Harry glanced again at the raw-looking thing that trembled and choked in the shadow beneath the distant chair.
"Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and, above all, those who live without love. By returning, you may ensure that fewer souls are maimed, fewer families are torn apart. If that seems to you a worthy goal, then we say goodbye for the present."
Harry nodded and sighed. Leaving this place would not be nearly as hard as walking into the forest had been - but it was warm and light and peaceful here, and he knew that he was heading back to pain and the fear of more loss.
He felt an ominous chill run up his spine that was a sharp contradiction to his surroundings. It almost felt like something was behind him, anticipating his decision. Waiting with cold, bated breath, as though reaching for Harry and not sure if Harry would reach back.
Harry swallowed and rasped, "I'll go where I'm needed."
He stood up, and Dumbledore did the same. They looked for a long moment into each other's faces.
"Tell me one last thing," Harry said. "Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?"
Dumbledore beamed at him, and his voice sounded loud and strong in Harry's ears even though the bright mist was descending again, obscuring his figure.
"Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?"
Harry blinked and watched as Dumbledore faded away with equal parts affection and frustration toward the man.
The chill that had run up his spine did so again, only this time seemed to spread out and encompass him. He shuddered as he went to clench his fists - only to realise something was already in his hand. As white surrounded what was left of his vision, he glanced down and saw that he was holding the Elder Wand, as though someone or something had lifted up his hand to set it there and curl his fingers around it.
It felt like a short drop and a sudden stop, during which he somehow managed to flail. His back landed hard on what could only be a barely carpeted floor, and a sharp shout of pain was pushed out of him. His head hit the floor as well, and his hands immediately came up to cradle it, fingers tight around the unfamiliar wood in one hand.
He groaned, dizzy and disoriented. "Why is it always my head?" he whined out loud, albeit softly.
Harry took a couple of breaths before sternly telling himself to get his bearings. Stifling another groan, Harry sat up, let his hands fall, and opened his eyes.
They landed right on the wrong side of two guns.
Instinct instantly taking over, Harry was on his feet at lightning speed, pointing his wand. He did a double take at it, though, having had to spare a quick moment to really recognise he was holding the Elder Wand.
Before him were two men with Merlin knew what kind of handguns. One was quite tall, but the shorter one still had at least four inches on Harry. He also quickly noted that they looked as though they could probably take him in hand-to-hand combat without the need of a weapon, making him take a couple of steps back to put some distance there.
What was more disturbing than the guns were that the men were bloody, their clothing soaked in red.
Harry took a swift moment to evaluate them further as well as the room. They seemed to be in an average - if not on the cheap side - motel room with two beds. The beds, however, had a significant amount of blood on them, and though Harry wasn't very familiar with guns at all, he could tell that the holes in the men's blood-soaked shirts were made by one.
If it weren't for the fact that the men were standing there, apparently alive and well, Harry would have guessed they were the ones who bled out on the beds - because someone had to have.
In those few moments Harry observed all this, the men had been observing Harry. They glanced at each other and seemed to decide not to attack, but obviously not willing to dismiss the option of shooting him.
"Who are you?" the shorter man growled. His eyes were sharp and suspicious, his aim true and steady.
"Who are you?" Harry countered.
"You first," the taller one said. His voice wasn't as rough, but his extra size seemed happy to do the intimidating for him.
"Sure, if we, y'know," he gestured to their guns with his wand in a silent suggestion to put the weapons down, attempting to diffuse the situation - if nothing else so he could think. Where the bloody hell was he?
"Not a chance," Gun One growled again. "And get that fancy stick out of our face."
Harry huffed and scowled, biting back the urge to ask the man if he was really afraid of just a stick to warrant staying behind a gun. Harry looked them up and down, trying to assess if Guns were muggles like they seemed and wondering which strength of Protego could stop a bullet.
After a moment of a silent and tense standoff, Gun Two slowly lifted his hands, making a show of putting his gun on a desk next to him. Gun One didn't waver though. Harry lowered his wand some to show Guns he was willing to cooperate if they were, but he was still ready to cast in a blink of an eye.
He tried to relax some, though, knowing that if Guns hadn't shot already, there was a good chance they wouldn't at all, but he couldn't. He had a feeling he was nowhere near where he should be, and he was having trouble processing his surroundings outside the guns.
"Who are you?" Gun One asked again, patience clearly running thin.
"Harry," he decided to answer after a moment. "And you?"
"I'm Sam," Gun Two said, and though he sounded placating, Harry could see the suspicion in his calculating eyes. "This is Dean."
"Alright," Harry accepted. "Right then. Where are we?"
"You don't know?" Sam asked slowly.
Harry rolled his eyes, a part of him always defiant regardless of circumstance, and levelled him with a flat look. "Sorry, I always do forget to bring a map with me when I go dropping into random motel rooms."
At his own words, his eyes darted around the room again, and he froze and frowned as he finally took in more of his surroundings. The television in the room was unlike any telly he had ever seen - it was so flat and wide. And big. Slowly, he took notice of several items he knew of that seemed… updated, was the word that came to mind.
A thought occurred to him, and his blood turned cold. "What… year are we in?"
"2010," Sam answered.
Harry's head snapped to him. He blinked. "No," Harry protested, heart rate picking up. "It isn't really?"
Guns were frowning at him, less suspicious now and more analytical. They nodded.
"'Fraid so," the Dean bloke said, finally lowering his gun but keeping it in hand.
Dean raised an eyebrow. "Says the Brit."
"Are we in America? Like, the United States of?"
They both nodded again.
Harry let out a slow breath and used the back of his free hand to lift up his glasses and rub his eyes. "Okay… Okay…" he struggled to accept what these men were telling him. He was in the year 2010 in America? "I guess the war's over then."
Harry ignored them and took stock of himself. He was in the same clothes as when he died, and they were in the same condition as well. So were his hands - bloody, cracked, and a bit burnt. He noticed the en suite's sink and mirror and walked over to take a look. He looked like he had been plucked from battle - blood coated in his hair, his clothes burnt in some places from the Fiendfyre, bruises making themselves prominent underneath the grime on his paled skin. He lifted the locks of hair lying messily on his forehead. His scar was still there, and even amidst the slight panic of his situation, he found himself disappointed. He was kind of hoping it would have disappeared.
"Hey, Gussie," the deep voice of Dean broke through his musings. Harry turned to find the man still had his gun at his side. "Who are you and what are you doing here? Sammy and I died once already today, and quite frankly, I'm still a little pissed off about that. So, let's just say I ain't got the patience for this."
"You died?" Harry asked curiously. He looked them over again, a little relieved to have an explanation for their appearance. "Yes, I suppose you did, didn't you? Me too."
The declaration got a sharper focus from the men, who spared each other a glance again. "You died?" Sam asked.
"Yeah," Harry confirmed, stomach rolling. "But… that was in 1998."
He rubbed his chin, unsettled. Why didn't he go back to the forest? How did he end up twelve years in the future? Merlin, Harry couldn't even die right. Technically, he supposed, he said he would go where he was needed, didn't he? 'Fewer souls are maimed, fewer families are torn apart', Dumbledore had said. How on earth could that be more of a concern in 2010 in America than in 1998 in Britain with an alive and powerful Voldemort?
The men had taken a step closer to each other and were having a hushed discussion, keeping Harry in their line of sight. He uncaringly interrupted, pocketing his wand. "Right, I need to find out how things turned out twelve years ago. Would it be alright if I use your loo? Perhaps borrow some clothing?"
Dean snorted, eyeing Harry with a clear thought that he didn't think anything they had would fit him. Harry privately agreed, but he could magically alter them. He didn't much fancy going out in public looking like he did then.
"Hold on," Sam said, holding up a hand. "I don't think anyone should go anywhere until we figure out what happened."
"Yeah," Dean agreed. He finally relaxed his shoulders and stowed his gun away by shoving it in the waist of his trousers behind him. "We weren't back long enough to say two words to each other before you came popping in."
Harry spared a look at the beds and bit his lip. "I suppose you two didn't time jump?" he asked the obvious, hoping maybe they did and somehow had answers.
They shook their heads.
"What, were you just waitin' for someone to hitch a ride back to earth on? Jumped our ship as we came back?" Dean asked.
"No," Harry answered honestly. "I… I was told I had a choice, to move on or come back. Admittedly, I thought I would return to the forest…" he trailed off, jaw and stomach clenching as he tried to wrap his head around not being dead, but not being home.
"Is that where you died? A forest?" Sam asked.
Harry nodded, remembering the streak of green rushing toward him. He shivered and closed his eyes for a moment.
When he opened them, the men were looking at him a little more softly. He cleared his throat, feeling suddenly awkward. He gestured to the beds, getting them back to the situation at hand. "You two were obviously killed. Murdered, like me. Perhaps that's the link?"
Dean's face hardened. "I'm going to kill them. Fuckin' Walt and Roy!"
"Wait," Sam said, holding up a hand again and looking Harry up and down. "You were murdered? I- is that how you looked when you died?"
Harry nodded again, holding out his arms a little and looking down. "Yeah. I look the exact same."
