Harry listened as Gadreel told them about the Garden and how the snake had tricked him – how it had used his love of humanity to convince him that he was helping humanity by giving them their freedom. Just as Metatron later tricked him by using his desire to restore heaven and regain his good name. The two events were separated by millennia of imprisonment and torture.
It was the story of someone very naive and a great deal short-sighted. It was the story of someone who was punished for the wrong crime and so corrected the wrong behaviour. Gadreel had been punished for disobeying at the garden and so given the opportunity to obey an authority figure, he did so blindly, in a misguided effort to show he had been reformed. And yet, save for the desire to be seen as a hero rather than a villain, the majority of Gadreel’s failings had been borne out of love and a desire to be good – love for humanity, love for his fellow angels.
“...for a time, I thought Lucifer may have been right,” Gadreel continued. “When he said that we were better than humanity, but then I too, was tortured by angels, and I understood then that humanity was not worse than us, we were the same – because I too thought only of revenge. And when Metatron offered me a chance to have it, I took delight in the task. When he asked me to kill Abner, I-” Gadreel broke off for a moment, visibly gathering myself. “I doubted then, and I should have... but, Abner, he said that if I had a chance at a second chance, I should take it – I should do whatever I had to. I believed Metatron to be that second chance. I see, only now, that my second chance could have been the Winchesters, or with this man who has agreed twice now to be my vessel. He is a good man.”
Harry stared at Gadreel, as he remembered that Gadreel was, effectively WEARING someone. He wondered who the man was, what he must be like to get along with an angel who had control of his body.
“The suicide bombers,” Gadreel continued. “As I explained, Metatron had me recruit angels for what he called an ‘elite force.’ I had hopes that he intended them to be his personal guard. I was already doubting him, his methods were... cruel. He seemed to disregard the lives of our brothers and sisters. I thought, if I made his personal guard out of those who may share my views, those I trusted – if we had to, perhaps we could rise-up against him. I can’t do it myself. He is too powerful with the angel tablet. I had hope, though, that perhaps with others in place, we could restore Heaven to what it was and bring all our brothers and sisters home.”
“Did he suspect?” Hannah asked. “Is that why he had them sacrifice themselves instead?”
“I do not know,” Gadreel replied. “Perhaps it had been his plan from the beginning. It certainly was effective. I was injured in the suicide attack, and had I been one of our less powerful brethren, I would have perished. I realize now that Metatron had been counting on my old training as a Guard to both protect himself and to sell the illusion that he was a victim rather than the perpetrator.”
“And what do you know of his plans for the future?” Hannah asked. Harry had to commend her. Even when locked behind prison bars, she had the air of someone who was there of their own volition.
“He means to become the new God,” Gadreel replied. “And once he has done so, to subjugate humanity.”
“Blasphemy,” Hannah all but whispered.
“The Winchesters told me that he had a similar set-up where he lived in Colorado,” Harry added in. “Albeit on a much smaller scale – with only one small nation of Native Americans paying tribute to him, in the promise that he would ensure their survival.”
“Then it is not outside the realm of possibility that he intends to do the same on a much grander scale,” Castiel nodded.
“I’ll show you to his office,” Hannah announced. “Gadreel is right. The mission must come first.”
“Thank you, sister,” Gadreel said reverently. Harry stepped forward with the keys and held them up.
“It’s that one,” Hannah pointed and smiled.
Once he had the door unlocked and opened, Hannah straightened her suit and stepped out of the cell.
“I’m not sure we’ll be able to get past the others,” Hannah said. “They knew Metatron’s orders were to imprison you and if what you say is true, then we may not have enough time for you to explain the situation to them too.”
“Will they not take you at your word?” Castiel asked. “Surely, it was your opinion that tipped the tide against me when you believed the suicide-bombers were under my orders.”
“Yes, but that was as your second,” Hannah replied. “So my change of opinion was notable. But here, I am not Metatron’s second, and they may believe that I have simply changed my mind out of loyalty to you and not because there has been a change in truth.”
“I am Metatron’s second,” Gadreel said. “Perhaps-”
“You are also Gadreel,” Hannah interrupted.
Harry felt his heart go out to Gadreel, as his expression fell.
“Take us in as though we are prisoners,” Castiel replied.
“That plan did not work for us, Castiel,” Gadreel stated. “What makes you think it will be different this time?”
