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It hardly ever rained in July. It hardly ever rained for days on end without letting up.

But, it was raining in July. Raining continuously for six days and the sky was inky black with clouds waiting patiently for their turn to pound mercilessly on shingled roofs. They crowded eagerly over the city, suffocating and trapping it within a curtain of whistling wind and sharp cries of thunder. Not a soul wanted to be caught in such a storm. Harry gazed over the top of the simmering cauldron to the only curtained window. His unobstructed green eyes scanned the dark sky and he sighed in relief when he realized the storm showed no sign of stopping. He still had at least another day before the Order could contact him. Even Ron and Hermione wouldn't risk sending an owl in this weather. He smiled sadly as he recalled his last meeting with his best friends. It was on the train back home from their sixth year at Hogwarts. The year had been relatively quiet but the lack of Death Eater activity made the air thick with unease as the train sped back to the unprotected muggle world. Ron and Hermione were arguing over something Lavender had said and Harry sat beside them, staring quietly out the window at the passing landscape. He glanced thoughtfully at his best friends. They were happy to be together. Even in the middle of an argument, it was clear that they wouldn't dream of being anywhere else. "Harry." Hermione said, suddenly turning her attention away from the still fuming Ron. She lowered her voice and continued at Harry's inquiring expression. "What was it that you needed to tell us? You mentioned something about Dumbledore." Her posture was stiff, as if she expected news that someone dear to her had been caught in a raid - it had been this way all year. Even Ron focused on Harry, momentarily forgetting his anger. Harry hesitated. How was he supposed to tell his best friends about the Horcruxes? Dumbledore decided it was time they knew about Harry's extracurricular activities but, then again, Dumbledore didn't have the best track record when it came to making the right decisions for children. Harry knew they would demand to join them in the hunt for these pieces of the Dark Lord's soul. They would never leave Harry alone with something as serious as that. But could Harry bring himself to destroy what little happiness they still managed to carry? He couldn't guarantee their safety. No matter how able he became in other forms of combat, he knew he couldn't save everyone. He stared into Hermione's bright eyes. He knew she would be aware of the lie as soon as he told it. Her eyes would shine with disappointment and hurt that Harry wouldn't want to share something important with them. But he would rather disappoint her now than have to face her dull eyes after letting her witness unspeakable horrors. They still had a chance to be happy and he wouldn't make them choose between their happiness and his destiny. "I completed my training with Shane." He saw the suspicion in Hermione's face but Ron had already jumped from his seat to congratulate his best friend. She soon joined in with

questions about what he learned and he promised to show them more self-defense techniques when they got to the Burrow. They spoke a bit more about the training until Hermione made a comment on how good looking their DADA teacher was and that led to another argument with Ron. Harry focused long enough to lower the flame beneath the cauldron and smirked lightly as he thought about his latest professor. He certainly was good looking and he really couldn't blame Hermione for noticing. Shane was an incredibly fit man of twenty-five and he was definitely a nice change from their past DADA professors. It was lucky that he needed a job this year and he did earn a bit extra for training Harry after hours. Harry smiled as he remembered the shocked look on the taller man's perfectly sculpted face when Dumbledore informed him that his best student was Harry Potter and he would have the responsibility of showing Harry the art of fighting without magic. The first lesson went smoothly. Shane was happy to find that Harry was quick on his feet and had amazing reflexes. They became friends rather quickly and Harry spent nearly all his free time with Shane. It was the fourth week of training when their relationship left the friendship zone. It was almost midnight and Harry still hadn't mastered a complicated set of steps. Shane was forced to move Harry's limbs in the correct motions for the third time and Harry could feel the man's breath on the back of his neck as he held Harry's thigh in a firm grip. He kept still and allowed Shane to continue, all the while wondering why his heart was suddenly pounding in his ears. A sudden silence made him realize Shane had asked a question so he turned his head toward him and found himself a breath away from the older man's lips. He could see a scar beneath intent dark eyes and he suddenly became aware that Shane still had one arm wrapped around his leg and the other gripping his waist. He felt the blood rise to his cheeks but couldn't bring himself to look away. They remained in that position until Harry's leg became numb and he winced, breaking the eye contact. Shane's eyes widened and he apologized as he helped Harry gently to the floor. Harry was too busy staring at the pink color on Shane's pale skin to notice the other man's apology. Harry's mind raced. Why would Shane be blushing? Why did he feel disappointed that Shane had removed his hand? And why did it feel entirely too hot in the room? Shane was looking at him again. "Are you alright?" He was kneeling to be eye level with Harry and his hand was resting on Harry's knee. "Perfect," Harry answered softly. He could feel the warmth of Shane's hand through his thin jeans and it made him blush again. He couldn't remember ever feeling this anxious. He could feel his heart thumping in his chest and he wondered if Shane could hear it, too. He glanced at the older man and was surprised to see him looking very nervous. He muttered something under his breath and made to stand up. Before he knew what he was doing, Harry's arm shot out and grabbed Shane's hand. He didn't know what was going on but Shane leaving didn't seem to be a good idea at the moment. Apparently, Shane agreed because he settled on his knees beside Harry, facing the wall at Harry's back. He gave Harry another long look that made blood rush to all sorts of places. Shane seemed to be thinking something through, but the next moment one large

hand was cupping Harry's face and he was leaning in slowly, giving Harry time to retreat. Harry was lost in the feel of Shane's eyes staring into his and he felt his eyes close as Shane's lips met his in a chaste kiss. Shane's lips were soft and moved slowly over his, just feeling, making no move to go further. It made Harry shiver and shift closer to the warmth of Shane's body. The movement seemed to awaken Shane from his daze. Harry was suddenly flat on his back with Shane's body hovering over him and Shane's lips beginning to move insistently over his. The change of position made Harry gasp and Shane took the opportunity to slip an agile tongue into Harry's mouth. He explored every corner of Harry's mouth and left Harry whimpering and clutching desperately at his muscled arms. His jeans had long since become too snug and he could feel the burning heat coming from Shane's own pants pressing into his hip. He spread his legs unconsciously and moaned when Shane molded himself in between them. His hips arched at the foreign feeling of another man's erection pressing hard against his own. He could feel Shane's harsh breaths against his mouth as he began to grind in earnest, one hand supporting his weight and the other pulling Harry's hips closer. This was insane. He was having sex with his male teacher! What would his friends think? What would Ginny think? Harry's thoughts were cut off as Shane reached into his unbuttoned jeans and squeezed the hard flesh. Harry groaned and arched into the hand. He could see through half-lidded eyes that Shane was watching his reaction intently. Harry suddenly needed to feel Shane in his hand. He reached a hand inside Shane's loose pants and was rewarded with a sharp gasp when his hand met the velvety flesh of Shane's arousal. They continued to explore each others' bodies until Harry's hormones got the best of him and he reached up to pull Shane into a heated kiss. He felt Shane's tongue enter his mouth at the same time the coiled heat in his stomach spread to the rest of his body and he came in long spurts, sucking hard on Shane's tongue. He heard Shane moan and felt an answering wetness before Shane collapsed next to him. "Well, that was certainly not on the lesson plan," Shane said after regaining his breath He glanced at the smiling Harry beside him. He produced his wand and cleaned them both up before pulling Harry to his chest. "You're not freaking out are you?" He asked hesitantly. Harry frowned. "About me having sex with my teacher or me realizing I'm gay?" "Both." "No. I don't think I should be freaking out over either." He glanced up at Shane with a smirk. "I would expect you to have a panic attack over touching a child, though." Shane smiled softly and kissed Harry's damp forehead. "You've never been a child, so that's not a problem." Harry shook his head to focus on the potion that still needed brewing. It was pointless to think about Shane when he had more important things to do. Like finish this blasted potion.

Ok, only one more ingredient and it would be complete. He checked the battered potions book and read over the directions for the third time. No more wasting time, this was it. Harry took a deep breath and reached for the glittering object sitting harmlessly on the edge of the table. He gripped the handle of the dagger and brought it to the palm of his left hand. Outside, the storm picked up and he could hear the rage in the thunder as clearly as if he were standing out there. The sound echoed on pale walls, mocking Harry as it made obvious the fact that Harry was the only occupant of the house. He smiled grimly as his sole companion sank into his flesh. He moved his hand over the cauldron and allowed the blood to drip into the hungry depths, the whistling of the wind burning in his ears. He watched, fascinated, as the blade moved over a too thin wrist and cut steadily deeper as it glided over a shaking forearm. Blood seeped slowly out of the deep wound, staining chalk white skin and following the lazy path of the shimmering blade. A little deeper. Just a little deeper and destiny would mean nothing. This is what power felt like, Harry realized. To hold the fate of something bigger in your hands. To have the world's future directly tied to your decisions. He sighed. Not today. He removed the blade and wiped the blood off his arm with a dish towel. A few stirs later and the potion was finished. He bottled a few dozen vials and cleared the table of everything except the flowery placemat he couldn't bring himself to throw away. It was her aunt's favorite and she never even let Dudley use it. He stopped at the doorway and looked back at the dinner table. A sudden strike of lightning illuminated the room and Harry was struck with a strong feeling of nostalgia. He hated this place more than he could ever describe but it had been his home for years. This is where his cousin would bully him and his aunt would make him cook breakfast and his uncle would yell at him to hurry up with the food. This is where he could have stayed instead of going to Hogwarts. He could have gone to an awful prep school and attempted to be some type of normal. He would eventually leave and start his own life as a doctor or a lawyer and he would have a family and a white picket fence with a giant dog bounding after his children while his pretty wife yelled for everyone to wash up for dinner. Harry suddenly realized that would have been the best choice in the long run. He would be standing in this doorway looking at a happy family instead of a cold, dark kitchen. He would not be holding a case filled with vials of an illegal tracking spell. He would not be planning to look for Horcruxes on his own and he would not feel the heavy weight of acceptance that only those destined for death know. The most he would ever have to worry about would be a car accident or a scraped knee. He would not be worrying about the people dying because he wasn't ready to face an evil that decided he shouldn't get a normal life. Harry stared hard at the kitchen door. His aunt and uncle had stood there, looking old and scared. He had put that look in their eyes. He had forced his existence on them and they were forced to go into hiding to protect themselves from something they should

never have known about. Dudley had waddled in and stood next to Harry, staring at him for a moment. Harry's expression must have spoken pretty loudly if Dudley could hear it. "It isn't your fault." Harry's head had shot up so quickly, he was sure he had given himself whiplash. Dudley looked awkward, shifting from one foot to another, waiting for Harry to say something. Harry had glanced at his aunt's shocked face and then at his uncle's confused frown before gazing at his cousin. "That doesn't make me any less sorry," he had responded lowly. He heard his uncles steps moving toward him on the tiled floor and he flinched out of habit. His uncle slowed as he walked past him to the front door and Harry caught the nod directed at him. He nodded back, a bit shocked he was getting any sort of good-bye. "It won't be the same without you." He turned back to see Dudley's thick hand extended toward him. He took it and looked intently at his cousin, trying to express how much he shared Dudley's feelings. He wouldn't miss the bulling or the fights but he would hate not having the consistent presence of this family when all the world started spiraling down to hell. As he watched Dudley carry his heavy body out the front door, he knew his cousin understood. He turned to see his aunt smoothing the curtain over the kitchen window. She faced him when she was satisfied and Harry was surprised to see her dark eyes glistening with unshed tears. He looked away, not knowing how to feel at that moment. "I always hated you," she said softly. He didn't move or say anything. After all, he already knew that she couldn't stand him. "I hated how much you reminded me of her." Harry's breath caught in his throat. He couldn't have said a word if he wanted to. "I couldn't stand that you were alive and she was gone." She paused. "She must have died thinking I still hated her when all I ever felt was abandoned by my older sister. She went off to a fantastic new world and left me behind to this one." Her voice was hoarse with bitterness and her hands were shaking at her sides. She walked to Harry and stopped in front of him. She reached into her coat pocket and pulled out a small emerald pendant attached to a thin silver chain. "She gave this to me after her third year at that school. She put a return to owner charm after I tried to throw it out." She stared at a spot somewhere over Harry's shoulder, her eyes unfocused. "The charm was broken when she died but I could never bring myself to throw it away." She looked at the chain and reached out to take Harry's hand. He let her put the chain in his open palm, amazed that this was the only time he could remember her touching him with a gentle, almost motherly care. She closed his hand over the object and released him. "Aunt Petunia, I can't. She gave this to you," he pleaded with his eyes for his aunt to not throw away the only good memory she had of her sister.

She seemed to realize what he was thinking because she smiled sadly, another first. "And now I'm giving it to you." She smoothed his unruly hair over his infamous scar and then made her way out the front door. Another burst of light shined on the emerald pendant around Harry's neck. He didn't realize it at the time, but his aunt wasn't losing a memory of her sister, she was giving Harry a memory of his mother. She had plenty of happy memories of Lily but Harry only had glimpses of red hair and pale skin that disappeared in black robes and cackling laughter. His aunt gave him something that he needed all his life: solid proof that his mother once existed, that she once walked the same earth Harry was now forced to. Harry set the potions down on the table and pulled the curtains shut over the window. He picked the vials back up and walked slowly up the stairs. He had a strange feeling that he wouldn't be seeing the Dursleys or this house again. He took hold of the carefully shined banister as he walked. The wind continued to roar outside and the lightning was the only thing guiding him to the landing. He reached his bedroom and glanced around. Hedwig's cage was empty. She was still with the Weasleys. Good. His trunk was under his bed with his newly stocked wardrobe, courtesy of Hermione and Tonks. He set the vials on his bare desk and settled on the mattress. The room was empty except for the few things he would be taking with him to Grimmauld Place. He grimaced as he realized he would have to return to the place that still reminded him so much of his godfather. Sirius. There was another sore spot. His reckless godfather that couldn't keep himself alive for Harry's sake. Harry knew he was an idiot and everyone else did too. But adults were supposed to have some control over their decisions that didn't involve jumping into action that would obviously lead to one's death. But Sirius wasn't an adult. He was put in Azkaban when he was just figuring out how to make the transition from playful goofball to a semi acceptable adult. Then he lost the only brother he ever cared for and was betrayed by everyone. He didn't know what careful was because he had nothing left to lose. Nothing that would be worth living for. Not with James gone. Harry clutched at the simple bed sheet angrily. If it wasn't already a harsh blow that Harry lost the closest thing to a father and brother he could ever hope for, said person only thought of him as a replica of his father. Sirius died believing he was once again fighting side by side with James. That was a great way to go but what about Harry? He was left alone. Again. Abandoned by the person he gave all of his love and trust to. He wiped tiredly at his eyes with his sleeve. The rain drops pelted the glass of the window, trying to break through it. The sound was like bullets meeting concrete but it was drowned out by the loud cries of thunder in the sky.

The rain should hold for another day. Just one more day would be enough to get started. No one would risk being out in this weather so he could easily travel without worrying about Death Eaters and Order members. No one would suspect he was anywhere other than safely in his bed. After all, not a soul wanted to be caught in such a storm. Drip. Drip. Drip. The sound of the leaking faucet echoed off of bare, yellow walls. A few days ago, these walls were home to pictures of brilliant landscapes and pretty birds that, Harry assumed, were supposed to help guests relieve themselves more efficiently. Drip. Drip. Drip. They were empty now. The whole bathroom reeked of loneliness and a faint trace of air freshener. Well, maybe it was Harry, and not the room, that reeked of loneliness. He was seated on the edge of the small tub, staring down at the vial in his hands. The liquid was pure white in color. Harry smiled. Ironic, really, that it should be the color of purity when it was filled with blood and other not so pure ingredients. Drip. Drip. Drip. Harry lifted his head to glare at the small droplets of water falling from the spotless faucet. He was stalling. It was time to get a move on and here he was, the Chosen One, distracting himself from the inevitable. He rolled his eyes at his own cowardice and uncorked the vial. This wouldn't be so bad compared to all the other things he'd been doing over the years, he reasoned. Besides, this was his idea. With one last glance at the empty walls, Harry shut his eyes tightly and tipped the liquid into his mouth. Just as quickly, his eyes snapped open as the potion burned a path down his throat, gripping and pulling at his insides. He dropped to the tiled floor, clutching desperately at his stomach as it was assaulted with the awful liquid. Harry couldn't move. He couldn't breathe. He must have made the potion wrong and now this was where the Order would find Harry Potter, dead at his own hand. In fetal position. Stupid. He was so incredibly stupid! Why did he have to be a martyr and do everything on his own. He could have convinced Hermione to make the potion, but no, he just had toThe burning in his stomach stopped. Carefully, Harry sat up with his back to the tub, trying hard to not make any sudden movements. The sharp pains in his throat were gone and his stomach felt great. There was only one thing wrong: there was an insistent tugging at his forehead. The feeling was directly on the thin scar beneath dark strands of his hair. Harry's eyes narrowed in thought. The tracking potion could only work if Harry used something of Voldemort's, which was the reason he used his own blood. He did, after all, share blood with that thing. The potion would lead him, without a doubt, to the Dark Lord. Once Voldemort was killed, the potion would work to find parts of Voldemort

and would lead Harry to the Horcruxes. Harry didn't share a soul with the Dark Lord so he would have to kill Voldemort to be able to look for the Horcruxes. Horrible plan, he knew, but it couldn't go wrong. But, now the potion was leading him to himself? He wasn't Voldemort so why was the potion pointing at the place where Where, according to Dumbledore, Voldemort transferred a piece of himself to Harry. A piece that could be, when Harry's pedestrian mind finally considered it, a fragment of Voldemort's soul. Harry drew a shaky breath as he processed this information. How could he be so blind? It was so obvious. Dumbledore had told him, indirectly, trusting Harry to be Harry and not put the facts together. But what did this mean? Would he have to kill himself to keep Voldemort from ever rising again? Well, that wouldn't be so awful. If Harry consciously thought about it, he really wasn't too thrilled with living, but he wasn't selfish enough to off himself. But this, this would really kill two birds with one stone. Ignoring the swell of relief that should not have filled him at the thought of death, he focused on the feeling in his head. It was spreading steadily down his spine, slithering like a snake around his body. It felt like a coil of power had separated from the rest of his magic and was lazily seeking its way out. Trying to find it's source. Drip. Drip. Drip. Harry stood from his slumped position, still clutching the vial, and turned the tap, effectively stopping the leaking faucet. He blinked as a louder sound of thunder and rain pierced through his mind. It was time to go. Harry's hair was plastered to his forehead the moment he stepped onto the flooded walkway of Privet Drive. He quickly pulled the hood of his trench coat over his head and made sure his invisibility cloak was safely in his pocket before mounting his Firebolt. Raindrops struck his back fiercely as he flew over shadows of roofs. He stopped for a moment, hovering with his eyes closed. The sliver of magic was more pronounced now that he was out of the wards. He could feel it directing him forward, wordlessly promising results. He allowed the magic to lead the broom east. Harry tried flying with his eyes shut to keep stray drops of water away, but after the first almost-collision between himself and a tree, decided he should keep an eye on his path. Harry was a few hours from Privet Drive when he felt the pulse of a soul fragment nearby. He slowed the Firebolt and peered through the rain at the city below him. He could make out a cluster of buildings, but the concentration of power he was sensing was coming from an alley somewhere between those buildings. He circled around a building, made sure he was alone, then dropped low enough to hop off his broom. Harry frowned as he took in his surroundings. The streets were filled with trash; the only clean area seemed to be around the dumpster. He crunched up his nose in disgust at the location of one of the precious Horcruxes. For some reason, Harry

expected to find it to reside in an extravagant palace guarded by lions and tigers and bears oh yeah, and Death Eaters. Harry gripped his broom tightly, apologizing to his faithful companion, before concealing it under some soggy newspapers behind the dumpster. He silently promised to wax and brush his Firebolt for years to get the awful stench out. He followed the steady rhythm coming from the alley over, taking in his surroundings with a trained eye. He reached the mouth of the alley and heard, for the first time in days, the sound of people. He pulled his wand out of his pocket and tucked it into his sleeve as he peeked around the dull building in front of him. The rain wasn't falling hard enough to obstruct the glowing, red sign marking the entrance of The Bleeding Rose and the thunder wasn't loud enough to keep Harry from hearing the excited voices of about a dozen people standing outside. They were all wizards but none of them were Death Eaters, Harry determined, after a quick once over. They all seemed to be focused on a small stand set next to the door. Harry walked forward, making no sound as he approached the crowd. He heard the strum of a guitar as he passed the closed door of what could only be a bar. He felt the shiver of magic that meant he entered an altered area and, sure enough, the rain stopped it's assault on his person. He reached the crowd of men and caught the excited, and vaguely familiar, voice of a cloaked figure. "Great family, they were! You won' find this anywhere else, b'cuz no one has it! A steal, it is!" Harry reached the front of the crowd and very nearly growled. It probably was a steal but not for the customer, considering Mundungus Fletcher didn't know the meaning of honest work. Harry made sure his hood kept his face shadowed before moving forward to find the piece of evil Mundungus had no idea was in his possession. Harry could feel the power radiating off the table. It made his hands shake and his heart beat in his ears. He noticed the other men were keeping their distance while listening to Mundungus shout about excellent prices on one of a kind items. Their magic was probably warning them to steer clear of the Horcrux. Harry stepped away from the circle to get a better look at the objects and had a sudden flash of rage that very nearly gave him whiplash. The cheap table cloth was littered with objects from Grimmauld Place. Objects that belonged to Sirius. Objects that Mundungus had stolen from Sirius. This scum dared to steal from Harry's dead godfather! Harry stopped breathing, his hands balled into fists at his sides, and he was sure he would need a trip to the dentist if he clenched his teeth any harder. "Oy, sir! What say you to a few trinkets from the Black family? As you know, the last of their line was finally destroyed an' we can all breath a bit easier these days." Harry was going to explode. He could feel the burning hate in his body that could only mean spontaneous combustion that would take out the whole alley. This man had no sense of self-preservation, that much was obvious.

He forced himself to relax as he felt the attention of the other men shift to himself and the thief. His mind searched around for a response that wouldn't end with lots of dead men and him in Azkaban. Harry needed to relax so he wouldn't accidentally hurt someone. These men were not Death Eaters thatwait Harry really hoped he didn't have a light bulb shining above his head, signaling the forming of a brilliant plan. He took a deep, very deep, mental breath and forced his body to relax. When he spoke, it was in a cold, velvety tone that would make Lucius Malfoy proud. "The Black family faithfully served the Dark Lord for many years," he paused to take in the sudden silence of everyone present, "he does not take kindly to the slandering of such a loyal family. And," Harry gave a small tilt of his head to indicate the objects on the table, "he especially dislikes theft." He made sure to finish in a hiss, drawing out his 's' sounds in mock Parseltongue. Mundungus was a deathly pale by the time Harry was done. He was cowering behind the table and his eyes were darting from side to side, looking for an escape route. Harry couldn't hold back a smirk and he knew the dim light in the alley would illuminate that. "You c-can' be a D-Death Eater. W-Where's your m-mask?" Mundungus didn't sound too sure of his logic, if his watering eyes were anything to go by. The men surrounding the table were slowly edging their way to the entrance of the alley. Harry shot them a glance and they immediately stopped moving, terror written clearly across all their faces. None of them would go up against a Death Eater. "I find my victims fear the unannounced. I get a better reaction if I am not expected. My Lord agrees and, from your actions, I assume he is correct." Harry spoke in the same cold voice, making sure to sound as detached as he could manage. Mundungus seemed to have stopped breathing a long time ago. "I have reason to not kill any of you at the moment. Pack everything of the Black's that your filthy hands have managed to obtain." Mundungus scrambled to comply, taking things from his pockets and throwing them into a dusty suitcase. He handed it over and shrunk back. "I'm s-sorry," he whispered. Harry dug into his mind with a quick Legilimens and was satisfied that Mundungus had given him everything. "Only apologize for existing, filth. I have reason to not kill any of you at the moment. But you will meet you're end soon. My Lord has promised it." Harry thought a simple reducto and the table exploded into millions of splinters of wood. He walked back the way he came, aware that most of the men had taken refuge inside The Bleeding Rose. Mundungus remained on the floor, looking frail and terrified. Good. Harry walked back to his Firebolt and shrunk the suitcase before climbing shakily onto his broom. The rain splashed angrily on him, making up for the time he had had to dry off in the alley. He kicked off and shot into the sky, quickly putting distance between himself and that place.

That was stupid. One of the stupidest things he could ever possibly do. It was reckless and unbelievably stupid. He could have been killed. The alley wasn't full of Death Eaters but the bar sure could have been. Then what would Harry have done? He wasn't thinking ahead. He was running on impulse. Like Sirius. Harry gripped his broom tightly. He was nothing like Sirius. He was smart enough to keep himself alive, for one. Harry shook his head, attempting to banish thoughts of his godfather from his mind, and tried to focus on the shrunken items in his pocket. The pulsing feeling was a lot stronger now. It was like having a live animal in his pocket; it had it's own steady heartbeat and it felt alive and warm. He focused on that feeling as he flew, trying to keep his mind clear of anything else. It was almost an hour later that he landed in the backyard. He felt the wards alert him that he had a visitor. Immediately, Harry went into battle mode. He sped to the kitchen door and crouched to hide his Firebolt under the steps in case he needed to make a quick escape. He kept his hood up and focused on the sounds coming from inside the house. Someone was in the kitchen. The light was on and the intruder was rummaging through cabinets. Harry brought out a throwing star Shane had taught him to make and unlocked the door in a quick motion. He mentally cursed as the sounds from inside came to a stop. Without wasting any time, Harry burst through the door, dodging a stunner and throwing his weapon at what looked like "Remus?" The man immobilized the star, that would have struck his heart, and looked equally startled to see Harry, crouched to attack and holding another throwing star. There was a small pause before both men came to their senses and found themselves staring down the tip of a wand. "Where's Harry?" The man, who looked like Remus, growled. "Where's Remus?" Harry countered, narrowing his eyes at the taller man. There was a tense silence, before Harry's rational mind took over and made him lower his wand slightly. Remus did the same. "Harry?" Remus sniffed the air and the wolf in him confirmed that it was, indeed, Harry. "Prove that you're Remus." Harry demanded, in no mood for an ambush. He had an eventful night and he was not going to be kidnapped and tortured tonight. "Your patronus is a stag, like your father's animagus form." Remus seemed pleased that Harry was being so cautious. Harry nodded, accepting the response, and lowered his wand completely. Remus immediately pulled him into a bone-crushing hug that Harry happily returned. It made his eyes water to think that Remus was so excited to see Harry. With everything going on with Tonks, Harry didn't really expect Remus to focus so much attention on him.

Remus pulled back but kept his hands on Harry's shoulders, sharp eyes looking him over. The man looked as shabby as ever but he looked he looked younger that he had in years. Time with Tonks was doing him a world of good. "You're not hurt," Remus said, more to himself than Harry. Once his eyes confirmed his words, Remus glared at Harry, confusing the hell out of him. "Where have you been!" Oh, right. Harry was supposed to remain in the house until an Order member fetched him. Oops. "Remus, I-" Remus would not hear it. "You have no idea how I felt to have to walk in here and be greeted to an empty house!" Harry's eyes flashed, angrily. "Yeah," he forced out, "I do." Remus visibly deflated at Harry's words, his eyes softened, and made Harry feel horrible. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have snapped at you, Remus." Remus waved his apology off and pulled him into another fierce hug. "I'm sorry we took so long to get you. Dumbledore thought it was best to wait for the storm to calm before trying anything." He finally let go and motioned for Harry to lead the way upstairs. "We're supposed to be at Hogwarts by now, so Dumbledore is aware of your momentary absence," Remus said, lightly. They entered Harry's room and Remus helped pack the few items that were lying around. "Great," Harry mumbled. So much for his secret plan of bringing Voldemort down. "Wait. Hogwarts? I thought we were going to headquarters." "We were but there's an Order meeting going on and I'm afraid no work would get done considering how manyfans you've accumulated over the past year. You would quickly tire of all the star-struck faces." Harry nodded in agreement, getting exhausted just think about it. He couldn't walk into Diagon Alley without at least twenty people claiming their unwavering loyalty to the 'Chosen One'. They finished packing in silence and returned to the sitting room. Harry trailing behind Remus, taking in as much as he could of his childhood home. He had that strong feeling again. The one that told him this would be the last time he set foot in this house. Remus was waiting by the fireplace, holding a small pouch. He seemed to understand what Harry was feeling. "Ready?" He asked softly. Harry gazed around the room. Was he ready? Could he just leave all the memories he had of this place? Could he walk away from the only home he had before Hogwarts? The only family he had lived here. But they were gone. They were probably three countries away by now. Nothing would ever be the same, even if Harry demanded to stay here. The house would remain empty. The walls would remain bare. And the leaking faucet would be his only companion.

Drip. Drip. Drip. "Yeah. I'm ready." The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies These words were the cause of most of Harry's misfortune. They were what spurred the most evil being in history to murder his parents, his fellow classmate, and they eventually led to his godfather's untimely demise. These words were also the reason why Harry wasn't very pleased to see Professor Trelawney, conveyer of these words, descending the staircase leading to the headmaster's office. She looked flustered. Her hair was hanging in wild clumps over her face and she seemed to be muttering furiously to herself when Harry and Remus approached her. Remus, always the gentleman, greeted her warmly. Harry, on the other hand, gave her a short hello and kept his distance from the ruffled woman. Hopes of hiding behind Remus were crushed when the woman's eyes widened sympathetically behind her thick glasses and she gripped Harry's arm tightly. "Oh, you poor, innocent child," she muttered, sadly. Harry winced as her grip tightened. He turned to Remus for assistance, who seemed to be trying very hard to keep a straight face. Harry glared at him and motioned to Trelawney with his free arm. Remus gave him a barely visible smirk before pulling Trelawney from Harry. "Is something wrong, Sybil?" Trelawney's mood shifted at Remus' question. Her magnified eyes burned with suppressed hate and Harry took the opportunity to retreat a few steps while he had the chance. "Snape. Oh, excuse me, Professor Snape is with the headmaster," she said, tightly. Remus frowned. "I thought he would still be-" "No. Minerva was left in charge." Trelawney looked positively livid as she bid them goodnight and marched off into the deserted corridor. Harry watched her go, a little surprised that his simple teacher could get so worked up. Well, Harry reasoned, Snape did seem to have that affect on people. He followed Remus up the staircase and waited while his former professor knocked on the heavy door in front of them. There was no sound from inside but the door swung open and revealed the extravagant office that belonged to Albus Dumbledore. They walked inside and found the headmaster sitting calmly behind his desk. "Ah, good evening. I was wondering when you two would be arriving." He smiled at Harry and motioned for him to sit. "Thank you, Remus. I'm sure you would like to get back to the meeting." Remus nodded and gave Harry's shoulder one last squeeze before pulling out the pouch of floo powder and going through the fireplace.

"Hello, Professor," Harry answered, but before anything else could be said a sharp hoot reached Harry's ears. In the next moment, a beautiful white owl was swooping into the room, via the open window. "Hedwig!" The owl perched on Harry's knee and hooted again. "Hedwig arrived earlier tonight. She has been waiting for you to make your appearance for some time, Harry." The headmaster gave Harry a long look. "Remus sent word that you were not in Privet Drive." Harry lowered his head to meet Hedwig's wise eyes. Was he supposed to tell Dumbledore that he went out on his own to find a piece of the Dark Lord's soul? It was becoming clearer by the second that his whole plan was flawed and he was very lucky to be alive. What would the headmaster think of Harry's reckless actions? Before he could begin to formulate any type of excuse (I couldn't stay in that empty house another minute, I just went out for some air in the pouring rain), another voice joined the conversation. "It seems Mr. Potter still has not realized that his behavior, while ignored at this school, will get him killed if he is not careful," Snape said in his cool, baiting tone. Harry looked up to see the man standing by Dumbledore's chair, having stepped out of the shadows. He was all black robes and mocking expressions as his dark eyes gave Harry a calculating look. "Severus." Dumbledore looked exasperated for all of two seconds before he returned his attention to Harry, giving him a questioning look. "Harry, I'm sure I don't have to tell you the danger you are in. I know you would not do something rash that would end your life so I am sure you had a good reason to leave the house." Snape gave a barely audible scoff. Harry hesitated. This was it and he wasn't sure he could lie to the older man. "I did have a very good reason for not being there tonight," he said slowly. He gave the headmaster a long look, willing him to understand what this was about. Harry glanced briefly at Snape then raised an eyebrow at Dumbledore. As always, Dumbledore got the message clearly. "Harry, you know I would trust Severus with my life. He is aware of the Horcruxes. You can share any information you have with him." "With all due respect, sir, your decisions are not my own. You may trust him with your life, but I can't say the same." Harry was well aware that this conversation would end the same, whether he protested or not, but he couldn't help but make it perfectly clear that he didn't trust Snape. "Potter, don't assume that your imagined status gives you power over us mere mortals," Snape said coldly. "I'm not assuming anything. You're the one implying I'm more than what you see," Harry retorted. Snape's eyes narrowed, but his response was cut off by a loud cough. They both turned to look at the headmaster who had a thoroughly amused expression plastered on his face.

"I would appreciate some civility from the both of you. Your differences are small compared to the bigger picture and I have an inkling that Harry knew it was pointless to exclude you. Severus, you should not allow yourself to be baited and you, my boy, should know better than to get under Professor Snape's skin." The headmaster's eyes twinkled madly at their answering scowls. "Now can we please move on?" Harry engaged in a staring contest with Snape for a few seconds before answering, softly, "I have a Horcrux." There was a long pause in which Snape's eyes widened slightly and Dumbledore looked as surprised as it was possible for him to look. All and all, it was a disappointing reaction. Harry would have liked to see twin expressions of shock and maybe a coughing fit or something "Could you repeat that, Potter?" It was more an order than a request. Harry looked away from Hedwig, who had perched herself next to Fawkes and was determined to look every bit as magnificent as the phoenix. "I have a Horcrux. That's where I was tonight. Retrieving it." Now that got a better response. Dumbledore looked incredibly worried and Snape looked alarmed? "Harry, you-" Harry held up a hand to stop the oncoming lecture. He stood and pulled the shrunken suitcase and, after a moment of hesitation, produced the similarly shrunken vials of the tracking potion. The two men watched as Harry enlarged the items and returned to his seat. "Before you say anything, you should know the whole story." He picked up a vial and held it up for them to see. "I made a tracking potion. I figured it would help me know where Voldemort is and eventually lead me to the Horcruxes." Snape walked forward and snatched the tiny bottle from Harry's hand. He uncorked the vial and sniffed at its contents. "You managed to create an illegal tracking potion. On your own." His expression was unreadable. "I'm not as awful at potions as we thought," Harry answered. Snape's expression stayed the same. "You said you made the potion to know where Voldemort was. How did that lead you to a Horcrux?" Dumbledore wasn't looking at Harry when he asked that question. It ignited the anger Harry was trying to keep at bay. The headmaster knew. He had known all along and now he just wanted to know what Harry had found out. Harry forced himself to calm down, but he couldn't stop his answer from sounding cold. "I think you already know how." Dumbledore finally met Harry's eyes and it shocked him to see the sadness radiating off of the headmaster. They remained silent for a moment before Harry had to avert his gaze, not able to take the headmaster's pain on top of his own.