That apparently made the men frown harder. "Jesus, kid, what were you doing?" Dean asked.
"Fighting," Harry answered simply.
They didn't look like they thought that was a suitable answer but seemed to accept it.
"Let's, uh, let's get cleaned up, and then we'll try to figure out what happened," Sam suggested.
Harry took a breath and bit his lip again, running his options over in his mind. Eventually, he agreed.
It seemed like as good as plan as any, and he needed to do something – to move. He had a nervous energy slowly taking him over, knowing it was twelve years from when he died if the men were to be believed, and Harry felt like they could be. They seemed just as confused and troubled at his sudden appearance as he was.
What he needed was to send word to London, to Ron and Hermione.
Sam and Dean changed clothes and washed themselves up, then they offered the shower to Harry. Dean rounded up the smallest clothing they had, which turned out to be a pair of soft trousers and a t-shirt with some logo on it. Harry used the motel soap and shampoo, working quickly and not willing to relax. He wanted to cast what few healing charms he knew, but he thought it best not to tip his hand even more than he already had. He had no way of telling how the men would react to magic.
Harry figured they were muggles, mainly since they had muggle weapons and Dean had called his wand a stick. They didn't pay the wand much attention, however, and Harry genuinely couldn't tell if they knew it was a wand or not. Harry doubted it, but he got the feeling from the men that they wouldn't lose that slight advantage of Harry knowing one way or another.
It begged the question, though: why did he have it? The Elder Wand was in Voldemort's possession. Harry had already figured out that the wand wasn't going to give Voldemort its allegiance since Voldemort hadn't won it properly. Its allegiance was to Harry. Perhaps that was why? It came to join its master, probably because Harry was already jumping time?
He would have to try to find a magical community somewhere around where he was as soon as possible.
He came back into the motel room to find the beds had been stripped and the sheets gone. All evidence of any violence had completely disappeared.
Harry could understand why Guns weren't calling the authorities - it would be a bit hard to explain how one was murdered, came back to life, and could identify their killer. Plus, these men had weapons of their own, he needn't forget, so there was a possibility they weren't precisely law-abiding citizens themselves.
It made him tense a little more, and he reminded himself to be cautious. After all, a big part of him was still in war-battle-mode - a nice, hot shower or not.
Sam was sitting at the desk, the chair turned to face the room. Dean was on the edge of one of the beds, and he gestured for Harry to sit down on the other. Harry hesitated just a moment, thinking of his options again. Thing was, he didn't really have any. He had no idea where he was, if he could Apparate as far as to London, how to contact anyone, or even if anyone he knew was alive. Guns didn't seem to be hostile anymore at least.
Harry sat and turned to face both men. He noticed they seemed reasonably calm now - very calm, in fact. Which meant one of three things: they had experience in this, they had expected this, or they were merely very uniquely calm people who could rarely be roused. Considering their introductions, Harry highly doubted all but the former.
"Alright, kid," Dean opened. "Start from the beginning. Tell us what happened."
Harry blinked and frowned at the almost routine atmosphere. "I told you. I had a choice, and I chose to return. So, here I am."
"Do you know who killed you?" Sam asked gently, but with a practised air.
So, they had experience in this sort of thing, then. They were assuming Harry didn't (which, okay, he didn't, but he had enough experiences under his belt to not be rattled), and they seemed like they wanted to help him.
Harry decided to appease them a little. He figured it was better to stay on their good side until he had some things figured out for himself.
"Yes. He went by Voldemort. Do either of you know that name?"
They frowned, and Sam shook his head as Dean asked, "Should we?"
Harry shrugged. "He was a bloody psycho," was all he said in answer.
"Do you know why he killed you?" Dean asked.
"To finish what he started," Harry found himself mumbling, surprised to feel bitterness in him. He sighed and rubbed his forehead. He wanted to assume the war was over, but he hadn't even left the bloody motel room. He had nothing to go on. "He's wanted me dead since I was a baby. If he's still alive, he's not going to be too happy to know I'm back."
"Do you know why he was after you?" Dean asked, sounding serious.
"Yes," Harry said simply but didn't elaborate. Doing so would either give Guns leverage or pull two innocent muggles into something extremely dangerous.
After a few moments when it was clear Harry wasn't going to say anything else, Dean let out an impatient huff and said, "Care to share?"
"Listen, Harry - was it?" Sam started. At Harry's nod, he continued, "We would like to help you in any way that we can, but we can't do that unless we know everything."
"I assure you, your help might not be needed. I need to check some things out for myself first, if you don't mind."
Guns exchanged a glance, then Sam said, "Sure. We'll help." His tone left no room for argument and made it clear they weren't going to let Harry just walk out of there. "What do you need?"
Harry scowled slightly at Guns, wondering if he was actually trapped and in danger, and what the men would do if he did try to just leave and walk away. He wasn't too worried about escaping if he had to, though, and meanwhile, he could use them. So, he answered, "A way to find out what happened after I died twelve years ago."
Guns nodded, and it was then decided they would take Harry to the library, start from there.
The first thing Harry did when he walked into the library was to search the archives and records for anything that seemed, well, magical, or gave hints to a magical community. There wasn't anything he could see, and there went the idea of trying to send Ron or Hermione an owl or finding Floo powder. Next, he was shown by Sam how to use their computers and went hunting through some old British muggle newspapers around the time of his death.
Nothing. No hint of anything magical or strange in the muggle community, which Harry wanted to take as a sign Voldemort was defeated.
However, as he was rifling through, he noticed some information he remembered during that time (as in, the killings and torture of some muggles by Death Eaters) wasn't there. He looked some more for other things he remembered, but nothing. He went further back still to the summer before third year where he knew for sure information about a particular escaped criminal was in the muggle news, but nothing. Sirius wasn't there.
"What's wrong?" Sam asked, who was helping him look through the history. He told Sam he died in Scotland, where Harry knew Hogwarts was, but that he lived in London, thinking of Grimmauld Place. Sam was currently trying to find his obituary, or if nothing else, him being reported missing. Harry knew it was a futile attempt, but at least it kept Sam busy and out of his way.
"The history - the reports, here - they aren't the same as they were before I died."
"Are you sure?" Sam asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Positive," Harry nodded. "My godfather was all over the papers the summer of 1993. All over Britain."
"That's not a good sign," Sam frowned.
After an exhaustive search of as many records they could get their hands on, they had to admit defeat. Sam left to call Dean to pick them up (Dean had gone to see if he could track down Sam and Dean's murderers, and though he was curious, Harry didn't ask what Guns were involved in) while Harry cleaned up after them.
Soon, Harry found himself sitting in a diner across a booth from, what he now knew, the Winchester brothers.
The diner was reasonably busy, and that made Harry more comfortable talking to the brothers - lesson learned from the Dumbledore's Army's meeting in Hog's Head. Still, he subtly cast a Privacy Charm, just in case, and tried to ignore the odd looks he was getting from the other muggles for being obviously injured and, frankly, unhealthy.
"So, nothing," Dean was confirming, "nothing from your old life at all?"
"There wasn't even a record of him being born," Sam informed. It was true, there wasn't, but Harry didn't know if that was because there wouldn't be a muggle record of his birth or if it was another clue. For good measure, however, he did try to find Hermione's birth certificate and couldn't. "It's like he never existed."
"And nothing I remember happening that was written in the papers are there either," Harry added. "Well, some things are, but nothing that was connected to me. As though my entire life disappeared."
Dean frowned, nodding.
The waitress came over to take their orders, and by the time they were mostly finished with their meal - Harry having completely inhaled his food (soup, to go easy on his stomach), Dean finally spoke up. "Maybe you're just not from here here," he suggested. Then he looked at Sam and said, "We should call Cas, have him look at Harry. He might be able to tell us more."
"Yeah," Sam agreed, shuffling some muggle cash to pay for their meal. "He might be able to get Harry back to his time, and if nothing else, confirm some things Harry remembers."
"He'd be able to get me back to my time?" Harry asked, perking up.
Was this Cas a wizard? It was possible, even if Sam and Dean were muggles, for them to know witches and wizards. If Harry could speak with another wizard, he'd definitely be able to confirm that Voldemort was defeated. Because, whether he liked to acknowledge it or not, Harry thought it might be likely that Voldemort did take over and just changed the papers and hid information or something.
He watched as Sam and Dean exchanged a significant look, Dean appeared to be silently chastising Sam for the previous admission. After a moment, Dean turned back to Harry, "We'll talk about it at the motel."
Mysterious, then. Secretive, too, he guessed since Sam looked like he hadn’t meant to say what he just did. It seemed very possible this Cas was a wizard.
"Alright," Harry agreed.
Back at the motel, Harry noticed a maid must have been in and replaced their sheets. Feeling more like the beds weren't his with clean sheets on them, Harry took the chair by the desk and waited as patiently as he could for the brothers who stepped outside for a private word. Finally, they came back to sit on their respective beds and regarded Harry seriously.
They exchanged one last glance, then Sam said, "Harry… I know this might be difficult to believe, even if you just, uh, came back to life - which is weird enough, I know, but we need you to hear us out."