“It’s clear that Metatron knew that you would betray him,” Castiel replied. “Whereas, I do not think he suspects that Hannah will do the same. Tell me, Hannah, were you supposed to interrogate us as you have?”
Hannah shook her head. “I was to lock you up and leave you. I was disobeying orders when I allowed you to speak.”
“We can only try,” Castiel declared. “But, in my experience, angels have a habit of only seeing what they are told.”
Both Hannah and Gadreel nodded, smiling ruefully. Harry shifted his weight.
“Er, what about me?” Harry asked, and it was amazing that at 36 years old, Harry could still be made to feel like a child who had made the mistake of speaking while the adults were talking.
“You are very small,” Castiel considered. “Perhaps, we could hide you.”
“I’m not that small, I’m only a few inches shorter than-”
“Harry,” Castiel smiled gently. “You’ve forgotten that what you see is not what is.”
“What I- what?”
“Heaven is incomprehensible to the human mind,” Gadreel stated. “You’re mind has created a visual that is understandable, so that you are not driven mad with the truth.”
“So... I’m small?” Harry asked.
“You are very small,” Gadreel nodded. “Human souls, though powerful, do not take up a lot of room. Whatever Wizard magic you are using right now, it has... made your soul smaller, almost impossible to see, as though it has been...”
“Stretched thin,” Castiel finished. “I understand now, what your godson meant when he spoke of a tether. The soul itself is the tether.”
Gadreel nodded. Hannah looked wary.
“Hannah and I carry a human soul with us now, as we keep our chosen vessels under our protection while in Heaven,” Gadreel explained. “Angels are accustomed to seeing human souls accompanying their brethren.”
“You and Hannah,” Harry repeated softly and then looked at Castiel.
“My vessel’s soul no longer resides with his body,” Castiel answered Harry’s unspoken question. “There is a certain level of damage to the vessel that the soul cannot survive – we were parted the first time I was killed by an archangel. When... when I was resurrected, I was alone.”
“Is that common?” Harry asked.
“No,” Castiel replied. “Usually, angels do a better job of ensuring their vessel’s survival.”
Castiel was frowning, but Hannah smiled slowly.
“That’s how we’ll hide you,” she said. “We simply place you close to Castiel. The angels may mistake your soul for that of Castiel’s vessel. Angels often take no notice of who’s body an angel is using.”
Castiel smiled at Hannah, while Gadreel lifted what appeared to be an impressed and amused eyebrow.
“So, I just walk beside you?”
“Hm, no, closer,” Castiel said. “How do you see me right now?”
“Uh, I see you,” Harry said. “With... with your coat and suit.”
“Ah, you see my vessel,” Castiel nodded. “Then, piggyback?”
Castiel knelt down and offered his back to Harry. Harry looked at Hannah and Gadreel, who both just looked as though angels piggybacking wizards was something that happened all the time.
“Okay, piggyback,” Harry muttered, as he climbed on.
The angel stood easily, as though Harry were nothing more than the weight of a fly. Castiel’s back was solid underneath Harry’s chest and Harry had to wonder what this all actually looked like. He wrapped his legs around Castiel’s waist and his arms around his shoulders, and couldn’t understand what he was holding onto if Castiel didn’t even look like himself.
Hannah moved forward and pulled out a pair of handcuffs. She cuffed both Castiel and Gadreel. Castiel was cuffed with his hands at his back, supporting Harry’s weight, and Gadreel was cuffed with his hands in front. Harry had to marvel at the amount of trust the two angels were putting in Hannah, but then, he too believed that she sincerely wished to help them.
Together they marched through the corridor of the prison, before exiting into the white hallway. Hannah led them only two doors down. She opened another door and they walked into what looked a little like the Auror department at the ministry. There were angels at their desks who barely raised their head when the door opened, there were others that were walking back and forth holding paperwork, and there were those by the door who took immediate interest in the three angels that had just walked in.
Harry waited for someone to see him and raise the alarm, but instead it was just as Hannah and Castiel had said it would be – no one paid him any mind at all.
“Hannah, why are the prisoners not in their cells,” an angel asked, casting an eye to Castiel and Gadreel.
“Metatron wishes to mete out their punishment personally, once he is finished with his current business on Earth,” Hannah replied.
“Mm,” the angel hummed, but didn’t argue. The guards stepped back and let Hannah, the two prisoners, and Harry pass through.