"Yes, I suppose this does prove a thought I've had for some time." Dumbledore sounded his age at that moment and it broke Harry's heart to have to hear it. "I am sorry I never told you. I'm afraid my decision making doesn't seem to be improving and, once again, it is you who suffers the consequences." Harry couldn't stay angry with the man. Dumbledore was doing his best and he was bound to make some mistakes. The headmaster couldn't change Harry's destiny but it was clear that he was trying his best to make it as bearable as possible for him. Harry nodded. "I know now," he said. Snape had been silent during this exchange but now, sensing the tense moment had passed, he turned to the headmaster. "These are brewed correctly. They could be dangerous if they fell into the wrong hands." "Quite right, Severus. An excellent job you did, Harry. May we hold on to them for the time being?" Harry nodded and watched Snape levitate the remaining vials into the cabinet that housed the pensieve. Once Snape joined them, Dumbledore focused on Harry again. "Now, tell us what happened after you brewed the potion, Harry." Harry took a deep breathe and began his tale at the moment he took the potion, omitting his slight panic attack to save time. He ignored the headmaster's disapproving look as he described his flight to the site of the Horcrux. He explained how he could feel the pulse of a fragment of soul that matched the one inside him, all the while feeling the weight of Snape's gaze. He paused for breathe after describing the alley leading to the bar and seeing Mundungus Fletcher peddling to a crowd of people. "Mundungus? I knew we should keep a closer eye on him. Nothing good can come of an alliance with a criminal," Snape sneered. Harry had to bite his tongue at the hypocrisy of the comment. Snape was once a criminal and nothing good could possibly come from being allied with him. "Yes, he has drawn some attention from the Ministry. I am assuming he unknowingly had the Horcrux in his possession," Harry nodded in confirmation. "It is not a big surprise that such an item would reach Mundungus. May I?" He gestured to the suitcase on his desk. Harry nodded and the headmaster opened the tattered thing with a pop. Snape leaned forward and his eyes snapped to meet Harry's after he took in the Black crest on all the items. Harry determinedly ignored their stares and waited for one of them to say something. He had a pretty good idea of what was going through Snape's mind. Probably some insult for caring so much about Sirius. Bastard. "I did not receive notice of Mundungus being attacked. Would I be right to think you let him go after retrieving these items?" Harry's eyes widened at the headmaster's train of

thought. How could he think Harry would hurt that worthless piece of trash? Of course, it had crossed Harry's mind but they didn't need to know that! "I didn't hurt him, sir. I wouldn't, " he said firmly He didn't miss the raised eyebrow Snape shot his way or the piercing look the headmaster was giving him. It made him feel angry that they would think him capable of such a thing and guilty because he knew he was capable of such a thing. "How did you manage to get this from Mundungus without causing a riot." Snape was just set on making him angry. A riot? Pah! Not everyone would stop their lives for the 'Chosen One'. Well, Harry wouldn't if he were a regular wizard. "No one knew it was me," he said, narrowing his eyes at Snape. "Then how did you convince Mundungus to return these things to you, Harry?" Harry felt the blood rush to his face as he realized what he would have to admit to. Wow, he did not think this one through. He muttered something they obviously wouldn't be able to hear and hoped in vain that they would just let it go. It was crazy to think Snape would ever give him a break. "We didn't quite catch that, Potter." Harry glared down at the oak desk, cursing Snape in his head. "I pretended to be a Death Eater." There was a long pause. "You pretended to be a Death Eater," Snape repeated. "He believed you?" Harry couldn't help but be offended at his incredulous tone. "Yes," Harry said. He glanced at Dumbledore and was more than a bit surprised find him amused. "Sir?" He got a smile in return. "That was very resourceful of you. You thought I would be disappointed at your methods of persuasion?" Harry nodded. "I must admit you surprise me a bit more each day, but I know where your heart lies. You would never do the things Voldemort's followers enjoy. At this time, it is an important skill to be able to deceive. I am sure Severus agrees." Dumbledore was enjoying this immensely. Snape seemed to be in a state of shock and looked from Dumbledore to Harry before answering. "Yes, Headmaster," he said slowly, giving Harry another calculating look. "Well, now that that's cleared up, we should figure out which item we should be destroying." Harry reached over at the headmaster's nod and pulled the suitcase toward himself. The other occupants in the room stopped all movement. Even Fawkes and Hedwig, formerly engaged in a staring contest, seemed to be holding their breath. Harry reached in to the suitcase and closed his eyes, allowing the sliver of magic inside his body to guide his hand. The pulsing heartbeat of the object was back full force. He could feel the blood rushing in his ears, feel his hand shake as it rummaged through the clutter. He was getting anxious. The fragment was close. He could feel the magic in him

hum as it searched for the Horcrux and it made his mind swim as it tried to escape his body to unite with it's counterpart. It was here, why wasn't he finding it? He should be holding it in his hand, figuring out a way to bring it inside himself andThere was a burst of wind at the same moment his fingers closed around a circular object. The gush of air made his chair scrape back a few inches and, just as suddenly, it was gone. Harry was left feeling lightheaded and strangely complete. He opened his eyes to look at the item in his hand. It was a heavy locket with a strange carving of an 'S'. Harry suddenly remembered having seen it the day he and the Weasleys were helping Sirius clean out Grimmauld Place. This was the same locket that no one could open. The whole time, there was a Horcrux under their noses! This was unbelievable. He suddenly became aware of the men in the room and focused his attention on them. Dumbledore looked worried again and Snape was looking at him intently. "Harry, are you alright?" Harry gave his body a mental once over and nodded. "This is it." He nodded to the object in his hand but made no move to hand it over. Snape and Dumbledore shared a look. "Can we have it now, Harry?" Harry hesitated, but he didn't know why. "Of course," he answered. He held the locket out to Snape's outstretched hand but didn't let go. Snape gave him a strange look. "Harry, you need to give him the Horcrux." Dumbledore's voice was calm and reasonable. Harry told himself to do as the headmaster asked, but his hand refused to open up. The sliver of magic was active now that it had made contact with the locket. It settled in Harry's mind as a single thought: Keep it. Harry jumped as the thought, once identified, kept repeated itself over in his head, getting louder and more insistent. Why was he giving the locket away? It didn't belong to them. It belonged to Harry. He was the one with a matching piece. He alone would know what to do with it. He couldn't just hand it over. He couldn't. He couldn't"Harry!" Dumbledore's voice broke through the loop in his head. He realized he was gripping the arm of the chair tightly and he was taking in sharp breaths of air. Harry's eyes had been fixed on the locket but now they snapped up to give Snape an almost panicked look. He took a deep breath and willed his mind to focus on what was going on. The Horcrux was obviously manipulating him. He had to get rid of it. Now. With a great effort, he used his free hand to pry his fingers off of the locket and it fell harmlessly into Snape's waiting hand. Harry slumped back into his chair, completely exhausted and a bit sad. He knew the latter was the Horcrux in him talking and that just made him confused. This was turning out to be a long night. "Severus, the sword." Harry's eyes shot up at the headmaster's words. Snape handed Dumbledore the jewel encrusted sword Harry knew so well and placed the locket on the

desk in front of the headmaster. He watched, horrified, as Dumbledore stood and brought the sword above his head, preparing to plunge it into the locket. Harry closed his eyes tightly, ignoring a foreign instinct to save it's sister soul. He felt more than heard the moment Dumbledore succeeded. He let out a whimper as his whole body clenched like it did when he was put under the Cruciatus. The soul inside him screamed it's outrage and Harry felt every second of it. He opened his eyes when he was sure he wouldn't throw up and found Dumbledore looking him over, much like Madame Pomphrey did. Snape was holding out a vial, another odd expression on his face. "Drink this. It will replenish your blood faster so you aren't as vulnerable to the Horcrux that resides in your body." Harry took the vial without a second thought and almost spit the contents back out because of the horrible taste. Snape, he noticed, looked very pleased with his reaction. "I think this event undoubtedly confirms that you are, indeed, a Horcrux." Dumbledore's whole demeanor cried of sorrow. Harry knew, in that moment, that he would never hate Dumbledore. The man was more heartbroken over Harry's lack of a future than Harry was. "Don't," Harry said softly. At the headmaster's startled look, Harry continued, "Don't blame yourself. None of this is your fault. We didn't create this mess but it was dumped in our laps and I think we're doing pretty good so far. And as for" He waved his hand to indicate what they were tiptoeing around, "we'll deal with that when we have to." Dumbledore gave him a wide smile, looking a hundred years younger. Harry felt his cheeks color at the obvious pride in his voice as he said, "Your parents would be proud." He looked at Snape who was standing by his side with a blank expression on his face. "Severus, I think we have kept Harry long enough. Would you please escort him to his room and let Draco know his mother will arrive shortly?" "Malfoy?" Harry asked, trying to conceal a yawn. "Yes, young Mister Malfoy has been staying here with his mother since the end of term. They thought it would be too risky to remain at the manor once they joined the Order." Dumbledore gave Harry a stern look. "I hope you and Draco can manage to act like adults while term starts." Harry nodded, not fully listening to the headmaster anymore. "Can I take that?" Harry paused on his way to the door to gesture at the suitcase sitting on the headmaster's desk. "Of course. Everything in there belongs to you. Have a good night, Harry." He nodded to Severus as Harry closed and levitated the suitcase to his waiting hand. He followed Snape down the staircase and down the corridor, not even trying to keep up with the Potion Master's brisk pace. They walked in silence and eventually came to a stop in front of a large painting of canary. Snape touched a knot on the frame and Harry jumped when the canary gave a squawk. The door swung open and Harry found himself in a small, furnished room. It was smaller than his common room but larger than a

normal sitting room. There were couches and stuffed chairs scattered everywhere. The room was decorated with powdered blues and forest green. It looked like something out of a fairytale. "Your room is through that door. The door on the other side leads to a small kitchen. You should have everything you need." Snape reported. His tone wasn't as bitter or mocking as it could have been. He must be tired, too. Suddenly, the door opposite them burst open and out came Draco Malfoy. He was dressed in silk pajamas (naturally) and he looked exhausted. His platinum blonde hair was tousled and he had dark circles under his eyes. He opened his mouth to question Snape when he caught sight of Harry and his expression morphed into the familiar sneer. "Potter," he spat. Harry resisted the urge to roll his eyes. They were getting too old for this. He ignored Malfoy and turned to Snape. "Thank you," he said and walked through the door to his room. He was greeted by the sight of a large four poster bed, draped with the same forest green as the sitting room. He took in the desk and chairs set around the room, appreciatively. Hogwarts really knew how to decorate. Harry took off his coat and tossed it on a nearby chair. He set the suitcase on the desk and stopped for a second. Should he look through it now? Did he even want to? It took him most of last year to bury all the sadness and anger he had for Sirius. This seemed like taking two steps backward. He sighed and sat down. He should take care of this now, so he wouldn't be distracted later. He opened the suitcase and began taking out random items. There were handfuls of jewelry and silverware that could easily be worth hundreds of galleons. It made Harry hate Mundungus' greedy nature even more. He was setting the last silver goblets on the desk when he noticed it: a hand mirror was at the very bottom of the suitcase, lying face down. The intricate engravings were the same color as the suitcase so Harry missed it the first few times. He reached in with a shaking hand and picked the mirror up by the handle then turned it. He let out a breath he didn't know he was holding as he realized this was Sirius' two way mirror. The mirror that had a twin, shattered and broken at the bottom of Harry's trunk. He set it down carefully and closed the empty suitcase. This was a bad idea. He should have just left well enough alone. A soft hoot alerted him to Hedwig's arrival. He stood and walked over to his neatly made bed. Hedwig was perched at his bedside table, looking at him questioningly, when he wiped at stray tears running down his cheeks. "Hey, girl. You look great," Harry commented. He took in her neat coat and smiled when she ruffled her feathers proudly. The motion drew Harry's attention to the letter attached to her leg. "What's this?" He took the scroll and patted Hedwig's head in thanks. Harry smiled as he noticed the messy scrawl of his best friend. He read the short note and smiled even wider.

"Ron and Hermione will be at Diagon Alley tomorrow. Looks like I should rest up, huh?" Hedwig gave an agreeable hoot and waited until Harry was dressed and settled under the covers before flying out of the open window. Harry watched her go, his eyes getting heavier by the second. Hedwig was a dot in the sky by the time sleep claimed Harry. The Horcrux inside him was pulling again. It sensed another piece of itself somewhere. It wrapped around Harry's insides, urging the sleeping boy to stand on unsteady legs. It pulled him to the door of his room and pushed him through the dark sitting room. Harry barely registered his arm reaching out to push open the entrance door. He was suddenly standing in the dark hallway, shivering in his thin pajamas, and wide awake. He looked around in confusion. Why was he in the middle of the corridor so late at night? He jumped as the pull of Voldemort's soul answered his question. A Horcrux nearby? Harry followed the familiar pulse and was startled to find himself in front of a blank wall. There was a Horcrux inside the walls of Hogwarts? That was a lot stranger than Harry expected He was standing in front of a door. Harry blinked. The door was still there. The pull made his arm reach out to push the door open before he had a chance to react. The next moment he was standing in an endless room, cluttered from floor to ceiling with all kinds of strange items. Realization dawned on Harry as his feet took him down aisles of cabinets and broken furniture. He was in the Room of Requirement. That would explain the door in a place where there was previously just a wall. But why would there be a Horcrux in here? It wasn't impossible that Voldemort would leave a Horcrux inside the walls of Hogwarts but still He came to a stop in an especially cluttered aisle. The items on the shelves ranged from dusty socks to what looked like dog biscuits. Trusting the Horcrux to point him in the right direction, Harry closed his eyes. Sure enough, the pull became stronger as his arm moved of it's own accord. Almost there. He forced his hand to stop before reaching it's goal and opened his eyes. His fingers were a hair away from a tarnished looking tiara. He restrained himself from picking it up and instead glanced around at the surrounding items until he spotted a thick, wool scarf. He wrapped the scarf around his hand and carefully took hold of the tiara, making sure none of his skin was touching it. This time, thanks to the shield the scarf provided and the potion Snape had given him, Harry didn't feel the affects of the Horcrux as severely. Satisfied with his work, Harry made his way back the way he came. He would get a few hours of sleep before heading to Dumbledore's office. The rest of the day would be spent with Ron and Hermione. He smiled at the thought of a fool proof plan just waiting to be executed and stepped out into the corridor, keeping his eyes on the Horcrux. He shut the door then turned to walk back to his room. And found himself face to face with Professor Trelawney.

He let out a gasp and nearly dropped the tiara. The teacher looked neither shocked or startled to find Harry in front of her. She looked a bit out of it, enough so that Harry was worried at her silence. After all, he didn't hate her, just her habit of ruining his life. "Professor? Are you alright?" He stepped closer to her and that's when he noticed her eyes were unfocused in a hauntingly familiar way. When she spoke, it was in a hoarse, gravelly voice. "The Chosen One will be the end of Dark Lords in this world and the next. The one with the power to bring an end to ruin will bless the cursed. He will be the savior to the righteous and the marked." She broke off and her eyes rolled in her head before she focused on Harry, looking a little dazed. She seemed surprised to find herself in the middle of the corridor with him and she looked equally surprised to find him staring at her with wide, unbelieving eyes. "Harry, dear. Are you alright?" Okay, now he hated her. he Chosen One will be the end of Dark Lords in this world and the next. The one with the power to bring an end to ruin will bless the cursed. He will be the savior to the righteous and the marked. A bright flame burned in a stone fireplace, illuminating a bare room otherwise drowned in darkness. In front of the burning light, on the cold marble floor, sat Harry Potter. The same Harry Potter that very recently discovered he would not be out of a job after the war against Voldemort. Oh, no he would be employed as The Chosen One for many, many years to come. He sat gazing blankly at the dying flame, not quite believing what had just transpired. He was exiting this very room (which had formerly been stocked with useless clutter), planning on getting some much needed sleep, when he came across Professor Trelawney. And what luck that the first words out of her mouth were another prophecy. A prophecy that, once again, involved Harry saving a world. Great. Harry was feeling veryempty. He knew he must be in a state of shock because he was being entirely too calm about the situation but he felt incredibly void of any strong emotion. If it hadn't occurred to him before that his life was not his own, then now would be the moment that that became apparent. It was also very clear, from past events, that he would not be able to change or avoid the prophecy. Whatever it instructed, Harry would eventually do. Just hours ago, Harry had been telling Dumbledore not to worry about Harry's eventual demise. Now, Harry couldn't help but wish that he could have that alternative. This new prophecy made it obvious that he would not lose his life in the final battle against Voldemort. He would be forced into another war. Another war that he didn't start but he would be forced to finish.

The small fire burned even brighter, trying desperately to remain lit. Harry stared hard at the tiny light, now the only thing lighting the room, and felt the events of the night fully pierce through the confused fog in his mind. He felt his breath come a little harder and his heart beat a little faster. The hand clutching the scarf tightened over the worn cloth, trying to find an anchor as he realized exactly what the prophecy was saying. He shot up from the cold floor, the movement blowing out the light in the hearth, and scrambled to the door of the Room of Requirement. He had to get to Dumbledore. Dumbledore would fix this. He would know what to do to fix this. He sped through the corridors, barely registering the bright sunlight streaming through open windows. He reached the headmaster's office, gasped out the password, and continued up the spiral staircase at a calmer pace to try to catch his breath. He reached the door to the office and took a deep breath, trying to ward off the panic attack he knew was coming. He noticed he was still wearing his pajamas and he probably looked awful from the lack of sleep but there was nothing he could do about that now. He pushed the door open hurriedly, panic already bubbling in his throat, and found a few people already settled in the office. None of them was Dumbledore. Three pairs of eyes turned to look at him, startled for a moment before regaining their trademark expression. Narcissa Malfoy was seated in a chair in front of the desk. She was dressed in a velvety green robe and she looked as tired as tired as Harry felt. Her blue eyes swept over Harry's attire and she scrunched her nose delicately as she took in his well-worn Chudley Canons pajamas, a gift from Ron. Draco Malfoy sat beside her, expression similar to his mother's, although it was directed at Harry more than at his clothes. Snape stood behind the desk, dressed in his sweeping black robes and his blank expression at Harry's sudden appearance. Completely ignoring the Malfoys in his panic, Harry directed his attention to Snape. "Where's Professor Dumbledore?" Harry's words came out a lot softer than he would've liked. Snape looked startled at Harry's panicked expression. "Potter, the headmaster left earlier this morning. He wished for me to inform you that he would be returning this evening and you are free to visit Diagon Alley as long as you have someone from the Order with you." "Gone? He's gone?" Harry leaned back against the heavy door, feeling very weak. "Where did he go? I have to speak with him. Now." The panic threatening to pierce his mind made his voice sound demanding but he knew that Snape could see something was wrong. Before Snape could answer, however, Narcissa scoffed at Harry. "Severus, this is unbelievable. The headmaster surely does not allow his students so much freedom," she turned to look at her son and smiled fondly. "I suppose it is a muggle trait to disrespect your elders." The comment reminded Harry too much of his aunt. His aunt whom he had forced out of Privet Drive and into hiding. She would not be the last to be uprooted from her home because of the war and she would most certainly not be the last to be wanted dead because of Harry. The new prophecy didn't just condemn Harry to a life of fighting and death, it sealed the fate of hundreds maybe thousands of people to death. He couldn't do

this. He couldn't be responsible for so many deaths. He felt the panic in his blood boil over and he didn't registered the sharp cry of shattering glass and Narcissa's answering gasp. "Potter!" Harry's eyes lost their glazed appearance as he met Snape's intense gaze. He noticed then that one of the panes in the window had shattered inward. The pieces were now lying harmlessly at Narcissa's feet. Without hesitation, he waved his hand in the direction of the glass and repaired the broken window in a few seconds. The other occupants in the room were completely silent. The Malfoys looked shocked and more than a bit scared. Snape just looked alert. "Sorry. I just- I need to speak with him. It's urgent." Harry willed his magic to not lash out in answer to his growing panic. Dumbledore wasn't here and he wasn't getting back until later tonight. That was enough time for Harry to blow up half of Hogwarts while waiting for the man to fix Harry's latest problem. Snape glanced briefly at the Malfoys before asking, "Did you find another one?" He gazed intently at Harry's blank expression. "Another one?" Harry repeated, confused and almost beyond caring. The twinge in his hand as he clutched the bundle too tightly alerted him to the tiara laced with Voldemort's soul. "Oh! Yes, I found one last night here in the castle." He pushed himself away from the wall and unwrapped the buddle, handing it to Snape when he reached the desk, still lost in thoughts of the prophecy. Snape didn't take the item immediately. "Was there something else?" Snape asked neutrally, obviously aware of the interested looks the Malfoys were giving him. Harry shook his head and muttered, "Just Trelawney." The effect these words on Snape startled him out of his frantic thoughts. The man became tense and his expression was as close to regretful as Snape could ever make it. It took Harry a moment to realize why those words would cause such a reaction in his normally stoic Professor. When the reason hit him, he felt his own body become tense and his panicked eyes harden. This was the man that delivered Trelawney's first prophecy to Voldemort. He was the reason that Voldemort attacked Harry's parents and eventually killed them. Snape had set off a chain of events that still manipulated Harry's life today. More importantly, he had practically hand delivered Harry's parents to the Dark Lord. It seemed Snape realized that Harry knew about his past dealings with Voldemort because he tried to regain his composure and return his expression to a more familiar sneer, probably to ward off questions from the Malfoys. It wasn't working. Harry saw his hand shake as he took the tiara from the scarf Harry was holding out and his eyes avoided Harry's cold gaze the entire time. Snape would know why Harry would be so freaked out if it had something to do with Trelawney. But Harry wasn't about to tell the bastard a damn thing to go running to Voldemort with, especially in front of the family of an incarcerated Death Eater.

Harry kept his eyes on Snape and he adopted the cold, velvety voice he used on Mundungus when he said, "I apologize for intruding. It was very rude of me. If the headmaster returns earlier than expected, I would appreciate it very much if you let him know I have something important to tell him." Snape stared at him for a long moment before giving him a curt nod. Harry nodded back and made his way to the door. He glanced at the Malfoys and was pleased to find matching expressions of shock. Harry walked down the corridor toward his new room. He was still more than a little freaked out over the prophecy but his rational mind was convincing him to focus on the Horcruxes. There was no point in panicking over a new prophecy when he hadn't even fulfilled the last one. The little event with Snape also helped to focus Harry's mind. What was he doing going around looking scared and helpless? Did he want to start a mass panic? Whatever problems he was having, it would be unwise to let the public get an inkling of them. They were already sure that a sixteen year old boy would save their sorry butts and if they were depending on him, he couldn't go off and act like he couldn't even take care of himself. No, the prophecy could wait until the war was over. He reached his room and found Remus with his back against the wall. His eyes sparkled with mischief as he took in Harry's pajamas. His face finally broke into a wide smile as he approached Harry and pulled him into a tight hug. "Ron's doing?" Remus laughed into Harry's messy Harry. "Yeah. He tried to get Hermione and Ginny some, too." Harry let go of the older man and lead him through the door and into the sitting room. "They weren't so thrilled with the idea for some reason." He smiled at Remus' chuckles. The man could use some laughs; the past full moon had really taken a toll on him. "So, I'm assuming you're the one that's going to take us to Diagon Alley." Remus nodded, smiling brightly. "Well, designated babysitter, I'll just change and we can eat in here before going." Remus rolled his eyes and motioned for Harry to go change. Harry hurried to pull on some clean clothes and almost tripped over something hard on his way back out the door. He bent down and was surprised to find his Firebolt lying on the ground. He picked it up and walked out to where Remus was setting food at the table. "Did you-?" Harry asked in wonder. Remus smiled and responded, "Hedwig." Harry nodded and took the broom back to his room. He returned to find Remus already seated and waiting for him. He mumbled a quick thanks before digging in to his plate of eggs and bacon. It was then he realized he must have gone a few days without eating. The Horcruxes had been consuming his every second since he made the tracking potion. They finished eating and managed to floo into the Leaky Cauldron in record time. Harry was all too happy to be tackled by a family of red headed children as soon as he landed. He was swept into a tight hug from each of the Weasleys and then Hermione, all of them trying to talk to him at once.

"Alright. I think you've managed to suffocate him." Good ol' Remus. He was able to breath properly after Ginny stopped clinging to him. He managed to greet everyone a lot more calmly and, soon enough, their crowd was moving past shops toward the large goblin bank. He fell into step beside Ron and Hermione and couldn't help but smile widely at their pleased expressions. They were all happy to see him. "You look different," Hermione said suddenly. She stared at him for a long moment while they walked. "Taller?" Harry asked, hopefully. Hermione rolled her eyes good-naturedly and shook her head. "I think your eyes look greener," Ron said thoughtfully. Hermione nodded enthusiastically, giving Ron a proud look for his observance. "Greener? Is that even possible?" Harry wondered if the Horcruxes had anything to do with this. "If it's magic, anything's possible," Ron answered, still pink from Hermione's unspoken praise. They quieted as their group entered Gringott's. The goblins were as ugly and rude as ever. It took the adults a few minutes to realize it would be easier if they split up. Harry and Remus were ushered over to a pleasant enough goblin while Arthur took Hermione and Ron to exchange Hermione's muggle money. Molly and Ginny waved to them as they prepared themselves for the ride to their own vault. "Let's all meet at Fred and George's shop, okay?" At everyone's answering nod, Molly and Ginny disappeared down the winding tunnels of the bank. Harry's goblin was asking Remus some security questions when Harry had a sudden thought. He had been planning on doing this before he heard Trelawney's prophecy, but it wouldn't hurt to take care of it anyway. Just to be prepared. "Who do I talk to about setting up a will?" He ignored Remus' startled look. He was relieved that Hermione and the Weasleys weren't here. At least Remus would remain mostly calm for this. "Well, Mr. Potter, you can write your own will whenever you want." The goblin pulled a few pieces of parchment from a cabinet and handed them to Harry. "This is magically enchanted parchment. Only you can write on it and it will protect from spells and enchantments while on your person. It is the most secure service we offer. Simply fill the documents out and return them by owl and, once verified, it will be archived." Harry took the sheets and put them in his jacket pocket. He thanked the goblin and motioned for him to take them to Harry's vault. At Remus' questioning, and sad, look Harry shrugged, "It'll make me feel better." And that was the end of it. They sped down the dark tunnels, flying deeper and deeper, the sound of the cart echoing around them as they continued to gain speed. It was only when the cart finally came to a stop in front of Harry's vault that Harry felt it. The pull

was back. He could feel the magic urging him to go deeper. There was a promise of a Horcrux down there. "Harry, are you alright," Remus' worried voice pulled Harry out of his daze. He focused his attention on the older man, ignoring the insistent pull for the moment. "Yes. I just got a little dizzy." He could tell Remus didn't quite believe him but there was no reason for him to keep pushing so he helped Harry out of the cart and over to his already open vault. Once again, the amount of gold in the vault took his breath away. He thought about all the hard work his parents had to have done to accumulate all this money and was struck with a sudden pride. His parents might be gone but they did their best to make sure he was taken care of. After stuffing as many galleons as he could into a bag, they made their way back to the surface, further and further from the calling Horcrux. It took Harry a few seconds to be able to willingly walk out of Gringott's. Remus looked perplexed. They made their way to the twins' shop, as was agreed, and found the Weasleys already inside with Hermione. The twins were pleased to see Harry and packed dozens of things for him to take in a magically extended bag. They ignored Harry's insisting that he wouldn't feel right not paying them. "Don't be silly, Harry," George said. Harry thought it was George. "We wouldn't such a fine, upstanding business without you're help in the first place," Fred, maybe, said. "But-" "It's either this-" "Or you can let us test our new anatomy enhancing products on you." They shot Harry evil grins. "We should warn you, they've had the opposite effect so far." Harry shut his mouth and allowed the twins to continue loading the bag with their inventions. After they deemed Harry was set for a lifetime, they left Lee Jordon in charge while they joined their family for a stroll around Diagon Alley. Having the twins accompany them while they bought school supplies reminded Harry strongly of his earlier, happier, days at Hogwarts. It was almost perfect except for the noticeably smaller crowds and the many closed shops scattered here and there. It was too much to wish to be twelve again and hope to walk into Flourish and Blott's and find it bursting with people, everyone excited to be alive. Instead, people were scurrying down the alley trying to finish their shopping as fast as possible, wondering if today would be the day Death Eaters killed them all. It made Harry's heart ache because he had the power to stop it and he still hadn't.

The afternoon was more or less the same as Harry's younger days, thanks in large part to the twins antics. Even Molly noticed her family's happiness and kept her scolding to a minimum. They were almost finished with lunch when Remus cleared his throat. "I'm sorry to have to leave so soon. I should be heading out before dark." He gave them all a meaningful look and they understood he had something to do for the Order. The twins looked at the wall clock above their heads and their eyes widened. "We should close the shop before it gets any later." Fred said. George nodded. "It was good to see you Remus and we'll see all of you at Hogwarts tonight." They stood and hugged their parents good-bye. Harry used the opportunity to pull Remus into a hug. "Please, be careful," he whispered. Remus hugged him harder in answer before departing with the twins. Everyone was quiet for a few minutes. They were probably breaking away from the feeling of nostalgia like Harry was. They finished their meal with only a few idle conversations being made. "We should get back to Hogwarts." Molly sounded sad at the thought of leaving behind one of the worry free days they'd managed to have. They filed after the adults and into the fireplace back to Dumbledore's office. Harry very nearly coughed his lungs out when he stepped unsteadily out of the fireplace. Everyone else was in a similar state. "I apologize. I'm afraid the fireplace is objecting to the lack of use for almost a year now." Dumbledore was back. But Harry couldn't talk to him without alerting Hermione or Ron. He stepped forward, away from the mantel he had been leaning on, and joined Hermione who had just greeted the headmaster. "It's good to see all of you. I'm sure you've had an exhausting day with all the books your Professor's are demanding this year." His comment was met with frantic nodding. "Well, I have set up a set of rooms, not far from where Harry is staying, and I'm sure Dobby would be pleased to show you the way." A loud crack signaled Dobby's arrival and Harry was almost knocked off his feet by the small elf. "Harry Potter, sir, Dobby is very happy to see you again!" The elf's voice was smothered by Harry's jeans. "I'm really happy to see you too, Dobby." And he was. Besides the numb feeling starting in his leg, Harry was glad to see his friend again. "Dobby, if you could please show the Weasleys and Hermione to their room." The elf finally let go of Harry and nodded enthusiastically. He ran to greet the crowd beside Harry and didn't waste time in ushering them out the door. "Harry, could I have a word?" Harry nodded to his friends and watched as Dobby practically pushed them all down the stairs in his excitement. Dumbledore motioned for him to sit when the door closed.

"It seems that tracking spell has been far more useful than we imagined." He didn't know how right he was. "We have destroyed the Horcrux, which was Ravenclaw's Diadem. We were correct in assuming that Voldemort did get his hand on something from three of the four founders. May I ask where you came across this item?" Harry explained about the pull calling to him in the middle of the night and Dumbledore's eyes twinkled madly at the mention of the Room of Requirement. "Ah. That room has been most useful to everyone who has come across it. Now, you said the pull went unnoticed until later in the evening. You did not feel the Horcrux as you did the locket. After all, this Horcrux was nearer than the last." Harry shook his head, having an idea of what the headmaster was thinking. "I think destroying the locket weakened the Horcrux inside me enough that I could barely feel it, let alone feel one a few rooms away. I can't feel it now." Dumbledore nodded in understanding but any response was cut short by the door being opened. "Severus." Harry forced himself to remain seated and calm as the Potions Master came to a stop beside him. "I have the potion you asked for." From the tightness in his voice, Harry could tell he was restraining himself from simply walking out at the sight of Harry. He gave the vial to Dumbledore who gave it to Harry. He put in in his pocket as Snape turned to leave. "I would like you to stay." Snape turned back to face the headmaster. The clench of his jaw was the only visible sign that he was uncomfortable. Harry took mental breaths and thought of everything Shane had grilled into his mind about remaining rationale in the face of danger. The thought of Shane helped a lot. "Harry, Severus told me you mentioned Trelawney when you came into the office this morning." Dumbledore looked at Harry, giving him time to answer. Harry didn't need it. He knew that he wanted to tell Dumbledore. He just didn't want to do it in front of Snape. After a pause, Harry responded, "She did her job again." Snape gave a snort and Dumbledore's eyes held a trace of amusement. "It seems she is due for another raise." Yes, give the destroyer of lives a metal while you're at it. "Can you tell us what she said this time?" Not in front of Snape, no. There was a long pause where Harry simply stared at the headmaster. Snape remained as stoic as ever. No one moved for a long while. "Harry, you know everything I do about what Severus did. You have to let go of your anger at some point or it will consume you. Severus has risked his life time and time again." Another pause. This time Dumbledore glanced at Snape and received a nod. "He cared deeply for your mother, Harry. He has done enough to gain my trust over the years." Harry's more impulsive side retreated far into his mind before he allowed himself to say anything. There would be no point in throttling his mentor.

"He may have done enough to gain your trust, sir, but my mother is dead. He will never gain mine." Snape's body tensed at his words and Dumbledore looked at him sadly. "Your parents would forgive his actions. Especially after the loyalty he has shown to, not only myself, but to you as well," the headmaster said softly. Harry stood from his seat, wondering if he could make it to the door or if he would pass out from repressed rage. "No one, not even you, seems to have realized that I am not, and never will be, my parents," he said coldly. He turned to face Snape, who was still facing the headmaster. The other man met Harry's gaze, almost unwillingly. It was this moment that Harry realized Snape probably hated him more for having his mother's eyes than for looking like his father. "I am not my father and I am not my mother." He turned to walk out of the door. He was half way there when Dumbledore spoke again. "We never tried to make you into Lily and James. I'm sorry for what our mistakes have caused you." It was the sadness in Dumbledore's voice that kept Harry rooted to that spot, staring blankly at the door a few feet away. "Never think you have to be any one else. You are not your parents. Just Harry." His words echoed in Harry's mind, bringing up memories of the day he insisted to Hagrid that those words were true. That he was just Harry. "Harry," he repeated, still facing the door. The words tasted wrong in his mouth. They seemed foreign and untrue. He wasn't Harry. Hagrid told him so. He was a wizard and then he was 'Potter' and 'The Boy-Who-Lived'. Then he became the savior, 'The Chosen One'. Before that, he was the Dursley's burden. He always tried to be Harry, tried with all his might to be just Harry, but it was never true and now, thanks to the latest prophecy, it probably never would be. "Harry," Dumbledore confirmed. "I don't know what that means," he said, still wondering at his sudden epiphany. He turned to face the two men, both standing and looking at him. "She said I would destroy Dark Lords in this world and the next. I'm supposed to be the savior of the righteous and the marked." He paused, somewhat lightheaded. "I'm never going to be 'just Harry'. It isn't ever going to be enough. Besides, I don't know who that is and I'm never going to have an opportunity to find out." With that, he ordered his feet to take him out of the office and he made his way to his room. He didn't know how to feel. The whole conversation brought back thoughts of the prophecy he wasn't supposed to be worrying about yet. It just added to the hollow feeling he had earlier. Now he knew what he was missing: he was missing a whole personality. Harry. He was missing Harry. Well, that was too bad. He must have been a great bloke. Right now, though, that couldn't matter. He was supposed to kill Voldemort, not drown in his misery. He shook his head and realized his was already in his room, sitting on the bed. It was a few seconds before he realized there was a package next to him. He opened it and wondered vaguely where Hedwig had gone. Inside, was a simple pouch and a letter. Curiously, he opened the letter first, hoping it wasn't a prank from the twins.