"You know… things like vampires and werewolves?"
"Well… they're real."
"I know," Harry said readily.
The brothers blinked.
"You know?" Dean asked.
"Yes," Harry answered, relieved these muggles were obviously in-the-know about the wizardry world. "Most of what muggles think are fictional are actually real. Have you ever met a mermaid?" Harry asked with a small smile, feeling the need to prove himself against the brothers' disbelieving stares. The brothers shook their heads, and Harry added, "Ugly as sin. Not at all like the beautiful creatures tales depict. And their voices above water is like a shriek. Hurtful to the ears, honestly."
That punched a small laugh out of Dean, and Sam sighed in what sounded like relief. They both seemed to relax some.
"I'm so glad we don't have to give you the speech," Dean smiled.
"Me too," Sam agreed. "That makes this easier. Cas, our friend, he's an angel."
Harry felt his eyebrows shoot up. It took a moment to process. "Now, angels I didn't know were real. Does that mean demons are real too?"
"Unfortunately," Dean grumbled, pulling out a device from his pocket. He flipped it opened and started pushing buttons. Harry leaned forward, interested.
As Dean stood and walked a little away to put the device to his ear, Sam said in a whisper, "That's called a cell phone. It's a portable phone that runs on batteries."
"Really?" Harry asked, looking back to regard the phone as Dean talked softly into it. "So, you have instant long-range communication anywhere you go?"
"Yeah, basically," Sam said.
"Brilliant," Harry grinned at him. "Is it a muggle thing?"
Sam frowned and opened his mouth, but then a man in a trench coat suddenly appeared in the room out of thin air, distracting them both. Harry was used to people and things appearing and disappearing, so he didn't even blink.
"Hey, Cas," Sam greeted, looking back at Harry, still frowning.
"Hey," Dean said as well, pocketing the cell phone. "This is Harry."
Harry stood and held out his hand. The man, Cas, took it and held it with both of his instead of shaking it, studying Harry. Harry squirmed a little, uncomfortable with the intense gaze. But he also studied Cas back, trying to decide if he believed he was an angel or not.
"Incredible," Cas mumbled in a deep voice after what seemed like forever. "You're a wizard?"
Harry nodded, wondering why this guy was being so… like he was being.
"Wait, this guy's a witch?" Dean groaned. "I think Sam and I have had our fill of witches, thank you very much."
"No," Cas said. "Not a witch. This man here… Your veins are filled with pure, magical power. You were born with it, yes?"
Harry nodded, wondering if he should be offended by being called a witch or not.
Cas let go of Harry's hand and turned to the brothers who were now eyeing Harry warily again. "This man is not from our universe. Wherever he is from, magic is good. It would seem some humans are born with it naturally. This young man certainly was."
"Okay, wait," Harry said, shaking his head. "So, I'm in a different universe? One that doesn't have magic?"
"Oh, we have magic," Cas answered. "The only magic humans can obtain here, however, is by making a deal with a demon and offering your soul. Most rituals usually require the life of an innocent."
Harry felt horrified by the news, and he knew his face was reflecting it. Offering your soul? Taking innocent lives? That sounded like something up Voldemort's alley. "That's sickening," he breathed.
"Yes," Cas agreed, tilting his head and considering Harry. "Then again, I suppose other supernatural creatures have their own magic in a way, like angels. I would equate your magic to those of our angels than any mere witch here. In fact, if you were to ever come across one of our witches, I'm sure you would be far more powerful. I suspect you're already more powerful than most demons, at any rate."
"So, what?" Dean cut in. "He's like an angel, but only in his world, they're called wizards?"
Cas shrugged. "I don't know. I don't know which universe he is from, let alone anything about it."
"How did I get here?" Harry asked next.
"I'm not sure," Cas said, studying Harry again. "What's the last thing you remember?"
"I was in some limbo place, I guess. I met with someone who told me I had a choice to either move on or come back. I chose to come back."
"But you didn't go back," Cas pointed out. "You went to a different place entirely. How did you choose?"
"Er," Harry scratched the back of his neck. "I… just chose?" He was a little embarrassed that he was just told he was equated with angels here, and then went and sounded like a complete moron.
"But chose what exactly?"
Harry sighed, shoulders slumping a little. He figured this already. "To go where I was needed."
Cas nodded in understanding.
"So, that's it then, isn't it? For whatever reason, I'm most needed in this universe, at this time."
"If ever there was a time we could use a natural born, powerful wizard, it would be now," Cas answered. "There is a war going on."
Harry couldn't help it. He let his head roll back and groaned. "I was just in a war. I just died in a war."
Then an idea hit him. Cas was an angel, which Harry thought he could believe since Cas figured out so much about Harry in such a short time. Being in a different universe kind of made sense to him, judging by the similarities and differences in the muggle papers and the glaring absence of any magical communities. So, Cas, as an angel, might be able to travel between universes, right?
Looking at Cas, he asked, "Could you send me back?"
Cas shook his head. "I am not nearly powerful enough to accomplish such a feat."
Harry didn't let himself be disappointed. Throwing caution to the wind, he asked, "Could you find out what happened? Could you find out if my sacrifice worked? If my friends killed the other Horcrux; if they were able to kill Voldemort?"
Cas frowned, but after a moment, he said, "Perhaps. I could make some inquiries. What are Horcruxes, and who is Voldemort?"
Harry bit his lip, but he had to know, which meant he had to tell this angel what he knew, as much as he could.
"Voldemort, otherwise known as Lord Voldemort, the Dark Lord, or his original name, Tom Riddle, is a Dark wizard who's basically trying to take over the world," Harry began, talking quickly. "Horcruxes are what make him near impossible to kill.
"A Horcrux is an item, any item of your choice, where you can store away a bit of your soul. It's Dark Magic, really revolting. To store away a piece of your soul, you have to split it and to do that you have to kill someone. Killing people, especially innocent people, wrecks your soul, you know. Voldemort did that seven times, leaving seven pieces of his soul about.
"I've spent the last year searching for them all. There was only one left when I died, and of course, Voldemort himself. My friends knew of the Horcrux, though, and hopefully was able to stop him."
Cas nodded, fully accepting the information. "I shall see what I can find out. For now… " he turned to Sam and Dean, both of whom had carefully arranged unreadable faces. "Sam, Dean... Harry could be extremely useful. We must keep him a secret for as long as possible. If neither side knows of his existence, we stand a much better chance at winning."
Sam gave a sharp nod, and Dean looked over at Harry, giving him a once over, then nodded as well. Cas then stepped up to Harry, touched his forehead with two fingers, and Harry felt a shiver run down his body. He blinked then looked down at himself, checking himself over, and he realised Cas just healed him.
"Brilliant," he mumbled. Doing that just helped give proof to Harry that Cas was an angel and those three were telling him the truth.
He wasn't to be too distracted though.
"If I'm to be kept hidden, how can you find out about my universe without giving anything away?"
"I've been searching for… for something. It will come as no surprise to anyone that I'm asking after an alternate universe and making inquiries of the people there."
"About that…" Dean interrupted, his voice hesitant and cautious.
"Yeah, Cas, we, uh, we need to talk to you about something," Sam added.
"Yes," Cas agreed. "I've been waiting for your call. Did you find the garden in Heaven? Did you talk to Joshua?"
The brothers looked at Harry, as though they weren't sure if they wanted to share whatever information they had with him there. Which was fine by Harry; he needed to think. He politely volunteered to leave, and once outside the room, he walked around the motel parking lot for a while, letting everything he had just learned sink in.
By the time Harry was called back into the motel, Cas had gone, and Harry had decided two things.
One, he would do what he could here, Dumbledore's warning of maimed souls and broken families still fresh on his mind, and two, he was going to find a way back to his universe. He was going to think of his world as suspended in time, waiting for him, because if he could go back, he would make sure he landed exactly where he fell in the forest, right after Voldemort killed him. He would help with this war while he was here, yes; the others sounded like they needed help, Harry having not missed the suggestion of what 'either side' that Cas said could mean, as if they were fighting two fronts. He said he would go where he was needed, after all. But he would do that as he tried to find ways back because he would go back to his universe and finish what he started.
"Alright," Dean sighed, sitting down. Harry was sat back in the chair, but Sam was standing by the window now, leaning against the wall with his arms crossed. "First things first, we gotta make you up some IDs, get you your own credit cards, clothes, the works. We can do that tomorrow. Then you're going to show us what you got, understand?"
Harry raised an unimpressed eyebrow at the command. "Maybe," he said defiantly. "Meanwhile, you're going to tell me what this war of yours is."
"No maybe," Dean ordered, voice going a little deeper. "You are. Because God's a douche, Cas and Sam think you might be our last chance. Might be our only chance. No offence, you look like you're in your early twenties and sound like you have experience, but you're still just a kid, and I ain't riskin' the world on some random kid."
Harry bristled, deciding not to tell Dean he was actually seventeen. Here he was starting to like the Winchester.