Metatron’s office was classically furnished, with plush leather couches and chairs and dark wood. Harry climbed off Castiel’s back once they were inside. Hannah unlocked the cuffs on both Castiel and Gadreel, and placed them on the desk.
“I can’t stay,” Hannah said, apologetically.
“Nor should you,” Castiel replied. “If we fail and are caught, you may be hunted. It is best to go prepare.”
Hannah nodded and left the room. As soon as the door snicked shut, Castiel, Gadreel, and Harry flew into action – searching the office frantically for the tablet.
Sam woke up by the Impala, his head throbbing. He cursed Dean for knowing exactly how to hit to knock him out.
Sam lurched to his feet and ran as fast as he could towards the homeless encampment. Dean had gone in alone, again, just like he had with Abaddon – only this time, Sam couldn’t help but feel as though Dean were going against a stronger opponent, one that had unknown power up their sleeve. Sam could only hope that Castiel and Harry had been successful in destroying the angel tablet.
“What’s this?” Harry asked, coming upon something that looked like an old broadcasting radio.
“Mm,” Gadreel said, from over by the far bookcase, where he was methodically pulling books from the shelves. He had been convinced that Metatron liked to hide things in libraries. “I hadn’t seen it yet,” Gadreel continued. “However, before I left to find Castiel, Metatron had ordered a device with which to amplify his voice, and the next time I heard his voice, he was indeed amplified.”
“Didn’t you already look at that shelf?” Harry asked. Gadreel turned and raised an eyebrow.
“Out of curiosity, how many shelves do you see, Harry?” Gadreel asked.
“Ah,” Harry replied, understanding immediately. “I’m guessing a great deal fewer than there actually are.”
“Truly, the human mind is amazing,” Gadreel replied. “Your true form may be small and your perception limited, but you adapt well.”
Castiel suddenly moved to the desk and grasped the typewriter, pulling its top shell violently away from its base.
“I found it,” Castiel said, lifting the angel tablet from the desk. Its writing was glowing yellow as he spoke.
“How do you break the connection?” Harry asked.
Castiel answered by throwing the tablet to the floor. It shattered upon impact.
“Done,” Castiel stated, sitting down heavily in Metatron’s chair.
“He’ll be back any moment,” Gadreel said. “He’s not defeated. He still knows what was written on the tablet. He made the angels fall without it, there’s no telling what he can still do. He’ll imprison us for this.”
Harry could recognize the fear growing in Gadreel. There was no escape though, if they left the room, the angels outside would throw them in prison. If they stayed, Metatron would do the same. Harry could signal for Teddy to wake him up and escape that way, but it would leave Castiel and Gadreel to face Metatron alone.
Not that Harry would be much help in a fight against Metatron, though perhaps like the other angels, Metatron just wouldn’t see him – small and barely visible as Harry appeared to be in his true form. He might be able to launch a surprise attack somehow if he went unnoticed.
“Keep him talking and distract-“ Harry cut himself off as Metatron suddenly appeared in the room, holding a bloody weapon. Harry felt his heart lurch.
For the moment, Metatron’s attention seemed to be only on Castiel.
“Well played, Castiel,” Metatron said, and as he did, Harry quickly turned and flipped the switch on the broadcast radio and then cranked the microphone volume higher. Harry began to back quickly away from the device and towards where Gadreel stood by the bookshelves.
“Obviously, you and Gadreel managed to turn a few dead-enders against me,” Metatron continued.
“We did,” Castiel nodded.
“And the angel tablet – arguably the most powerful instrument in the history of the universe – is in pieces, and for what again?” Metatron asked. “Oh, that’s right, to save Dean Winchester. That was your goal, right? I mean, you draped yourself in the flag of heaven, but ultimately, it was all about one human, right? Well, guess what. He’s dead.”
It was like being punched through the chest. Harry wanted to scream, but he held his tongue, determined to keep his unseen advantage as long as possible. Castiel and Gadreel both gave visible reactions though – Castiel turned horrified eyes to Metatron, while Gadreel let out a small hurt noise.
“And you’re in my chair,” Metatron finished, and with a wave of his hand, Castiel was cuffed to the chair.
Gadreel stepped backwards, towards the door, but Metatron had already turned.