Harry, We were all pretty tired and thought you might like to rest as well, so I decided to send this with Hedwig. It's a Mokeskin pouch. It's charmed to only allow the owner to retrieve whatever is inside. I also put an Undetectable Extension Charm on it. I thought it would be useful when the Death Eaters start becoming more active and you decide that it's time to go off on your own. I know it's pointless to remind you that Ron and I are here for you because, for whatever reasons, you think you have to finish this by yourself. We'll be here when you come to your senses but please, be careful. I also put in the new set of stars Shane sent to the Burrow. I put a charm on those so that the goblin silver will be imbued with any ingredients the castle might have, including the Basilisk venom. I thought it might be helpful since you can't carry around Gryffindor's sword. Shane mentioned that the box he put the stars in multiplies whatever is inside so you don't have to worry about losing them. He also wished for me to send you his best wishes. And, lastly, I put a charm on Hedwig so she will be able to find you no matter where you are. I had a lot of help from Dobby and his elf magic with this last part so I wouldn't be surprised if Hedwig started apparating everywhere. Thank Dobby! We'll talk in the morning. Hermione Harry opened the pouch in a decidedly better mood than when he walked into the room. Sure enough, there was a small, blood red box of neatly carved throwing stars. He would have to send Shane a thank you letter because this must have taken him more than a month to make, not counting the hours of charms and runes he placed on the box. He set aside his package and settled on the bed. Now that his mind was a little clearer and he felt a bit more prepared, his mind presented thoughts of the Horcrux he felt inside of Gringott's. He remembered the potion Snape had made and produced it from his pocket. It should be able to strengthen him enough to be able to feel the Horcrux from miles away. He took poured the liquid and prayed, out of habit, that this wouldn't be the time Snape decided to off him. The liquid raced down his throat and seemed to expand to every inch of his body. This time, perhaps because he was already relaxed, the potion took immediate action and he felt the tracking potion respond to his sudden strength. He could feel the pull and if he closed his eyes he could picture the bank in Diagon Alley. Almost as if sensing that Harry was looking for a Horcrux, the piece of soul inside him mentally raced through the tunnels of the bank, showing Harry that the soul fragment was deeper. It pushed him further into the depths of the bank, pushing him into unfamiliar vaults until his mind stopped. He was looking at a vault bursting with gold and sparkling gems. He couldn't focus too long on anything because the pulse called to him from somewhere in the mound of gold. He could feel it somewhere close. Something of Hufflepuff's

There! His mind screamed for him to notice a golden cup, carefully engraved with the Hufflepuff emblem. Harry's eyes snapped open and the feeling of nearness was replaced with one of undoubted knowing. He couldn't deny what he saw. He knew exactly what the vault looked like and he couldn't possible have made that all up. It was too vivid. But why would there be a Horcrux in Gringott's? Did Voldemort have a vault under Tom Riddle? No, someone would have realized the connection and went looking for dark items in there. Even if they didn't know about the Horcrux, Voldemort wouldn't risk drawing attention to it. Who's vault was it sitting in then? It was pretty deep in the earth so it must be a very rich and old family His train of thought was interrupted by the sound of soft conversation coming from the sitting room, signaling the arrival of the Malfoys. Wait. The Malfoys They were a rich and old family. Lucius Malfoy also had possession of one of the Horcruxes. The diary. Voldemort trusted him with the diary. It was entirely possible that he had trusted him with more than one item. But, the Malfoys weren't on good terms with Voldemort. They were at Hogwarts because they feared the Dark Lord's wrath after Lucius failed at the Department of Mysteries. Voldemort wouldn't give them anything, but they would know who would receive something so important. Before he could start thinking straight, Harry entered the sitting room where Narcissa and Draco were seated in front of the empty fireplace, speaking quietly. They stopped at the sound of Harry's footsteps. He stopped a safe distance from them and was greeted with suspicious looks from both of them. Oh, well. There was no easy way to ask this. Might as well just do it. "Who would the Dark Lord entrust something valuable to, now that he isn't pleased with your husband." He knew it was too forward and entirely too blunt, but let's remember that he isn't thinking straight, if he's thinking at all. Draco stood, clenching his fists furiously. "Potter, what do you-" His mother put a calming hand and pulled him to his seat. He obeyed, still looking livid. Narcissa, on the other hand, looked entirely calm. No wonder she had survived as Lucius Malfoy's wife for so long. "Why, Mr. Potter, would you need that information and what would make you think I would give it to you? I have made an alliance with Albus Dumbledore for the sake of my son's future. He did not mention us having to cooperate with the Light's poster boy." She couldn't have sounded more detached and Harry couldn't have been more frustrated. He hid it well, though. He couldn't muck this one up with his temper. "I'm not asking you because I think you'll help me out of your alliance with Dumbledore. I'm asking because no matter how much you hate me, you now hate Voldemort even more." They both flinched. "You expect me to believe that Dumbledore entrusted the Dark Lord's downfall to you. It seems the tabloids have lodged themselves in your head." They both smirked.

"You don't believe them?" Draco looked triumphant. Narcissa scoffed. "Child, you are nothing more than a simple flea in this war." "Then why is Voldemort still after me?" He was met with silence. "I get it. You think I'm conceited and pampered. Fine. But whichever way you want to spin it, the fact is that Voldemort wants me dead at his own hand. That's more than you can say. So, just stop. We're on the same side now so the easier we get through with this the faster I can disappear." Narcissa looked at him thoughtfully. Draco looked incredulous. "Potter, you really think we'll help you because you're The Chosen One or whatever the papers are calling you this week? Just because someone believes it doesn't make it true." "Try telling Voldemort that." "Well, I think your Golden Boy status has really gotten to your head and-" "I was only 'chosen' by Voldemort. I'm nothing more than what he's forced on me. Just like you're the son of a Death Eater. Just because I don't like it doesn't make it true." Draco looked a little younger at that moment. Harry could tell he was fighting logic to find a reason to continue hating Harry. "I could have just gotten the information out of your heads, like he does. But I'm asking you to please, help me." Draco looked a little startled at this development in the conversation. Narcissa remained thoughtful, gazing at Harry intently. "Will this information help bring the Dark Lord to his end?" Harry had a feeling she was observing more than she had in his past meetings with her. "Yes." "My sister is his most devoted servant. Bellatrix would hold whatever item you are in search of." At her words, Harry felt a very strong urge to kick himself. Of course Bella would have it. But did she have a vault or was it in someone else's? "Does she have a vault at Gringott's? It would be full of galleons and lots of rubies." Narcissa looked startled at Harry's description. "Yes, that is the Lestrange vault. She refuses to have anything except gold and jewels in there." There was a long silence where Harry stared at a spot behind the Malfoys, deep in thought. He realized the Malfoys were still staring at him and snapped his attention back to them. "Thank you." He turned toward his room. "You do not use your status in this world to your advantage the way a Malfoy would. You are very much like my cousin." She seemed to have finished evaluating and even her son was shocked at her words.

"I'm not a Malfoy and, over this past year, I've come to realize that I wouldn't like to be part of this world after the war. As for me being like him, I plan to stay alive longer than he did." They both seemed shocked to hear this coming from the Harry Potter. "If you don't want to be part of this world, why are you wasting your time with it's problems." Draco was trying to figure him out now. He must have realized how little he understood Harry before today. Harry gave him a long look. "It's my responsibility. I'm not going to run from it because I don't like. Besides, he killed my parents. And your sister killed Sirius." "You are going to kill them both? Alone?" "I have to." "The prophecy Lucius spoke of. It is true?" Harry gave a short nod, tired of this conversation, "Thank you for your help. I'm sorry for keeping you so long. Have a goodnight. He left them in some state of shock and retreated to his room. Now they at least he could be a bit more sure of where their loyalties lied but the more pressing issue right now was the Horcrux locked away, literally, in the safest place for a wizard's possessions. Besides Hogwarts of course. But if he could get the Horcrux from inside Hogwarts, he could surely find a way into Gringott's A loud crack almost knocked him off of the bed. He perched on the edge, his heart beating a little faster, and was greeted with an excited hoot. Oh, great. Now he had Hedwig's new found superpower to worry about. Blasted, helpful elf magic Hedwig squawked in alarm as he almost head butted her as he shot to his feet. Dobby! Dobby and his magic could rival anything the goblins could come up with! "Sorry, Hedwig. Dobby!" Another loud crack and Dobby was clinging to his leg in joy. "Dobby is honored to see Harry Potter again, sir. Was Harry Potter pleased with his owl, sir?" The elf smiled as Hedwig perched on his shoulder. "Yes, thank you! It was a great idea. I actually called you because I could use some help, Dobby." He jumped up and down, causing Hedwig to find a more stable place to perch on. Dobby was clearly ecstatic at the thought of helping Harry. It took almost an hour to explain to Dobby what he needed because Harry couldn't help but be just as excited as the elf. Finally, they understood each other and Dobby assured Harry that his magic was stronger than those 'disrespectful' goblins. Harry made sure to grab a sweater before taking Dobby's hand. They apparated out of the room and Harry directed Dobby to the vault mid-apparation. They sped down tunnels and Harry was surprised they weren't being chased by the legendary dragon. The appeared inside the vault and Harry gazed at the mountains of gold in front of them. It was exactly as he had pictured.

"Harry Potter must move quickly. The goblins have charms that will eventually alert them of trespassers." Harry nodded and let the pull lead him to the cup. With only a glance at the object, he wrapped it in his sweater. There was a sizzle and the material was burned black. They had to hurry. He took hold of Dobby once again and disappeared with a loud crack, but not before Harry heard the door of the vault burst open and what sounded like a growl echo after them. They appeared in Harry's room in time for him to drop the cup which had already burned through his sweater. "Thanks, Dobby. You have no idea how hard that would have been without you. They won't be able to find out who got in there will they?" He smiled as Dobby practically scoffed, his chest puffed out in pride. "No, sir! Dobby did a good job of concealing our visit." "That's great." The events of the day were catching up to him and he felt suddenly exhausted. Too exhausted to give Dumbledore the Horcrux himself. He picked up the same sweater and wrapped it a few times over the cup. "Can you do me one more favor?" Dobby's eyes almost popped out of their sockets in happiness. "Can you take this to Professor Dumbledore without touching it? Make sure they know it's cursed so they don't touch it either, okay?" "Yes, sir. Does Harry Potter need anything else?" "No, Dobby. I think I'll just go to sleep now. Thanks a lot. I owe you a dozen pairs of socks." He was tackled by the elf and after a few more minutes, he was left alone with a good feeling. He was too tired to pull any of his clothes off and he just collapsed onto his bed. He was already waking from a deep sleep when he heard shuffling in the sitting room. Curiously, he quickly changed clothes and stepped pulled the door to his room open. He was greeted with the sight of an exhausted Draco Malfoy. The blonde was pacing frantically, making Harry dizzy. "Malfoy?" The boy whirled around to face him. He obviously hadn't slept a wink from the look of the bags under his eyes. "What's the matter?" Draco continued pacing as he answered, "My mother went along with the wolf to get my father out of Azkaban. She left right after talking to you and should have been back before dark." Whatever Harry might have said was interrupted by the portrait hole bursting open. Through the door came Professor Snape and Professor Dumbledore. They looked surprised to see the boys talking and both glanced around for any blood before focusing on them. Dumbledore was the first to speak. "Draco, please sit down." His voice was calm. Too calm. Something must have happened.

"What's happened to my mother?" Draco seemed to have reached the same conclusion as Harry. They shared a glance before Snape responded. "Draco, your mother and Lupin were attacked when they reached the island. She was taken." Draco sunk into the chair, looking years younger. "She was taken," he repeated faintly. Harry turned away from the sight and stared into the fireplace. He couldn't go a day in peace. Something always had to go wrong. I bet Harry doesn't have this problem. A long, dark hallway. The darkness only emphasized by the feeble light coming from torches on the deep colored walls. He was moving fast again; the Horcrux leading him to it's core. He was pushed through another, even darker hallway and quite suddenly, came to a stop. He was in front of a door. A familiar door. As familiar as Trelawney's prophecies and just as unwelcome. He stepped through the doorway and found aisles of empty shelves. A few still held an orb or two, lonely in the vast emptiness. But this wasn't where the Horcrux wanted to take him. He kept going. Past the aisles of nothing and past the spot on the ground he once believed his godfather to be suffering at Voldemort's hand. The foreign soul inside him did not allow him to look back. He reached another door. This one only vaguely familiar. Almost in a dream, he could recall frantically stumbling through with five others. This time, however, he simply hovered for a moment before being set down gently in the circular room. Much more pleasant than the freefall he had the first time. Doors were placed around the room, reminding Harry of the game of hide and seek he had played only a year ago. He could feel the pull getting stronger now. Too strong. He could feel his own magic squirming anxiously under his skin as the Horcrux selected a door to walk through. He approached the seemingly harmless door, cautiously. He had a feeling where it would lead and what person would be waiting behind it. He still pushed the door open. A faint light illuminated the room. He took a moment to allow his eyes to adjust to it. He took another to find the courage to step through. He shouldn't have bothered because he really had no choice in the matter. Once the door was open, the Horcrux took control of his limbs and sped him through the door. He barely registered the slightly shabby appearance of the room- most likely caused on his last visit- before he was looking at the dais below. He focused on the people standing on the stone platform, not yet able to face the fluttering object beneath the archway. There were at least a dozen cloaked figures kneeling in a circle. Their attention was fixated on their master, the bane of Harry's existence: Voldemort. He was standing, addressing his dogs, and behind him, kneeling with as much pride as the blood flowing down their cheeks would allow, were Narcissa and Lucius Malfoy. And slithering in a circle around the Malfoys, the Dark Lord's precious snake. The keeper of another Horcrux.

Harry turned his attention away from the picture, not being able to hear what Voldemort was saying, and gazed at the tattered veil. It looked just as harmless as the first time and just as enchanting. He could still hear the voices behind it, a bit louder now. It sounded great on the other side. Alive, even. Sirius couldn't have died by falling through there. Harry could picture his godfather jumping through the ancient cloth, youthful playfulness restored, and yelling "SURPRISE" to his godson, as if it were all a big joke. Everything just an interlude in real life, which would be a lot happier than what Harry was living. Harry almost believed it could happen. He stood there, staring intently at the veil, completely entranced by it's power. The Horcrux also remained still, completely entranced with it's sisters below. They could have stayed there for hours, too caught up in their respective obsessions to do anything but look. A hand slamming on the desk beside him brought his mind back to his physical whereabouts. He slowly opened his eyes and was met with the furious glare of Draco Malfoy. Harry was a bit surprised he wasn't spitting fire yet. "My mother has been kidnapped and the savior is sitting here taking a nap!" Draco's voice was hoarse from yelling and Harry's head was starting to hurt from hearing it. "Draco, that is enough," Snape's cool voice broke through Draco's frantic thoughts and he managed to return to his seat beside Harry, still fuming. Now that Draco wasn't screaming in his face, Harry had a clear view of his professors standing around the headmaster's desk. There were a few Order members as well. Ron and Hermione were sitting beside Ron's parents. Tonks was sitting by Remus who was being treated by Madame Pomphrey. Harry was glad to see his wounds weren't life threatening. "Draco, we know this must be difficult but we cannot afford to turn on each other. We need to focus on finding your mother." Dumbledore's voice was as frustratingly calm as ever but his eyes were beyond weary. Well, enough was enough. "They're in the Department of Mysteries. Lucius and your mom, along with Voldemort and some of his followers." His statement was met with silence. "Oh, and Nagini." He noticed Mr. Weasley's involuntary shiver at his after thought. "Harry, how could you possibly know that?" Remus looked exhausted and Harry really wanted to know who let him out of the infirmary. The rest of the room seemed to be waiting for an answer to Remus' question. Harry was receiving very confused looks from his best friends and Draco didn't seem to know what expression to choose from. "I just do." That answer would never be enough. Harry wondered why people used it. "And we should trust that you are correct in pulling facts out of thin air? Even if the Malfoys are where you claim them to be, how would you know that the Dark Lord is also there?" Snape sure had his idiot moments. Harry met his gaze with a glare. So many ways to answer, so little patience.

"I know the same way I knew where the cup was." It was impossible to share more with so many people in the room. They all looked as curious as ever. Dumbledore seemed to understand the problem. Big surprise. "I think it would be best for all of you to regroup at headquarters. Minerva, if you would please escort everyone there by way of portkey?" The disappointment on everyone's face made Harry sick. They didn't care to find Narcissa; they just needed to know more about their savior. Nevertheless, they filed out one by one, shooting curious glances at the group that remained. Hermione and Ron lingered at the door, for once not knowing whether this adventure included them or not. They were ushered out by Madame Pomphrey while Tonks helped Remus to Harry, who immediately stood to catch Remus in a hug. Harry had the same feeling he got at the Dursleys. The feeling that he would never see Remus after tonight. He hugged Remus tighter. "Why do I get the feeling we won't be seeing each other after this?" Remus' voice barely reached Harry's ears but it carried with it as much worry and pain as Harry's did. "I guess we'll find out." Harry knew the older man was right. He could feel it in his core; this would be his last hug from Remus. His grip tightened further. "Please, be careful." They were empty words and Harry knew that Remus realized how pointless they were but Harry was glad he cared enough to say them. Remus finally let go and stepped away, back into Tonks' surprisingly steady arms. They looked good together. "I will. You all do the same." Remus nodded, his eyes holding the same sadness they had when Sirius fell through the veil. Tonks gave Harry a big smile, looking so much like Sirius, and Harry returned it a bit shakily. Finally, he was alone with Draco, Snape, and Dumbledore. "Does anyone want to share how Potter knows where my mother is?" Draco's voice had lost all heat and he just sounded tired and worried. Harry missed the yelling. "It's a long story and it'd be pointless to tell it since it's almost over," Harry said, turning to look at Dumbledore. "What are we going to do?" "I'm afraid it isn't enough that we know their location. It is very likely a trap and we cannot go in their unprepared," he said. Harry wasn't really surprised at the answer he got but it didn't help his temper to hear it. "So we're just going to leave them there?" Deep breaths, very deep breaths. "It would do the Malfoys no good if we got ourselves killed." Snape, ever the wise one. Deeper breaths. "It also doesn't do them any good if we just sit here and do nothing." Harry's voice had dropped a few degrees.

"Potter, do you recall what happened the last time you barged into the Ministry to save someone?" All eyes were on Harry. It was obvious they expected him to explode. He forced himself to start breathing. "I do remember exactly what happened because I was there. I have no idea how you would know, considering you spent the night hiding somewhere, waiting to lick the boots of the victor, " he hissed. He felt his magic bubble to the surface, spreading around him and rattling objects as it went. The Horcrux remained silent. "Harry, that is enough. We are going to- " "No." His magic ruffled his hair lovingly, calming him with it's presence. "We are not going to sit around and wait for a better opportunity. And we most certainly are not going to follow your orders. From experience as your pawn, I can tell you that your plans hurt more than they help, especially because you're the only one who knows what's going on. Here is what I am going to do and you can go from there. I am going to the Department of Mysteries to save Draco's parents. You may not have enough blood on your hands but I have." He didn't wait for an answer and instead started toward the door. His magic felt the spell before it hit and it gave him enough time to spin out of the path of the full body bind. He flicked his wrist in Snape's direction and felt a strong sense of justice as the man crashed into the wall behind him. Harry left before anyone in the room had a chance to respond. His borrowed room looked barely lived in and Harry felt no sadness as he thought about leaving it. He would, of course, miss Hogwarts. The castle had been his haven and it would forever stay in his memory as his first real home. He had enough memories from his first years to have to swallow around a lump in his throat when he got the familiar feeling that this would be the last time he saw the castle. He wiped away stray tears as he shrunk his Firebolt and put it in the Mokeskin pouch, along with his trunk and the box of stars from Shane. He smiled as he thought about Shane's last day at Hogwarts. Harry was waiting by the lake for Ron and Hermione. He was lounging at the edge of the water, thinking about nothing in particular, when he saw a figure approaching in the sunlight. He recognized the figure as Shane and he felt his stomach give a flutter as the man sat next to him. They stared out at the lake together, Shane thinking hard about something and Harry trying to sort his feelings out. Finally, Shane turned to face him. "We wouldn't have worked in the real world, huh?" Harry looked at him, a bit startled that he and Shane had been thinking about the same thing. He thought hard about what he felt for Shane, not wanting to give him the wrong impression. Harry knew what he felt for Shane wasn't love but a strong affection. It was a nice feeling but a world away from being in love. "No, we wouldn't." It felt right to finally admit it. Not good but right. Shane gave him a small smile.

"Why?" Shane seemed to be honestly curious. Harry tried to form a thought around his jumbled mind. "I think, between our ideal world and the real world," Harry gestured around him, "the real world is a lot louder." He kept his eyes on Shane, ready to let him go but not sure how to do it. His thoughts were interrupted by a knock at his door. He quickly tied the pouch around his neck and pulled on his trench coat on his way to the door. He mentally prepared himself to an argument with Dumbledore or Snape, maybe both, and was entirely shocked to see, not the headmaster or potions professor, but Draco Malfoy standing in front of him. Draco looked as shocked to be there as Harry was of seeing him. They remained silent for a few seconds. Draco took in Harry's coat and finally spoke. "You're really going." It wasn't a question so Harry remained silent. Draco seemed to be thinking hard. "I'm going with you." Not a huge surprise if it were coming from a normal boy but it did make Harry a bit incredulous because it was a Slytherin, master of self-preservation, saying it. He did, however, have enough sense to not ask Draco if he was sure; the boy had obviously made his decision. "Alright." Without another word, Draco walked to his room and shut the door. Harry trusted that the Slytherin wouldn't take hours getting ready so he remained standing. He was doing a quick mental check of his items when he heard a knock at the portrait hole. He sighed, sure that this would be his professors and wishing he had left before Draco came in. He opened the door, and was, once again, surprised. "Harry, what's going on?" Hermione didn't waste any time. Ron stood beside her, looking anxious and worried. Harry couldn't have felt worse about lying to them. "Look, I can't tell you right now but don't worry. Everything's going to be fine." "You can't expect us to just drop the matter because you think it's ok. Let us help you, Harry. Please." Hermione's eyes were pleading with Harry as much as her shaking words were. He couldn't think of anything to say. He instinctively looked at Ron for help. "You're going on your own aren't you?" Ron was looking at him, reading him like Hermione did. There was no way he could lie to them. "Yeah." "We're coming with you." Ron's voice brooked no argument but that didn't stop Harry from trying. Hermione gave him a sharp look that stopped all his protests. "Ron's right. We've been through a lot together and it's about time you realize that you don't have to do everything alone." He couldn't think of a single thing to say to that so he just gave them a resigned nod, angry with himself for being so happy they were coming along.

The door behind them swung open, revealing Draco. He was wearing his tailored, black suit and looked as impeccable and detached as he could, all traces of tears gone. Harry couldn't help but respect him. He noticed that Ron and Hermione didn't look surprised to see him. Draco accepted their presence with a nod. "So, are we getting there the same way we did last time?" Ron looked less than excited about returning to the Ministry. Harry couldn't blame him; those brains must still haunt Ron's dreams. "No, we couldn't possibly arrive undetected," said Hermione. Harry shook his head at them and glanced at the waiting Draco. "Dobby," he said, simply. They arrived in the circular room without a sound, Hermione and Ron fighting off nausea. Harry and Draco stood side by side as Harry gave Dobby final instructions. The elf looked up at him with bright, knowing eyes. "Dobby, I need you to go back to the castle and bring Dumbledore and Snape the same way. We're going to hold them off but they need to get here quickly, alright?" Dobby nodded, eyes shining with tears. Suddenly, the little elf gave Harry a tight hug. Harry barely kept his balance. "Harry Potter, it was a great honor to serve you!" Dobby's voice was just short of a wail. Harry hugged the elf back and then pushed him away, urging him. "You're an excellent friend, Dobby. Now, go. We'll give you a minute but then we're going in." The elf saluted and disappeared into thin air. Harry faced the door he knew would lead to the veil room. His mind already digging up memories of his own, anguished screams as Sirius fell through the veil. In his head, Sirius always fell in slow motion. Harry could see Sirius' grey eyes, still caught in the adrenaline rush, still believing he was fighting alongside James "Harry?" Hermione's quiet voice cut through his spiraling thoughts, bringing him to the surface. "Shouldn't we have just brought them with us if your plan was to have them here in the first place?" "No, they would have stopped us. Now, they have no choice but to follow." His voice was as quiet as hers. He caught the glance Draco shot in his direction. "Who would have guessed Potter thinks like a Slytherin?" Draco's voice only reached Harry's ears. "In a different world, I would have been a Slytherin." Or a normal person with normal friends and normal goals. Maybe have the chance to find out who the hell Harry was. "Are we friends in this other world of yours?" The question brought back the memory of Draco's first and last attempt at friendship. That single, seemingly innocent moment changed the course of Harry's life. He became an enemy when he could have easily been a friend.

"The best." He turned to look at his rival- not his enemy- and found Draco looking back at him. There was no hate in the other boy's eyes. Just understanding. Lots of it. Maybe Draco was the only one who could understand what Harry was going through. Maybe he knew what it was like to be expected to be a someone other than himself . And maybe it wouldn't have been so bad to take Draco's hand that first day. Still lost in the past, Harry extended his hand to the other boy. There. Harry had made the first move this time and in doing so, realized how different life would be if Draco and he were friends. Half of the awful things that occurred these pass few years would never have happened. Well, it was too late to change the past but he could still make sure this ended right. Draco looked at his outstretched hand, lost in his own thoughts, and took it without a second thought. This wouldn't erase the anger and competition between them, they were too far in to be able to change completely, but they were on the same side. Maybe they always had been but never realized it. The clearing of a throat interrupted their truce making. Ron was looking completely mystified and Hermione had tears in her eyes. Draco met his gaze again, a nicer looking smirk on his face. "I think it's been a minute." They turned back to the door, everyone mentally preparing for what they would find on the other side. Harry took a deep breath and opened the door. The Horcrux inside him awakened as it felt the presence of Voldemort and Nagini below. It urged him forward and it was then that Harry realized what had made Voldemort bring the Malfoys to this place. It only made sense that if Harry could feel the presence of another Horcrux, then so could the Dark Lord. It would also make sense that Voldemort would want to make sure his soul fragments were unharmed. He would, naturally, start with the one hidden in the Lestrange vault. The vault Narcissa Malfoy told Harry about Harry had enough sense to fling out enough magic to knock his companions to the floor before the curses started flying. With a quick instruction to all three, he took a flying dive down to his attackers, stars in hand. He managed to take three down before he was forced to focus on not face planting into the stone dais. He landed gently enough and found himself surrounded by six Death Eaters and Voldemort. The Malfoys were sitting on a stone bench, doing their best to huddle away from the slithering snake at their feet. Harry gazed at the Dark Lord from his crouched position, glad they hadn't noticed there was anyone with him. He waited, keeping all his magic focused on the Death Eaters circling him. "My, my we have grown up, haven't we, Harry? I almost didn't realize you were here. So very Slytherin of you." Voldemort's lipless face stretched into a smile. "But, once again, you should listen to your elders. It wasn't very smart of you to come alone." His followers laughed. Harry waited, silently. He saw a blonde head from the corner of his eye, then a red light. The Death Eater to the right of Harry crumpled to the floor and another, to Harry's left, joined the first, a split second later. The distraction was enough time for Harry to kick

his foot out in a sweeping motion, balancing on his arms as his magic followed his movements and flung the remaining Death Eaters from the dais. Voldemort, caught by surprise, only just managed to land safely on a stair. There was a moment of shocked silence before a loud crack announced the appearance of Dumbledore and Snape via Dobby. Then, all hell broke lose. Voldemort cried out in rage as he caught sight of the headmaster and his "devoted" follower. The remaining Death Eaters charged at the duo, completely forgetting about their previous target. Harry had a moment of unease, as he wondered what Snape would do, before he felt Draco step on to the dais beside him. "You should get to your parents," he told him. Draco shook his head. "Granger and Weasley have them." Harry turned his attention to the Malfoys and found that Hermione and Ron were already with them, along with Dobby. Nagini had abandoned her post to join her master in his rage and Dobby was preparing them for a side long apparation. Harry's swept over the room and stopped as he met Voldemort's furious gaze. He only had a second to bring his magic out into a protective bubble before the Dark Lord sent a curse at them. Harry looked at Draco, surprised that the boy was still by his side. Draco seemed to understand what he was thinking. "I think it's about time we fought on the same side." Suddenly, the boy spun and blocked a curse. Soon, they were fighting back to back. Harry couldn't help but picture the night he fought this way with Sirius at his back, instead of Draco. They ended up on the steps below the platform, fighting with as much viciousness as any Death Eater. They were greatly helped by Dumbledore's distraction of Voldemort and Snape taking care of two Death Eaters. Harry was completely focused, completely ready to do what was necessary. Draco was fighting one last Death Eater, Ron and Hermione were doing fine against Nagini, and Harry's path had been cleared by Dumbledore. Voldemort caught sight of him before the headmaster did, but his eyes flickered past Harry and saw something that returned the cruel smile to his face. Harry felt a stinging hex wiz past his hear and he didn't need to turn to know who had sent it. The mad cackling told him everything he needed to know. "Ooh, baby Potter cam looking for the traitors. How cute." Harry felt rage course through his veins as he took in the wild hair and sunken eyes. The feeling drowned out the pull of the Horcrux and any other emotion he might have had. Bellatrix Lestrange was standing a few feet away, still laughing at him. He stepped forward but was stopped from advancing by a snap at his feet. Nagini barely missed his ankle and she was preparing herself for another attack. Harry, too focused on Bella, couldn't reign his magic in fast enough. He was frozen to the spot, about to be taken out by a leaping snake. It was moving in slow motion, always slow motion, then,

too quickly for Harry to process, Nagini was lying at his feet. Very, very dead. There was a slash on her side that Harry recognized as a well controlled Sectusempra. He turned and found himself face to face with Snape. The other man's wand was now pointed at Harry. He muttered a curse that sped past Harry's shoulder, causing a flinch, and struck Bella. Harry looked at the man who had just saved his life. He couldn't bring himself to thank him but he couldn't not say anything, either. The other man was looking at him with the same searching expression as before, trying to read him. "You are not your parents," he confirmed. "You are more than they were." And then they were off again, fighting a newly arrived set of Death Eaters. That one sentence, coming from the man that only ever saw "Potter", made Harry's step surer, made his mind that bit more focused. He fought his way through the mass of Death Eaters and Order members, remembering the battle more than a year ago, and promised himself this would have a different outcome. He saw Voldemort ahead, allowing his Death Eaters to handle Dumbledore, with his eyes fixed on Harry. The Dark Lord approached him, protecting himself from stray curses. Harry met him halfway, doing the same. He could feel the Horcrux inside his body rejoicing at the only fragment left. Voldemort smiled, sensing his soul inside Harry. "You have had evil in your core all of your life, Harry. How poetic that it should come to this. You belong to me. Can you feel it?" The strong pull the Horcrux gave answered for him. Harry's hands were shaking with the force it took to not walk over and hand himself over to Voldemort and be complete. He allowed a Basilisk imbued star to slide down his sleeve and fall into his waiting hand, unnoticed. He thought of his parents, Cedric, Sirius, and the dozens of deaths he would be justifying after this. "No." "No?" Voldemort repeated, mockingly. "You will die tonight Harry Potter. You will be defeated at my hand!" This was it. The moment that would define history. What would he do? "Do you know why you've never defeated before?" Voldemort smiled at him cruelly, raising one barely there eyebrow. "You gloat before you've done anything." With that, Harry flung out his arm and released the star. It flew the air, sparkling in the dim light, and struck Voldemort in the heart. His eyes widened in disbelief as the poison went straight to his heart and made quick work of his blood. He opened his mouth in a silent, pained scream before crumpling to the ground. Whatever Harry expected from his victory over Voldemort, it didn't happen. There was no applause or cries of undying love from the spectators. In fact, it took everyone a moment to realize what happened. The Death Eaters realized before anyone else, their Dark Marks were probably responsible for their sudden hush. They all turned to look at their fallen leader. The Order members were focused on Harry. No one moved. Suddenly, all the Death Eaters sprung into action. It was now that they all fought with more vigor and fierceness, whether it was because they believed their lord was truly

dead or not, it didn't matter. Harry was tired. He ached all over and he couldn't wrap his mind around this victory because it wasn't his victory. He wouldn't be surviving this battle. There was a last Horcrux inside him. One he had to destroy. He walked past the ongoing battle, giving Snape a nod as he saw his professor take down Pettigrew. Snape must have seen the look in his eyes because he returned the nod, looking far more regretful than Harry would expect him to. He walked up the stairs toward the platform. Ron and Hermione were up there with Draco, fighting together. Harry flicked a wrist and watched the Death Eaters fall below, unconscious. His companions were exhausted but their eyes were shining with a burden lifted. Ron and Hermione met him halfway and pulled him into a fierce hug. Draco stood back, allowing them their moment. Harry fought back tears as he pushed his best friends away. He didn't know how to tell them it wasn't over, couldn't be over, until Harry died as well. But he had to. They were running out of time. The Horcrux inside his body was screaming its rage and fighting to take over Harry's own mind. He shook Ron and Hermione to stop their excited blabbering. "Listen to me." Their eyes were unfocused and Harry's magic was fighting for dominance over the Horcrux. "No, listen! It isn't over yet. You have to leave. Now!" The panic in his voice shook them from their daze. Hermione looked at him questioningly. "Harry, you did it! What are you talking about?" Ron looked equally confused. Harry was now fighting the lump in his throat. There was so much against him. "Look, Dumbledore will explain everything, but you have to go back to Hogwarts. I'm sorry I didn't tell you everything when I had the chance but you have to trust me on this one. Please." Their eyes changed to one of understanding and Harry was grateful for that. "We'll meet you back there, ok?" Hermione's voice shook. They knew something was wrong. He shook his head, eyes shining with tears. "I'm sorry," he repeated. "It isn't your fault or mine. It's his. Be careful." He couldn't say anymore. "Harry." Ron sounded unsure and just as sad as Hermione looked. Harry pulled them into another hug, mindful of the Horcrux ping ponging around in his head. He pulled away and tried to memorize everything about his best friends' appearance, who seemed to be doing the same. He wondered vaguely if the dead had memories. "Go." Ron nodded and pulled a now sobbing Hermione down the steps. He watched them disappear into the battle, praying for their safety. He turned to look at Draco who was staring back at him. The blonde couldn't have looked more remorseful. "I guess it was too late to start being friends," Draco said with a smile. Harry smiled back and walked closer to the boy. He stared at the archway that ended his godfather's

life. He couldn't bring himself to be sad about dying. It was his turn. He got to be selfish and leave a battered world behind him. He looked at Draco again, regretting his bitter relationship with the younger Malfoy. "We were always meant to be more than just friends," Harry responded. Draco nodded. "Only you were worthy enough to be my rival." Their heart to heart was cut short by a furious scream and suddenly, he was on the ground fighting to push Bella off. She was scratching at him, viciously and he could feel blood seep from his face as her nails dug in. He could hear Draco in the background, yelling and trying to get her off but he received a kick for his efforts. Harry saw an opening and elbowed her in the face. He felt her nose break and relished her pained scream. He pulled himself up, fighting the urge to succumb to the yank of the Horcrux that now had Voldemort's voice. It was telling him to give in, to let Bella be punished after Harry gave up control. Harry glared hard through his conflicting thoughts and stared at the bleeding woman in front of him. She was glaring back, her eyes shining with tears for her master. And she was standing in front of the veil. Harry's frantic mind managed to form a thought. If he was going to die then he would take Bella with him. What better way to go than through the veil that had taken her cousin, Harry's family. He didn't give himself, or the Horcrux, time to react. He gave the panting Draco one last nod before diving for the witch. He caught her by the waste and together they soared through the air. Harry felt his feet lift from the ground, heard Bella's shocked gasp, and felt the objection of the Horcrux. He had a last glimpse of the room that haunted his dreams before a piercing shock went through his head. It was ten times worse than the Cruciatus and it was all Harry could do to keep a hold on the now limp Bella. He knew he was passing through the veil, the pain told him so, but he had no idea dying would be so painful. He felt his consciousness wavering as the pain increased. His head gave another painful tug and he felt his head shatter. It couldn't be in this much pain and still be in one piece. He heard Draco's anguished screams of his name, and felt a sick pleasure that those screams finally belonged to someone else. He was still falling through it all and he had a final moment to marvel at how much like grass death smelled like before they crashed onto a soft surface and Harry knew no more. Harry was becoming aware of the perfect balance he'd come to with time and space. All around him there was nothing. No color, no sound and he wasn't too sure about his existence. He was only floating, being taken by the nothingness that surrounded his soul and only allowed the vaguest of thoughts to invade his mind. But he was becoming aware of all these things. Formerly, he just existed in this plane of deepest darkness and blinding light, but quite smoothly, a transition was occurring around him. He could feel himself being lead by an unknown force to the brightest of spaces, the light forcing his eyes into slits of green.