Harry, though, didn't miss the implications of fake IDs and credit cards. He had spent the last year on the run, after all. It wasn't like they could just waltz into a store and go shopping either. He, Ron, and Hermione learned and often cast several spells that Harry thought might give the Winchesters a good show that should shut Dean up. Taking Dean up on the challenge in his eyes, Harry pulled out the Elder Wand and wordlessly waved it, being so practised at these charms he didn't need to say an incantation.
Both duffle bags of the Winchesters zipped open, and one by one, their clothes folded out, levitating in the air. Silently casting, he parsed through the clothes, then silently made copies of several trousers, most of their t-shirts and some Hensley's, as well as some pyjama bottoms, though he left the flannel alone. The clothes vibrated before cloning themselves; then Harry immediately began spelling them to size, changing the colours of some t-shirts, spelling away logos, and with half of them, making the sleeves long. He preferred long sleeves, especially because of his scars.
Meanwhile, he magicked Dean's toiletry bag open, levitating out what was in there. Harry transfigured the floss container into a toothbrush, transfigured a pen on the nightstand into a tube of toothpaste, and then transfigured the two water glasses by the pen into soap and shampoo containers. He couldn't copy the toothpaste, soap, and shampoo, of course, but he did make a show of stealing half of Dean's.
While he was doing this, his new clothes were still making themselves. They were almost finished, however. So, Harry levitated a pair of Dean's socks. He transfigured one into a toiletry bag and spelled his new toiletries in it and transfigured the other into a bag, similar to their duffels but much nicer looking, he thought. He copied another pair of socks to replace the one he stole and spelled them to neatly fold themselves, along with the rest of the Winchesters' clothing, back to where they belonged.
As his clothes and toiletries organised themselves in the air, he stood and whispered an incantation at the desk, transfiguring it into a bed. He silently levitated three towels from the loo, transfiguring one into a fitted sheet, one into a blanket, and one into a pillow, and spelled them to make the bed themselves. The bed made, he sat on it, cross-legged, just as his new clothes and bags finished neatly packing themselves and settling on the floor by the end of his bed.
Both brothers were gaping at Harry, Sam looking a little impressed and Dean looking between him and his bag as though he didn't know whether he could trust his own clothing now.
Dean recovered first. He cleared his throat and said, "Y'know what? Touché."
"Thank you," Harry nodded. "If you provide me with the identification and credit cards, I can spell them to say whatever we want on them. However, as I have no idea about your American muggle set up with currency, the connection between the credit cards and actual money will have to be up to you."
"You keep saying 'muggle,'" Sam pointed out, sitting on his own bed. "What is it?"
"Muggle? Muggle is the term for non-magical people. Likewise, witches and wizards born from muggles are called muggleborns, and those born from a magical family without any magical ability are called squibs."
The brothers nodded, and they both seemed very interested.
"Are there a lot of you?" Sam asked.
Harry shrugged. "I don't know the exact number. We've hidden in secret ever since muggles started burning us."
Dean winced. "Yeah, I bet."
"How do you learn spells?" Sam asked. "Do you become an apprentice or something?"
Harry smiled a little. "We go to school just like everyone else, we just learn magic instead. I went to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, in Scotland? It's where I died," Harry reminded him. "We were battling Voldemort and his followers there at the castle - the school."
Harry had to blink away sudden images that flashed through his mind, thinking back to what, to him, occurred just hours ago.
Softly he said, "That'll be my last memory of it, won't it?"
The silence that followed was thick, as though the brothers didn't know what to say. Harry wasn't really paying them much attention anymore though.
Something else was occurring to him. An idea.
He sat up abruptly, looking back at them. "My magic travelled with me! The wand's magic too! That means other magical things retained their powers, too, right?"
"Uh," Sam said, frowning and looking at Dean, who glanced back and shrugged.
He didn't need their answer though. He pulled out the small pouch Hagrid had given him that was still around his neck, opened it, and pulled out the Marauder's Map. Pointing the - his, now, he guessed - wand at it, he said, "I solemnly swear I am up to no good."
Immediately, the map began spreading across the parchment, and Harry jumped up to his feet, excited.
Desperately, he began flipping through it, searching. There they were, the little dots moving like they usually did. It took a moment for him to focus. He looked into the Great Hall, and he saw a large crowd of people. Eyes urgently hunting, Harry quickly found what he sought. The name Tom Riddle was there, in the Entrance Hall, unmoving with a group of other names he recognised as Death Eaters. Two of whom he knew to be dead. He watched it for a few moments as names of those he knew - who were on their side - passed by the clump of names, apparently walking by and not paying it any mind. Which meant… Which meant Tom Riddle wasn't a threat. It meant…
"They did it!" he exclaimed, bouncing a little. "They killed him! Look!" He pointed, barely glancing up at the brothers, more focused on the map. He searched it again, a wide grin on his face, and he sought out his friends. Hermione, Ron, Ginny, George, Molly, Arthur, Bill, and Charlie were huddled together. Neville was there. Luna was there. The professors were there. They were moving, walking, standing close together.
His smile began to slowly slip off his face as he started noticing the names in the centre of the Great Hall. He saw Remus' name first. Then Tonks'. Then, between Remus and Fred was: Harry Potter.
He fell back onto his transfigured bed, feeling his blood run cold again. His lifeless body laid there, at Hogwarts, at that very moment.
"I really am dead," he whispered.
He felt his bed dip on either side of him; the brothers were looking over his shoulders. He ignored them, though, as he watched Hermione come up beside his name. He couldn't be sure from the dots, but it looked as if she was touching him in some way, probably holding his hand. After another few moments, Ron approached her and led her away, but Ginny had followed and looked to have collapsed on top of him. Bill and Charlie quickly came on either side of her and led her away as well.
A heavy hand was placed on his right shoulder for just a moment, and Sam's gentle voice said, "Would that be your body? Your name, where it says Harry Potter?"
"Yes," he said numbly. "Laid out with the dead. That's my friend next to me. Fred Weasley. And on the other side? Remus. Next to him is his wife, Tonks. I'm supposed to be godfather to their son…"
He couldn't do this. He couldn't watch them mourn him. Shakenly, he pointed his wand back to the parchment and whispered, "Mischief managed." The ink began to disappear, and Harry let the map slip from his fingers onto the floor.
"I need to be alone," he announced, and Apparated to an alleyway he had seen earlier that day, away from muggle eyes.
Harry didn't return until the wee hours of the morning. The motel room was dark, and the brothers woke a little by his sudden appearance. He ignored them and quickly crawled into bed. He laid his glasses beside him and put the wand under his pillow.
He wondered if he could use the Elder Wand to fix his old one still in his pouch. If he did, if he could, he figured he shouldn't tell anyone. There apparently were some witches and wizards here. Even though they used disgusting ways to get their magic, they might still use wands. If he and his magic were more powerful than them and theirs, he didn't need to give them the advantage.
Which also meant he really shouldn't let anyone know about the Elder Wand.
He wondered if they would give Teddy his Cloak. He hoped so.
Exhaustion, grief, sadness, and loneliness weighed on him, and it didn't take long for him to drift off to sleep, however sad and scary his dreams were.
He didn't know how long he was asleep, but he was awoken by someone touching him. Acting on reflex, he jumped up with his wand in hand, pointing it at the person.
It was Sam, who jumped back, palms up. "It's okay. It's just me."
Harry sighed and slid back down onto the bed. "What?"
"It's getting to be the afternoon," Sam said.
"So?" Harry snapped.
"So, your war might be over, but ours isn't," Sam said gently. "We have a lot to go over. We thought we could drive to Bobby's, a friend of ours. It's about a day's drive from here. You can sleep in the car, but we have to get going if we want to be there by tonight."
Harry sighed, rubbing his eyes, but nodded. He showered, dressed, and loaded up his things in the car with the Winchesters. Harry had transfigured the motel things back to their original states before they left, and he didn't miss how intrigued Sam looked. Thankfully, though, he didn't ask any questions and let Harry be.
Harry did, indeed, sleep in the car. He got uncomfortable at one point, levitated one of Dean's cassette tapes to him, and transfigured it to a pillow. Dean was very unhappy with that, but Harry ignored him. As neither brother could transfigure it back, they let him have it, and he slept more comfortably after that. He knew he was being rude to them, but he was still emotional from everything that had happened. It wasn't like they were giving him time to adjust, anyway.
They woke him when they arrived at wherever they were. Harry didn't speak much except to greet an older man in a wheelchair with a beard and ball cap and say his thanks when Sam showed him where he could sleep. He fell back asleep immediately.
He awoke to the distinctive smell of breakfast. Realising he slept in his new day clothes, he didn't bother dressing. He followed the scent, only stopping when he passed a toilet to relieve himself, and found a good sized kitchen. There was a spread on the table, and Harry made a beeline for it. He immediately began picking up bacon strips, stuffing them in his mouth, as well as some orange slices. Not exactly a pleasant combination, but it was still so good to Harry. He was so very hungry.
A plate was put in front of him, making him jump. He looked around and noticed the Winchesters and the man he met the night before, Bobby, staring at him. He felt himself blush and swallowed his mouthful.
