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In a Cursed Hour

Chapter Text

 

Normal, Illinois: October 28, 1958

 

When Henry came up the stairs into the chapterhouse, Josie was perched neatly in the window seat, head bent under the Aquarian star in the glass. She looked pretty as a picture, cocktail gown spread out over the bench, and as soon as she heard his step she looked up, and smiled.

“Josie,” he said, removing his hat, and she stood to meet him, her smile widening a little. “No one told me this initiation was a formal affair.”

She ducked her head a fraction and shrugged, her bare shoulders pale in the hallway’s harsh light. “I’m just—real happy it’s finally happening.” She reached out to adjust his tie, solicitous as a sister, and brushed her finger over his pin. “The hard part’s over, right?” she said, eyes fixed on it. “We made it.”

Henry caught her hand, and when her eyes flew up to his, he squeezed it gently. “We made it, Josie,” he said, and she was flushed a little but she nodded, anyway, eyes bright.

The door into the sanctum swung open, then, and Josie stepped back from him as they both turned to find Ted standing there in his officiant’s robes. “Ms. Sands?” he said, formally, like they hadn’t worked side by side for almost a year, taking their last steps toward initiation under his guidance.

Henry swallowed, his earlier nerves hitting him strongly in the stomach. Josie firmed her mouth, but nodded at Ted and followed him into the chamber—Henry smiled encouragingly at her when she glanced back, and then the door closed, and he wouldn’t get to know what happened behind it for nearly an hour.

He sat, and waited. Low sounds came from behind the door, and for a few seconds there was a sharp smell of sage smoke, and then a burst of sound as the chanting grew quite loud. His stomach rolled, slowly, and he sat very straight against the window with his hands on his knees. He recited the Sura Al-Falaq to himself, and the names of the thirty-three gods of the Vedic tradition, and then he visualized the exact working of the spell to incapacitate a cockatrice, and then before he knew it the door swung open again, and he found himself on his feet as Ted said, “Mr. Winchester?” He didn’t know where Josie had gone, and his nerves were no better, but he swallowed, and nodded, and then he walked through the door to finally earn the right to his father’s legacy.

*

The cut on Henry’s right thumb kept catching as he tried to locate his house key and get it correctly slotted into the lock; an onlooker might have suspected excessive imbibing, but he’d had only a glass of celebratory wine after the ceremony—it was just a combination of elation, leftover nerves, and the unfamiliar bite of pain whenever he shifted weight. Frustration had begun to overtake his giddiness by the time he managed to drop the bunch of keys yet again, and it made a clatter that seemed to ricochet along their silent street.

Just as he’d crouched awkwardly down to retrieve the keys—he’d never realized before just how active the big toe was in helping one stay balanced—the front stoop light came on and the deadbolt disengaged. Before he had the chance to straighten again, the door opened to reveal Millie, wearing nightgown, curlers, and the crease between her eyes that meant she was approaching the end of her patience.

“What on earth are you doing, Henry? I’m surprised half the neighborhood hasn’t woken from all your commotion.”

Just like that, he was all joy again—he’d always found it delightful how Millie managed time and again to say exactly what he’d been thinking himself. He must have been grinning at her like the besotted fool he was, because her expression softened.

“Did your meeting go well, then?”

“The meeting went wonderfully,” he said, and surged up and into the sort of kiss he’d been too distracted to give her recently. He cupped her dear startled face in his hands and she let out a surprised little sound, but relaxed into him, and he found himself grinning against her mouth.

“Everything is perfect,” he told her a fair bit later, when they were comfortably ensconced in bed together—well, comfortable aside from his still-aching thumb and the way Millie’s curlers were digging into his collarbone. She made a vague sound of assent and burrowed her face a little more into his chest, which didn’t help with the curlers. “They’re very happy with what I’ve been doing at work—there was even talk of a promotion, though we might need to move. Would you mind too much if we did?”

“No, of course not,” she murmured, muffled slightly by his chest. “Whatever we need to do for your job. I’m sure it’ll all be fine.”

“It’ll be better than fine,” Henry said, tucking her closer. He looked up at the dim ceiling and pictured a future. He was now, truly, a Man of Letters, like his father before him. He pictured their son, on some distant day, tall and proud with the Aquarian star pinned over his heart, because he'd earned his heritage. Just as Henry now had. "It'll be wonderful. I'm sure of it."