He was confused. He shouldn't have eyes or a body to begin with. Harry had always assumed your body was left behind at the moment of death. So why, in this plane of nothingness, was he starting to feel tethered to his suddenly visible limbs? Perhaps, this was what happened when a soul was taken for judgment before whomever was responsible for creation. Harry would be placed in a chair similar to that of the Wizengemont and his life would be shown to him from the moment of birth. It would be searched and inspected by hundreds of eyes. Then, at last, he would be deemed worthy of salvation or condemned to life downstairs. For now, he was still being eased into the feel of his body. The blinding light now too much for him, Harry was forced to endure the process with his eyes shut tight. This seemed to speed up the procedure; he could now feel every bone in his body and he was a bit startled to feel pain in more than half of his being. He was no longer floating, but lying on a semi comfortable bed. He could feel the scratchy sheets against his bare arms and legs but that feeling was soon overpowered by the one of sharp pain traveling from his head to his stomach. It was enough to make him gasp or attempt to, through the object lodged in his throat. A wash of panic swept though Harry's still addled brain. He tried to open his eyes to get a look at his surroundings but the pain wouldn't allow it. He squirmed as best he could, trying with all his might to lift an arm to the suffocating thing in his throat. He couldn't breathe, he couldn't move more than a few seconds without the pain doubling and his panic escalating. He felt lightheaded and helpless; he couldn't remember where he was and couldn't think past 'Death Eaters have got me.' He fought harder against the haze threatening to take him down into oblivion. His frantic squirming became panicked thrashing and he could hear rushing and voices surrounding him but he refused to stop. A voice was whispering for him to calm down and it didn't sound one bit threatening but Harry refused to be tricked when he was so vulnerable. He made another attempt to open his eyes but the blinding light triggered a stronger surge of pain that left him whimpering around the suffocating object and doing his best to curl in on himself. Suddenly, the pain receded and he felt the feeling of peace wash over him again. His mind lost to anything and everything, he didn't register the soft humming and soothing murmurs above him. The next time he was pulled from what he deemed to be some sort of limbo, the pain was far more tolerable and the object in his throat was gone. His memory of suffocating and thrashing seemed vague and incomplete, like the events never occurred. After determining from his own steady heartbeat and breathing that he was, indeed, alive, he forced his heavy eyes open and was once again blinded by the disgustingly fluorescent light above him. He moaned piteously and shut his eyes tight, trying to ward off a killer headache. He heard a chuckle by his bed and tried to focus on the female voice coming from nearby.

"I expect the light would do more harm than good." The woman had a soft, soothing voice but she spoke in an accent Harry couldn't identify. "You'd think doctors would realize that by now." She tutted and Harry felt her move closer. He took a deep breath and opened his eyes cautiously. The light didn't seem so bright and it helped if he didn't stare directly into it, so he, instead, turned his attention to the woman. She looked to be in her mid-forties. Her hair was a deep red and her aging skin was a pleasant cream color. She was wearing a dark pink uniform, which made her hair and skin stand out, and she seemed to be busy scribbling on a clipboard. She must have felt Harry's gaze because her warm brown eyes met his and she gave him a bright smile that crinkled her eyes prettily. Harry had a sudden flash of confusion as he wondered about Mrs. Weasley's whereabouts. "How are you feeling, dear?" Her face was the picture of concern and Harry was once again reminded of his best friend's mom. He tried to speak but his mouth was dry and any attempt at speech made him cringe at the sandpapery feel of his throat. The woman was suddenly holding out a glass of water with a bent straw pointed in his direction. He glanced at the clear liquid suspiciously, his training still engraved in his very core, but he forced himself up a little and drank thankfully. The woman set aside the glass and hurried to arrange his pillows. She helped him settle into a sitting position, smiling fondly. "There you go." She moved a machine around so she could reach him with ease and it was the first time Harry noticed the needles on his arm. The woman was checking the machines and making notes on her clipboard. Harry used the opportunity to look around the room. It was a small room, painted white, and there were a few chairs scattered around near the large window. There were blinds on the window but Harry could clearly see the large tree just outside and, beyond that, a marvelously green landscape. "It's quite a view, isn't it?" The woman was looking at him with her large eyes and he couldn't help the feeling of piece in her presence. It only lasted for as long as his memory evaded him. He recalled a battle with Voldemort, destroying the Dark Lord, pushing Bella through the veil, andThat was it. Then he woke up here, with a humming woman in a pink uniform. He cleared his throat. "Where am I?" His voice was scratchy and he really doubted the woman had heard him. She tilted her head curiously and responded, "You're in Our Saints Hospital." A hospital. That's what Harry had concluded from the muggle machines and the woman's attire. Her eyes swept over his features and he had to fight the urge to flatten his hair over the lightning bolt scar. Her eyes were questioning but she apparently had manners because she kept quiet. "How are you feeling?" she asked again. Harry did a mental sweep of his injuries and found nothing to be worried about.

"I feel fine." He paused to have a minor coughing fit. Once he calmed down he asked, "Where is this hospital?" The question was far from eloquent but Harry was still in a good amount of healing pain and he needed answers. The question seemed to confuse the woman, doctor he supposed, but her eyes flashed in understanding almost immediately. "You're in Colorado." At Harry's blank gaze, she elaborated, "America. I guessed you weren't from around here, huh?" Her kind eyes searched Harry's own but Harry was in the middle of a silent panic attack so he couldn't answer her at the moment. America. He jumped through the veil and he had not died but had managed to land himself in America. He was dreaming. Or he was dead. But he could not be three thousand miles from England when his whole plan was to be a whole world away. Life was great, just not for him. He tried it out and it wasn't really to his liking. So, why was he simply transported to a different country. He really should have read the fine print on that damn table cloth. "Dear?" The doctor was speaking to him again. He could have a fit later but now, he had to get as much information out of the woman as he could. "How did I get here?" His question caused a flash of worry to enter the woman's eyes but then it was gone. "You were found a few miles out in the nearby forest by a passing ranger. You were pretty roughed up when he brought you in. You had a broken collarbone, a broken rib and several other broken bones." Harry looked down at his body, wondering why his mental check hadn't told him all of this. "You don't have any evidence of those wounds." Harry's head snapped up and he met the curious gaze of the woman. He had an inkling of why he wouldn't have any marks and for the billionth time he cursed magic's interference in his life. "You lost a lot of blood even before we could get you on a bed but as soon as we would try to fix anything, we found that it wasn't nearly as bad as we first thought. You're collarbone, for example, seemed to be healing all on its own. You shouldn't be alive right now, but you are." She smiled at him with a relief that Harry could relate with. He never stopped to think how much he could relate to doctors and healers who were charged with the same responsibility as he was: to keep others alive. "How long have I been here?" He avoided the woman's kind gaze and focused on keeping his breathing under control as he thought about how worried his friends must be. He cursed his inability to think things through before doing them. "You've only been here for two weeks. It's a miracle you are alive but it's even more of a miracle that you're awake so soon. You were carried in here, half dead. The other nurses have started calling you a little miracle." She smiled her bright smile at him and Harry couldn't help but return it.

Before they had a chance to continue the conversation, a tall man in a white coat walked into the room. The real doctor, Harry concluded. He had never visited a hospital, let alone an American hospital, so all the ranks were still new to him. The doctor stopped short when he caught sight of Harry, his eyes bulged for a moment before he attempted to regain his composure with an embarrassed cough. Harry thought it was a funny expression coming from a pompous looking man; the nurse seemed to agree. She smiled sweetly as the doctor reached Harry. "Ah. Our patient is awake. How are you feeling?" Harry gave a small shrug, not caring to speak with this man. The doctor took the clipboard from the nurse. "Well, you certainly are a medical mystery. Your injuries are minor and your broken bones are almost completely healed. Son, I'm afraid we didn't have anyone to call for you. Could you possibly answer a few questions? While we wait for a relative we can do some more tests to find out more about your rapid healing." The toothy smile he gave Harry was indulgent, almost as if he were doing Harry a great favor by offering him a spot as a lab rat. Harry turned to the woman and gave her a pointed look. She seemed to understand what he wanted. She clapped her hands together and addressed the doctor. "I think we should let the young man rest. Now is not the time to be doing tests that could interrupt his healing process." The doctor turned to the woman with a barely suppressed glare and looked about to snap. His posture straightened as he tried to tower over the woman. "Excuse me. My patient and I must discuss his private affairs in private." The man motioned for the nurse to leave. Harry cleared his throat and both pairs of eyes landed on him. "I don't want to speak with you. In private or any other time. And I most certainly will not be your test subject," he said quietly. He turned to the nurse. "Could you stay with me?" He made his voice as weak as possible and his eyes pleading. The woman was pink from trying to restrain her laughter at the look on the doctor's face. Without another word, the doctor stormed out, coat billowing behind him in a poor imitation of Snape. Once the door was closed, the nurse burst into a fit of giggles. It made her look years younger. She pulled up a chair and sat beside Harry's bed, still laughing. "You sure are something else, young man. That doctor's only been here a few months but he's been acting like he owns the place because he was transferred from California." She drawled the name with a roll of her eyes. "He's been treating us all like incompetent idiots." "He doesn't seem to be a very capable doctor," Harry muttered, trying to conceal a yawn. "Oh, he's capable enough. He just shouldn't be around conscious patients. Now, you really should get some rest. None of that," she said, sternly when Harry was about to

protest, "you need to get some sleep if you want to be running with scissors any time soon." She maneuvered Harry into a horizontal position and brushed his hair from his forehead. Harry blinked drowsily up at her. "My name is Harry." "It's very nice to meet you, Harry. My name is Alessia. We can talk some more when you've rested. Goodnight." Harry felt her hand stroke his hair and he drifted off before wishing her a goodnight. Harry woke early the next morning and found that all the machines had been rolled out of the room. He could easily see the bright sunlight coming through the window and he had a moment of complete peace as he gazed out the window. Then his mind decided it was a good time to remind him what he had done and where he was. His mind snapped into awareness with a speed that made the room around Harry spin. He suddenly recalled every detail of the recent battle and he felt the same disbelief as he remembered the moment he fulfilled the prophecy. He let out a breathe he must have been holding for the past three years and let himself sink into the mattress. He didn't know quite what to think about his success and he didn't have to bother trying because in the next moment Alessia was walking into the room. She had a small frown on her face and her eyes were crinkled with worry. Her expression softened when she noticed he was awake. "Good morning, Harry." "It is isn't it?" He gave her a brilliant smile as he sat up. She looked a bit startled at his response but she seemed a lot happier than when she walked in. "Dr. Ray is outside with some government boys." Her frown returned. "They've been wanting to see you for a few days now and the doctor is eager to please so they'll be making their way in here in a sec." She walked over and started checking his heart and his pulse. "Why would anyone from the government need to see me?" He hadn't been in the country for long and there certainly wouldn't be a record of Harry entering America. There was a soft knock at the door, followed by the loud laugh of his doctor. Harry's nose crinkled in disgust at the obvious brownnosing. Once the doctor was in the room, two men in crisp suits walked in. The first was tall and lean with brown hair and a puppy dog expression Harry couldn't see on a government official. The second man, while shorter than the first, had an air of authority that could possibly belong to someone working for the government. While this seemed true at first glance, Harry knew the difference between a soldier and a rogue; it didn't take an idiot to figure out these men were most definitely not working for anyone but themselves.

"He just woke up. You should have waited longer before bringing them in," Alessia said, glaring at all three of them. The younger man gave her a sheepish look but it was the eldest that spoke. "We apologize for barging in here like this. We wouldn't do this if it weren't absolutely necessary. We'll only be a few minutes." He spoke in a calm tone that demanded obedience. "Buzz if you need anything, alright?" Alessia gave the men a stern look as she walked past them and out the door. The doctor looked like he was about to sit beside Harry, but the taller man gestured to the door. "We'll only be a few minutes," he said politely. Harry had the pleasure of seeing the doctor deflate before making his exit. Ok, he would give these men the benefit of the doubt if they were nice enough to get rid of the doctor. The men moved to stand directly beside his bed and Harry had a moment of panic before he remembered he had the ability to move. He sat up fully, his back cushioned by pillows, and he looked at the men questioningly. They glanced at each other, having a silent conversation with their eyes. It irritated Harry that he couldn't just pluck their intentions from their minds. Oh, wait a second. He could, in fact, do that. He blinked to clear his mind and pushed outward with his magic. The resulting burst of magic felt like a geyser was running through his head. He managed to contain his cry of pain as his mind was assaulted with thoughts from the entire hospital. He could hear Alessia cursing at Dr. Ray for his unprofessional attitude and he could hear Dr. Ray's mind complain about how he was treated. More importantly, he heard a passing thought from the older man nearest him. It wasn't very clear because, after the initial start of his magic, it felt like he was trying to tune a very old radio. He caught the man's gaze and was surprised at the intensity in his green eyes. Harry felt his own eyes narrow slightly as he focused on the man's thoughts. Unfortunately, his magic chose that moment to find the perfect frequency and Harry heard: Wow, he's gorgeous. Harry's eyes widened and he felt his cheeks heat up at an alarming rate. The man looked confused and Harry couldn't bring himself to keep his eyes locked on him. He looked at the taller man and was surprised to find a very amused look plastered on his face. Harry's mind, still wandering, caught: A lot prettier than Dean's used to. Especially for a guy. Ok, no more searching through strangers' heads. Especially when the stranger was so nice looking. Harry closed off his mind completely and cleared his throat. "What did you need to talk to me about?" he asked. The men shared another look.

"We wanted to speak to you about what happened before you were found," the taller man said, choosing his words carefully. Maybe he should keep his mind open after all. Why would the government be interested in that? Better yet, why were these frauds so interested? "Who are you?" "Oh, sorry. I'm Agent Smith and this is Agent Carter," the older man kept his gaze on Harry, he could feel his skin burn at the heated attention. This man was not subtle at all. And both were obviously lying to him, but why? "And you work for the government," Harry stated, not bothering to keep the disbelief from his voice. The effect was immediate: their posture straightened that fraction of an inch and their eyes glazed over into the patented 'soldier' look. "Yes." They pulled their badges out simultaneously and flashed them in front of his eyes. Harry didn't even bother looking. He chose the moment to open his mind again. All he heard was: must be a witch. Harry's whole body went into red alert at the thought. What would these men know about witches? Stories of the Salem Witch Trials flashed through Harry's mind and he felt a pang of fear at the thought; his magic was still working on keeping him alive and couldn't be trusted to save him from these men if they were, indeed, crazy witch hunters. Harry narrowed his eyes at the imposters. Well, if they were going to try anything, he wouldn't allow them the upper hand. "What do you really want from me?" Harry couldn't keep the blush off his face as he heard the older man's mind answer in very explicit detail. "We just told you-" "Tell me again. This time, with a little less bullshit." The men were completely shocked at his answer. The taller man struggled to save the situation. "Listen, we-" "You want to know something. Lying to me isn't the best way to get me to tell the truth, is it?" He glared at the younger man; he seemed about ready to crack. The oldest, however, stepped forward and dropped something in Harry's bag; he didn't look too happy anymore. "Fine. How about you tell us where you got that?" Harry looked down at the small bag in his lap. It was the Mokeskin pouch Hermione had given him. "What's it to you?" Harry turned his glare on the older man; he glared right back.

"Ok, we aren't getting anywhere with this. We could really use your help, ok? Dean, stop glaring." The younger man was holding back a smirk at their staring contest. "You need my help," Harry repeated, keeping his eyes on Dean. "Yes," Dean said, "unless you're what we think you are. Then, we don't need your kind of help." "Really. And what do you think I am?" Harry took a deep breathe, readying himself for an attack. "You're carrying around that hoodoo bag that no one can open and you really have to ask us that?" "Hoodoo bag?" "You may have all these doctors fooled with your act but you're not going to hurt anyone else." "Who have I hurt?" Harry was beyond confused. Dean gave him an incredulous look and his companion looked hesitant. "Like you don't know. It's really sickening, you know? What people will do for power," Dean seemed to be trying to force a confession out of Harry but Harry didn't really understand what they were talking about. "I'm not sure I follow" "A witch and a liar. That's fantastic," Dean fumed. Harry managed to keep a straight face at the man's words. So they were witch hunters but they couldn't have encountered a real witch among the dozens of devil worshipping woman they came across. Besides, how the hell did they find Harry in the middle of no where? "Women are witches," he corrected. That surprised them again. The younger man had a sudden epiphany look about him; Harry could practically see the light bulb go off above his soft brown hair. "Excuse us." He pulled Dean a few feet away and spoke in a hushed whisper. This was, of course, useless because Harry's magic allowed him to pick up on every word. "Dean, I don't think he knows what we're talking about. The doctor said he was worse than dead when they found him so I wouldn't be surprised if his brain was all scrambled." "Sam, come on. He's obviously lying. Healing that fast isn't normal. He must be involved here, maybe indirectly but still involved. That woman Greg talked about can't be working alone!" Woman? They thought he was working with a woman? He hadn't seen anyone but Alessia since he woke up. And before that, he had come through the veil along with

Bellatrix Lestrange. A dangerous lunatic whom he hadn't thought of since he woke. Harry pushed the blanket away from his body and swung his legs to one side of the bed. How could Bella slip his mind? Of course he hadn't killed her; if he wasn't dead, that obviously meant she was wandering around too. She wouldn't care that she was in a strange land and her most obvious decision would of course be to go around torturing people, just for the fun of it. He had to find her and keep her from hurting any more people than she already had. "Hey! Where do you think you're going?" Harry pushed himself off of the bed and barely registered the cold feel of the floor before his legs gave out. Quick as lightning, Dean had an arm wrapped around his waist and was pushing him back onto the mattress. Harry felt dizzy from his little adventure into the land of the vertical and, if he allowed himself to admit it, the hand still at his waist was giving him a lightheaded feeling too. He shook his head and removed his hand from Dean's arm. The man was looking at him with that intensity and Harry had to fight to break the eye contact but Dean didn't move from his new spot beside Harry. "What did you think you were doing?" The question was kinder this time, tinged with worry. Harry ignored the instant attraction he was feeling toward the potentially dangerous man. "What woman?" he asked a little breathlessly. The men shared another look and added to Harry's irritation. "Woman?" The taller man, Sam, was weighing out his options. Harry couldn't blame him; he didn't trust them either so thinking would be a good road to take right now. Then again, thinking wasn't really Harry's specialty. "Yes. You just mentioned a woman. What did she look like?" Harry felt around for the small pouch and felt a lot better with the charmed leather warming his hand. Dean and Sam on the other hand, looked suddenly alert as they eyed the bag. Harry rolled his eyes at them. Did they really believe the bag was dangerous? Honestly, they should be more worried about the madwoman wandering the streets! "Would this woman be about my height, dressed in black, and completely insane?" Dean gave Sam a look that screamed 'I told you so' but Harry couldn't be bothered to acknowledge him. He waited for Sam to respond. "That would be about the same description we got from another witness," he said, eyeing him carefully. He seemed to be letting off more than he should because Dean gave him a warning glance. Sam, however, continued, "She attacked and murdered a couple out near the lake around the same time you were found. There have been more murders over the past week and the few sane witnesses claim it was this woman." "Yeah, that sounds like something she would do," Harry muttered.

"So, you do know her? Any information you have would really help us out." Sam looked relieved and he kept his gaze on Harry, ignoring Dean's suspicious glances. "It would help you do what exactly?" His question was met with silence. "So, what are you, some type of witch hunters?" Dean snorted and Sam gave him an amused look. "No, not witch hunters. Just hunters." "Sam," Dean said warningly but Sam ignored him and stepped closer to Harry. "What do you hunt?" Harry was a bit surprised that Sam was sharing so much with him but he wasn't about to pass on the chance to figure out what he was dealing with. "You wouldn't believe us if we told you," Dean said. He gave Sam a look before addressing Harry again. "We hunt the things most people don't believe in and whoever this woman is, whatever she's using to hurt these people definitely falls into the category of things we hunt." Harry processed this information while running his fingers over the leather in his hand. Even if all this was true and these men were professional hunters, Harry seriously doubted they had ever come across real magic. It wouldn't be wise for them to track Bella and Harry wasn't about to start a brand new body count in this place. "No offense, I'm sure you're very good at your job, but I don't think you should try and stop Bella. She isn't what you think-" "You're trying to defend her now? You don't even know what we think!" "But I could know. Very easily and without you having to tell me," Harry said, only getting confused stares in return. "You have no idea what I'm saying and that's exactly my point!" Maybe he did hit his head " I did not hit my head!" Sam gave him a startled look and attempted to meet Dean's eyes for another silent conversation. Dean, however, was on his feet, staring at Harry in disbelief. "I never said you did," he said. Harry was starting to get a headache and he didn't really care to ease Dean's worries. From the information in their heads, Harry concluded that they hunted supernatural things, none of them magical, so they couldn't be anything but stupid to want to go after Bella. "No, you didn't say that out loud." Dean still looked confused so Harry tapped his head with his forefinger and gave him a very pointed look. The man's eyes widened but it was Sam who spoke.

"You can read minds?" His voice was faint, almost a whisper, and Harry could tell he was lost in his own thoughts. Of what, he didn't care to find out. He pulled himself fully onto the bed and closed his eyes, wondering when his head got so heavy. He opened his eyes and blinked up at the still silent men. "I can do a lot more than that. And no, before you ask, I'm not a witch and I did not sell my soul for power. Bella didn't either. She's not someone you should be going up against. Just leave her to me, ok?" His eyes were getting heavier and he fought back a yawn as he reclined. "Leave her to a scrawny kid who can barely stand? That sounds like a great idea!" Harry opened his eyes completely and sat up. He gave Dean a chilling glance and did the same to Sam before speaking. "You don't understand what she is capable of and you certainly don't know what I can do. Do not go looking for Bella." Before either one could respond, Alessia bustled in and came around to check Harry's temperature. "Boys, I think that's enough for one day. You should leave." Sam nodded to her and pushed Dean out the door. Harry opened his eyes to find a pair of green eyes giving him a searching look and then they were gone. It took Harry another day to figure out how to walk again but Alessia insisted that he rest as much as he could. She came around often and sat by his bed to talk to him about the events outside of the hospital. Harry was pleased to have someone to talk to and it was strange that he could become such good friends with a complete stranger. By the third day, however, Harry couldn't distract himself any longer; he had to get out of there and find Bella. Alessia was checking him over again and making notes on her clipboard. She was humming a soft tune under her breathe as she wrote. It took Harry a moment to figure out what he wanted to say. "When do you think I'll be able to leave?" He knew he was fine now but he couldn't count on the flimsy medical world to agree. "You're doing amazing, probably better than most of the staff here. Dr. Ray, on the other hand, wanted to keep you around until you agreed to some tests," she said. "So, would it be possible for me to leave today even though he still wants to keep me here?" She smiled and replied, "Of course. I'll speak to one of the other doctors to get you released before Dr. Ray shows up and starts raising hell." She finished up her notes and left the room. It only took another hour before she was leading him to the front door of the hospital, Harry still dressed in his hospital pants and a thin jacket. He spent the whole walk convincing Alessia that he was well enough to go and it was only after he accepted her phone number and address that she allowed him to step out into the dewy front steps. She gave him a big hug which he returned happily.

"It's a shame you won't be able to see Dr. Ray's face when I tell him you left." "Well, you'll just have to enjoy it enough for the both of us." He gave her a kiss on the cheek and made his way down the steps. The hospital was surrounded by tall trees all around. There was a simple path worn down by cars that Alessia said led into town. He walked along the dirt road, the Mokeskin pouch hanging from the string around his neck. He only had to walk a minute past the large trees before he saw the path leading to a few scattered cottages and, further off, Harry could see a small manor that was the inn Alessia had told him about. He silently thanked her for arranging his stay as he reached the small parking area. It was too pretty to be called a lot, with flowers covering every corner of the land. Harry scanned the surroundings out of habit and wasn't surprised to see that there was only one car occupying the space closest to the front door. Harry admired the black beauty as he walked up the steps. He knew a bit about cars, thanks to Dudley and his gang's obsession with American models, so Harry was able to identify it as a '67 Chevy Impala. He gave it one last look as he stepped through the open front door. He was immediately greeted by a kind old woman with white blonde hair. She introduced herself as Carol and babbled on about how tired he must be and promised to lecture Alessia about letting him walk to the inn. She chatted on as she pulled Harry through a powder blue hallway and past the intricately carved front desk. She led him up the marble stairs at a slower pace, which Harry was grateful for. They reached the landing and walked a few steps to a door. "I fixed this room up as soon as Aless called. I hope you like it." She pushed the door open and Harry found himself looking at the most beautiful room he had ever seen. The room was a generous size and it was filled with simple furniture all around. The walls were a deep emerald color and the carpet was dark and patterned. "I save this room for when Aless decides to stop by." Harry turned to the woman and thanked her profusely. She blushed a bit and mumbled something Harry didn't quite catch. "Now, you just let me know if you need anything, alright? Any friend of Alessia's is a friend of mine." Harry thanked her again as she left him to return to the front desk. Harry made his way to the simple bed by the window and sat down. The mattress was soft and the white quilt was even softer. He took a moment to admire his room before allowing his mind to wander back to Bella. He knew he was strong enough to take her on at this very moment. His magic had developed very well over the past year and he had an inkling that his magic had more power than he thought; the event in the hospital came to mind. So, now he just had to locate Bella. That wouldn't be too hard in a land filled with muggles; Bella's magic would stick out like a sore thumb. First, he needed to change.

He pulled off the pouch and pulled out his shrunken trunk from it's depths. He had just wondered whether his magic would still obey his command when he suddenly found himself staring at his normal sized trunk. Ok, that was weird. Harry's magic usually only responded so easily when he was feeling angry. Ignoring this strange occurrence for the moment, he pulled out a pair of jeans and a random t-shirt that happened to have a Metallica logo on the front. He pulled these on and sat on the bed again. He crossed his legs in the universal meditation position and closed his eyes. He would have to find Bella the old-fashioned way: by tracking her magic with his own. He cleared his mind and took several deep breaths, slowly coaxing his magic out from his center. It flowed from its hiding place and spread through his entire body, purring against his skin. Harry continued to breathe deeply while his magic extended from his pores and around his body, surrounding him in a protective bubble before continuing it's journey. Harry, with his eyes still shut, focused on memories of Bellatrix using her magic. This gave Harry's magic the direction it needed and Harry felt it expand even further. It glided through the walls and continued, unseen, through the air like a serpent, tangling with the wind and tasting it's way to it's destination. Harry felt a strong pull as his magic recognized Bella's magic nearby. Harry urged the sliver of power on and was pleased to find images flashing behind his closed eyelids. A broken down cottage on the edge of the forest, a few miles from the hospital. It was covered in ivy and moss all around. Harry could practically taste Bella through the shabby walls. He pulled on his magic, leading it gently back into the town and into his room. When he opened his eyes, the room was bathed in a crimson light. Harry thought idly about hell as he got up to look out the window and gaze at the setting sun. His magic was still running through his veins, making him breathe deeper, relaxing his muscles. He had never experienced anything like it, not even with the Horcrux Harry's mind cleared as he thought of the last Horcrux left inside his body. The one he had to destroy to ensure that Voldemort could never return. He closed his eyes and focused his mind on the sliver of foreign power that he knew resided in his body. Only, it wasn't there. He opened his eyes and stared out at the pink tinged sky, not really seeing it anymore. How could it be that the Horcrux could just vanish from his core? He was certain that only his death would destroy it so, why was it suddenly missing when he was as alive as he could be? Could his magic have defeated it on it's own? No, his magic had never been strong enough or it would have managed the task long ago. Could it have been the fall through the veil? It would make sense that he ended up in the hospital if the Horcrux had been ripped out of him when he went through; his many injuries had surprised him. But, what did this mean? Shaking his head, he resolved to figure everything out once he had taken care of Bella. It was best to do this now, when there was minimal chance of casualties. Harry grabbed his jacket, along with a few stars for insurance, and noticed for the first time that he didn't have his wand with him. Oh, well. A problem for another time.

He locked his door and made his way down the stairs as silently as he could. He reached the bottom and was glad to see a couple speaking to Carol; it saved him the trouble of having to explain where he was going. Harry finally made it outside and let out a breathe. He turned toward the parking area and continued on to where his magic directed him, noticing vaguely that the Impala was no longer there. It was a lot harder for Harry to push his way past the thick trees. He kept away from the path and used his magic to clear the way for him, making sure to restore the vines and leaves so there'd be no evidence of his walk. He walked for a bit until he came upon a small clearing. He circled around it and caught sight of the broken down cottage his magic had shown him. It was shabbier in person and Harry felt a pang of sadness for the poor, innocent cottage that was forced to shelter a mad creature. Well, Harry would be relieving it of it's duty and it would be to the benefit of everyone involved. Harry stopped a short distance from the home, still covered by the trees and bushes, then he pushed his magic forward to search for Bella's exact position. All he needed was for her to be standing by the window and he would be back to the inn in time for dinner. He crept silently around to where the trees met the cottage, his magic searching out the house. When he came to another stop, wondering vaguely why the cottage looked smaller in his head, his magic reported that Bella was most definitely inside. And, so were two muggles. Harry bit back a groan as he thought about the men that had visited him in the hospital. Nope, definitely not government officials if they couldn't take directions very well. He continued to the back door, his heart beginning to beat faster as he thought about the danger those men were getting themselves into. It would fall on Harry to get them out alive and he wasn't too happy about this development. He reached the porch as his magic warned him that the men were coming close to their 'prey'. Harry's breathe caught in his throat as he struggled to open the door silently. He stepped through the door, panic like he'd never felt clawing at his insides. He was met with a dark room, empty of furniture and dusty beyond belief. And standing in the center of the room, illuminated by the rising moonlight pouring through a cracked window, was Bellatrix Lestrange. "Hello, Harry," she purred. Behind her, Harry could see the glow of a flashlight, easily mistaken with the moonlight, followed by the shadows of two figures, both edging their way closer to their death. "Hello, Harry," she purred. Behind her, Harry could see the glow of a flashlight, easily mistaken with the moonlight, followed by the shadows of two figures, both edging their way closer to their death. Harry struggled to keep his face blank as he stepped fully into the room. His feet protested, his mind urged him back the way he came, but his hero complex pushed him

toward the woman and her would-be captors behind her. He met her cold, bottomless eyes and felt the familiar hate wash over him, piercing his very soul by just being in the same room with her. He knew, in that instant, that he could not allow her to live. His next step echoed on the thin walls, announcing his determination to it's occupants. "Bella," he acknowledged, "you really shouldn't hang around places like these. It's a bit creepy." He glanced around the room pointedly, not really bothering to keep an eye on her. He needed a moment to prepare his magic for a full fledged battle-rescue kind of showdown. "How sweet, baby Potter worrying about me. You always did have such a soft spot for us Blacks." Her eyes flashed at Harry's nonchalant attitude in her presence. Now that Harry was closer, he could see her hair was as wild and matted as ever and her clothes were a disheveled mess. Besides her hygiene, her attitude seemed offeven for a madwoman, her eyes didn't usually shine with madness and so much hate. "Not really worried about you. Honestly, I'm worried you'll give us magic users a bad name here. Surely you've heard they're starting to compare you to," Harry paused, glancing around for dramatic effect, before turning back to her, "muggles." Bella laughed her chilling laugh, stopping the men in their tracks with it's hostility. Harry caught Sam's attention while he had the chance and motioned for him to head back toward the entrance. Sam gave him a pleading look, begging Harry to be rescued, but any silent argument stopped as soon as Bella's cackling did. Harry fixed his attention back on her. Her smile was broader and her eyes were suddenly aware. Harry had a moment to feel his heart drop before Bella swirled around, her dress sweeping up dust, and a bright red light flew from the tip of her wand and struck Sam in the chest. Dean cried out as Sam crumpled beside him but he pulled the trigger of his gun, clearly on instinct, and struck Bella in the stomach. Harry saw her entire body tense, her wand clattered to the floor beside her as she fell to her knees, clutching her stomach with a whimper. Whatever daze Harry had fallen into was broken as the doorframe behind him shattered. His eyes widened when he realized Dean was firing at him while simultaneously trying to rouse Sam. Harry rolled out of the way but kept himself between Bella and the door. He jumped to his feet and flung his arm out before Dean got another chance to pull the trigger. The gun flew from his hands and directly out of the broken window. Harry caught the startled look from the man before Bella charged into him, knocking them both to the ground and making Harry see stars as he went down head first. Fighting to stay conscious, Harry pushed against Bella and managed to gain an inch of space between them. It was really all he needed to make another sweeping motion, forcing his magic out through his fingertips, and Bella was sent flying across the room and crashing into a wall. Harry flipped himself into a fighting stance, his eyes fixed on the fallen woman.