"Sorry," he said softly, sitting down and pulling the plate to him. "I didn't notice you."
"It's fine, boy," Bobby gruffed. "Eat up."
Harry gave the man a grateful smile and turned his attention to the food. He loaded up, and, as was habit growing up with Dudley, hunched over his food, wrapping a protective arm around his plate as much as he could, while he shovelled bacon, eggs, sausage, and fruit into his mouth.
He started loading up his plate for seconds when Dean from beside him got his attention. "Ease up. You're going to make yourself sick."
Harry blinked, then blinked down at his food. "You're right," he agreed. The Dursleys had starved him enough times for him to know that the longer he went without food, the harder it was going to be on his stomach to eat. He realised then that he hadn't eaten anything since the soup at the diner the day before yesterday.
Keeping his hunched over stance, he ate a lot slower but had to force himself to stop eating when his stomach made an unpleasant squirm. So, he released his plate, drained his juice, and leaned back in his chair.
He noticed the other three were still watching him, and he tried to smile.
"Compliments to the cook?" he offered.
"Thanks," Bobby huffed. "How are ya feelin'?"
"Er," Harry frowned. His mind was completely on food before then. He assessed himself quickly and shrugged. "Fine, I guess. Much better, now that I've slept and eaten."
"What happened between the last time you slept and ate and you dyin'?" Bobby asked bluntly.
Harry heaved a sigh. Dean poured him some more juice, as though it could make him as loose-lipped as alcohol. He nodded a thanks and took a gulp.
"Well, let's see…" he began, looking at the table. He felt a bit numb and at a remove. What all had happened?
Too much, he decided. Too much had happened.
"We robbed a bank for a Horcrux, snuck into Hogwarts for another one, destroyed them, pretty much led Voldemort and the Death Eaters right to there, really, now that I think about it."
He repressed a shiver as his stomach twisted at the memories. Harry had been a Horcrux. It was something his mind was still wildly trying to process but couldn't.
"I had to die," he said flatly, emotionless, eyes glazing over and seeing only the approaching trees of the Forbidden Forest as he went to hand himself over. He was saying it more to confirm it for himself, remind himself, reassure himself that he had done the right thing. "I had to die. I had to. Voldemort had made me a Horcrux, so I had to die. I snuck out of the castle - told Neville to make sure to destroy the last Horcrux somehow, though, just to be safe. Just in case. Ron and Hermione knew about them, and Snape, well, he was how I found out about me. I didn't tell anyone, I just… I walked to my death."
He closed his eyes, forcing memories back, and finally looked up at them. They all were wearing unreadable expressions. Yeah, he probably shouldn't have gotten lost in his head, remembering. He said way too much.
Bobby tried to speak first, but Harry held up his hand. He wasn't ready to deal with it. The map showed him his friends finished the war, so it was settled.
It was done. It was over.
"Well, I told you some of mine. Tell me about your war." The three men exchanged a look like they weren't sure, so Harry added, "I said I'd go to where I was needed. I'm needed here." He looked at Dean. "You mentioned risking the world. I assume this is important."
"I need a drink," Bobby announced.
Harry followed the three into what looked to be a study. Bobby put himself behind a desk and did indeed pour himself a glass of a rich looking amber liquid. Sam and Dean sat on a cot that had been pushed against a set of bay windows; a sofa lain with high stacks with books was shoved in a corner, and though there was another chair there he could use, Harry sat on the floor with his back leaning against the wall opposite of the brothers. He felt a bit more comfortable making himself smaller.
Both brothers had their elbows on their knees, and Dean clapped once and said to the other two, "Well, where do we want to start?"
Sam looked at Harry and asked, "How much do you know about Christianity?"
"Not much," he answered honestly.
"Well, do you know about the angels Lucifer and Michael?"
Harry thought about it. "Isn't Lucifer the devil?"
"Yep," the three said.
"But he's technically an angel," Bobby corrected. "Angel turned bad."
"Here's what's been happening on our end," Sam began. He shot Dean a look, as though ready for a fight. "We'll start from the beginning."
"Yeah, yeah," Dean waved a hand but looked guarded. "Spill all your secrets, Sammy, let's have girl-hour."
Sam shot Dean one more glare, then focused on Harry, turning very serious. Harry fleetingly wondered why he was still with these men, but then reminded himself that he decided to help them. For now, at least, until he could get home. He would listen; he would help.
"Angels and demons are real. So is Heaven and Hell. A demon named Azazel had this long-term plan to break Lucifer out of his cage. I -" Sam sighed and paused a moment, "- was one of his pawns. Azazel opened up one of the gates to Hell, releasing we don't know how many demons, including a demon needed to free Lucifer. I was tricked into killing that demon, which was the last seal to break to open the Devil's cage. So, basically, he's loose, and the apocalypse has started. What it comes down to is, it's fated that Lucifer and Michael, both archangels, fight for control of the earth. They want me to be the vessel for Lucifer, and Dean to be the vessel for Michael."
Harry nodded, taking that in. He briefly wondered if these men were completely insane, but then he remembered the 'angel' Cas - who, unless there was some kind of con at play here, was an angel since he appeared out of nowhere, figured out what Harry was, and healed Harry with just a touch of his fingers. Deciding to just go with it, he asked, "Vessels? As in they would possess you?"
The brothers nodded.
"What's stopping them from just taking you?"
"Well, you see," Dean picked up, "demons can possess you anytime they want. Angels need your permission."
"That's odd, isn't it?" Harry frowned. "Helpful, but odd. Why do they want you specifically?"
"They say it's our fate," Sam said.
"I see… And what happens if either of them wins the fight?"
"Well," Sam started, "the angels brought on the apocalypse on purpose. They want to create a new earth. They aren't too fond of humans and think they can make earth a better place if they're the ones running it."
"If Satan wins," Dean added, "he'll take over the earth, too, and it's goodbye to us humans completely."
"So, we need the fight not to happen, don't we?" Harry summarised. "Wouldn't that be accomplished if neither of you permits to be a vessel?"
"The fight's the endgame," Bobby informed him. "Right now, shit's goin' haywire, and the angels and demons are doing whatever they can to get them to say yes. They might come to blows even if these boys say no."
Harry nodded. "I see," he hummed, thinking about all the damage the Death Eaters and Voldemort did before Voldemort's and Harry's 'endgame.' Harry rubbed his eyes, forcing himself to stop thinking about his war. "They're both archangels, you said?"
"Yeah," Sam answered.
"Any leads on stopping them? I assume it isn't easy?" he asked, dropping his hands and looking at them again.
The brothers shook their heads.
"If Lucifer's been caged this whole time, what has Michael been doing?"
"We don't know," Bobby said. "I would bet he was makin' sure Azazel freed Lucifer and fulfil their destiny."
Harry frowned again. "That's quite odd as well, isn't it? If Michael and the angels want control of the earth, wouldn't it had been smarter and easier to seize it while Lucifer was caged?"
The men nodded.
"The winged bastards run on destiny, though," Dean said. "They probably think the only way to secure control would be to kill Lucifer."
Harry sighed, heavy, his shoulders slumping. "Destiny," he repeated. "Voldemort believed in that too. It led to both our deaths, didn't it? Whereas, if he left it alone, he would have had control of the entire wizardry world by the '90s." Harry shook his head. "Well, what's done is done. Voldemort's dead; Lucifer is free…" Harry looked around, not really seeing anything, thinking. "Outside of looking for a way to simply kill both of them, our best option is to find a way of blocking their 'destiny,'" he used finger quotes. Looking back at the brothers, he said, "How was Lucifer caged the first time?"
The men looked at each other, then Bobby answered, "We don't know."
"Let's look into that, then. If we can't kill them outright then the next best option would be to cage both of them, wouldn't it?" He looked back at Sam. "You mentioned seals? What are they?"
Sam nodded. "Sixty-six seals had to be broken to release Lucifer. Dean broke the first; I broke the last. We didn't know they were seals though."
Harry waited for Sam to say more, but when nothing came, he rolled his eyes. "Okay, but what were they?"
"Well," Sam glanced at Dean, "the last one was the death of Lilith, the demon that got out from the gate of Hell Azazel opened."
"The one you were tricked into killing?" Harry wanted to confirm.
Sam nodded, scowling. "Yeah. By a demon named Ruby."
"Awfully common names, these demons," Harry commented. He looked at Dean. "The first seal?"
Dean took a breath, as though preparing himself, and said, "During my time in the pit. The first seal was a righteous man had to pick up a weapon in Hell."
He was in Hell? Harry supposed he shouldn't be surprised. Apparently, anything was possible. He could almost taste Dean's shame, though, and it wasn't exactly productive, so he said, casually, "Proof that you're righteous, then. If Lucifer is the devil, then no doubt Michael thinks himself the saviour, which would be why he would choose a righteous man." A thought occurred to him, and he looked back at Sam. "So, what did they do to you to mould you into the devil's vessel?"
Bobby chuckled. "Damn smart kid."
Harry felt a little proud at that - he was sure Hermione would have already come to his conclusion, but still. He didn't react, though, just politely waited for Sam to answer, who had an equal amount of shame as Dean at the question, he noted.