“Don’t think I forgot about you, traitor,” he said, and waved his hands again. Gadreel ended up cuffed with a long chain to metal ring embedded in the wall. Harry didn’t think had even been there a moment before – but he knew that he had seen similar chains in the prison. Gadreel seemed to agree with him, as his eyes grew wide with mounting panic.
Harry stayed as still as possible, as Metatron’s gaze swept back to Castiel. For a moment, he believed he had gone undetected, but then Metatron paused and looked back, his eyes scanning the room until they landed on Harry.
“Oh, you’ve brought me a human,” Metatron smiled. “And a wizard no less. What an interesting spell you’re under… or is it a potion? A little bit of both, isn’t it?”
“You’ll never get away with this,” Harry said, now that the element of surprise was gone, he might as well help in keeping Metatron talking rather than attacking.
“Get away with what?” Metatron asked. “Gadreel told a silly story to a group of less than believers. I can clean up this mess in an hour.”
“You give our brothers and sisters far too little credit,” Castiel stated. “They will soon learn that you have been playing them.”
While Metatron’s attention was on Castiel, Harry tried to edge his way closer to Gadreel. If he could get Gadreel free without Metatron noticing, then they could possibly take him by surprise. Metatron hadn’t tied Harry up, no doubt, because he did not feel threatened by a lowly human and Harry was determined to use that to his advantage.
“And then?” Metatron laughed. “They will do nothing because they are frightened little sheep following my crook wherever it leads. And where I'm taking them – back to our rightful place atop this mountain of human shame and excrement – when that happens, trust me, they're not gonna care how they got there.”
Harry smiled, with a speech like that being broadcast to all the other angels, perhaps they wouldn’t need to fight back alone – perhaps they’d only need to keep Metatron talking until help arrived. Harry reached Gadreel and reached out his hand to carefully inspect the cuffs.
“Now, first order of business – Get rid of the evidence!” Metatron announced. “No one is going to believe a pair of traitors like either you or Gadreel, but I can’t be having a human witness. Angels are so funny when it comes to humans, aren’t they? Oh, they know humans are beneath us, and yet they cling so hard to ‘the mission’ as if our only purpose in life were to protect these pathetic beings rather than subjugate them as we should.”
“Don’t touch him!” Gadreel yelled, but it was already too late. Before Harry had even registered what Metatron was saying, he was being pushed against the bookshelves by the angel – and Metatron was far stronger than his vessel’s appearance indicated. He held Harry pinned with only one hand.
“It’s an interesting spell,” Metatron repeated. “But really not the best in circumstances like these. Are you aware of its weak points?”
“Let me go,” Harry commanded and tried to reach up to scratch at his own cheek, in the hopes that Teddy would pull him back before Metatron did anything.
“Ah, you are,” Metatron smiled, swatting Harry’s arm away with his free hand, before Harry could give Teddy the signal. “So, you know the rule – if you die in the matrix...”
Metaton plunged an angel blade into Harry’s stomach, piercing him just under his left ribs.
Harry knew Castiel and Gadreel were yelling, but at the same time, he could hear someone else yelling – Someone more familiar. Teddy was in his ear, screaming.
His wound was both burning with spilled stomach acid and soothed by distant healing magic, but it burned more than it soothed, and Harry’s vision was narrowing as it became harder to breathe and harder to think.
“No, no, no, no,” Teddy was crying. “Dad, please!”
“It won’t work,” Metatron said with a smile. “The blade’s still in you at this end. And with this,” Metatron placed a hand on Harry’s forehead. “Finite Incantatum, you’re no longer tethered to your body at all.”
Teddy’s voice disappeared and Harry cried out at the loss of it. He was in too much pain to be dead, and yet, if he could no longer hear Teddy, if he could no longer return to his body, then what was he?
The room behind Metatron was suddenly flooded in light, too bright for Harry to make out what was happening, but he could hear voices, and yelling, and Metatron suddenly disappeared from in front of him. The noise in the room was so great, Harry thought his ears might bleed from it.
Gadreel took Metatron’s place, pulling the sword out of Harry’s abdomen. Harry’s vision was fading into white, not black, it seemed, because Gadreel looked radiant and bright – so very bright.
“I can save you. Do you trust me to do so?” Gadreel asked.
“Yes,” Harry said, with what felt like his last breath.
The world went so white that Harry couldn’t even see Gadreel anymore, but he felt him – it was like Gadreel had gathered him up and swallowed him whole.
And then there was nothing.