He was focused on the figure lying in the settling dust but he still heard the cock of a gun behind him. He shifted slowly and brought Dean into view, or rather Dean's gun came into his line of vision. Harry stared at the shining object for a moment before fully standing. The gun followed him. Harry raised his eyes to the man behind the weapon and was met with an uncertainty that scared him and a determination that absolutely terrified him; Dean did not know what was going on but he was willing to shoot first and ask questions later if he had to. "Crucio!" Harry barely managed to pull the gun away from his body and leap onto Dean before he felt the hot singe of the curse sail over their heads and hit the wall above them. They were hit with a few crumbling rocks but Harry's magic kept them mostly clean. He was on his feet in an instant, allowing his magic to settle the dust with a gush of wind and he was left facing his attacker. "Everywhere you go, getting people killed. At least I do it on purpose." She adopted her baby voice as she tossed her wand from hand to hand, her gaze fixed on the fallen men. Harry gave Dean a kick that clearly meant for him to stay down but the man, obviously not the brightest crayon in the box, stood and cleared his head with a slight shake. His gun had fallen somewhere but he was standing in front of Sam's body and beside Harry, his body tightly coiled and ready for a fight. "I guess getting my cousin killed just wasn't enough," She tutted, still keeping her eyes on Dean, who was glaring back. "You should at least warn them of your curse, Harry." "I'll let your little jabs slide, since you're suffering from a terrible loss," Harry said through gritted teeth. His fists were clenched tight and he felt the familiar lump form in his throat at the thought of his godfather. The effect of his words was immediate and he didn't even have time to curse himself for his stupidity before another curse was directed at them. He swept his arms above his head and saw the shimmer of his shield flicker before becoming brighter. The curse bounced off and shot back in the direction of Bella. She cried out in rage as she was forced to duck and Harry had a chance to leave the safety of his shield. He ran towards Bella, dodging curses and sending minor hexes out as he moved. He reached her and managed to kick her legs out from under her before he noticed he wasn't the only one to move away from the shield. Dean had moved to retrieve his gun and Harry wasn't the only one to notice. Bella sent another curse at Harry and rolled away from him when he was knocked into the wall. Then she went for Dean. Harry was having a hard time ignoring the pounding in his head. His magic was doing it's best to tone the pain down but the shield was taking a lot of energy to hold up. His whole body felt weak and sluggish. He could barely keep his eyes openwhat was he doing again?

Shouting, followed by a body crashing into a wall focused Harry on his current predicament. He resisted the urge to sneeze as he pushed away from the dusty ground and looked at the scene across the room. Dean was on the ground, struggling to get back to Sam. Bella was, naturally, standing outside of Harry's shield, waiting. Harry could see the golden shield flickering desperately. Harry whimpered as he pushed harder on the shield. It was like getting glue to go through a straw. Bella turned to him as the shield burned brighter. Harry struggled to remain standing but kept her gaze, waiting for her to make the next move. She was smiling at him but she didn't seem to be preparing for another attack. "You're strong to be doing all of this without a wand. But you aren't strong enough to kill me," she hissed. Her face glowed with suppressed rage as she thought of her master, no doubt, but then it cleared. "But I won't kill you. Not now. "While you were off healing your delicate being, do you know what I realized?" She came closer to Harry as she spoke, her eyes alight with her discovery. "The veil did not kill us, little Potter. You do know what that means, don't you?" Harry fought the urge to step away from the approaching woman. "If we survived, that means that somewhere on this fragile little world, in this land of the unknown," she said, coming to a stop beside Harry and the door beside him. "my cousin is wandering, alive and well. So, no, I won't kill you. I need to make sure you watch as I kill him first, for good this time." Harry fought to keep his eyes open, not really processing what she was saying. His magic was completely exhausted and he was draining far more than he ever had before. He almost missed Bella's parting cackle and the smoky strands of black mist that meant her instant departure. The room was silent except for the buzzing of his almost non-existent shield. He almost allowed himself to slide to the floor before he remembered the hurt muggles still in the room with him. "Sam!" Dean's voice was bordering on panicked when Harry approached them. His shield was completely gone and he could clearly see Sam lying on the floor, dust covering his jacket. Harry stepped closer and fell to his knees in front of the unconscious man. He was trying to get his mind to focus on a solution when he was face to face with the same gun. "Get the hell away from my brother," Dean whispered, calmly, but his hand was shaking. Harry was too tired to roll his eyes. He focused on removing the gun from Dean's hand but found that his magic was ignoring him and focusing on internal injuries. He huffed and raised a hand. "Accio." The gun shot out of Dean's hand and into Harry's waiting palm. Harry almost had enough energy to laugh at Dean's shocked, gaping expression.

"What the hell-" "Just shut up for a second. We have to get him out of here just in case Bella comes back. You do remember Bella, don't you? The person responsible for his injuries?" Harry nodded to Sam but didn't wait for Dean to respond. He stood, shakily, and moved to pick the larger man up. Dean almost protested but, for once, remained silent and helped Harry with Sam. Harry cast another Summoning Charm on the gun that had flown out the window and dragged Sam toward the front entrance. He was about ready to collapse when they moved past the kitchen and hallway and was practically crushed under Sam when Dean opened the front door. Harry almost cried with relief when he saw Dean was leading him to a car. They reached the car's passenger side and after some thought, Dean motioned for Harry to help Sam into the backseat. It took some maneuvering but they finally got all of Sam's long limbs stowed into the car. Harry leaned against the car, trying to decide whether to catch his breathe or just pass out. Dean was out of breath but he immediately moved to the driver's side, leaving the passenger door open. Dean climbed inside and started the car. "Get the hell in here," he practically barked. Harry obeyed, exhausted and loving the prospect of a cushioned seat. He didn't even look at Dean as he settled in his seat, his arm partially out the window and his head resting on his arm. It took Harry two seconds to settle into a doze, his eyes half-open and his breathing finally back to normal. "You shouldn't feel safe enough to fall asleep in my car." The threat wasn't as severe as it could have been but it was still there. Harry turned his head to look at Dean, who was staring out at the darkened forest. They were driving slowly but it was a lot faster than anyone else would have gone. "You won't kill me," Harry stated. Dean glanced at him. "Really. What makes you so sure about that?" "If you want your brother to wake up again, you won't hurt me," Harry said. He settled back into his former position. "Besides, I haven't done anything to hurt you." Dean gave a snort but didn't say anything else. Harry woke instantly as the car came to a stop and he noticed his surroundings immediately: they were in the small parking area of the inn. Harry got out slowly and managed to stay standing as Dean moved to get Sam out of the car. Harry looked around to make sure everything was quiet before doing the same. They made their way to the front and stepped through as quietly as possible, which wasn't really much. After a few steps down the hallway, Harry came to a stop and

whispered a few charms to keep sounds from reaching anyone else. Dean watched, apprehensively, but remained silent. They managed to get Sam up the steps after almost twenty minutes of gruesome lugging. They reached the landing and Harry almost collapsed right there but he remembered his preciously near room and thanked every deity he could think of as he directed a panting Dean to the door. Before Dean could move to reach for the knob, it burst open with a bit more force than Harry expected. He would have to figure out why his magic was acting so erratic. They pulled Sam over to the bed and dumped him on the soft covers. Harry stumbled to his knees in front of the bed while Dean just collapsed beside his brother. He groaned into the pillow and then fell silent. Harry took a few moments to scan his magic's progress and determined that it would be enough to help Sam. He pulled himself up slowly and focused on his patient. He took a few deep breaths and reached to unbutton Sam's shirt. Dean, having rolled onto his back when he heard Harry move, made a startled noise and sat up in the bed. "What do you think you're doing! I thought you were going to help him by healing not by molesting my little brother!" Harry glanced at Dean and rolled his eyes at the look he was being given. "I'm not molesting him. Now, keep it down before your screeching wakes someone," Harry waved his hand to shut the door and then turned his attention back to Sam. "I'm going to heal your brother but that would be easier to do without having to push through layers of clothing to find out what the hell is wrong with him." He closed his eyes with his hands resting against Sam's chest, searching out the traces of Bella's magic. He felt his magic sweeping over Sam's wounds, some were new but most were old scars. Finally, he found a trace of the stunner Bella had used. The magic was flowing through Sam's blood but it was difficult to see through the fog already clouding the liquid running through his veins. He would have to ask about that later. He allowed some of his own magic to flow through his fingertips and into Sam's blood, which gave some resistance, but it would be enough to heal whatever injuries he had. He opened his eyes and found Dean staring at him intently. His breath caught and his mind went deliciously blank before Harry remembered what he was supposed to be doing. He cleared his throat and looked away but he could still feel the weight of Dean's. "It isn't serious," he said, quietly. "He'll be fine." He buttoned up Sam's shirt, avoiding Dean's eyes. "Shouldn't he be awake if he's ok?" Harry glanced up to find Dean looking at his unconscious brother. He was as worried as it was possible for him to look and Harry found it harder to feel threatened by the man.

"I healed any internal injuries, cuts, and scratches but Bella hit him with a stunner," he explained. Noticing Dean's alarmed look, he continued, "But, it isn't serious. That's actually why I can't heal him so don't worry. He'll sleep it off." Dean relaxed and settled with his back to the wooden headboard. "I guess I owe you one," he said, a bit uncomfortably. Harry scoffed and moved to sit on a chair by the bed, his earlier irritation with them returning. "Understatement," he muttered. He fixed his gaze back on Dean, who suddenly looked angry. "Get off your damn high horse, kid. If it weren't for us-" "Bella would be dead, your brother would be awake, and my magic wouldn't be nearly drained," Harry said, not able to force any heat behind the words. "And don't call me 'kid'." Harry leaned back in the chair, preparing to ignore Dean, but was distracted by a sudden flare in his magic that caused his hearing to sharpen. He sat upright, hands pressed tightly to his ears, and whimpered at the vibration pounding in his head. As suddenly as it happened, his magic stopped and left him momentarily deaf. Harry opened the eyes he hadn't been aware of closing and found Dean kneeling beside his chair. "What is it?" Dean eyes were alert as he searched Harry's face for any sign of pain. Harry had a moment to study the man's strong features before Dean's green gaze caught his own. pretty eyes Harry narrowed his eyes at Dean, not quite able to force down a blush. "You think too loudly," he said as he turned his eyes to the bedside table, trying to ignore how warm Dean's hands felt on his knees. Dean was quiet for a second then, after realizing what Harry meant, he coughed and stood from his position beside Harry but only moved to sit on the edge of the bed. "So, what was that?" Very subtle change of subject but Harry wasn't about to complain. He removed his hands from over his ears and tried to figure out what had happened. "Chanting," he decided. "I heard chanting." He looked up to find Dean staring at him in disbelief. "Some chanting made you go into fetal position?" Harry's blush returned and he glared at Dean. "Magically enhanced chanting can be painfully loud," he said. He turned his attention back to the sound, which was faint but he could still make it out. "It's coming from downstairs."

"Are you sure it's chanting?" Dean suddenly looked wide awake, he reached for his fallen gun and brought it to his side. "Positive," Harry answered. He watched Dean palm the gun thoughtfully. "How exactly does chanting call for you to bear arms?" "I'm thinking we should talk to that sweet old lady again." He stood and made his way to the door but Harry was up in a flash and standing in front of the exit. "Are you mad? You can't go waking her up at this hour with your theories! What do you think she's done, anyway?" Dean glared at him before answering, "We questioned her first, before we heard about you and your miracle act. She was our best suspect on the first disappearances." "You can't go kill her because of that! Besides, these disappearances were Bella's fault. Or did you not hear me the first time I said so?" "You've only been here a few weeks, right?" Harry nodded. "Well, these people have gone missing for a few months now." Harry's eyes widened and it was enough time for Dean to move him out of the way. He was already heading down the stairs when Harry caught up to him. "So, you're just going to murder her with all these people here? Without solid proof?" Harry kept his voice at a whisper as he trailed behind Dean. "Where did you hear the chanting coming from?" They had reached the darkened landing and Dean was peering in every direction, completely ignoring Harry's outrage. "Are you listening to a word I'm saying?" "Listen, we've been on this job for almost a week so I know what I'm doing. Just tell me where the sound came from, ok?" Harry glared in answer. "Here, I'll put the gun away. What's the worst that can happen? We get kicked out for walking in on an orgy?" It was silent for a minute in which Dean gave Harry a raised eyebrow and Harry couldn't hold up his glare without bursting into laughter. Finally, Harry led the way around the staircase and felt Dean's looming presence follow behind him. He had enough magic at his command to feel safe walking in the dark. He allowed his magic to lead him down another set of stairs, which led to a kitchen, and then he was walking to a wall directly beside a large refrigerator. He almost bumped right into it if it weren't for Dean's reflexes. "Looks like your mojo's faulty," Dean whispered in the semi darkness. Harry glared hard at the wall, wondering what the problem was, before shooting a smirk at the man. "Big, bad hunter, don't tell me you've never heard of a hidden door." He pressed his hand on the smooth surface of the door and willed it to open. He felt the wall give a

small shake andnothing. It stayed just as locked as when they walked in. He frowned in the dark. "Can't get it up?" "Maybe if I had better company," Harry hissed, irritably. "Now, shut up for a second." There was a moment of complete silence then: "Your accent's a lot cuter when you aren't nagging." Harry turned to glare at the smirking man before turning back to his task. He focused all his magic on sensing what was behind the door. "There's another staircase, then a room. There are about three people but I can't tell anymore besides that." He turned to Dean again, a little more alert. "Still think they're just having a tea party?" Harry kept his gaze on Dean, suddenly feeling exhausted. He looked back at the door, trying to shake the feeling from his bones. He reached into his jacket pocket for a throwing star and felt a bit safer, less naked. Dean gave him another disbelieving look. "What? This is quieter than your canon there," he said, holding it up to the faint light. "And it hurts a lot more so do me a favor and don't jump in front of it, yeah?" He turned back to the door and murmured an unlocking spell. The wall was pushed forward then out towards them. Harry pulled it open the rest of the way and gazed at the pit of darkness below. "Lumos," he whispered. A small light appeared in front of them but before Harry could start his descent, Dean stepped forward and started down. He looked up at Harry, his eyes sparkling in the light. "I might need some healing after, so me and my canon will make sure you get out of here in one piece," he said with a wink and Harry had the strong feeling that they weren't still talking about the same canon. Harry lost count of the steep stairs and he was starting to consider taking a break when he felt Dean come to a stop. Unfortunately, Harry felt his presence a little late and he lost his hold on the rail and would have fallen backwards to his death if Dean hadn't gripped the rail and Harry's waist tightly. The movement brought their bodies close together and Harry could feel Dean's breathe against the side of his neck. It would have been an altogether awkward moment if Harry hadn't heard the voices coming from below. He turned his face to the side, coming inches from Dean's face, their light hovering next to them. "Chanting," Harry murmured. "Yeah." Dean slowly, regretfully, moved away from Harry and hopped down the last steps. He held out a hand to help Harry, which he took without a thought.

Their light illuminated a long hallway at the end of which was a slightly open door. A faint light poured through the crack and illuminated a strip of the stone floor. Harry made their own light faint and then motioned for Dean to follow him. He cast another charm to muffle their footsteps and made his way to the door. The sound of voices was coming though and Harry caught a small cry of pain. He turned to Dean who looked as alarmed as Harry felt. They moved toward the door together, both straining their ears. As they came to a stop, Harry extinguished his light and pressed closer to the door. The voices were clearer and a lot more alarming. "Don't worry. It'll only hurt for a bit." Dean sent Harry a triumphant look at the sound of Carol's voice. Harry really hoped she was baking in there. "Please" The whimper was almost too soft to be distinguished but Harry had been in her company long enough to realize who was in danger. "Aless," he whispered. He made to stand but Dean pulled him back down holding up three fingers. Harry was confused for a moment before he realized what Dean meant: there were three people in that room. It would be smart to figure out whether the third person was a victim or not. Harry peered into the room through the small crack. He could barely make out a figure in the distance. He turned to give Dean a signal when the light coming from the room disappeared. He frowned and pulled back from the door. "Well, well, well. Look who decided to make an appearance." Harry got a glimpse of a white coat and a wide grin before he turned back to Dean, who was still in the shadows. Harry pushed his magic outward and cloaked Dean in darkness. It would keep Dr. Ray from noticing him, unfortunately it also depleted Harry's strength by another notch. That meant that he had nothing to protect himself from the blow to the head. He had a last glimpse of Dean before his eyes closed and he lost consciousness. "Oh, such a pretty child." Harry woke to murmuring around him and the feel of hard metal at his back. It took him a moment to remember how he got there and another moment for him to realize that he was tied up. Well, this was turning into a very long night. He contemplated going back to sleep but then his thoughts turned to Dean. What if his magic hadn't been enough to protect him? He opened his eyes and took in his surroundings. The room was large but filled with all sorts of boxes, more like coffins but Harry ignored that fact. They were mostly on the left side of the room while the right, where he was, held many more elevated metal beds with chains attached to them. Only one other was occupied. Alessia was chained tightly at her arms and legs. Her clothes was ripped, her hair was messy, and she had bruises on most of her body. Harry thought she was asleep but she turned to him, her eyes spilling over with silent tears. Her mouth was taped shut. "Good, you're awake."

Harry turned his attention to the center of the room where an altar stood on a intricately carved rug. Carol, dressed in a flowing black robe, was standing in front of it holding a bowl and a ceremonial knife. "You know, it's not nice to go eavesdropping on your hosts," she said. "Yeah, well, it's not nice to take your guests hostage either," he answered. He managed to sound calm. He focused his magic on searching for Dean but he wasn't in the room. Harry couldn't decide whether he was happy about being abandoned or not. "You have no one to blame but yourself." Dr. Ray's smiling face came into view. " It would be enough to kill her but now we have to sacrifice you too." He gazed at Harry sadly. "Why exactly would you need to kill her in the first place?" Distracting them long enough for his magic to start kicking was Harry's best shot at the moment. "Besides the fact that she's a disrespectful whore, you mean? Well, being alive and successful has its price, young man." At Harry's blank look, the doctor continued. "You can't expect a powerful god to keep my grandmother alive for free, can you? And my long line of success has it's price, I'm afraid." He gave Harry a moment to process everything. "So, if I'm not mistaken, you two sacrifice people to keep your life and your career." Dr. Ray gave him a bright smile. "Alright, that makes loads of sense." "Now, child, don't you go making assumptions about me and my boy. We do the best with the disadvantages life gave us," Carol said sternly. "Enough of this, we have to get Aless to him before it gets any later." They both turned to face the altar, beginning their chant. Ok, distracting phase over. Harry felt his magic bubble beneath his skin but he was still too exhausted to try anything big. He pushed at his chains and was satisfied with the small click that meant freedom. His happiness was short-lived as he was forced to bring his hands up in front of his face to avoid connecting with the stone floor. Thankfully, the sound of his palms hitting the ground was drowned out by the door bursting open. Harry raised his head to see Dean charging into the room, followed closely by Sam. They were both carrying guns. Harry stood, not bothering to see what their plan of action was. He rushed over to Alessia, who was whimpering and bleeding severely. She fought him as he released her from her chains but he managed to get her to her feet. He half dragged and half carried her toward the door. He managed to avoid a flying bowl and he made it to the other side safely. "I need you to listen to me. Aless, come on," he set her down beside the wall and gave her a small shake. "You need to stay awake, ok? Just for a bit." A crashing sound that definitely should not have been necessary distracted Harry from his task. Harry left Alessia to lull beside the door and stepped back into the room.

He was greeted with the sight of Sam and Dean, suspended in midair. Carol and Dr, Ray were standing beside the alter, hands raised, presumably the cause of the trouble. Harry bit back the sigh and stepped forward. Dr. Ray was the first to notice him and he raised a hand in his direction. Harry felt his feet leave the ground but he was already gathering his magic in his hands, the strength of it making his palms burn brightly. He came to a stop a few feet from the ground, his magic balancing him in the air now that Dr. Ray was staring at him in awe. He heard aloud thump and a pair of groan that meant Carol was watching him too. Good. He took a deep breathe and extended his arms, his magic flying out and wrapping around the pair with the most powerful stunner he had ever used. Still, it was barely enough to bring them down. They gave simultaneous cries of shock and crumpled to the floor. Harry's magic, still buzzing from use, set him down a little roughly and he ended up crashing into the altar. "Ow." He pulled himself to his feet, rubbing at his arm delicately. He stepped over the bodies of his captors and reached the brothers. They were on their feet and gazing at him with matching blank expressions. Finally, Dean gave him a grin. "That was great, if you edit out the landing." Harry gave him a glare and turned to find Sam looking at him. He glanced at the fallen couple and back at Harry. It didn't take an idiot to figure out what he was thinking. "I didn't kill them," he said, watching Sam's expression relax into a questioning gaze. "I did what Bella did to you, just a lot stronger. They'll be out long enough for me to heal Aless and get her to call the police." Harry turned and walked back out the door, trusting they would follow. He was about to pick up the sleeping Alessia when Sam grabbed his arm. "Let me." He picked her up easily and jerked his head in the direction of the staircase, which was not visible through the darkness. Harry immediately cast a strong 'Lumos' and followed behind Sam. Dean fell into step beside him. "Great timing," Harry said to him. "We would have been here sooner but it was a bitch getting down here with nothing but a flashlight. Sammy almost broke his neck." "I think that had more to do with you pushing me out of the way to get down here," Sam called from in front. Harry glanced at Dean and could barely make out the tinge of color on his cheeks. "Well, I can't help that I can't resist a damsel in distress," he answered with a smirk in Harry's direction. Harry narrowed his eyes at the implication.

"Why do I get the feeling that you aren't talking about Aless?" All he got was a wide grin in return and he heard a chuckle from Sam. They climbed the staircase without event and Harry kept the light burning as they moved to the second staircase and then to the one leading to his room. By the time they stepped inside, Harry was leaning on Dean for support and he must have noticed Harry's exhaustion because he didn't comment and instead pulled Harry to sit beside Alessia on the bed. It took another ten minutes to coax his magic into another person when he could feel the wear and tear crushing him. Finally, Alessia was completely healed and even her clothes were back to their normal state of cleanliness. Her eyes opened and she gazed at Harry blankly before she tackled him and Harry was lying flat on his back, too tired to do anything. She was sobbing and thanking him all at once and it was making him very dizzy. "Easy now, don't stress yourself." Harry heard Dean's voice and suddenly Harry was alone on the bed. He could hear the brothers talking to Aless but he was too tired to keep his eyes open, let alone listen to their conversation. He felt his magic settle irritable, finally getting ready to heal his injuries. He felt a tug at his navel, almost like a portkey, and he was pulled into oblivion. He woke up to the smell of pancakes and bacon. He rolled out of bed before opening his eyes, his stomach leading his sleep addled brain. Harry opened his eyes and was met with the sight of Alessia in an apron. She was smiling brightly at him. "I guess the way to rouse any man is through his stomach." "I told you it would work." Harry turned to see Dean at the small table by the window. He had the newspaper spread out in front of him and a tall stack of pancakes on top of the forgotten paper. Sam was sitting across from him, nursing a glass of orange juice as he watched his brother shovel down forkfuls of pancakes. Outside, the sun was shining brightly. "How long was I out?" His throat came out raspy and Aless was there in front of him, holding out a glass of water. He took it gratefully. "Almost a day. You missed all the questions from the fuzz but nothing you'll miss. Trust me." Sam seemed grateful to have to turn away from Dean, who seemed to be swallowing his food without chewing. Harry stared at him, fascinated by the blur that was Dean's fork. "Here, hon. You must be starving." Alessia handed him his own plate and smothed his hair. "I should be getting back to the hospital. I know I've thanked these boys but I want to thank you too. You can't imagine how grateful I am to you three. To think, that I knew Carol for years." Alessia's eyes filled with tears but she smiled and gave him a big hug. "Sometimes bad things happen, Aless. Don't worry, it won't last forever." She pulled away with a laugh.

"I swear, you're the best fortune cookie I've ever come across." She winked at the boys sitting at the table. "They told me you were hitching a ride back with them. I'm sorry I won't be here when you leave but don't you be a stranger. I expect a call every once in a while, alright?" Harry managed to nod through his surprise and he got another hug from Aless before she rushed out like lightning. Harry stared after her, nibbling at his breakfast. He felt better than he had in days and it gave him the chance to think over his actions. He came to the conclusion that he was all kinds of stupid. Why the hell would he go after Bella so soon after being released from the hospital? He wouldn't be able to pass a sobriety test, how the hell was he going to stop Bella? Then, to make matters worse, he jumped head first into another dangerous situation and almost got himself killed. He was very lucky to be alive. "Kid? You listening?" Harry's head snapped up and he turned to find Sam and Dean staring at him. "Yes, old man, you have my undivided attention." Sam snickered as he stole one of Dean's pancakes. Dean looked deeply insulted. "Old man?" he sputtered. "Kid?" Harry challenged with a glare. Sam was choking on his stolen pancake, laughing through his coughs. Harry and Dean turned their glares on him and he finally calmed down. "Ok, we're going to have to finish this some other time. We should pack up and get out of here if we want to avoid another line of questioning." Harry glanced at them both before finishing the last of his meal. "Why does Aless think I'm going with you two?" The brothers shared a look. "That would have to be because we told her you were coming with us," Sam answered. Harry raised an eyebrow at them. They shared another glance. "We talked about it and we think it would be best if you tagged along for a while." "Best for whom exactly?" "Everyone," Dean said. "We know you're going to go after that witch the first chance you get and it would save you a lot of hitchhiking if you just came with us." Harry suppressed his groan of frustration. "I thought I was all kinds of stupid but clearly I'm not the only one. Are you two forgetting the beating we got because we were together. I appreciate the thought but I'll pass. And you two should really go looking for Casper or Big Foot." "Come on, Harry," Sam said with a smile, "We owe you and you owe us, sort of. Now that we know she's out there, we can't just wait to hear whether you got her or not." This time Harry let out a groan and Dean chuckled.

"Keeping myself alive is a challenge on it's own. I am not going to feel guilty if you two get decapitated or something." "Would you like us to sign a waver?" Harry glared at Sam, who gazed steadily back, amusement in his eyes. "I liked you better when you were unconscious," Harry said. He stood and kicked his trunk closed. After a glance at the chuckling brothers, he glared at the object and watched shrink back to it's travel size. He tossed the tiny cube into his Mokeskin bag and looked around for any fallen objects. "Here, you dropped this downstairs." Dean was standing beside him, hand outstretched and the star resting on his palm. "Thanks," Harry said, his hand brushing against Dean's as he picked up the object. His eyes met Dean's and they stared at each other for a long moment before Sam cleared his throat. Dean gave him a glare as Harry pulled away and turned back to grab the small bag. Harry could see Sam's smirk through the corner of his eye. After a few more minutes, they made their way downstairs and to the front of the house. Dean led them around to his car, which was , not surprisingly, the same car Harry had admired on his first night there. Figures. He climbed in first and settled into the creamy cushion of the seat. The boys climbed in soon after. Sam immediately reached for the radio but was stopped by Dean's karate chop to his hand. "Dude," he warned. Sam glared back while holding his hand to his chest. Dean turned on the car and Harry winced at the volume of the music. Also not very surprising, Dean was playing Metallica. He turned it down as he put the car in reverse, still keeping an eye on the shifty looking Sam. Harry stared out of the window as they circled around the town. He could see the thick forest where Bella could still be hiding but it was unlikely. She had other plans and Harry knew she would do her best to follow through with them. Finally, after ignoring it for as long as he could, Harry recalled Bella's parting words about Sirius. Alive, she had said. Sirius was alive somewhere in this world. It was too much to take in and Harry wasn't sure he could process it. He had spent days after his godfather's fall trying to figure out how to live without his family and now, suddenly, he could have it back? He could have Sirius back? But if it wasn't true, why would Bella run off without killing him or at least trying to. It was like being back in the middle of the war. He was searching out an evil to be able to destroy it and finally figure out what it meant to be happy. And once again, life with his godfather awaited him at the finish line.

But what kind of life would that be? The fall didn't change who Sirius was. He was still a reckless child who couldn't tell the difference between a dead man and his son. He glared at a passing minivan. "Hey, I guess we owe you an apology. For not trusting you earlier, I mean," Sam said. "And because Dean shot at you," he added. "Don't worry about it," Harry said, shaking off his resentment. "I don't trust you either but you can't kill me so I have no reason to kill you, if that helps." "Not really, no," Dean answered. Harry shrugged but gave the man a lopsided smile when he caught his gaze in the rearview mirror. Sam suddenly sat up straight, having thought of something. "I almost forgot. Dean said something about that woman threatening to kill someone else. Shouldn't you warn him?" Harry felt his eyes harden and Dean's eyes widened in the mirror before returning to the road. "Even if I wanted to, I wouldn't be able to find him," he said quietly. "We can help you with that if you want," Sam offered hesitantly. "Don't bother. If he's stupid enough to get killed a second time, then he deserves it," Harry muttered.
Harry kept his gaze on the window, keeping his mind blank but he couldn't help but think of a barking laugh and his own cries of terror echoing in his ears. There was silence from the two men in front and all that was heard in the car for the next few miles was the growl of the radio and the purr of the Impala beneath them.

Cold air came through the open window and reached the sleeping youth on the bed. He was lying curled up on his side with his back to the wall. As another gush of wind came in, fluttering the cheap motel room curtains, the boy mumbled in his sleep and pressed further back on the bed in an attempt to escape the chill. His hands clutched the scratchy bed sheets and a frown marred his graceful features. Another gust of wind pressed into the room, innocently brushing against the youth with more force. With an audible huff, the boy reached out for the source of the problem. A loud smashing sound echoed around the room as the window was slammed shut by an invisible force. Harry, still fast asleep, slumped back into the mattress. Sam and Dean sat at the small wooden table on the other side of the room, not quite sure how to respond to the incident. They shared a look before staring at the motionless boy on the bed closest to the, now shut, window.