"When I was a baby, uh, Azazel… killed our mom and dripped demon blood into my mouth," he said that last part in a rush. Harry winced a little. "It… changed me. Ruby had me… had me drinking demon blood to be more powerful. I've kicked it," he added hurriedly, "but the demon blood did make me stronger. Probably strong enough to hold Lucifer."
Harry hummed and nodded. Again, Harry was still trying to come to terms with just the idea of being a Horcrux for Voldemort, so he felt and showed no judgment. Instead, practically hearing Hermione's voice, he said, "Makes sense. The demons tried to groom you for Lucifer; the angels tried to groom you for Michael," he added toward Dean. "I wouldn't doubt they allowed you to be sent to Hell and made sure you returned, kind of like a Hercules trial. If Sam needs strengthening for an archangel, you would too. A trial like that would do it - which would probably have to be from an act of willingness since angels need permission to possess a vessel."
It reminded him of several spells and curses he had studied. Another thought hit Harry, and he looked back to Sam. "Which would be why the angels needed demons to affect and groom you. They can do that without your permission, right?"
Dean was frowning, though Sam looked attentive, and Bobby mumbled, "I haven't thought of that."
Getting back to the point, Harry said, "So, the first and last seal was staged, most likely. What about the others? What were they?"
"We don't know all of 'em," Bobby said. "Random things, like the return of vengeful spirits."
"Spirits, death, and Hell, huh? Then the seals were cosmic acts," Harry said, nodding to himself and remembering a few lessons in Astronomy, wishing he paid more attention in class. "That's no guarantee that cosmic acts would be needed to reverse it. It would imply…" he trailed off, thinking. He added quietly, "If there were sixty-six cosmic acts to unlock the cage, then that means it had to be a combination of great power." He looked back up. "Were they really random or were they specific sixty-six seals?"
Dean answered, "There were lots of seals, but any sixty-six did the trick."
Harry could already feel the tension setting on his shoulders. "So, it didn't have to be a specific power to unlock the cage, just a significant one. If we gather enough power equal to, or more than, that, we could open the cage back up and shove them both in."
"You mean, break sixty-six more seals?" Sam asked.
Harry shrugged. "Not necessarily. The angels and demons used the seals to generate the power needed. We just need equal power. If opening the cage didn't require specifics, just cosmic power, then I would assume the opposite would hold true. It's a standard law of physics, isn't it? For every force of nature, there is an equal, yet opposite, reaction. Not to mention," Harry added, raising his eyebrows as he recalled some muggle physics he knew that actually applied to magic, "all energy is still, stasis, at rest until a force of equal strength gets it to move. It is likely that the cage is a metaphysical one, forcing Lucifer into a state of stillness. Which would make sense if the cosmic energy regenerated by these sixty-six seals worked up enough energy to force onto the cage, breaking it from its state of rest."
The three men were looking at Harry wide-eyed, which made Harry very uncomfortable. It reminded him of how he and Ron often looked at Hermione. He squirmed.
"That's all theory, you know. I only know small details from, like, the last ten minutes. Not to mention, I'm from a different universe, aren't I?"
"We have the same laws of physics, though," Sam said, sitting a bit straighter. "Is… Is that how you do magic? Physics?"
"A bit," Harry answered. "I haven't studied too much magical theory, though. I've kind of been too busy trying not to die." Harry tried to smile, but it fell flat.
However, for once, that didn't get the reaction he was used to. Instead, the three men actually nodded in understanding. Merlin, what have they been through?
"So basically," Dean said, getting more comfortable where he sat, "you're saying if we can't find a way to kill Lucifer, we could find a way to lock him back up."
"Both of them," Harry corrected. "Take it from me… If someone is obsessed with destiny, they'll keep trying to create it. If you just locked Lucifer up, Michael will find a way to let him loose again."
He saw the brothers shudder, but the dawning realisation of that truth was on both their faces.
"Yeah," Bobby agreed. "We've known the angels had a hand in all this from the beginnin'. They'd just start over."
"Now we have to kill two archangels?" Dean groaned.
"Or lock them up," Harry added. "What are the differences between angels and archangels?"
"Archangels are hella more powerful," Dean answered.
"That's all?" Harry asked, surprised.
"Well..." Sam said. "Yeah."
Harry laughed. He couldn't help himself. It felt good, though.
"There are always ways to become more powerful," he told them. The three of them looked slightly offended at Harry laughing at them. Harry shrugged. "If not training, surely there are artefacts here that are powerful?"
"Of course," Sam nodded.
"Then let's look for them," Harry shrugged again. "We can round up as many as we can and combine their power. We'd be bound to find enough to help lock them away, wouldn't we?"
"Smart," Bobby nodded. "Let's get to crackin'."
Harry sort of felt like he was in a really long dream and like nothing and everything was real.
He helped in their research over the next couple of days, but he also focused on trying to find something about other universes or space/time/universal travel. Bobby had a lot of books and material, but nothing that could help him, apparently. He was plagued with questions of not just why, but how.
Once again, he found himself looking at the Marauder's map every night. The majority of the school had emptied. He had missed whenever his body was carried off, and he found himself having nightmares of his funeral. Worse still, nightmares of returning to his universe, into that body, and having to find a way to climb out of his grave. Not to mention, what if he was cremated? What if he didn't have a body to return to? Would he just die again if he tried returning, or return as a ghost?
One afternoon, Dean came into the study where the other three were and announced there had been a lot of demon activity a couple of states over. Sam and Dean decided to go check it out, and Harry demanded to go with them.
"I haven't met a demon, have I? How will we know how I fend against them if I don't meet one?"
Sam seemed wary but agreeable. Dean, on the other hand, didn't seem to like it at all. He complained the first hour of their drive about Harry not getting enough rest, needing to recover, and the lack of research on how the demons would affect him. Harry found it very amusing that for someone who didn't want to lower his gun when they first met would seem so attentive now.
He had gone over a bunch of demon lore at Bobby's, as well as asked the others lots of questions, and he had several ideas of spells and things he could try. Personally, he wanted to capture a demon and test his magic out on them, and the brothers agreed to do so if it were possible.
They stopped overnight at some motel then arrived in the small town the next morning and started their investigation immediately. Sam and Dean asked a few questions around the town, not allowing Harry to join, and eventually, by nightfall, they were led to a warehouse in which Sam and Dean were positive some demons were hiding.
The term 'hiding' didn't settle well with Harry, considering the state of things. If they were hiding, that must mean the other side of the war was around. If not, why would they hide? He kept quiet, however, since he wasn't this universe's expert. Still, he knew immediately when they walked in that it was a trap. There wasn't very much light, mostly just from the moon that beamed through the broken and busted windows. The majority of the warehouse was in the dark.
"Get down," he hissed at them, crouching a little.
"What?" the brothers asked.
Before he could answer, five black-eyed people ran at them.
Reacting on instinct, Harry pointed his wand at the closest demon and yelled, "Stupefy!" The demon was Stunned and fell. He shot two Shooting Spells at the next two closest demons, sending them back some. He yelled, "Stupefy," to the other two, then cried, "Immobulus!" as three more joined the two he shot back. The five froze, but four more demons came into the light.
Quickly, he cast a Shielding Charm, repelling two, then Stupefied the others. More came, and Dean and Sam were firing what they had told him earlier were salt rounds. He cast Immobulus once more to get others frozen, and as three more demons ran into the light, Harry cast a Binding Spell on one, cast a larger range Shielding Charm, then yelled toward the ceiling, "Lumos Maximus!"
A ball of light burst from his wand, rushing upward and hovering above the rest of the large room, illuminating what had to be hundreds of people - demons.
Dean swore, Sam yelled to run back, and then every single demon charged at them. The three of them ran, Harry casting Shielding Charms, Stunning Spells, Binding - Full-Body and non, Jelly-Legs, Merlin, anything he could think of, over his shoulder.
The demons were fast, however. And strong. They had them surrounded and pinned quickly.
It was like he was back in battle, but so much more intense with dozens of things trying to kill him at once.
Stinging Hexes, Shooting Spells, hell, he cast three Tickling Charms just to distract some. He could barely keep up, and Harry realised the other two weren't doing so well either.
They were going to die at this rate.
Swearing under his breath, he shot Stunning Spells at the demons immediately around the three, then pointing his wand toward the direction of the car, he cried, "CONFRINGO!"
The curse efficiently blasted through the demons, giving them a direct path out. Sam and Dean didn't need to be told to run, and the three of them sprinted. Harry threw what he could over his shoulder - several Stunning Spells, two Immobulus, a few Descendo, and even one Deprimo that he sincerely hoped didn't break any hosts' bones.
They made it to the car, and as Sam and Dean climbed in, Harry turned and cast the strongest Shielding Charm he could. Several demons ran into the invisible barrier, crying out and scratching at it, but it was enough to allow them to start the car and take off.
"Jesus fuck!" Dean yelled.
"Those are demons, then," Harry breathed from the backseat.
"Yeah," Sam confirmed, clutching his arm where it was bleeding.
