ll be fine, Harry,” Sam continued. “We’ll figure something out. You don’t have to worry. We’ll keep everyone safe.”

“Thanks for everything, man,” Dean said. “I really mean it. You’ve been a great friend.”

“Yeah, thanks, Harry,” Sam said. “Just the offer means a lot. And hey, once this mess is all taken care of, we’ll give you a call, and maybe we can come back and visit? Or, if you guys want some good pie – we know a couple places.”

“Of course, Sam.” Harry smiled. “I’ll hold you to that. Even if Lucifer is still on the loose, you guys are welcome back anytime.”

“Thanks,” Sam repeated, and then he smiled at Harry and slipped into the passenger seat of the car.

“You remember the coordinates?” Dean asked.

“Yes, just outside Housatonic, I remember,” Harry said. 

“Hey, thanks for being such a great friend to Sammy,” Dean said softly. “You’ve been... amazingly understanding about... well, you know. It’s nice to know Sam has friends like you.”

“I’m your friend too, Dean.” Harry smiled. “Or at least, I thought I was-...you still have the mirror?”

“Yeah,” Dean patted his pocket, and then gave Harry a long look.

“Bye Harry, keep that family of yours safe, okay?” Dean said.

“I will and if you change your mind about-” Harry started.

“I won’t,” Dean interrupted, opening the driver’s door. “Bye, Harry.”

Dean slammed the door shut, and Harry had two Winchesters waiting expectantly for him to say a simple spell and launch them across the Atlantic. Once he said the word, there would be maybe ten seconds in which Harry would know exactly where they were in the world, and then Dean would start the car, pull onto the highway, and the Winchesters would become untraceable – disappearing into the back roads of America. Harry looked through the front window to see Sam give him a reassuring smile, and, for the briefest moment, Harry actually did believe that everything might turn out alright. 

"Portus



fin.