"That wasinteresting," Sam commented. He turned to find his brother still gazing at Harry, his eyes soft as he studied the boy. Dean turned to Sam, looking thoughtful. "You think it was a good idea bringing him along?" On further inspection, Dean looked troubled. Sam thought about how best to answer his brother. "Dean," Sam began, choosing his words carefully, "I trust him." Ok, maybe not carefully enough, with the way Dean was looking at him. "We just met him, Sam. And he's a witch!" Dean exclaimed. He kept his voice low, not wanting to wake Harry. Sam was giving him one of those looks. "So, you're telling me it's not ok for me to trust Harry but it's fine for you to want to get in his pants?" Sam asked. Dean glared at him but Sam's tone didn't leave room for him to protest. He tried anyway. "There's a big difference. Besides, what's it to you if I like him. You're not gonna tell you didn't at least look at him. Kid's way better looking than the women we run into." Dean's tone was teasing as he nudged his little brother with his shoulder. Sam let their former conversation drop and focused on his sex-crazed brother. "Yeah, he is. I'm just surprised you noticed. I always took you for a womanizer, Dean." "I'm nothing if not open-minded," Dean glared as Sam choked on a laugh. "He's probably not interested anyway." Sam rolled his eyes as Dean gave a small sigh. "I seriously doubt that's true. Dean," Sam said, stifling a laugh as his brother turned to him with poorly disguised hope in his eyes. "But, he can't be more than fifteen or so" Dean rolled his eyes at Sam and said, "You're such a prude." "Dean, you really need to stick to people your own age. Harry did call you old and you aren't helping your cause by calling him a kid." Dean gave him a look. "Come on, Sam, I'm not seriously gonna try anything. He's a witch andwell he's a witch!" "He doesn't seem so bad. Not like any other witch we've heard of," Sam said. He didn't really know why he trusted Harry but he couldn't help but feel that they were more of a danger to him. "That's fine that you trust him, alright? That's what you do. I'm here just in case he starts sprouting horns and eating babies, Dean said calmly. Sam huffed in annoyance, knowing Dean wouldn't budge. "He saved my life," Sam said, quietly watching Harry. "Even when he could have let us both get killed, he risked his life to save us, Dean. That's got to count for something." Dean didn't have a response to that. Harry had done those things, even after Dean tried to kill him. He had protected the fallen Sam even though he made it clear that his sole

purpose was killing Bella. Harry had even risked his life to keep Dean from being caught and then went on to save Alessia the first chance he got. But that wasn't enough for Dean. For all they knew, Harry was trying to get their trust and plotting some mass murder or something worse. He couldn't trust Harry. Not completely. Sam was quiet, obviously waiting for Dean to comment. He hesitated but was saved the trouble of answering by a small whimper coming from the bed. They shared a look but stayed where they were. After a few minutes, Sam spoke. "Should we wake him up?" "He probably just fell off his broom or something." Dean chuckled as Sam shot him a glare. Sam glanced at Harry again before pulling his laptop on the table and getting ready to search for another job. Dean pulled open a newspaper but kept his eyes and ears trained on the bed. Hogwarts had never looked so magnificent. Harry had always loved how the school grounds looked during the first days of snow: beautiful, innocent, untainted. The grounds were carpeted with a thick layer of snow and tiny specs of white continued to fall from the winter sky. Hagrid's hut sat at the edge of the forest, looking like a giant gingerbread house, and the Forbidden Forest looked brighter, almost welcoming. The lake was frosted over as far as the eye could see and it looked just as beautiful as it's surroundings. And the castle. Harry's majestic home sat in the center of it all, demanding attention with it's size and traces of power. The many towers were covered in snow but the majority of the castle could be made out in between layers of white, almost as if fighting off the winter cold. But there was something wrong. Harry didn't notice it at first, being too caught up in the castle's beauty, but something wasn't right with the perfect picture in front of him. The grounds were empty. Not a creature in sight and Harry had a feeling, looking toward the castle, that it would be the same inside. Not quite sure what to think, Harry turned to look at Hagrid's home. It was gone. A glance toward where the forest and lake should be told him that it too had vanished. Slowly, heart hammering in his chest, Harry turned to the castle, his home for the better part of his life. There was nothing there but snow. His home was gone. He stood still for a moment, not knowing how to react. A crackling sound made him realize he was holding something in his hand. He looked down at the spare piece of parchment. No, the Marauder's Map. Words appeared on the page before he could say the incantation, proclaiming the map to its owner. Harry unfolded it. Where he expected to see the hundreds of lines marking

the rooms of the castle and the surrounding grounds, there was nothing. Nothing but a single dot in the center of the parchment, with a name written in small but flourish script. Harry Potter. Harry bolted upright, unfortunately on the edge of his bed. He toppled to the ground with a squeak but managed to avoid a concussion. He rolled onto his knees, eyes blurry with sleep, and reached for the trunk at his bedside. He could hear scrambling behind him but he was too busy throwing items out of the trunk at full speed. Finally, down near the bottom of the trunk's depths, Harry found what he was looking for. He pulled the map out with shaking fingers and settled anxiously on his folded legs. He opened the parchment slowly, careful not to tear it, and stared for a long moment at the blank pages. "I solemnly swear, I'm up to no good," he whispered. He waited silently, eyes boring into the page. A hand fell on his shoulder and he gasped from holding his breath for so long. He dropped the map and felt his magic respond to his sudden fear. He was suddenly pulled to the side and over the bed. That would have been great if Harry hadn't landed hard on his side, injuring his sore ribs. He remained still before slowly making his way to his feet, clutching his side. He used the bed to steady himself and got a clear view of Dean, who was apparently trying to figure out whether to help him or laugh. He settled for a questioning look followed by: "What the hell was that?" Harry, still feeling the effects of his fall, gave him a look before collapsing on the bed, still clutching his side. The sudden change in position sent a stab of pain through Harry's body and he moaned piteously into the mattress. He felt the bed sink slightly as someone sat down. "Kid, are you alright?" Beneath the pain, Harry felt his stomach flutter at the concern in Dean's voice. He took a few deep breaths before gingerly rolling onto his back. "Peachy," he said. Dean raised an eyebrow at him before studying Harry's body with a critical eye, trying to find injuries. Harry felt himself blush at the intensity of Dean's gaze and he squirmed a bit under the attention. Dean caught his gaze and Harry saw a faint smirk on the other man's lips. "What is that, Harry?" Harry tilted his head back to find Sam standing by the window, nodding toward the parchment. From this angle, Harry couldn't tell if there was anything written on it. He sat up and moved toward the fallen map at a safer speed than the first time. His hands were fairly

steady as he reached the edge of the bed and picked up the map. He glanced at the brothers but focused his attention on the parchment. On the front of the parchment, as Harry had expected, were the words from the Marauders. Harry opened the parchment, the same feeling of dread churning his stomach uncomfortably. On the inside folds of the parchment wasnothing. No lines. No people. No Hogwarts. His dropped his hands to his lap, eyes staring forward but not taking anything in. Hogwarts should have appeared on the map no matter where the map holder was. The fact that Harry was in America didn't change the fact that Hogwarts was in England. So, why was Hogwarts suddenly gone? Unlessmaybe Harry's first thoughts about being only miles from home was incorrect. After all, someone would have figured out that the veil was simply a doorway to a different continent and then it wouldn't be such a mystery. But, maybe it wasn't a passage between life and death but between worlds. Bella had made some remarks about that. Somewhere on this fragile little world she had said. That would explain why Bella hadn't simply gone home and why, if Sirius was alive he hadn't returned to Hogwarts either. Harry felt different emotions battling for attention inside his head. He couldn't describe his feelings when he thought about never seeing his home again but he also couldn't deny the relief that dominated his entire being. If there was no Hogwarts then their was no Wizarding World and, more importantly, there was no war for Harry to participate in. Harry Potter would always remain famous no matter if he had completed his duty as the Chosen One or not. Harry had accepted long ago that he would never be normal and he would never have a life free of worry. Not as long as he was a wizard. And definitely not as long as he was Harry Potter. But, he wasn't in the same world anymore. No one knew him here and no one expected anything from him. He could easily fit in among the locals and leave all thoughts of magic behind. He could be happy. He could be free. "Kid, you're really starting to worry us." Harry turned to Sam and Dean and saw that they did look pretty worried at his odd behavior. He gave them a completely natural smile and felt another flutter in his stomach as Dean gave him another one of 'those' looks. "Sorry, what were you saying?" "We were just wondering why you got thrown across the room. It would also help if you explain why you're staring at a blank piece of paper" "Oh, that," Harry said, wincing as his side reminded him of his recent fall. "That was my magic beinghelpful. Sorry, if I scared you."

"Helpful?" Sam repeated. "Yes. Great, isn't it?" Harry tossed the map back into the trunk and then moved to start tossing his clothes back in as well. The brothers watched him silently as he closed the trunk with a snap. "Couldn't you have used magic to do that?" Sam asked. Dean stood and walked to the small refrigerator and Sam took his seat on the bed. Harry sat on his trunk and looked at Sam. "I guess I could have," he answered. "But you didn't." Harry shrugged. "I'm used to doing everything the normal way." Sam looked thoughtful as Dean came back and handed him a beer. Harry accepted his bottle of Coke without comment, but inwardly rolled his eyes as he thought about all the drinks he had with Ron and the others. "Can I ask you something?" Harry noticed Sam was trying not to look at his brother as he spoke. Curious, Harry nodded. "Why don't you trust us?" Dean rolled his eyes but didn't say anything. Harry thought about how best to answer. "I'm not very trusting to begin with. It's nothing personal, not really. It's just common sense to not trust someone who has the power and motivation to kill you." "We wouldn't hurt you after you saved our lives," Sam protested. Then, thoughtfully, he continued, "I can't explain why but I trust you. I know you won't do anything to hurt us." He gave Dean a glare to stop any comments. Harry was a bit shocked at the declaration. Why did Sam trust him so much? It was the same at the hospital when Sam confessed to being a hunter so easily. Harry just thought he had a trusting personality but that couldn't be too smart considering his profession. "You shouldn't," Harry said. At their confused looks he elaborated, "Trust me, I mean. I may not try to harm you but I do have the power to and that's really all that should matter." "You sound like Dean," Sam said, sounding put out. "You should trust his judgment then," Harry said, ignoring the glances he was getting from Dean. "You're very trusting. For a hunter." Sam smiled. "Well, you're pretty trustworthy. For a witch."

"Wizard," Harry corrected. "What exactly is the difference?" Dean asked. "Gender," Harry said. Sam laughed and Dean rolled his eyes at the answer. "I meant the difference between what you are and the witches we've seen." He didn't quite meet Harry's eyes when he asked that. How much did Harry want them to know? For some reason, maybe due to the attraction he felt toward Dean, Harry really wanted to prove he was as trustworthy as Sam believed him to be. Harry didn't really see the harm in telling them about his world, not if said world didn't even exist. Besides, it could help save them if they realized how dangerous Bella could be. "The biggest difference is that I didn't sell my soul for my magic. It's been in my family for generations." "It's hereditary?" Sam eagerly awaited more information. Harry thought of Hermione and smiled faintly. "Yes. I've had my magic since I was born. That's what makes actual witches and wizards far more dangerous than your knock-offs. We've always had power while witches," Harry mimicked quotation marks with his fingers in the air, "were born without an ounce of it." "So, not all of you are evil?" Sam asked hopefully. Harry rolled his eyes. "Of course not. Honestly, we're as human as you are. We just happen to have special abilities. It's your witches that are completely loony." Harry set aside his drink and pulled his trunk open. He rummaged around for a bit before recovering a thick book Hermione had insisted he read during their first year. He turned to the brothers and hesitated. It couldn't do any harm to tell them more. Harry's world didn't exist here so it wouldn't matter what they knew. He handed the book to Sam. "You look like you might enjoy reading that." "What is it?" Dean glared suspiciously at the book as Sam opened it carefully. "Wizarding World?" Sam asked, glancing at Harry in surprise as he read the first page. "Yup. That should tell you most of what you want to know." "And you're just gonna let him read it? Just like that?" "Sure. Why wouldn't I?" Sam looked up. "Well, it sort of says not to in here." Harry tilted his head in confusion. "It's very clear about hiding the existence of your world fromwell, I'm guessing a

muggle is someone like me. Won't you be in some kind of trouble for even talking to us about this?" Harry shrugged. "That would be assuming that my world exists here which I'm seriously starting to doubt." He got matching blank looks in response but he remained silent. "How exactly did you end up in America?" Dean asked carefully. "Well, Bella and I sort of got landed here. Magically. At first, I thought I just got transported to a different continent. Now, I'm not so sure it was that simple." Dean looked like he was going to ask more but was interrupted by the sound of his phone ringing. Harry watched Sam read as Dean moved to answer the call. Harry smiled when he saw that Sam was wide-eyed and practically drooling at all the information. Dean joined them again, bouncing around with joy. Harry raised an eyebrow at his childish nature but all he got in return was a cheerful wink. "Werewolf," he announced after a moment. Sam looked up at his brother and promptly rolled his eyes at Dean's enthusiasm, apparently realizing what the other man was talking about. Harry, on the other hand, was extremely confused. "Werewolf?" Harry questioned. Dean nodded heartily. Harry watched him practically skip over to his duffel bag. He turned to Sam, hoping he would get a better answer from him. He raised an eyebrow at him and Sam gave Harry a sympathetic smile. "He's talking about our next hunt." Harry's eyes widened in alarm. "You're going to hunt a werewolf?" "Don't worry, Harry. We've done this before." Harry's eyes widened to a painful size at that point. "It isn't you I'm worried about." Sam looked startled at his statement but couldn't say anymore as Dean chose that moment to stand in front of him with an impatient look on his face. "Dude, werewolf," he said. "I'm coming with you," Harry announced as Sam stood. Dean turned to him with a frown. "No," he said firmly.

Harry walked to where Sam was waiting at the door. Dean didn't move from his spot by the bed as he glared at Harry. "Harry," he began warningly. Harry ignored Sam's smirk as he turned to face the approaching Dean. "I wasn't asking for permission. I figure I owe you one for the time you went after Bella when I specifically told you not to." Harry smiled up at Dean as the older man attempted to loom over him. "Dean, just let him come. It's getting late," Sam said. He opened the door and walked out toward the car. Harry followed. "But-" Harry turned and shot a smirk at Dean, who was standing in the doorway. "Dude, werewolf," Harry said in a perfect imitation of Dean. He glared at Harry for a moment before shouldering his duffel and following them to the car. He ignored Sam's laughter as he got into the Impala. "Damn Englishmen," he muttered sullenly. Harry eyes the arsenal in the trunk at a distance. He had trained with enough muggle weapons to know exactly what a gun was capable of doing and it made him anxious to be around so many. Sam gave him a curious look as Dean handed him a gun. He watched as Harry shifted uncomfortably, eyes unfocused. Harry remembered the times Shane had taken him on practice runs to hunt down stray Death Eaters. It was a great way for Harry to learn to move about without magic and everything had been going smoothly until they had actually run into Voldemort's unfortunate followers. Harry's stomach shifted as he recalled the blood and other more disturbing things that had resulted from a few shots from Shane's gun. He shook his head as he glanced around at his surroundings. Dean had driven them to an old farm a few miles from the actual city and it had taken them almost an hour to maneuver around the old farm equipment and finally come to a stop a short distance from the farmhouse. Harry could barely see it through the unattended grass. It also didn't help that the sun was well on its way to setting. "Alright, come on. We have to get in there before it changes," Dean said. Harry noticed that he was in full 'hunter' mode. His eyes were alert and he was practically shaking with anticipation. Dean turned to Harry and hesitated for a moment before handing him a gun. Harry stared at the object and looked back a Dean. It must have taken a lot for Dean to willingly give him another weapon that Harry could use on them. Harry appreciated the small show of trust but shook his head at Dean and went to stand by Sam before the other man had a chance to comment.

"You're not ok with us doing this, are you?" Sam asked quietly. Harry couldn't read his expression. "No," he answered. He felt Dean join them as they looked at the blazing sky illuminating the seemingly abandoned home. Dean gave them both a look before starting toward the house. Sam fell into step beside him but Harry followed at a slower pace. Harry's thoughts were bordering on frantic. He shouldn't allow them to kill an innocent person! It wasn't the fault of the victim that it had been changed. If only he knew how to brew the Wolfsbane Potion but even if he did, he would never find the ingredients. He felt that same sense of helplessness that had haunted him for years during his war with Voldemort. They finally reached the house and Harry still couldn't think of a proper solution that wouldn't involve some poor soul's brains splattered everywhere. So, instead he chose to seek out the werewolf in the depths of the house and ignored the sinking feeling he got at the thought of how it's life would be ending in a few moments. He frowned as he caught a small pulsing coming from somewhere beneath the home, probably the basement. It didn't feel like that same pulse he got when he was searching out Remus or any other werewolf he had come across. He came to a stop beside Dean, who was sweeping his eyes over the area with a trained eye. "Are you sure it's a werewolf?" Harry asked uncertainly. "Positive." Dean continued to glance around as Sam moved a few steps away to be able to see the side of the house. "Well, it sure doesn't feel like one," Harry muttered as he walked over to where the front door was dangling precariously on one of its hinges. He felt Dean follow close behind as he gave the door a push and walked inside. The inside was not what Harry expected at all. The walls were a sparkling white and everything was incredibly clean, almost sterilized in its perfection. Harry felt filthy just standing in the beautiful living room. Sam and Dean paused behind him, probably thinking along those same lines, but continued on to investigate the rest of the house. Harry watched them disappear, feeling the pulse coming from below more strongly now that he was inside the house. He glanced guiltily at the brothers' retreating forms as he searched for a door that would take lead him to the basement. He walked through the hallway leading to the kitchen and felt his heart constrict as he noticed the walls were covered in pictures of a smiling family. The woman had beautiful auburn hair and a heart shaped face while the man was more rugged looking. The child on the other hand, was a gorgeous little girl with her mother's feminine looks but her father's intense eyes. They looked happy in every picture.

Harry found the door in the spotless kitchen. It was locked. He hesitated as he felt the pulsing grow more insistent. Shooting a glance at the kitchen doorway, Harry used a push from his magic to open the sealed door and carefully walked down the narrow staircase. He had a difficult time focusing on the stairs as he listened for any sound from below. After the second time he tripped, however, Harry paid attention to putting one foot in front of the other. Oddly, the moment where he tripped in the basement of the inn came to mind. He blushed as he remembered Dean's body pressed against his own and had to make a conscious effort to rid his mind of any stray thoughts. Harry reached the bottom and was greeted with more darkness. He used a few charms to sharpen his vision and was deeply surprised by what it revealed. In the center of the room, chained to a rusty boiler, was the little girl from the pictures. Or, Harry assumed it was the girl. There wasn't much left of her small body to know for certain. Harry approached the figure, swallowing thickly. He stopped a short distance away, feeling sick to his stomach as he noticed the puddle of blood around the young girl. There were flecks of her torn flesh sitting in the dark liquid. It looked mostly fresh. "Harry." He jumped in surprise, and fear, as he heard Dean's voice carrying down the stairs. Harry cast a Lumos to light a few feet as Dean reached him, followed closely by Sam who was supporting a familiar looking woman. She looked on the point of death and seemed to be half asleep as she was carried down the stairs. "Is that the werewolf?" Sam shook his head. "The sun's already set and she hasn't changed. We found her tied to the bed but she hasn't said much." Harry nodded and eyed the woman in concern. Sam twisted her to a more comfortable position and Harry realized, with a shock, that it was the woman from the pictures. He was about to turn to Dean when her head shot up and she stared around the room frantically. "No" she moaned brokenly. "What?" Sam asked gently. She whimpered and shook her head violently. "He's still here." Her eyes fell on the mangled corpse of her daughter and she whimpered again, tears streaming down her gaunt face. "What is she-"

Dean was interrupted by a sudden growl coming from the depths of the mostly darkened basement. Immediately, Sam placed himself in front of the crying woman and Dean, much to the wizard's amusement, stepped in front of Harry. The growling was followed by a crashing noise at their left, causing them to turn in alarm. Then there was silence. The brothers remained still, both facing the space beneath the stairs. Harry, having been molded for combat, felt the air shift before the werewolf had a chance to leap. Harry turned and raised his arm, falling into a firm stance, casting a Mobilicorpus and catching the animal in midair. He was startled to find that the werewolf looked nothing like an actual werewolf. The rugged man from the picture retained all his features, right down to his unshaven face. The only difference Harry could see was the mouthful of sharpened teeth and the crazed animal look in his dilated eyes. Harry was effectively frozen to the spot, mouth agape in disbelief. "That's a werewolf?" he asked incredulously. Sam was busy leading the woman back upstairs but Dean was next to him, pulling Harry to stand behind him as he trained his gun on the motionless animal. "Yes, now run!" "From the werewolf without fur?" Harry asked, still in quite a bit of shock. "Harry!" "Alright, alright" Harry moved back a few steps but didn't leave the room. Dean shot him a warning glare. "The spell will hold for a few minutes." Dean relaxed a bit but kept his gun raised. "Are you going to kill him?" Harry asked quietly. Dean gave him an unreadable look. "He killed his daughter and locked up his wife for dessert. What else would I do with him?" Harry shrugged as he eyed the creature. He turned back when he heard Dean sigh and caught the man rolling his eyes. "What?" "You're pretty good at facing down an evil witch but killing a werewolf makes you squeamish. You're just like Sam." Harry paused as he thought over Dean's words. Why was he being so hesitant about killing this creature? It had murdered its own daughter and was probably planning to do the same to its wife. So why did he feel so heartbroken at the thought of killing it? The answer was simple. Because of Remus, Harry would never feel right condemning another person to death for reasons they couldn't control.

"I had a good friend. He was a werewolf," Harry said. Dean finally turned to look at him. "And he never hurt you?" "Never. But, I guess that had more to do with the potion he was given to keep his mind during the change." "Would you happen to have this potion now?" Harry shook his head and turned away from Dean. He could feel a lump form in his throat as he realized that this man was going to die and Harry would have to stand by and let it happen. It was like being back home, hearing about all the deaths but not able to do anything to prevent them. Helplessness settled painfully in the pit of his stomach. "Well, then we don't really have a choice." Dean pointed the gun directly at the creature's heart but hesitated. He turned to Harry again. It was a millisecond later that the spell wore off and the animal was about to continue his flight, this time directly to Dean. Without thinking, Harry blinked in surprise and felt his magic take control of the gun in Dean's hands then pull the trigger. There was a loud growl, followed by a sharp gunshot, and then the creature crumpled to the stone floor. Dean looked at the gun in his hands then at the fallen figure on the floor before his gaze fell on Harry. His eyes were wild from the sudden shock of adrenaline that had coursed through him at the attack and Harry could feel the same affect on his own body. His heart was pounding frantically and his hands were clenched into tight fists to keep them from shaking. "You ok?" Dean walked those few steps to shorten the distance between them and Harry felt himself do the same. Harry nodded as he came to a stop a few inches from Dean and took a shaky breath. "Sorry for distracting you," he mumbled, green eyes sparkling as Dean caught his gaze. Dean shook his head as he brought his hand up to brush against Harry's cheek, wiping a speck of blood from his skin. He kept his hand there and Harry felt his eyes almost completely close as he leaned into the caress. Dean leaned forward that fraction of an inch and Harry found himself a breath away from the other man's face. He felt his lips part of their own accord and a shock of arousal went though him as he saw Dean's eyes flicker toward his mouth. Harry brought a hand up to brush against Dean's back as he pressed against the other man fully. As if waiting for that exact signal, Dean's lips descended on Harry's with a fury. Harry barely registered the soft feel of the mouth against his own before a tongue pushed past his parted lips and expertly turned his legs to goo. Dean's hand against his cheek moved to the back of his neck and was used to tilt Harry's head back to allow him better access. Harry moaned softly and brought his other hand to get a hold of Dean, balancing

himself enough to give as good as he got and he was thrilled to feel Dean's other hand grip his waist and pull him closer. If he wasn't already aroused, the feel of Dean's hot flesh against his own with only pants separating them would have definitely done the job. He gasped a bit before pressing closer, rubbing against Dean almost wantonly and he heard Dean groan at the feel. Then Harry heard the footsteps. He pulled away from the kiss, another thrill of arousal coursing through him as Dean attempted to pull him closer and reclaim his mouth. Harry dropped his hands and tried to pry Dean's hand from his waist. "Sam's coming," he whispered. Dean looked confused, his eyes still clouded with lust but finally he let go of Harry and muttered, "Damn it." He shot another look at Harry before retrieving his fallen gun and following Harry to the foot of the staircase. Sam's face appeared at the top, clearly visible with the kitchen light shining above him. "I put her in the car but she isn't doing so good. We should probably drive her to the hospital now." "Be right up," Harry said. Sam nodded and disappeared from sight. Harry glanced at Dean who had his attention focused on Harry's backside. He glanced up as he felt Harry's stare and, rather than look sheepish, he gave Harry a lustfilled look and stepped right behind him. He aligned his hips with Harry's and he had to bite back a moan as he felt Dean's still hard arousal rubbing against him. He fought the urge to spread his legs and instead started climbing the stairs. He shivered as he felt Dean's heated gaze on his back. "It was lucky for her that we got there when we did," Sam said , not sounding very pleased. "We did what we could, Sammy. She's alive." Sam didn't respond but Harry knew he was thinking about the two people they didn't save, one of them an innocent little girl. Dean changed the subject but Harry stared out the window of their room, emptying his mind of the events of the night and taking particular care of ignoring the small incident with Dean. His success was short lived as he felt a lull in the conversation, meaning a question had been directed to him. He turned back to the brothers. "Sorry, what?" "We were wondering how old you are," Sam said. Harry frowned in thought. "I should be seventeen by now." Sam gave Dean a look which Dean promptly ignored. "I figured you were younger than Sammy." He didn't sound very disappointed.

"You're just mad I'm still the only 80's child," Sam smirked. "Dude, the 80's had the worst music," Dean said with a grimace. "I barely escaped being one of you techno douche bags." Sam rolled his eyes at his brother but didn't comment. Harry, on the other hand, was pretty confused. "What are you talking about?" Harry asked cautiously. He had a sinking feeling that something was wrong here. Dean groaned. "Don't tell me you like all those fruity bands." "Not that. What you said before about when Sam was born," he said hesitantly. His wary mood seemed to be piercing through their teasing. They shared another look before Sam answered. "I was born in 1983." Harry's mind went blank for a few seconds before it tried to process the information. The sinking feeling turned into a minor panic attack and he had to shake his head to clear his jumbled mind. "But you're older than me," he said frowning. Sam tilted his head in confusion. "Yeah" He gave Harry a questioning look. Harry shook his head again and willed himself to remain calm. "I was born in 1980. So how are you older than me?" Sam and Dean looked completely startled at his declaration and Dean started to protest at Harry's claim but Sam stopped him. "Harry, what year is this?" "1997," Harry answered. The looks he was getting told Harry all he needed to know and he felt the weight of the silence steal his breath away and he very nearly started hyperventilated. He focused instead on the brothers. Dean was walking over to him with a newspaper. He handed it to Harry and sat beside him on the bed as Harry took in the date printed at the top corner. August 16, 2003 Harry decided it was about time for a panic attack so he wasn't sure if he appreciated the loud interruption. Their was a sharp crack in the air beside him and a small feathered object pummeled into him at full speed, knocking him to the ground. Unfortunately, he

was still holding the newspaper so there was nothing to keep the edge of the nightstand from striking his head on his way down. As darkness claimed him, Harry couldn't hold back his disappointment at not being able to throw an epic tantrum. He was running. His desperate dash echoed loudly through the long hallway as he caught sight of his target. He ignored the frantic, pleading yells coming from Remus behind him and instead sped up. The Ministry fireplaces became a blur either from his reckless speed or the unshed tears clouding his eyes behind his glasses, Harry wasn't sure. But he kept her in sight, closing the distance as she tripped over her long, black dress. Finally, reaching a dead end, she turned to face him, all mocking smile and crazed glint in her eyes. "I killed Sirius Black," Bella sang quietly, her words slow and deliberate, piercing through Harry's pain filled mind and further enraging him. He snapped. His wand came up and was pointed at her before his mind even considered it and the curse was out before she finished her sentence. "Crucio," he hissed. He was just as startled to hear that word as Bella was. His voice was not his own and the rage coursing through his veins would have scared him if he gave himself time to think. But there was no time to think. Not with Bella collapsing in front of him and thrashing in pain as she let out an ear shattering scream. The pain was etched into her very soul and Harry did nothing but watch as his wand steadied over her form. Then, just as suddenly, her screams stopped and she was staring up at him, laughing through her grimace of remembered pain. "You're going to need more than righteous anger to make that work, Harry. You have to really want me to be in excruciating pain." She smiled sweetly as she noticed Harry's clenched jaw and she moved to stand. "Come on, Potter. I killed the closest thing you will ever have to a father! You should be-" This time Harry's wand remained at his side. His magic just mixed with his rage and suddenly Bella was crashing into a fireplace. Her hand was soaked in blood where it clutched at her wounded stomach and her eyes were wild with the pain. She opened her mouth but she couldn't take in enough air to be able to scream properly. Harry felt oddly detached. His body was witnessing a disastrous thing that his magic had done to another human being but his mind was too broken to care. He was running on nothing but impulse at this point, his awareness having stayed behind in the veil room. Harry continued to stare at the wounded woman and made no move to stop her when, a moment later, she managed to choke something out and she disappeared in a burst of green flames. And he made no move to run when, seconds later, he felt the burning in his scar alert him to the arrival of the Dark Lord.

He was sitting on the floor. His head was resting against the heavy oak door and his knees were drawn up to his chest with his arms resting limply at his sides. The room was silent as he stared ahead blankly, his magic finally settling after destroying most of the objects within the office. "Harry." He didn't acknowledge the old headmaster; his throat felt raw from all the yelling he had done. There was nothing left to say to him. Harry could yell and place blame on anyone but that wouldn't bring his godfather back. It wouldn't remove the heavy weight that had settled on his heart, making each breath he took painful and unwelcome. "Harry." The voice was gentler now and it would have enraged Harry if he had been thinking of the hypocrisy of the man in front of him. This man who had hidden Harry's future from him in an attempt to 'protect' him. Harry had been manipulated from the moment his parents died. He was forced to live with a hateful family and be abnormal because the headmaster had deemed it necessary. The man had taken it upon himself to try and save the world decades ago and even now that the prophecy referred to someone - to Harry - he still tried to control the situation and, once again, Harry was the one suffering the consequences. It was amazing that he had never seen the headmaster in this light. He had always pictured the man as an infallible being that could single handedly mend the world's problems. But that was what Dumbledore wanted: to be the hero and to hell with the pawns that were shattered in his wake. "Harry," Dumbledore asked, concern seeping into his voice as the young man remained silent. It was beginning to worry him that the anger had vanished from the boy and left him in an empty trance. He approached Harry but stopped as the young man's eyes focused. The remnants of his thoughts were burning in them: a spark of realization and then a harsh distrust. These were gone in a second as Harry's eyes regained their blank stare but kept some amount of awareness. It was an efficient mask he had developed over the course of this trying year. It had never been directed at Dumbledore. He was standing in front of Shane. The man was dressed in muggle attire and Harry liked him immediately for it. They shook hands as Dumbledore introduced him to the new DADA professor. The man smiled widely, his eyes never leaving Harry's. They spoke a few words and Dumbledore informed him that Shane would be instructing him during the course of the year. Harry glanced at the headmaster, easily reading the tiredness in his posture. Still, Harry couldn't help but feel wary about the headmaster's plans. At Harry's questioning look, though, he gave Harry an answer that was long overdue.

"I believe it is about time you have a part in your own destiny." He was sitting in front of the common room fireplace. His borrowed potions book was in front of him along with a notebook and a quill he was using to copy down the many hints written by this mysterious Half-Blood Prince. He had to work quickly if he wanted to avoid being caught with it. He already promised Hermione he would return it and he intended to make good on that promise. He scribbled furiously and frowned as he realized how dangerous it would be to keep the book when Snape was the one teaching Potions. The man had been acting suspiciously ever since Harry had to borrow the book when he was informed of his need to learn as much as he could for the upcoming war with the Dark Lord. The man had very nearly tripped when he noticed which book Harry had claimed. One look was all it took for Harry to feel a nagging thought cross his mind but not quite form itself into words. It had taken a few days and an innocent inquiry with Shane to find out that Prince was Snape's mother's maiden name and the book, logically, belonged to the professor. Nope. Harry could not keep the book and hope to successfully cheat with it. He knew turning it in would make Snape realize that he knew and feared his wrath but that wouldn't be so bad. Besides, no one would be the wiser if Harry copied all the helpful words teenage-Snape had so graciously provided. He just had to make sure not to use any of the spells in front of adult-Snape. He was on the ground. Shane was lecturing him about his reckless nature and how that nature applied to how he fought. Harry couldn't bring himself to care. His body ached and his mind was filled with the anguished sobs of his classmates as relatives disappeared. Harry was wound up so tight these days and so was the rest of the school. He almost wished the outright raids would begin. This waiting and silent destruction was taking a toll on his sanity. A hand on his shoulder prevented him from sinking into his familiar pool of selfloathing. It was often that he fell into a helpless pit in his mind and blamed himself for the constant despair around him. Luckily, Shane was usually around to distract him. "None of this is your fault." He looked away, not being able to face the honesty in Shane's voice. It was easier to be able to blame himself; at least then he had control over something. "It isn't," Shane insisted, reading the look on his face. "Either way, you getting yourself killed for being careless won't sit well with the Order."

"Right. They need their savior," Harry muttered. Shane grabbed Harry's chin firmly and caught Harry's gaze. He was giving Harry a charming grin. "Actually," he said, "I'm worried about my pay check getting docked" He was waking. His thoughts switched from the vague, foggy memories and into a more conscious state, although his head was still buzzing from the emotions that came from those particular memories. His mind eased into awareness and he almost groaned as he registered a harsh pounding in his head. It wasn't so awful but he felt dizzy and he didn't really look forward to opening his eyes. In an attempt to postpone the inevitable, Harry thought back to the event that could have landed him in the Hospital Wing again. Bludger? Voldemort? Harry wouldn't be surprised if he had tripped over a rock and obtained a concussion. With his luck, Harry spent most of his time lying unconscious after some life threatening experience. So, maybe it was Voldemort. No, that couldn't be. His mind was withholding a very important piece of information. Voldemort Dead. Voldemort was dead. And Harry should be dead, too. But he wasn't dead and the scratchy sheets he was lying on most definitely did not belong in the Hospital Wing. Finally, after searching his mind for answers and achieving nothing but a headache, Harry peeled his eyes open. After another harsh pain in his head from the light, Harry took in the crusty paint on the ceiling. Nope, definitely not Hogwarts. He heard a grumble from somewhere to his left and tried to spring up on the bed in a defensive stance. All he managed was to lift a heavy arm to clutch at his head for even thinking of such a dangerous adventure. His hand brushed something on his forehead and he felt something cold pressing to the side of his head. "Finally." Dean. Everything clicked into place as Harry thought of the man sitting in the room. The hunter. Harry was in America, or a different world that happened to be similar to his own minus the magic, and he was bunking with the gorgeous man and his brother. Both who, given the right push, could end Harry's existence with a bang. What was he doing falling asleep where they could easily slit his throat and be done with him? Didn't his training with Shane teach him anything about being smart? And why was there an ice pack on his head?

Gingerly, he removed the object from his head and moved into a sitting position. He must have been out for more than an hour if his head was already clearing so rapidly. Or maybe it was his magic being funny again. "Are you fully conscious yet?" Harry turned to look at the man, confused at his biting tone. His confusion flew out the window as he caught sight of a beautiful white owl perched on the nightstand between himself and the hunter. "Hedwig!" He was completely shocked as the owl hopped over to his lap with a hoot. "You know that damn bird?" Dean glared at Hedwig and the owl hooted indignantly. Harry still couldn't believe that Hedwig was with him. The owl turned her reproachful gaze on him and pecked at his hand, successfully breaking him out of his surprise. "Ow! What was that for?" he asked, glaring at his faithful companion. Harry couldn't help but smirk at her outraged screech, presumably an answer to his question. Dean cleared his throat loudly, catching Harry's attention as well as Hedwig's. The owl ruffled her feathers importantly and gazed imperiously at the annoyed hunter. Harry held back a laugh as they glared at each other and instead took the opportunity to check over his owl. She was just as beautiful as the first day he saw her with only a few things amiss. Her feathers, while still brilliantly gorgeous, were dirty and she seemed smaller than the last time Harry had seen her. Harry immediately stood, ignoring her angry screech as she was dislodged, and crossed the room to the small kitchen. He set to work on making some eggs and toast, taking care to avoid the owl as she swooped over his head to show her annoyance. Once the food was ready, he cut everything into tiny owl friendly pieces and set them on a plate in the center of the table. Hedwig immediately landed on the surface and began attacking the food with a vigor that could compete with Dudley any day. While she ate, Harry gently brushed her feathers free of dirt and then allowed her to finish her meal. He turned back to the beds to find Dean staring at him, amusement fighting for control over his earlier annoyance. "What?" Harry asked as he sat beside the man on the bed. Hedwig continued to eat her food, although she was more dainty now that she realized they were watching her. "I don't even know where to start," Dean said, shaking his head. "She's my owl," Harry said helpfully. Dean shot him a disbelieving look. "You have a pet owl?"

Hedwig gave an angry hoot from the table. "Hedwig, don't talk with your mouth full," Harry reprimanded. "And I wouldn't call her my pet. She's more of a faithful sidekick." He smirked at Hedwig's incredulous screech. "She sure has a lot of spunk for an owl," Dean said carefully. "She's not an average owl, even by wizard's standards." Hedwig stood a little taller at the compliment. "So, you mind explaining why your faithful sidekick tried to give you a concussion," Dean said as he turned his gaze away from the strange creature. "After she appeared out of thin air," he added. "She can apparate. It's a form of transportation, kind of like teleporting." Dean gave him a long look. "And all owls can do this?" Harry rolled his eyes. "Of course not! Hedwig was charmed by a house elf and a brilliant witch so that she could get to me whenever she needed to." Dean looked at the owl again and said, "Just when I thought you couldn't get any weirder." Harry could hear the playful quality in his voice but it still stung to hear his own thoughts voiced by Dean. He quickly stomped down the feeling and gave the man a smile. "Well, I've got to keep you on your toes somehow." Dean was giving him an entirely different look now and Harry suddenly realized how close he was to the other man. He could feel the warmth radiating off of him in waves and it made him lean a bit closer, brushing his shoulder with Dean's. The other man shifted so that the distance between their bodies became nothing but a faint memory. He was leaning in and Harry's heart was pit pattering away to corny song. Harry's eyes shut as Dean's hand traced his arm and stopped at the nape of his neck, pulling him closer. They were a breath away and the moment couldn't have been more perfect A flurry of white feathers and screeching owl forced their attention to the bird that was swooping around them, glaring fiercely at Dean. Harry couldn't help but smile as he caught the other man glaring accusingly up at Hedwig. She hooted back triumphantly and flew over to the table. "I don't think she likes you very much," Harry said. His comment was met with silence and Harry turned to find Dean avoiding his gaze, looking suspiciously guilty. "Dean?" "Hm?" He kept his eyes on a spot above Harry's head. "Did you do something to make Hedwig angry?"