The car's engine roared as Dean sped, but it quickly became apparent the demons were following. They were impossibly fast. Too fast for humans. Unless the demons were controlling and protecting their hosts' heart rate and body, the hosts were dead. Given what he had read about demons, it was unlikely they were protecting their hosts. Demons, nor angels, needed a living host. An angel required permission, sure, but once the host died, unless the person expressly detracted permission, the angel still had access.
Too fast. The demons were coming too fast. No way any of their hosts were alive.
"Drive faster, Dean," Sam said, also looking out the back window.
Dean bit out, "Can't."
Harry spared a glance at the dashboard and saw Dean was pushing 100 mph.
Sam made a pained sound then, strengthening his hold on his arm.
Dean and Harry asked, "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm okay," Sam grunted, but Harry didn't miss the sarcasm.
Dean looked out the back window briefly, making Harry do the same, before he asked, "Ever seen that many?"
"No - no way. Not in one place."
"What the hell?"
Dean turned abruptly then, causing Harry to slam into one of the car's doors. He moaned, his shoulder having already been injured by a demon grabbing his arm and twisting it at one point. Harry barely had a chance to right himself before Dean was slamming on the brakes, forcing him forward and having to use the front bench seat to keep from flying through the window, his knees slamming against it painfully.
He looked up to see what made them stop and was surprised to see a giant barricade alit in flames.
The three of them seemed frozen for a moment before Dean swore, threw the car into reverse, and attempted to turn around quickly.
They didn't make it. No sooner had Dean gotten the car at a right angle to take off again did two quick demons break the front windows, trying to grab the brothers. Harry yelled a Shielding Charm to push them back, and he was about to Stun each one when-
Water began pouring over them, making the demons scream in pain. Other demons had also caught up with them and were being attacked by the water - holy water, he realised - as well. Harry followed the powerful stream to find a big truck with a man on top, directing a large hose at the demons. A voice came from a speaker, a megaphone he realised once he could see who was speaking and was chanting in a language Harry didn't recognise. After whatever incantation was said, thick, impenetrable looking smoke exploded from the mouths of the demons' hosts. It was quite a sight that came with a lot of noise like a storm was erupting around them. So much so that the silence that followed was thick as the hosts fell, unconscious or dead.
Harry looked back around to see who saved them. The truck was obnoxiously red, and there were three men around it - one with the hose, one with the megaphone, and one with a shotgun.
Dean, Sam, and Harry were breathing heavily, but Dean still managed a, "Well, that's something you don't see every day."
Sam and Dean began to get out of the car, but Harry was much more hesitant, only resting his hand on the door's handle and pocketing his wand.
"You three alright?" the man with a shotgun asked as he approached them.
"Peachy," Dean said after a moment.
"Be careful," Shotgun said. "It's… dangerous around here." Then he began to walk away.
"Whoa- whoa- whoa- wait, wait," Dean rushed, shutting his door and chasing after the bloke. Sam did as well.
"No need to thank us," Shotgun called over his shoulder with a nonchalant hand wave, sounding way too practised.
"No, hold up a sec - who are you?" Dean asked.
Shotgun turned back to Dean and Sam and considered them a moment. "We're the Sacrament Lutheran Militia."
There was a pause, and then Dean said, "I'm sorry, the what?"
"I'm sorry to tell you this, but those were demons, and this is the apocalypse," Shotgun said in return. Getting Harry's interest, Harry quietly and slowly made his way out of the car as the man continued, "So… buckle up."
Dean and Sam exchanged a glance, then Dean said, "We know."
The five got into a discussion with both sides barely believing the other as Harry took a calculating look around.
There were so many demons, but only a handful caught up with them? He looked around at the bodies and began approaching each one, trying to check their pulse.
Dean and Sam brought the others around to their car's trunk where Harry knew they had their collection of weapons. He heard the trunk open, then after a moment, Sam said, "Looks like we're in the same line of business."
"Yeah," Dean agreed, "and among colleagues."
After another pause, wherein Harry tried to find the pulse of another dead body, Dean continued. "That's a police-issued shotgun. That truck is, uh… inspired. Where'd you guys pick up all this crap?"
Harry moved on to another dead body.
"Y'know, you… pick things up along the way," Water Hose said.
Another pause wherein Harry confirmed two more dead bodies. "Guys, come on," Dean chuckled, "this whole corner of the state is nuts with demon omens. We just want to help, that's all."
"We're on the same team, here," Sam added, and Harry confirmed the last dead body. "Just talk to us."
Harry straightened and made his way over to them carefully and slowly, not wanting to compromise whatever negotiation Dean and Sam were weaving. The men seemed to have a silent conversation, then Shotgun said, "Follow us."
Harry was quiet as he observed. There was a part of him that started to seriously wonder if this entire week really had been a dream. Regardless, dream or not, he wasn't about to let his guard down.
They drove a long way and arrived sometime in the morning in a town that looked fortified.
They parked by the red truck at a white church. The three of them had been passing around rags, trying to get off what blood and sweat they could. They got out, and as Dean stored the rags in the trunk, Sam put back on his jacket, and Harry looked around, making sure his wand was secure. The town seemed mostly deserted, and Harry noticed what he recently learned was a demon trap spray-painted right before the pathway that led to the front doors of the church. On either side were low concrete barriers with barbed wire, and Harry wondered what stopped demons from just jumping over them? Even he could find a way to get over them, and for a demon, the barriers should be nothing.
They were led into the wooden panelled church. It was full, and a group of people were gathered at the front along with a priest.
"Who would have thought the apocalypse would be so romantic?" the priest asked the room as Harry, Dean, and Sam filed themselves politely against the back wall. "Marriage, family, it's a blessing. Especially in times like this. So hold onto that," the priest went on, and Harry looked at the two brothers to see what they were thinking, noting Sam was suspiciously looking at all the shotguns the muggles had. He eyed them, too, and despite American stereotypes, knew this wasn't normal in the slightest.
"Wedding?" Sam huffed quietly. "Seriously?"
"Why not?" Harry answered just as quietly back. "End of the world, the prospect of dying a horrible death, war… It's natural for people to want to find happiness where they can, even in good times, isn't it? War is so lonely," he added. "When you have someone, sometimes, the lonelier you feel at the prospect of losing them. It's only natural to try to bond where you can."
Bill and Fleur had a big wedding right before they had to go on the run, and Harry could remember and appreciate the break it provided from the constant stress, worry, and fear.
After a moment, he realised Dean was staring at him. When he looked over, Dean merely shrugged at getting caught and looked back toward the front. Harry rolled his eyes.
They hovered in the back for the rest of the wedding, watching as the couple promised each other until death did them part, then politely hung back as they followed the couple out of the church, the congregation throwing rice and rose petals.
As they watched the couple get carted off, the priest came to stand beside them. "So, Rob tells me you boys hunt demons."
Harry chose not to answer as the brothers looked at one another. After all, they made it clear they were in charge while they pretended to be law enforcement and questioned locals the day before. Stood to reason that still applied, which to Harry, hey, have at it.
Sam answered, "Uh… yes, sir."
Dean opened his mouth like he was going to add to that but quickly closed it, accepting Sam's answer. Harry eyed the priest a moment, sizing him up, and he noticed a gun was strapped to the priest's leg. Harry was willing to bet that wasn't the only weapon on the priest's person. He felt very fortunate just to need a wand, he thought.
"You missed a few," the priest said, obviously attempting good humour.
Sam gave a small laugh. "Yeah, tell us about it. Any idea why they're here?"
The priest shook his head, looking out at his flock cooing around the newlyweds. "Sure seem to like us though," he commented. He looked at them then added, "Follow me, gentlemen."
The three of them exchanged a glance before following, as though to silently agree they would have each other's backs in whatever they were about to get into. They were led back inside the church, through a side door, then down a set of stairs.
"So, you're a preacher?" Dean asked as a way of an opening.
"Not what you were expecting, huh?" the priest - preacher - preacher with a collar? - said.
"Well, dude, you're packin'," Dean reasoned.
"Strange times," Preacher-Priest mumbled, pushing through a set of double doors that led to… to a room converted into a muggle weapon's assembly line, by the look of it. There were two lines of tables with several muggles surrounding them, putting together guns, gunpowder, some sharpening knives.
"Is that a twelve-year-old packin' salt rounds?" Dean asked incredulously. Harry snapped his head around to where Dean was looking, and yes, that was indeed a child packing shotgun shells.
"Everybody pitches in," Preacher-Priest said casually as he continued to lead them inside.
"So, the whole church?" Sam questioned.
"The whole town," Preacher-Priest confirmed.
"A whole town full of hunters," Dean commented, looking around the room as they came to a stop on the other side of the makeshift assembly lines. "I don't know whether to run screaming or buy a condo."
"Well, the demons were killing us. We had to do something," Preacher-Priest said seriously.
"So why not call the national guard?" Sam fished, causing Harry to raise a brow. Harry had been around the Winchesters enough already to know how muggles usually reacted to the supernatural. Calling the national guard would have only served to get the town laughed at. Sam was digging at something, and Harry wondered what he was thinking.