Dean glanced away again and cleared his throat nervously. "She tackled you" Harry stared at the endearing blush on Dean's cheeks. He couldn't help it, all the suspicion melted away as he pictured Dean standing over his unconscious body in an attempt to protect him. It was a strange feeling and he couldn't quite name it at the moment. Still, to keep up appearances, Harry narrowed his eyes and asked, "What did you do?" "I um," Dean finally met his eyes and Harry was surprised at the real regret sitting in the shining green orbs. "I may have shot at her." There was a moment of silence in which Dean shifted uncomfortably and Harry stared at him, debating how best to respond to that. Finally, Dean looked up and raised a questioning eyebrow. "You shot at Hedwig," Harry repeated. He looked the man over carefully, eyeing every bit of exposed skin but didn't find what he was looking for. He looked up again and found Dean looking at him with raised eyebrows and a crooked grin. Harry blushed as he realized what his glances must have looked like. "You aren't going to yell and go all 'bloody hell' on me?" Dean asked cautiously, his grin still in place. Harry shrugged. "Honestly, I'm surprised you weren't pecked to death by Hedwig. In a fight between you and the owl, I'd have my money on her." Dean glared as the owl hooted in agreement. He felt a bit annoyed that the owl was held in such high esteem while he was fighting to stay in the wizard's good graces. He glanced at Harry again, eyes moving to the light smirk playing on his delicate lips. "Don't take it personal. She is my owl and I'm not one to die easily so she wouldn't either." He glanced around, noticing they were minus a hunter. "Where's Sam?" Just then, the door to their room swung open and in walked Sam, nose buried in a thick book Harry recognized. Dean rolled his eyes as his brother ignored them and sat at the table, facing them. A moment passed before Sam even noticed they were in the room. "Oh, you're awake," he announced. Dean gave another eye roll but Harry nodded at Sam with a smile. "And the owl isn't dead." Dean glared at Sam as Harry glared at Dean. Sam chuckled and, much to Harry's surprise, walked over and stroked the owl's feathers. She hooted at the attention and would have been purring if she were a cat. Dean glared at the two. "So, I'm guessing she's yours by the way she tried to murder Dean whenever he went near you."

"Yup. She's my Robin." The owl gave an indignant hoot as Dean snickered beside him. "Hedwig, I think there's a species requirement to be Batman." She ruffled her feathers and turned her back on Harry. Sam gave them a look before shaking his head. "Well, what exactly do you plan to do with her?" "It'll be strange traveling with an owl on the hood of the Impala," Dean supplied. Harry rolled his eyes. "She has wings for a reason, you know. Besides, she's the best tracking owl you'll ever meet. Anywhere we go, she'll be able to find us." Dean stood and stretched. "Good because we really need to get a move on. There's a vengeful ghost wandering around Mississippi with my name on it." He turned to rummage through his duffel and started pulling out clean clothes. "I call first dibs on the shower." "Um, Dean?" He turned to face his brother who happened to be the only other human in the room. Sam pointed toward the closed bathroom door where they could hear the sound of running water and merry whistling. "But I called" Sam shrugged and searched through his own duffel before going back to his book. "You'll get the second shower, Dean," he consoled. Dean glared at him. "Damn Englishmen!" Harry spent the better part of twenty minutes scrubbing himself pink to remove all the grime that had accumulated since their hunt. Cleaning charms worked just as good but nothing could compete with a warm shower. He stepped out feeling refreshed and more relaxed than he had in years. He ignored the grumbling from Dean and walked over to his open trunk, clad in only a pair of green boxers he managed to grab before his dash into the bathroom. He was in the process of wrestling a pair of black jeans from his trunk when he noticed the unnatural silence in the room. He turned, hand still gripping a pant leg, and blushed as he caught Dean gazing at him with as much intensity as he had the first time they met. His eyes swept over Harry's body, sending goosebumps all over his bare skin. But it wasn't that heated gaze that made Harry look away from the older man. It was the flash of emotions that crossed his eyes as Dean took in the few, but prominent, scars on his body. Harry let go of his pants as Dean's gaze reached the agitated flesh where Harry took blood for the tracking potion. Harry shifted uncomfortably as Dean continued to stare, eyes burning with an anger that confused Harry. Before he could even attempt to come up with a good explanation, Sam gestured to his right hand.

"That's not like anything I've ever seen." Harry could tell he was trying to distract Dean from the scar on his other arm and Harry couldn't be more grateful. He felt strangely ashamed to have Dean see that particular wound. Harry allowed Sam to lift his hand and inspect the scar that remained from the nights serving detention with Umbridge. He could still feel the weight of Dean's gaze and it was all he could do to keep from dashing back into the bathroom. "'I must not tell lies'?" Sam let Harry's hand go as he moved to continue trying to coax his pants from the depths of his magically extended trunk. "The wizarding world can be a bit medieval at times," Harry answered. "We had a teacher who was more inclined to make us loyal to the government than to actually teach us." "That's torture," Sam said, eyes as intent as his brothers. Harry finally settled for a slightly tighter pair of jeans instead and then went looking for a shirt. He sighed at the topic but he knew Sam wouldn't let up. "It wasn't on a daily basis. Trust me, she would have been stripped of her magic if it were any other time, but the circumstances were different that year." "So different that they ignored the fact that a teacher was going Jigsaw on her students?" Dean's voice was calm but his gaze never faltered. Harry ignored the reference, not having heard it before, and said, "What was going on was more important than students doing lines with a hexed quill." "What could be more oh." Sam's eyes looked at him with concern and he hesitated before asking, "War?" "War," Harry confirmed. He pulled on a random T-shirt and pulled his jacket on to fight off the chill and cover the scar. The brothers had questions just waiting to be let loose but they didn't ask and that made Harry more willing to talk. "How far into that book are you?" Sam looked a bit disappointed at the change of subject. "Just finished the chapter on Grindelwald's defeat." Harry nodded. "Whatever you want to ask me can wait until after you've read about Voldemort." He thought for a moment, trying to remember if he was mentioned in the book and if it was a good thing if he was. "Potter." "What?" "My name is Harry James Potter." He got nothing but blank looks at that. "It'll make sense when you read the chapter."

There was a moment of silence in which Harry decided to pack up and Dean decided to continue into the shower. Sam, obviously eager to continue reading, grabbed the book and resumed his reading. Harry glanced at him, a feeling of dread making his stomach squirm as he thought about how easily he was revealing his secrets to these men. It scared him a bit to know that he could simply allow these strangers to know his past and let them have that much more of an advantage over him. But that feeling of dread was being stomped down by a hope that Harry couldn't ever remember feeling. He had a hunch that the feeling had something to do with Dean, but he wasn't ready to investigate his thoughts. At least not yet. Harry stared out the window at the passing cornfields. The sun was setting and the rows of yellow burned brightly for a moment as the sun fought to remain in the sky above them. He glanced toward the front and smiled as he noticed Sam's head resting against the open window, eyes closed and hands still wrapped around the thick volume he'd been reading before he dozed off. Harry looked back out the window, careful to avoid glancing at Dean in the driver's seat. The man had been unusually silent from the moment he stepped into the Impala and Harry wasn't sure whether or not he was relieved that Dean hadn't tried to drill him for answers. Harry ignored his conflicting feelings, which he kept holding off for some other time, and wondered where Hedwig went off to. He had given her instructions to stay out of sight unless it was dark and to apparate back if she was in danger. Hedwig had been visibly insulted at the instructions that she already knew to follow. The look on her wise face cheered Harry up for a few miles. It was a great stroke of luck that Hermione had put that charm on Hedwig. Harry was more than grateful that he wasn't facing the dangers of this new world on his own. Even if Hedwig was just an owl, Harry would never forgive himself for leaving behind one of his first friends and it seemed that Hedwig agreed, judging by her initial greeting when she arrived. She would also prove to be very useful if he ever needed to send a letter that needed to be kept secret; Harry didn't trust muggle technology any more than he trusted magic. In fact, Harry was very lucky that Hedwig was such a special owl to begin with. She could track anyone no matter where in the world they resided. She had already proven that while sending his correspondence when his godfather was on the run. Sirius. Harry almost cracked his head on the window as he sat up in realization. Sometimes, he really wondered how he survived so long when it took him ages to piece together something so simple. Hedwig had found Sirius wherever he migrated to and all signs pointed to her being able to do so again.

But, did Harry even want to find him? He had a horrible sinking feeling that even if Sirius managed to land in this world, he had gotten himself killed when he realized that he wasn't dead and on his way to eternity at peace. It was an awful thought but it was actually Harry's least painful scenario. If Sirius wasn't dead, what if he had gone mad? And the worst situation Harry could think of, the most heartbreaking of them all, was that maybe Sirius wasn't dead or insane. Maybe he was happy. Harry felt a pang in his chest as he thought about all that Sirius could have done in a year. He could be living a fulfilling life with a beautiful family and a whole batch of new - normal - best friends. Harry couldn't bring himself to destroy Sirius' life if that was the situation. He would be content knowing his godfather was happy where he was and didn't care to be reminded of what he left behind. Harry glared out the window in an attempt to ward off the tears that were beginning to form. He hated having to make decisions like this. It was one thing to sacrifice his own happiness for the lives of others but to have to consider sacrificing his godfather's was a new kind of pain. But, if Harry pushed his wounded soul aside for a moment and actually thought about the situation, he didn't really see another option. If Sirius did have the white picket fence with the happy family then they were all in danger. Bella would follow through with her promise and everyone Sirius was close to would suffer. It was in Harry's power to protect them and he couldn't just walk away because of his conflicting feelings. Harry was so lost in thought that he didn't realize where they were until the Impala pulled into a 24-hour gas station. He sat back in his seat and watched Dean park the car. The man gave the dashboard a loving tap before turning toward Harry and motioning for him to climb out after him. Harry glanced at Sam's sleeping figure and almost refused to follow Dean out. One look at his face, however, and Harry was scrambling out after him. Dean walked around the lit entrance and toward the restrooms with Harry following at a slower pace. He didn't know what to expect from the man as he stopped in the doorway of the dimly lit convenience store. Harry could hear a conversation going on inside. He was feeling a bit apprehensive at Dean's silence and was completely taken by surprise when the man whirled around, eyes blazing. He took hold of Harry and pushed him roughly against the chipped stone of the store. Harry was frozen, eyes wide as Dean pressed close to him. He should be having a panic attack or attempting to pull the other man off but Harry couldn't bring himself to do either. He had that same fluttery feeling he got every time Dean looked at him. "How?" Dean was gripping Harry's arm. He didn't have to remove Harry's jacket to know what the skin beneath looked like. Harry's breath hitched as Dean's eyes pierced into his soul and made his heart clench. He didn't want to think about what it all meant so he forced out an answer.

"I needed to use blood for a potion," he whispered. Something about the situation made his voice go all breathless and he was becoming very aware of Dean's proximity. His mind wandered to the moment Dean's lips ravaged his own. Harry shivered. "You expect me to believe that?" Dean's voice was morphing into something entirely too appealing and Harry could feel his body responding against his will. He glared at the taller man. "No, I don't expect you to believe anything I say but that doesn't make it any less true." Dean stared into his eyes, searching for something, and then pulled away slightly and loosening his grip on Harry's arm. He didn't let go completely. "You've never" "No," Harry bit out. "I wouldn't off myself. Not with" He trailed off as he realized what he was about to reveal. He hoped Dean wouldn't notice but alas, the hunter was as observant as his little brother. "Not with what?" That intense stare was back. Harry hesitated that fraction of a second before responding. "Nothing." That was the worst answer to any question and Harry wondered why he still tried to use it. "Nothing," Dean repeated. He let go of Harry and gave him a flat stare. "Right." Harry felt an awful sadness crawl into his stomach and squeeze. He narrowed his eyes at the feeling but couldn't figure out what was making him feel so horrible. Ignoring the feeling, Harry gave Dean a glare. "It doesn't matter anymore, alright? I told you my world is gone so it's pointless to go and talk about this." "Fine. I'm not really talking about your world. I'm just wondering what kind of potion would need you to cut down the road instead of across the street." Harry's planned out argument shattered at Dean's words. Why had he practically committed suicide when making the potion? He could have easily just taken blood from somewhere less life-threatening. He looked away feeling his previous shame come back with a vengeance. "I wouldn't have gone through with it," he insisted, his voice coming out in a dejected whisper. A hand reached up and lifted his chin but he shut his eyes, not being able to meet Dean's gaze. "Not with what?" Dean repeated. Harry opened his eyes and was met with a concerned gaze. It confused him to no end that Dean would actually care for his well being. They had only met a few weeks ago and Dean insisted that Harry wasn't to be trusted. Yet, here he was trying to solve the mystery that was Harry Potter and make an attempt to help him feel safe in their presence by acting concerned.

Safe. That was the strange feeling he felt around Dean. It blossomed inside Harry every time he met Dean's eyes and it insisted that Harry follow Dean's lead. For so long Harry had struggled for control over his life but here, in the presence of Dean, he had no problem just letting the older man take control and protect him. Harry trusted him. It was that feeling that formed words out of Harry's mouth in an attempt to get Dean to feel the same. "I was a big part of the war." Dean's gaze remained steady, prepared to catch him if he should fall. "I wouldn't kill myself because my death would condemn hundreds of people. Can we just leave it at that for now?" Dean stared at him for a long moment, expression void of any negative emotion Harry feared to find there. Suddenly, he stepped forward and pulled Harry close. Harry caught a glimpse of green before Dean's mouth pressed against his own in a gentle kiss. He pulled away almost immediately and stepped back with his hand still holding Harry's. Dean said no more but directed him back to the Impala. As Harry watched Dean head to the convenience store, he made his decision. He pulled out a piece of parchment left in his jeans and grabbed a pen from the front seat, being carefully not to wake Sam. He leaned against the car and willed his shaking hand to form legible words: Bella is hunting. Be careful. He tossed the pen back in the car and took a deep breath. He cast a silencing charm around himself before whispering, "Hedwig." The owl appeared with the trademark loud crack of apparition and hooted at the sight of Harry. He stroked her soft feathers before rolling up the paper. "You up for a job?" She hooted excitedly at the prospect. He tied the scroll to her leg with a conjured ribbon. "I want you to take this to Sirius. Just be careful who sees you and make sure he's alone when you give it to him, ok?" Hedwig nodded agreeably and nibbled his finger before flying off into the darkened sky. Harry watched her for a moment but turned back when he felt Dean's presence. The man was staring at the spot in the sky that Hedwig had previously occupied. "That's one smart owl," he said around a mouthful of chocolate. Harry smiled at the man and nicked a chocolate bar before climbing into the car. It was several hours later that Harry awoke to the sound of a ringing cell phone. He was curled up on his side in the back of the Impala when the unfamiliar ring tone filled the empty air inside the car. Sam, who had switched seats with Dean, reached over his sleeping brother and rifled through a dozen cell phones in the glove compartment before pulling one out. "Hello?" His voice was a bit hoarse from sleep but it cleared immediately as whoever was on the other line spoke.

"Yes, sir." He listened for a moment. "Yes, sir. We'll be there by morning." He closed the phone with a snap and tossed it back into the glove compartment. He ran his hand over his hair nervously and let out a shaky breath. "Sam?" The man jumped a bit then glanced behind him as Harry sat up and leaned over the seat. "Are you alright?" "Yeah. Yeah, I'm ok." Harry shot him a disbelieving look but didn't say anything. "It's just my dad." Harry's heart clenched as he heard the clashing emotions bubbling in Sam's voice with that simple sentence. "Is everything alright?" Sam gave a sharp chuckle that was more of a snort. "We've been looking for him for months, trying to reach him any way we could. We thought he was dead but here he is, alive and demanding we drop everything and follow his orders again." "I take it you don't get along." "Him and Dean get along just fine. It's me he hates." Harry tilted his head in confusion and Sam shot him a bitter smile. "We've been hunting since our mom died when I was a baby. I never really fell into the life as easily as Dean did. Me and Dad butted heads too much and I eventually ran off to Stanford. I was as good as disowned after that." Dean shifted a bit beside them and Harry had the strong feeling that he wasn't asleep anymore. He kept his gaze on the morose Sam. "But you're here now. You've been looking for him. That has to count for something." Sam shifted uneasily and glanced at the 'sleeping' Dean. "I wasn't going to look for him at all. Dean came to Stanford and got me to go on a hunt but I was ready to leave it all behind again as soon as he left. But" he glanced at Harry who was gazing at the endless road ahead of him. "The thing that took my mom, it took someone I really cared for. I couldn't just let that go." He shifted again and Harry sensed Sam's tense posture; the man was waiting for Harry to judge his decision. Well, Sam sure had a lot to learn about Harry. Judgmental was one thing Harry would never have a right to be. "So you came along to hunt it," Harry concluded. Sam nodded and glanced at him again. "I want revenge," he said softly. "I know what that's like," Harry responded with his eyes still glued to the road. Sam hesitated for a moment. "I stopped reading after October 1981," he said. Harry shot him another curious look. "It didn't feel right reading about you when it could all be lies to mask something else." "That's very observant of you to think so," Harry said with a smile.

"That's the hunter's way," Sam responded with a knowing nod. "So, your parents they" "He killed them when I was a baby. It's a really long, horrid story that I'll eventually break down to tell you but the point is that Voldemort destroyed my family. I know what it feels like to want revenge." Sam nodded thoughtfully and they remained silent for a few minutes, each processing the new information. Then Sam said, " I think I get why I trust you so much." "My brilliant smile?" He shot a dazzling grin at Sam, who just shook his head with a grin before sobering a bit. "You remind me of us," he said. "There was something about you that seemed familiar to me. I guess this was it." "What? We both had mucked up childhoods?" Sam rolled his eyes but didn't say more as Dean chose that moment to wake up. He stretched a bit before turning a glare on them. "It's damn hard to sleep with you two having a therapy session right next to me," he grumbled. Sam and Harry exchanged a look. "Should we have included you?" Harry asked. Sam smirked at the road as Dean stretched and simultaneously pushed Harry back into his seat. "So where are we going?" Sam's smile vanished and he glared at the road. "Dad," was the only thing he said. After stopping at a diner for a quick meal, the boys drove to a rundown motel on the outskirts of a small town. The town was bathed in a warm light as the sun rose to fight off the early morning chill. Sam parked and gestured for Dean to lead the way. Harry got out and followed them warily. He wasn't too keen on meeting the father hunter who raised two dangerous hunter. Harry flattened his hair over his scar out of habit and stayed close to Sam as Dean knocked on the door of the room. The cocking of a gun could be heard from the other side of the door and Harry almost bolted right there but Sam put a comforting, and restraining, hand on his shoulder. He held his breath as the door opened. Harry's eyes widened as he took in the man in front of him. He was about the age of Sirius and had a rugged sort of charm about him that eased Harry's fears. The fact that a simple look could do that, naturally put Harry on red alert and he stayed plastered to Sam's side as they were led inside and Dean greeted his father.

Once the man focused his attention on Sam, however, Harry moved away and studied the intricate patterns painted on the floor. He stepped closer as he felt a surge of power revolving around the figures. They sort of looked like runes but the weak force they gave off made Harry's magic cringe in disgust. He stepped away from that section of the floor, being careful not to step inside the center. He heard silence behind him and the all too familiar cock of the gun. When he turned, the man had a gun pointed at his chest. "Dad?" Sam asked, alarmed. "Demon," the man said calmly. Harry had no idea what kind of demon he was talking about but he certainly didn't want to find out. He glanced at the closed door behind them but couldn't think of a single thing he could do to get out without harming any one. He stayed frozen to the spot. "Dad, he's not a demon," Dean said. He hesitated a moment before stepping between the gun and Harry. He could feel the unease radiating off of Dean and Harry realized how hard it must be for Dean to stand against his father. It made his heart flutter to think Dean was doing it to protect him. "Then why is he avoiding the Devil's Trap?" the man challenged. All eyes went to Harry and he cringed at the attention. "It feels strange," he said with a glare back at the offending piece that dared mimic real magic. "Strange," Sam repeated. "Weak," he clarified. "My magic's not too fond of it." His eyes were still staring at the floor so he missed the disbelieving look on the older man's face. "Magic?" he asked incredulously. "It's a long story but Harry's been traveling with us for a while," Sam put in. "He's a wizard." There was a very long pause in which Harry thought he would get his brains blown out but then the man lowered his gun. "How do I know you didn't put some curse on my boys?" he asked. Harry bit his lip in thought. "Well, I'd be out the door in a second if I had control over any of you. As it is, I'm standing surrounded by dangerous hunters who hate witches." The man still looked unconvinced but he felt sure enough of himself to step up to Harry, towering above him. Harry mentally cursed his small stature and took a step back from the man, glaring a bit as he was scrutinized.

"He's saved our lives more than once," Dean said. "And we were the ones to drag him along in the first place." "What's your name?" "Harry Potter, sir," Harry answered. The man's eyes scrunched in thought but he shook his head and nodded to him. "John Winchester," he supplied. "Like the rifle?" All three nodded. "That's comforting," he muttered. John gave him a raised eyebrow and turned back to his sons. "Would someone care to explain why you have a wizard with you?" It took longer than expected, but finally the whole story was out and John wasn't gazing at Harry with so much suspicion. Harry had perched himself as far from the hunter as he could manage and this seemed to amuse the other men. "If you're some big time wizard, then why do you seem so cautious around us mere mortals?" John asked with a grin. Harry shot him a glare. "I'm a wizard, not some fruity godlike creature. Besides, your son's already shot at me and my sidekick so I'm just being careful. Like you are with the knife up your sleeve." John looked a bit startled at Harry's observance but was interrupted by a soft tap at the window. In a second, all three men were on their feet and reaching for some type of weapon. Harry was crouched by the window, having chosen the spot with a quick exit, so he caught sight of the white feathers before they did. "It's Hedwig," he breathed, standing to unlatch the window. The owl climbed in gracefully and shot Dean a glare before sticking out a leg for Harry to see the parchment attached to her leg. Harry's heart sank as he realized it was the same one he sent to Sirius and it didn't seem to have been opened. He pulled off the parchment and muttered a thank you to Hedwig. He unrolled the piece and frowned as his suspicions were confirmed. He felt Sam walk up behind him as his own words stared up at him. He was about to crumble the paper when an added scribble caught his eye. Beneath his messy scrawl, in a corner of the parchment, were words written in a hand he thought he'd never see again. Harry's eyes threatened to water as he realized what this meant and he didn't register the words until Sam's voice interrupted his thoughts. "How do you know Bobby Singer?" "How do you know Bobby Singer?"

Harry took in the words scribbled beneath his own warning on the crumpled piece of parchment. It was only a name: Bobby Singer. Harry had no idea who this person was or how Sirius knew him but he had a feeling, by the way they were looking at Harry, that the Winchesters knew exactly who Booby Singer was. "I have no idea who he is. But the person Bella's after does," Harry said in a perfectly steady voice. "Who is he?" Before Dean or his father could give a cautious answer, Sam responded, "He's another hunter." John shot him a stern look which he promptly ignored. He, instead, chose to plop down next to Harry by the window and reached a hand out to pet Hedwig. He looked a bit tense as he mostly turned his back on his father. Dean gazed at Harry, expression guarded and said nothing. Harry's instincts forced him to recognize the slight changes in the Winchesters' behavior but overall, he remained focused on the new problem. How did Sirius become associated with a hunter? Could he have been captured by this hunter once the man realized what Sirius was? "Potter," John repeated, mostly to himself. The thoughtful expression was back. "You wouldn't be related to James Potter, would you?" Harry's heart stopped. It took him a moment to remember how to breathe but he still wasn't strong enough to stand. He turned to face John's questioning gaze and found himself the center of attention, once again. It didn't bother him as much as before. "He's my father," Harry said quietly. "How do you know about him?" Every bit of suspicion was gone from John's gaze and, of course, this minor detail had Harry tensing in preparation for an attack. A hunter at ease wouldn't be a good thing for a wandering witch or wizard. "I knew I recognized that name. Black never shuts up about him, especially after a few drinks," John snorted fondly at the thought. Harry, meanwhile, was having a hard time processing John's words. He had a feeling he should be shooting off questions but he remained silent, watching the hunter wearily. "Harry?" He met Sam's worried gaze. Sam, who trusted him enough to blurt out family secrets. Sam, who felt he could relate to the strange wizard. Harry finally saw what Sam must have realized the very first day they met; the tiredness in Sam's gaze, it was what Harry felt all the time. Harry turned back to John, feeling better at the familiarity he felt around the other man. "Black? Sirius Black?" "The very same," John answered. "This witch, Bella, she's after Sirius?"

Harry nodded, unable to do anything else. "That explains the note then. Last time I heard from Sirius, he was heading out to Bobby's to get his bike fixed. That was a few weeks ago." "Well, that makes our job a lot easier," Sam said as he stood and faced the other hunters. "We should head out to Bobby's as soon as possible." His father gave him another one of those quelling stares but Sam, Harry was beginning to realize, was not someone to be easily quelled. He met his father's gaze and stood a little straighter. Harry looked toward Dean and found him staring at his father and brother. Harry could read the helplessness in his gaze easily enough. "I called you boys out here for a reason, Sam." John's voice was firm, brooking no argument. He glanced at Harry a moment before continuing. "I have a lead on something that could kill it." The tense silence following his words did nothing to appease Harry's growing curiosity. John must be talking about the thing that killed their mother. Harry felt like he should slip out of the room and leave them to their private affairs. Unfortunately, Sam and John were still engaged in their fierce staring contest - right in Harry's path to the door. He was contemplating making a quick exit through the window when Sam broke the silence. "A lead," Sam repeated flatly. "And, would this lead be so reliable that you can risk leaving Bella alone to her killing sprees, sir?" "Sam," Dean's voice was a warning but it seemed more an automatic reaction to what must occur often between the two men in front of him. "It's good enough, Sam," John answered. His tone was that of a parent. It was an order to accept the truth given and follow, no questions asked. Sam, of course, would not accept or follow. Harry admired him all the more for it. "No, it isn't, sir. Bella's out there killing innocent people! We have to do something while we still can!" "Hunting some half rate witch is more important to you than getting to what killed your mother, what killed your girlfriend?" John said, glaring at his son. Sam hesitated a bit at the mention of his girlfriend but Harry could see he wasn't anywhere near done. He stood up and caught their attention easily. "Maybe you should go with him, Sam." The other man's eyes widened incredulously. He was getting ready to protest so Harry went on, "Bella isn't your responsibility, she's mine." John gave him a calculating stare and Harry fought to stay still and hold the man's gaze. If he could stare Snape down, then this hunter shouldn't be a problem.

"Dad," Dean's hesitant voice broke their gaze. They turned to find Dean standing, gaze fixed on his father's. "This witch, she's powerful and dangerous. Maybe we should focus on her first. She may not seem as powerful as what we're after but she's causing the most pressing problems." "Powerful," Harry muttered. Something about the way they tiptoed around the thing's name or form and how they were so hesitant to leave the thing alone, strongly reminded Harry of Voldemort. That was never a good thing, especially if the creature turned out half as bad as Bella's master. "You want to go chasing after this witch, too." It wasn't a question. It was a statement said in a tone filled with disbelief and more than a bit of disappointment. Harry's legendary temper flared as Dean's shoulders slumped a bit at his father's words. "This thing you've been chasing for so many years," Harry said steadily. "It's obviously powerful if you haven't killed it yet. And probably fairly dangerous?" Sam nodded while his father shot him another glare at how much Harry knew. "What's your point, boy," John said sternly. "Well, Bella tends to gravitate toward powerful and dangerous things. If this thing is as powerful as you say, then Bella will have no problem allying herself with it," Harry said. Then, as an after thought, "Or she'll just kill it and take it's place. She's no amateur, either." John sighed as he realized he was outnumbered in this argument. "She's really this dangerous?" Harry shook his head. "I'm not giving her nearly enough credit." It took another staring contest before John finally agreed to what Sam and Harry were telling him. Dean stayed mostly out of the conversation but Harry had a feeling it was Dean's short, but firm input that really made John realize the severity of the situation. So, after cleaning up the place (by hand) Harry was riding in the backseat of the Impala with the brothers, John's beat up truck leading the way to Bobby's house. Harry was slumped down in his seat, staring at the cushion in front of him blankly. He had given up on his bird watching when it became apparent that he couldn't pull his mind from thoughts of his godfather long enough to focus on anything. He was feeling a number of emotions that he couldn't even be bothered to name. In the past hour alone, Harry had discovered so much about his godfather. Harry now knew that whatever illusions he held of Sirius and the white picket fence life were foolish. Sirius was reckless, foolhardy, and an idiot but he was also generally against all evil things. So, naturally he would be attracted to the life of a hunter. Harry wasn't sure how he felt about Sirius' new occupation but something else was bothering him. It was the revealing conversation he had with John. After some thought, Harry realized what had him feeling so out of sync. Beside the panic over meeting up with his 'dead' godfather, it was the fact that Sirius spoke of James to John. The hunter

seemed to be recalling so many stories of James but he never once made any comment of Sirius mentioning James' son. Harry had the horrible feeling that maybe Sirius hadn't mentioned him. It would make sense, of course. Why would Sirius want to be reminded of what he had left behind. James was dead in both worlds so it wouldn't really bother Sirius to talk about his best friend. But to talk about a kid he barely knew Well, Harry couldn't blame him. He had lead Sirius to his death after forcing him to remain on house arrest to avoid trouble. If Harry really thought about it, all of Sirius' problems, beginning with his incarceration, were Harry's fault. Sirius had every right to want to forget all about him. The thought didn't make Harry feel any better but it made him feel more sure of what he was walking into. If Sirius didn't care to talk about him, then he would have no objections when Harry left to start his own life in this Voldemort-free world. Harry slumped even further into his seat and banished the thoughts from his mind. He had to focus on getting rid of Bella before entertaining thoughts of a normal life. He wasn't entitled to normal until he earned it and he was pretty sure offing Bella would do the trick. His train of thoughts crashed into a wall as he glanced up and caught Sam gazing at him worriedly through the mirror. He was really far more like Hermione than Harry had first thought but Harry wasn't too thrilled of this fact at the moment. "You're not telling us something," Sam concluded as he stared back at Harry. "I'm not telling you a lot of things," Harry responded. "About Sirius Black, I mean," Sam said, ignoring Harry's childish response. "The day we left that town in Colorado, you mentioned him." Harry tilted his head in thought and realized what Sam meant. "Yes, I did." "I don't expect you're going to tell us why you said what you said," Dean said as he sped up to keep up with his father's brisk pace. "He's an idiot," Harry said simply. "And he's died before?" Dean asked as he shot Harry a quick glance through the rearview mirror. Harry hesitated. "It's a long story" "Give us the short version, then," Dean said. Harry studied his face in the mirror. The other man looked tense in a way Harry had never seen. It was as if he were expecting Harry to admit his alliance to the dark side. There was something in his eyes, something Harry had seen in Hermione when Ron spoke to Lavender. Dean was jealous. Harry's heart jumped and he had to repress a nervous giggle.

"Sirius is my godfather," Harry said. He bit back a grin as Dean relaxed and shot his little brother a glare when Sam snickered. Before Dean could reach over and do some damage to Sam's already tousled hair, Harry leaned forward in between them and remained a safe distance from Dean. There was no need to get into a car accident because Harry couldn't keep his hands to himself. "So," Sam said, turning his body to face Harry. "He's your godfather." Harry wasn't sure why he was telling them anything. They could easily just believe that Sirius had always been a hunter and Harry just happened to know him. It would be easy enough and sure there would be questions but it beat having to spill his guts to two men he hardly knew. What bothered Harry about the situation was that he wanted to tell them everything. He was tired of carrying this weight on his own and normally it wouldn't have been a problem. But Sam had pointed out their similarities. Harry was like them on so many levels and that fact made him more willing to tell them everything. He took a deep breath and nodded to Sam. "He was best friends with my father. I only found out he was my godfather a few years ago. Before then, he was just an escaped convict." Sam's eyes were wide. "He was in jail?" "Wizard jail. It's the closest thing to hell you'll ever find. He was there for twelve years until he escaped and went looking for me. We all thought he wanted to kill me but he was really after the person who betrayed my parents." "Betrayed your parents? I thought Voldemort was the one that killed them," Sam said hesitantly. Harry stared at the back of John's truck, feeling oddly peaceful in the presence of the Winchesters. It was strange how easily he was telling his life story to them but it helped that they knew next to nothing to begin with. "Voldemort had followers like any other tyrant seeking power. One of those followers happened to be one of my dad's other friends, Peter. When my parents found out Voldemort was after them, they cast a spell to hide their location and used him as the secret keeper. He sold them out and then disappeared." "Damn," Dean muttered. "But how did Sirius end up in jail." "Well, he was my dad's best friend so everyone assumed my parents had chosen him as their secret keeper. When they were killed, he went after Peter but ended up being framed and shipped off to Azkaban. He escaped during my third year at Hogwarts when he realized Peter was at the school." Both men remained silent, taking in the information. Harry rested his head on his folded arms and waited for the next round to begin.

"You said Sirius died. How exactly did that happen?" Sam was being tentative, probably worrying that Harry would ask him to bud out. Harry smiled into his arms. "He didn't, I suppose. After I found out the truth, Sirius went on the run. It was a year after that when Voldemort made his return and Sirius offered his old family home to the Order." Sam nodded knowingly but Dean looked confused. "It was a resistance formed by the headmaster of Hogwarts to fight Voldemort." "So, Voldemort wasn't really destroyed the night he tried to kill you?" Dean nearly veered off the road in alarm at Sam's words. Harry pretended not to notice. "Not all of him was destroyed. That's one of the many things wrong with magic; things that are dead don't tend to stay that way," Harry said. "So, Voldemort was back and the Order members, who weren't destroyed the first time around, were fighting again, Sirius included. They had a hard time of it because the Ministry refused to acknowledge Voldemort's return." "Is that how you got" Sam gestured toward his right hand where I must not tell lies was permanently etched onto his skin. Harry nodded. "The Minister appointed one of his lapdogs to teach at Hogwarts so that he could keep an eye on the headmaster. She wasn't really fond of my outbursts during class." He flexed his hand as he remembered the sting of the words being carved into his skin. "Anyway, Voldemort set a trap for me at the end of that year and I played right into it. Sirius, being the idiot that he is, followed the Order when they went out to get me. Bella caught him with a stunner and he fell through a veil, which everyone thought lead to death." "So, you all thought he was dead until now?" Harry nodded. "Until I fell through the veil a year after he did, I was sure he was dead." "Wait," Dean interrupted. "If everyone thought the veil killed, then how did you end up going through it?" Harry paused. "I know what you're thinking," he told Dean. The man had that same silent fury in his eyes as when he questioned Harry about the wound on his arm "But that's a lot weightier than I'm ready to answer." "Tough, " Dean snapped. "How did you end up falling through the veil?" "How did your mother die?" Harry retorted. "A demon killed her," Dean's eyes were narrowed but facing the road. Harry was glaring at the dashboard. "Now, talk." Harry's glare softened as he caught a pleading tone in Dean's voice. "Voldemort wasn't after my parents. He was after me."