"We were told not to," Preacher-Priest answered simply. Harry frowned.
"By who?" asked Sam.
Preacher-Priest looked at them with an open expression, but it was clear he wasn't going to answer.
"Come on, Padre," Dean tried. "You're as locked and loaded as we've ever seen. And that exorcism was Enochian -" ah, that was what that was "- someone's tellin' you something."
The man considered Dean, hesitated, then looked down. "Look, I'm sorry. I, uh," he looked back up and to something over Sam's and Harry's shoulders, then said with conviction, "I can't discuss it."
"Dad, it's okay," came a female voice from behind them. They turned to find a young woman with blonde hair and a grey sweater slowly nudging forward to join them.
"Leah," Preacher-Priest warned.
"It's Sam and Dean Winchester," she announced. "They're safe."
Harry noticed both brothers tense on either side of him.
"I know all about them," she continued.
Sam frowned, and Dean blinked a couple of times then met Sam's gaze over the top of Harry's head. It wasn't hard for them to do, but Harry definitely felt shorter whenever they did it. He really needed to learn to stop standing between them.
Dean turned back to the woman, Leah, and asked, "You do?"
"Sure," Leah said easily. "From the angels."
There was a quick pause, then Dean said sarcastically, "The angels. Awesome."
"Don't worry, they can't see you here," Leah reassured them. "The… marks on your ribs, right?" she asked, gesturing towards her own ribs.
Dean and Sam both looked a little creeped out by that, and Harry wondered what in the world Leah meant. She made it sound significant, and Harry bookmarked it in his mind to ask the brothers later.
"So…" Sam started. "You know all about us… because angels told you?" Sam didn't quite sound like he believed her.
"Yes," Leah smiled, then added, "among other things."
"Like the snappy little exorcism spell," Dean supplied.
"And they show me where the demons are going to be before it happens," she nodded. "How to fight back."
"Never been wrong. Not once," Preacher-Priest interrupted, moving to stand by the woman. "She's very special."
Preacher-Priest went to pet her hair, but she moved her head away a little, smiling. "Dad," she whined fondly.
"And let me guess," Dean pressed on, "before you… see something, you get a really bad migraine and see flashing lights?"
"How'd you know?" Leah asked, looking at Dean curiously.
"'Cause you're not the first prophet we've met," Dean said, then added with a smirk, "but you are the cutest." Leah blushed some and smiled back. When Dean caught Preacher-Priest's eye again, he quickly amended, "I mean that with total respect, of course."
Harry snorted again, and it seemed to get the others' attention.
Leah frowned at him. "Hello," she said. "I don't know about you."
"I'm no one," Harry tried to dismiss her. "Sam and Dean saved me from a bunch of demons a few towns over. Didn't really have anywhere else to go, so I'm sticking with them for now."
Both Preacher-Priest and Leah nodded, accepting that story. "In that case," Preacher-Priest said, reaching over to lay a hand on Harry's shoulder. "Take a look around town, see how you like us. You're welcomed to stay as long as you'd like."
Harry smiled at him. "Thank you, sir."
Taking a look around seemed like an excellent idea.
The town was in the throes of autumn, and Harry noticed what seemed like a permanent fog had settled around the buildings. It was properly gloomy and bleak. Almost as if it were… enchanted.
He walked the forests and neighbourhoods, wand tucked cleverly under his sleeve, his fingers curled around the base. Casting through his shirt sleeve and jacket (leather, as he copied it from Dean) wasn't the most pleasant experience, but it was the most discreet way he could run diagnostics. He wasn't liking what he was finding either.
Around the town square, he saw the man who had the megaphone the night before. Harry jogged to him and stopped him.
"Hi," Harry smiled. "I'm sorry to disturb you. I was just wondering what that phrase was that you shouted at the demons last night? The one that saved our lives," he added for good measure.
"Bra de gah ra ma," Megaphone informed, not looking happy for being stopped and not taken to Harry's attempted flattery. "It expels demons."
"Bra de gah ra ma," Harry repeated. "Thank you!"
Megaphone nodded, making a face at what was probably Harry's accent. He wondered if he would get that a lot.
Harry snuck back into some woods and attempted the 'spell' with his wand. Nothing happened. His wand didn't react to it at all. Harry had tested some exorcising phrases with his wand at Bobby's, and he felt the effect the words had. He had no doubt those words coupled with his wand would be powerful enough to exorcise many demons, probably at once. This phrase, however…
Eventually, Harry found Dean and Sam in the town's pub at one of the tables, drinking beer and looking serious. Well, Sam was looking serious. Dean was just looking tired and fed up.
"Hey," he said joining them.
"Hey," Sam greeted. "You find anything?"
"Yeah," Harry nodded, then discreetly cast a Privacy Charm around them.
"What was that?" Dean asked.
"Privacy Charm," Harry told him. "So we can't be overheard."
"Huh," Dean nodded, looking at the tip of Harry's wand sneaking out of his sleeve. "Awesome."
"Listen," Harry began, "it's fake. All of this," he gestured around, "is fake."
The brothers looked at each other, then they both crossed their arms on the table and leaned closer. "Come again?" Dean asked, and Harry was beginning to recognise that expression as a sarcastic Oh-I-can't-wait-to-hear-this. Harry would consider it rude, if he cared enough to consider it anything.
"It's fake. Something, or someone, is manipulating the atmosphere of the town. They're creating the fog and the bleakness, and they're using some kind of force to manipulate people's emotions. Not dissimilar to dementors, actually," he realised.
"Dementors?" Sam asked.
"Yeah. They're these… Dark creatures in my universe that feed on human happiness. They leave only despair in the air around you, forcing you to relive your worst and darkest memories. They've almost killed me a few times," Harry added. "Not to mention, there's a thing called the Dementor's Kiss where the dementor sucks out your soul leaving a still-alive-but-empty body. Demons would love them, I suppose, wouldn't they?"
"Hold up, Clive," Dean barked. "What are you getting at? There's something like your demen - demoners here."
Harry shrugged. "Dementors, and yeah. Something dark is here with power quite similar. They're using the fog. It's odd, the fog is giving out a false sense of security as well as feeding into the fear of everyone, making everyone convinced they're all about to… die, I suppose. That the world really is ending. With that fear coupled with the false sense of security, I feel like they're setting this town up for something."
"Emotional manipulation," Sam nodded, then looked pointedly at Dean for some reason. "Exploiting the townspeople."
"But why?" Dean asked, ignoring Sam. "What's the point?"
Right then, a loud bell started ringing. The pub became quiet, and abruptly, people began to make their way out.
"Something I said?" Dean asked, watching them in bewilderment.
"Paul," Sam got the attention of a man walking out behind the crowd. Harry recognised him as Water Hose from the night before. "What's going on?"
"Leah's had another vision," Paul answered.
The three of them let that sink in, Dean and Sam looking over at Harry then one another.
"Wanna go to church?" Sam suggested.
"You know me," Dean said, lifting his beer to take a last swig, "downright pious."
Leah's vision was of several demons huddled together five miles from town.
"So who's going to join me," Preacher-Priest said, or Pastor David Gideon, as Dean had informed Harry when they stepped into the church. The whole town was there. Sam, Dean, and Harry were once again hovering in the back.
A man Harry recognised as Shotgun raised his hand. "Wouldn't miss it."
Paul raised his hand next. "Someone's got to cover Rob's ass," he said, grinning at Shotgun.
"We're in, Padre," Dean volunteered them. Harry wanted to elbow him. How was Harry supposed to help and keep his wizardry a secret?
"Thank you," Pastor David nodded toward them. "I'd like to offer a prayer."
Harry respectfully lowered his head, but he kept his eyes opened. He noticed Rob and Paul exchange a significant and not exactly friendly look, which was very different from just moments before, and Harry turned his head to see that Dean and Sam had noticed it too.
Once the congregation was dismissed, Dean herded them into a corner.
"What do you think is up with Rob and Paul?" Sam asked.
"No clue," Dean shrugged. "Harry, you comin' with us?"
"Sure. But how can I help?"
"We need to be careful. If something's out there causing this, we don't need it knowing what you are."
"Yeah," Harry agreed.
"You'll have to go… muggle?" Sam ended the sentence questionably.
Harry nodded. "Yeah, muggle. Shotguns and swearing, then," he added peevishly. "Shall we?"
Dean scowled at Harry's attitude but let it go. They joined Pastor David, Rob, Paul, and two others to hash out a plan. They agreed to head out the first thing the next morning. Rob didn't seem to think Harry had it in him to fight demons, said he looked too 'scrawny,' but apparently, Rob's wife and son were going as well. Sam made the argument that if Rob's son was good enough, Harry was too. Dean also defended Harry, and it was Pastor David that ruled that they should give Harry a chance.
As they left the church, Harry quietly reminded the Winchester brothers he didn't know how to shoot a gun.
"If you can aim that stick of yours, you can shoot," Dean grunted.
Harry supposed that was true, but one look from Sam told him there were enough differences to warrant some pause.
"Brilliant," Harry sighed.