"When you were a baby?" Sam asked. Harry nodded. "There was a prophecy that predicted his downfall at the hands of a child. I happened to fit the bill. He was already immortal when he killed my parents." Harry hesitated. "He used a type of dark magic to make sure he couldn't be destroyed. He split his soul into eight pieces and placed them into objects he could guard until he needed them. So, he came after me knowing it was impossible for someone to defeat him." "How did you survive?" "My mother died protecting me. Her sacrifice left me protected, so when Voldemort attacked, his spell destroyed him instead." "But he wasn't really destroyed." "No, he still had eight soul fragments to keep him alive. So, he found one during my fourth year and started terrorizing the world again." Harry glanced at Dean. "The prophecy still applied, however, and after the headmaster finally let me in on my future, I started hunting down the soul fragments using a tracking potion." "Why would a tracking potion work?" Harry almost groaned at Dean's question. "Voldemort couldn't touch me because my mother's protection flowed through my blood. Solution: share blood with me. The tracking potion worked because my blood would sense his." "Ok, but how would that lead you to his soul fragments?" Wow, Harry sure picked the smartest hunters to socialize with. He shot Sam a look. "It shouldn't have. Voldemort didn't kill me but he put a piece of his soul inside me." Harry lifted the hair covering his forehead and showed them his famous scar. "Kinky," Dean said after a quick glance. Harry rolled his eyes. "So, I destroyed all the other soul fragments and eventually killed Voldemort in the veil room. All that was left was the piece inside of me. I was fighting Bella and I was still under the impression that the veil killed, so I jumped through with her." "You jumped through," Dean repeated. His voice was tense. "I had to die to make sure Voldemort couldn't return." "That's a really messed up future you had," Sam said quietly. "How are you still alive?" "Your guess is as good as mine. But, I'm positive the soul fragment is gone." He sat back in his seat.

Sam glanced at Dean before turning to Harry. "You seem pretty calm about all of this, considering the fact that your destiny was to sacrifice your life to kill a monster." Harry smiled. "I wasn't calm about it when I found out, right after Sirius fell through. But, kicking and screaming wasn't going to make a difference. My life wasn't my own and the sooner I accepted that, the sooner everyone stopped dying." His words were met with silence. "Kid, you really don't act your age," Dean finally said. "I never got a chance to," Harry replied. "Besides, I'm twenty-four. Technically." "No, you're a seventeen year old who happens to be in a different year," Sam corrected. "Technically." Harry rolled his eyes. "Whatever," he said, imitating their accents. Bobby's house was exactly what Harry expected. It was a rundown, haunted looking manor. Plants grew undisturbed around the house and random animals roamed around the unkempt lawn. The Impala followed the truck around to the back of the house where Harry was surprised to find dozens of cars scattered in rows, some stacked together, others on their way to being rebuilt. The Impala Pulled in easily and Harry saw John climb out of his truck and the boys did the same. Harry allowed Dean to pull him out of his seat and steady him as Harry took in his surroundings. He wasn't sure he could walk on his own and he had the feeling Dean realized this. The man led Harry to the trunk where he bustled around for his duffel bag until Harry could stand without supporting himself on the car. Dean tossed the bag to Sam and they joined John at the back door of Bobby's old home. Feeling a bit lightheaded, Harry stumbled a few times on the rocks but managed to stay on his feet with the help of Dean. John kept shooting the both of them searching looks. Finally, after years of walking, their group made it to the door where John gave a series of complicated knocks. Harry heard shuffling inside and he held his breath. He stepped back unconsciously, putting Dean a few inches in front of him. The other man glanced at him and stepped a little closer to him, nearly blocking him completely from view. The door creaked a bit as it opened, like in old horror films right before the monster jumped out and killed the innocent pizza man, and Harry got his first look at the very alive Sirius Black. The man was taller than Harry remembered but that most likely had to do with how his godfather held himself, back straight and head held high. He was about the same height as the lanky Sam standing in front of him. Harry's eyes took in the short hair, not a hint of white in the jet black mass, and the eyes Harry only remembered from pictures. They were no longer haunted and cold, but mischievous pools of grey. Harry continued to inspect his godfather while John stepped forward to greet Sirius. Words were being spoken but the ringing in his ears kept him from listening to what

was being said. He gave his head a mental shake and forced his mind to focus. It wouldn't be welcome if he took off and hid under the Impala. He tuned in to the conversation just as Sam stepped forward to shake the man's hand. John finally introduced Dean, who merely nodded to him, refusing to move from in front of Harry. Sirius tilted his head in confusion at Dean's greeting, but then he caught sight of who Dean was standing in front of. His eyes widened to an impossible size as he gazed at Harry. There was a moment of silence in which the Winchesters looked back and forth between them, expecting some type of excited greeting from the two. But Harry stayed where he was, half hidden behind Dean, and Sirius just stared at him, emotions flashing in his eyes so fast it made Harry's head hurt. Finally, Sirius cleared his throat. "Come on in. Bobby's up in Canada so he won't be back for a few weeks." He stepped aside and the Winchesters moved through the door, Dean hesitated before stepping through with Harry right behind him, avoiding Sirius' piercing gaze. They moved through the kitchen and into a cozy living room packed with large, dusty books and stacks of papers. Light was pouring in from the large window, illuminating the dusty furniture scattered carelessly around the room. Harry forced himself to remain standing as they stopped in the living room. Sirius continued to look at him as he leaned against a desk by the fireplace. John took a seat by the large window, but Sam and Dean remained with Harry, one on each side of him. Harry would have found it amusing if his heart hadn't just broken into thousands of pieces. The room was unnaturally silent as Harry stared at his godfather. He made sure to keep his face completely clear of emotions but he knew Sirius would be able to read the panic in his eyes. It was all Harry could do to keep himself in the same room as Sirius. He thought he could face him again, that everything would fall into place when he was confronted with his godfather, and he had even entertained thoughts of his godfather welcoming him just like that day long ago when Harry found out the truth. But, now Harry wasn't so sure he wanted Sirius to accept him so easily because he couldn't see himself doing the same. Those feelings he thought he banished from his soul, the hate and sadness that festered in his core, they were all back with a vengeance and Harry had to restrain his wayward magic from destroying anything. "Talk about awkward," Dean muttered. Harry glanced at him and caught his calm, amused gaze and it calmed him a bit. His magic settled in a rush. "So," John said to Sirius. "I thought you were going to head out as soon as your bike was running." Sirius tore his eyes away from his godson. "I was, but there's a shape shifter making trouble in town. Bobby asked me to take care of it before I left." His voice was clearer than Harry remembered and he had a hint of an American accent. John nodded. "Anything we can help you with?"

"It's been fairly quiet for the past few days." He turned back to Harry. "What I really want to know is what's going on with Bella." Harry took an involuntary step back as all eyes zeroed in on him. He glared at Dean as the man's eyes twinkled in amusement but schooled his features into the blank mask when he looked at Sirius. It was difficult to get his thoughts to slow down long enough to answer but Harry managed it in a steady voice, his accent becoming a bit thicker from his nerves. "She knows you're alive and she's set on coming after you," Harry answered. Sirius continued to look at him, expression caught between sadness and pride. His features were alight with something Harry had never seen before: hope. Harry had never seen that emotion cross Sirius' eyes and it broke his heart all over again to think that it took Sirius' 'death' to return that to him. John cleared his throat. "Well, me and my boys will check around town. We'll be back in a few." He nodded to his sons as he stood and walked from the room, not giving anyone the time to protest. Sam and Dean shared a look but John was already starting his truck. Sam hesitated a moment but eventually shot Harry a worried smile and walked toward the back door. Dean bumped shoulders with Harry and gave him a charming wink as he followed his little brother. And finally, Harry was alone with Sirius. He was smiling softly at Harry. "You've grown." "Barely," Harry said, gazing helplessly as the truck disappeared down the road. Sirius heaved a great doglike sigh and Harry turned to find him running a hand through his hair. The length was just a bit longer than Sam's hair and it made Sirius look years younger. "So?" Sirius asked expectantly. His shoulders were slumped and his mouth was pulled into a pained from. He looked like a giant kicked puppy. "Er. So, what?" After the initial panic attack Harry had at seeing Sirius, Harry was left feeling oddly empty. He couldn't bring himself to feel anything and he was honestly confused at Sirius' behavior. "You must have a lot you want to tell me," Sirius said ducking behind the strands of hair that fell into his eyes gracefully. "Well, er, Remus and the Weasleys are doing fine. Hagrid's discovered cougars and-" "That's great but it wasn't what I meant," Sirius said. He gave Harry a sad smile. "You aren't going to yell. I'm well overdue for a good lecture over what happened." Harry shrugged, feeling his throat constrict as he thought back to that awful year right after Sirius fell through the veil. After having endless nightmares of that night, Harry

started dreaming of the moment where he would be faced with his godfather once more. His reactions had always varied, he would be tearful in one dream but furious in another. It was odd facing his dream in reality; he didn't know how to react now. "It won't really change anything, will it?" Harry responded hoarsely. "Fine," Sirius announced after a moment. "You won't say anything so listen." He marched over to where Harry was standing and promptly deflated. "I'm sorry," he whispered. Harry was taken aback at the sadness in Sirius' voice. Tears threatened to cloud his eyes and he had to turn away from the sorrowful picture his godfather made. "Sirius," he began but the man held up a hand and shook his head. "I was beyond stupid to do what I did," Sirius said. "And I can't imagine what you've gone through, but you have to know, I would do anything to change it all." Harry honestly couldn't think of anything to say to that. Sirius' words, while earnest and true, felt inadequate to Harry. He had spent a whole year trying to piece himself back together with the firm belief that he would never have his chance at happiness and he couldn't see a few words making everything better. Sirius seemed to read his mind. "I know it isn't enough. But I'll do everything in my power to make it up to you, Harry. I promise you that." Harry shook his head. "Sirius, you don't have to-" "Yes, I do. I spent this past year trying to get back to Hogwarts, back to you and now that you're here-" "Wait, what?" Sirius had spent the year trying to make it back to him? Sirius nodded. "Why do you think I became a hunter? If I had any chance of getting back, it would be by sticking close to the magic of this world." Harry didn't know how to take this piece of information. Sirius' declaration didn't have a place among Harry's anger and pain. It was too confusing a thought for Harry to process at the moment. Luckily, he was saved from having to respond when the truck pulled in right in front of the house and the Winchesters burst out. Sirius rushed to open the door and all three Winchesters flew in, looking grim. "Looks like your shifter isn't so quiet anymore." "Can someone tell me why I'm staring at a piece of flesh?" Dean rolled his eyes at the wizard's disgust. "Because you refuse to touch it." He smirked at Harry's glare.

"That's the skin of a shape shifter. We found it at the crime scene of a homicide. The wife apparently killed her kids and took off. She was arrested at the grocery store of all places," Sam said. Harry looked closely at the rubbery skin sitting on the kitchen table. He had the strong urge to see what it felt like but he restrained himself and instead looked toward Sirius and John. His godfather was looked exactly as Harry imagined when he thought of Sirius as an Auror. He was calm and unnaturally serious while he spoke to the other hunter. He turned to Dean. "So, why do you want me to look at it?" "Sirius has already looked everywhere the shifter could have been. We thought you'd have better luck," Dean answered as Sirius and John joined them at the table. "You know, Black, it would have been nice to know you were a wizard when we went off on all those hunts together," John said as he sat next to Dean. Sirius tilted his head, looking the picture of innocence. "Well, you didn't ask." John rolled his eyes. "All I'm saying is we wouldn't have half the scars if you had just clued me in earlier." "With your way with people, I doubt that's true." John let out a laugh that successfully baffled the brothers. They shared a raised eyebrow look and gazed at their father with more than a hint of suspicion. "Alrighty," Sam said. "What's the plan?" "You two are going with Sirius down to that neighborhood at dark. We think it'll go back tonight and we need eyes there," John said. The brothers nodded and set to packing up silver while Sirius grabbed his jacket. Harry remained leaning on the table, keeping his gaze on John. "What about me?" Harry asked. "You'll be coming with me." Harry was sitting stiffly in the passenger seat of John's truck. They were on their way to the crime scene of the latest murder and John hadn't said a word to him since they climbed into the truck. It was making Harry feel anxious and the gun across John's lap wasn't doing anything to calm Harry. Finally, Harry let out a breath. "Why do I get the feeling you want me to feel as uncomfortable as possible?" John smiled at the road. "How did you know I had a knife up my sleeve?"

Harry shrugged. "Practice." "The boys say you're as sharp as any hunter and Sirius never let on that you were trained. So, how is it that someone your age can do so much." Harry glanced at the man but couldn't read his expression. "Why does that matter?" "My boy's taken a liking to you," John said. Harry's heart fluttered but he answered. "I'm sure Dean takes a liking to a lot of people." "Not like this," John said. "But I think you already realized that." "So, you're trying to get to know me, to make sure I won't stab him in the back," Harry concluded. "Son, you sure are one of a kind," John laughed. "Yeah, that was the plan." Harry didn't really see the problem with that. It made him feel better to think that John would protect his son so fiercely. "Ok," Harry said as they came to a stop in front of the house. "What do you want to know?" "There's no way the shape shifter's still hanging around that place with everyone on red alert." Sam stepped into Bobby's living room after shaking the leave from his clothes. Sirius followed behind him, shaking the dirt from his hair like a dog. Dean entered after them, grumbling about the mud on his car. "We should have walked," he huffed. Sirius let out a bark of laughter as he came back from the kitchen. "She'll live." "I hope Harry and Dad have more luck," Sam said, plopping down on a spindly chair by the window. He pulled the heavy curtains closed to close out the darkened sky and he flicked on a lamp at his side. He frowned as he noticed Dean shifting restlessly. "I need to go clean her up," Dean finally said. "Yell if they get back, alright?" Sam nodded and watched his brother go before turning to look at Harry's godfather. The short time they had spent with him didn't explain why Harry would be so hesitant to talk about him. The man was funny and clever and he clearly thought the world about his godson. He was an ok guy and Dean had eventually warmed up to his playful nature. "What's the matter, Sam?" Sirius asked as he sat across the table from him. Sam hesitated, wondering whether he was crossing some line. "Harry doesn't talk much about you," he finally blurted out.

Sirius' smile vanished. "I don't blame him. I haven't done anything to make his life any easier." "He cares about you," Sam said with certainty. Sirius smiled sadly. "I don't deserve it," he said with a sigh. "I'm guessing he told you most of what happened." Sam looked surprised. "Yeah, most of it." "I expected as much. I'm grateful you boys are so protective of him," Sirius said. "I didn't do a good job of it back in our world." "It wasn't your fault you ended up here," Sam protested. Sirius shook his head. "It wasn't only my fault, but I should have known better. Harry was just a kid fighting to keep what little he had in his life and I was too busy drowning in self-pity to see how much I was hurting him." The front door creaked open and a voice called out, "Sam?" Sam rushed to the hall and Sirius stayed put, not sure whether he should follow. He could hear their muffled voices by the front door and it broke his heart to think that Harry wouldn't want to speak to him; instead he went to the Winchesters for help. He had just seated himself when Harry came in, soaking wet with a bloody hand. Sirius was on his feet in a heartbeat, rushing to Harry's side as his godson looked up at him with pained green eyes. "Harry, what happened?" He tried to grab Harry's hand but the boy was cradling it to his chest protectively. "We just ran into the shifter. Everything's fine, but I could use some help with this." He nodded toward his injured hand. "Yeah, come on." Sirius turned to lead Harry toward the kitchen. "Where's-" A sharp pain in his head cut his words off and he crumpled to the rough carpet, shards of glass falling around him. "Oh, baby, don't worry. I promise to give you a good wash first thing in the morning," Dean cooed as he did his best to rid the Impala of the offending dirt. "It's alright, you'll be better than new when I get done." "Dean?" He almost tripped over the bucket of water as he heard Harry's voice. He turned and squinted in the dim light at the approaching figure.

"Harry? I told Sam to call when you got back. Where's Dad?" He swallowed thickly as he took in the soaking form that came to a stop in front of him. Harry's jeans were a dark blue and his long sleeved shirt was dripping water. "They're all out in front. We got to the shape shifter before it could change forms." Harry stepped closer. "What happened to your hand?" Dean asked as he caught sight of the fresh bandage. He pulled it up to inspect in the light and frowned at the poor job that had been done on the wound. "Just a little set back," Harry answered, eyes twinkling up at Dean as he stepped right up to Dean. "What are you doing back here?" Dean swallowed again as Harry pulled away from him to lean against the Impala. "The road didn't treat her too well." Harry pulled on Dean's hand. "Is that so?" Dean held his breath as his body came into contact with Harry's soaking wet form. "You shouldn't be out here with your clothes all wet," Dean said as Harry hopped onto the hood of the Impala. "You might catch something." Harry pulled him in between his conveniently spread legs, eyes blazing with mischief. "Well, I guess I should get out of these clothes as soon as possible." And with that, he pulled Dean in for a heated kiss. Dean couldn't resist sliding Harry closer to his body. He put every bit of confused passion he had for the wizard into that sloppy, tongue filled kiss. Harry's hands were everywhere, in his hair, pulling his shirt from his jeans, and doing everything possible to get Dean closer. Harry pulled away with a gasp as Dean pressed his body completely to his own. He shivered as Dean slowed down and nipped gently at his neck. "What's gotten into you?" Dean asked against his skin. His eyes were closed so he missed the shine of a gun meeting the light. But he certainly felt the butt of the gun meeting with the side of his head. The unconscious man was pushed to the ground as the boy stood and straightened his clothes. "Five hunters in one night. What luck." Harry pulled away with a gasp as Dean pressed his body completely to his own. He shivered as Dean slowed down and nipped gently at his neck. "What's gotten into you?" Dean asked against his skin. His eyes were closed so he missed the shine of a gun meeting the light. But he certainly felt the butt of the gun meeting with the side of his head.

The unconscious man was pushed to the ground as the boy stood and straightened his clothes. "Five hunters in one night. What luck." Two Hours Earlier: "Ok," Harry said to John as they came to a stop in front of the house. "What do you want to know?" The hunter didn't answer immediately. He took his time rifling through a small bag in the space between them. He pulled out a shirt and some jeans that were far too small for the man. He handed these to Harry and continued looking through the bag. "What's this for?" Harry asked as he looked at the plain white shirt and the jeans. John grabbed his own clothes and motioned for Harry to step out of the truck. "We're going down into the sewer. It's better if we don't look like we've been in there when we come out." He turned and started walking down the chipped and broken sidewalk. Harry didn't bother to remind the man that no one would be out so late at night; Harry wasn't about to complain about caution. He ran to catch up to the hunter as he stared around at the shabby homes scattered on either side of the road. The roofs were broken, barely held together fixtures that had to be a safety hazard. The surrounding yard made Bobby's home seem like a pureblood's manor. "So, you're a wizard?" Harry almost laughed at the sudden question. He kept his mouth shut and nodded instead. It wouldn't be a good idea to start off on the wrong foot with this very dangerous, very armed hunter. "Sam told me a bit about your parents but he wouldn't tell me anything besides the basics," John eyed Harry as he walked. "What I'm really curious to find out is why my son wouldn't tell me anything more. What makes him trust you so much?" He came to a stop in front of a quiet home whose roof had crumbled inward and drowned the inside in dust and rubble. John stepped out into the empty road and pulled the heavy iron away from the entrance to the sewer. Harry couldn't see beyond a few feet in front of him at this point so he unconsciously cast a small Lumos that would help their descent. The movement startled John. The next thing Harry knew, the hunter had his gun pointed in his direction while he stepped away from the light hovering in front of them. His expression wasn't so much suspicious as it was surprised and that shocked Harry. "Sorry, I didn't think," Harry said cautiously, speaking more to the gun than to the hunter. "It's just to get us down their safely."

John visibly shook himself and lowered his gun, looking almost apologetic. "Give a warning next time." He strapped his gun to his side and crouched down. "I'm still waiting for an answer." With that, he disappeared below with the weak light following him at a safe distance. Harry shook his head; even his magic was wary of hunters. He waited a few seconds to make sure John was a good distance below before looking around once more. Now that he wasn't speaking to the other man, Harry could focus on the odd feeling he had in his stomach. The feeling that told him he was being watched. He glared at the darkness but nothing was visible to his human eyes and after a moment he followed John down. Harry let go off his hold on the rusty ladder and landed with a splash in front of John. He slipped into a crouch automatically as he searched for signs of life anywhere near them. When he was satisfied, he stood and found the hunter looking at him with one of his piercing gazes. Harry said nothing as he strengthened his orb of light to inspect his surroundings. The place reminded him a bit of the Chamber of Secrets, except for the lack of a giant snake (hopefully) and the crumbling appearance of the sewer. Harry cringed as a few large rocks gave out and tumbled to the floor. Harry fought down the claustrophobia threatened to settle in at the cramped appearance the tumbling rock revealed. He turned back to follow John who was already started down the tunnel. The man gave him an expectant look. "I don't really know why they trust me so much," Harry answered, taking up their former conversation. John kept his eyes searching through the darkened nooks around them. "You must have done something to make them trust you." Harry shot him a look, wondering if he meant what Harry thought he meant. "You mean besides saving their lives?" "Well," he said but then caught the offended glare Harry was aiming at him and smiled a bit. "I just wanted to make sure." Harry eased up on the death glare. "I know." "So, you met them while hunting Bella?" "Yes," he said as they entered a smaller tunnel. "They were actually after someone else but Bella's insanity caught their eye and almost got us all killed." "Dean had a different version of that story," John said, amusement barely noticeable in his voice. Harry snorted. "Yeah, I bet he did."

They fell silent as they moved on past rusty metals and Harry focused on not slipping into the oddly clean water. He squinted a bit and found that the only dirty sections of the sewer water were those covered in dirt. "Nothing runs through here with so many of these houses abandoned," John answered Harry's unasked question. "So, how long do you plan on sticking with them?" Harry thought for a moment, comforted by the straight forward questions. "Until Bella's taken care of was my plan," he answered carefully. "What will you do after?" Harry hesitated. "Leaving." "The states?" John seemed startled at the idea. Harry shook his head. "No, nothing so drastic. I just don't plan on sticking around your world of werewolves and shape shifters once Bella's pushing up daisies." John stopped, giving him an unreadable look as Harry paused beside him. "You aren't going to keep hunting with Sirius?" Harry shifted uncomfortably. "I wouldn't want to intrude. Besides, I don't exactly care for my life as a wizard. The life of a hunter isn't any more normal." Emotions flashed through John's eyes. "You sound like Sam," he muttered. John's expression finally made sense. The man was realizing the similarities between his youngest and Harry. The wizard couldn't believe how long it took him to realize that Sam and he shared more than just a great responsibility that weighed heavily on their soul. They also shared the hope for a normal life, free of magic and the supernatural that plagued their lives. It was the reason Harry wanted to abandon his old life and it was the same reason that Sam had left for Stanford. "I guess that answers your first question," Harry said after a long pause. "Sam trusts me because we're so much alike." "He told you why he left?" "He wanted to live without having to worry that some monster would kill him." John gave him a hard look. "You think he was right to leave?" "Yes," Harry responded immediately. John's expression darkened. "Some people aren't cut out for this kind of life." John didn't get a chance to respond as a sharp shriek echoed around them. Immediately, both men were in fighting stances, John his gun ready and Harry crouched, waiting for the moment to leap at their attacker. They stayed like that for a moment, ears straining to catch any sound and eyes flicking around in the dim light of Harry's spell.

Harry was about to stand when a soft scurrying near his feet caused him to leap away. He felt John turn in surprise as Harry did a practiced flip in the air and landed a few feet away, unfortunately in a giant ocean of water. As he resurfaced, spluttering with his hair stuck to his forehead, he was grateful that the water was almost completely free of anything gross. He dragged himself to some dry patch of floor and groaned as he saw what had caused the noise. A rather large rat was sitting on his haunches a few feet away, gazing at Harry with curious black eyes. Harry glared hard at it as he stood. "I thought Sirius was jumpy," John commented. Harry turned his glare on the man but then gratefully accepted the dry clothes being handed to him. "Paranoia usually comes in handy," Harry muttered as he changed clothes. He tossed the soaked garments aside, not really caring to retrieve them in his annoyance. He supposed he could've just dried them using magic but keeping the weak light in front of them was enough to make Harry cautious of their surroundings. He really didn't want to risk a cave in while trying to execute a charm to dry his clothes. He followed John further down the tunnel, former thoughts of Sam and a normal life returning. He could tell that John was thinking the same thing but Harry really didn't know what more he wanted to say about the man's family. He was saved the trouble when John broke the silence. "I did my best to keep them both safe." Harry nodded grimly, knowing all too well how those intentions could affect someone's life. He glanced at the hunter, remembering a sudden thought that Harry hadn't had the chance to ask Sam. He hesitated a bit, wondering how delicate the situation was. "This demon that you're after," he began, glancing away. "Why would he go after Sam's girlfriend?" Harry didn't have to be looking at the man to know that he had asked the wrong question. He felt John tense beside him and Harry had to fight the urge to move away at the sudden hostility radiating off of the man. "You aren't what I expected," John hedged. "Most people aren't," Harry said. He glanced at John again. "I'm actually not the most observant person in the world. Far from it actually. But, speaking from experience, an evil and dangerous creature doesn't go after someone twice unless they're a threat. Especially after so many years." John tensed another inch. "You're speaking from experience?" Harry paused but allowed the change of subject, for now. "The thing that killed my parents when I was a baby was after me." He gave John a hard look. "It took everyone a

while to figure out that I needed to be told in order to stay alive, but I finally found out that he was trying to destroy me because I would become a threat to his power." "Sam and Dean - ?" "They know a lot more than what I'm telling you." They stepped through a rusty looking set of bars and found themselves in a large room like cave. The place was more empty space than anything but a small area was inhabited by piles of clothes and beat up paperback books. The floor was covered in what looked like dried blood and the same flesh that Harry had been staring at earlier in the night. Their was a strong, acrid smell lingering in the air with a persistent force. "Looks like we found it's hideout," John said, stepping further inside. Harry moved behind him, intending to search through the items on the floor, when he felt a shift in the air that meant another presence. His heart skipped a beat in panic as he whirled around in time to see the rusty bars fall into place on the ground with a painful screech, successfully trapping Harry and John inside the shifter's lair. "Well, this isn't good," Harry said. He turned to find John glaring at their barred exit, gun hanging uselessly at his side. "Dean!" His eyes fluttered as he heard Sam's voice calling him from what seemed like miles away. His head ached and his body felt stiff. He tried to move a little and found his attempts rendered useless by some type of constraints around his wrists and legs. "Dean!" Sam's voice was closer now and Dean could hear the tendril of panic in his little brother's hiss. Dean wasn't being so calm, either, but he couldn't wrap his fuzzy mind around the fact that he was tied up. Why would he be tied up? And why did his head hurt? Finally, he managed to peel his eyes open and he found himself staring into the exasperated face of Sam. The other man's wrists were bound to a sturdy chair and his legs were tied even tighter around his legs. Looking to the left of Sam, Dean found Sirius in a similar position, although the man was looking as dazed as Dean felt. "What happened?" he asked his brother hoarsely. He desperately wanted to rub at his head but the rope tied firmly up and down from his wrists to his forearms kept him from moving at all. "The shifter," Sam answered with narrowed eyes. He tried flexing and then huffed irritably when nothing happened. Dean couldn't help laughing at the comical sight. "Dude, you've seen way too many cartoons. How do expect to Hulk out of here?" Dean grinned at the glare he was receiving.

"Dean, save it. The shifter got to us using Harry's appearance. It was wearing Harry's clothes. You know what that means, don't you?" The smile vanished from Dean's face as the man clenched his jaw tightly. He did know what that meant but even if the shifter somehow managed to get the drop on Harry, he had the best hunter along with him. It was impossible for Harry to be in too much danger. The thought didn't really ease Dean's worries. "Where is it?" he asked, trying to banish thoughts of a dead or mutilated wizard from his mind. Sam opened his mouth to speak but closed it with a snap, eyes going cold in that famous Winchester way as he stared somewhere over Dean's shoulder. Dean could hear footsteps approaching and then the shifter was in front of them, still wearing Harry's clothes and, more disturbingly, Harry's face. It smiled when it caught sight of Dean. The smile was more of a smug smirk and Dean's eyes narrowed as he remembered exactly how the shifter had knocked him unconscious. "Oh, good. You're awake." It's accent was perfect down to the last drawl. Dean glared harder. "Where's Harry?" Sam demanded. The shifter turned his gaze to Sam, his stolen green eyes twinkling as he looked the hunter over. "Not dead," he said and smiled as Sam visibly relaxed. "Not yet, anyway." He stepped closer to them, eyes zeroing in on Sirius who stared back with barely restrained rage burning in his eyes. "Don't look at me with those hateful little eyes. Where were you when Harry was being lead into my little trap?" "What have you done?" Sirius' voice chilled the room and the shifter visibly started but then the smile was back, mocking them. "I haven't killed him. What good would that do if I take him out before I get all of his memories and neat tricks?" The shifter pulled up a chair and sat beside Dean, completing their little circle. "Now, you lot on the other hand, I won't mind killing. You've been a real pain since that old hunter left and I can't have you running about when I'm out playing." Dean snorted at the shifter's words and then found himself the focus of that green gaze. The eyes were almost perfect in color and size but there was something missing, something that only the real Harry had. Dean glared at the imposter but the thing only smiled brightly. "The only question is: how should I get rid of you?" He raised his eyebrows at them, apparently asking for suggestions. "Why would you take Harry's form and not Dad's?" Dean said in an attempt to distract the shifter long enough to think of a plan.

It worked. The shifter looked at him with barely suppressed glee. "You're joking, right? Why wouldn't I take Harry's? It's Harry bloody Potter!" His gaze took on an adoring, glazed look. "After years of running and hiding, I run across the perfect person, the perfect killer. I'd be stupid to pass that up." "Killer?" Sirius asked. The man seemed to have caught the gist of what Dean was doing but he also looked faintly disturbed at the shifter's words. The shifter smiled at him and leaned back in his chair. "Oh, that's right, you offed yourself before the war got interesting. I guess it wouldn't hurt to tell you since you're going to die anyway," he said conversationally. "Dumbledore finally got his head out of his ego and had Harry trained by the best of the best." "He told him about the prophecy?" The shifter snorted. "He told him more than that. He told him all about how Voldemort was staying alive. He did omit a few very crucial bits like what the connection with Voldemort meant. He got it eventually, though." The adoring look was back. "Don't you see what an amazing hero Harry Potter is? Everything I've looked for, every single ability and skill, he has it. Now, I will too." "You aren't Harry," Dean growled. He turned to Dean with a leer. "I had you fooled." "Harry's not all that special," Sam tried. "So, he knows a few things about fighting. That's about it, right?" "Oh, it's so much more than that," he said. "For so long, I've been an insignificant creature on this earth, but Harry? He'll always have a bigger part to play. He'll always be useful, important, needed." "But Voldemort's dead. The prophecy was fulfilled," Sam protested, trying his best to reason with the deranged thing. The shifter laughed. "Yes, that prophecy was fulfilled." He gave them all meaningful looks and then rolled his eyes when they remained silent. "That isn't where the story ends. It's no coincidence that he's here now, that he happened to run across hunters looking for an evil demon. There's another prophecy and guess who the star of it is?" "Another prophecy? You're lying. Harry never said - " "Of course Harry wouldn't say anything. That boy sure takes a long time putting the most obvious things together. I don't expect he's thought of it anyway, not while entertaining thoughts of a normal life after Bella is dead," he said disdainfully. "But, I don't have that to worry about and I have a good amount of brains." Dean snorted. "You're insane."

The shifter glared at him. "That doesn't mean I'm any less right. Besides, you should be listening carefully. This does have a lot to do with your little brother, your poor, hunted brother" "What?" Dean demanded. The shifter smiled sadly. "You never wondered why the demon chose your mother to kill, why it came after Sam's girlfriend after all those years?" Dean remained silent. Of course he had wondered why his family had been singled out. He wondered every single day of his life whether there was some curse at work, screwing them over at every turn. "What are you getting at?" Sirius' voice was cold again. The shifter leveled him with a glare. "Well, I'm not one to gossip but I have come across one or two demons with loose tongues. They all seem to think something's coming, a war if you will, and the Winchesters are a very important piece in this puzzle." "A war," Sam repeated. "Yup. Now, let's think back to years ago when your mother was killed. In whose nursery did she parish? Then, years later whose girlfriend met the same fiery end? I'm just going on theories here but it seems that this demon you're after, he's got his eyes set on Sam." He stood and kicked the chair back, leaving the area behind him clear. The shifter slipped his hand into the back pocket of Harry's soaked jeans and pulled out a rusty dagger. "But, don't worry. He won't be the one to kill you." "So much for your paranoia," John said as he pushed his weight against the rusty bars. "It kicked in a bit late," Harry said defensively. He watched as John got ready to ram into the bars. "Ok, wait. You're going to injure yourself trying to get through those." "You have a better idea?" Harry hesitated. "Yeah, I do. But, I'll be risking a cave in as well as an angry hunter." John gave him a look. "Magic." Harry nodded. "It's the only way. We've already wasted too much time in here. Who knows what that thing is up to." John looked like he was about to veto the idea but then he gave a stiff nod and stepped away from where he was leaning against the entrance. He walked a few feet away, eyes cautious as he watched Harry step away from the bars as well.

Harry raised an eyebrow at him as he swept his arm carelessly in front of them to erect a strong shield to keep stray rocks from killing them. The shield burned gold before fading softly, leaving behind strong tendrils of magic. The hunter looked even warier than before. Without waiting any longer, Harry pointed his hand toward the stubborn bars and thought Bombardus in his head, his magic following the path of his hand and colliding explosively with the bars and surrounding rock. A large chunk of the entrance was blown into microscopic pieces while a few large rocks crashed into the shield with enough force to cause Harry to strengthen their protection. It was a moment before the sound of falling rock subsided into faint tumbling and Harry let out a breath of relief as the whole cave stopped threatening to fall around them. He used his magic to push away the heavy dust in the air and then turned to John, intending to lead him out of the dark cave. The man was staring back at him, half impressed and half suspicious. "Not bad, son," he finally said. Harry smiled and led the way out, making sure to step around the broken bars in their path, lest he fall and break his neck before meeting the real danger. They came across the ocean of water and were about to continue on when Harry noticed something was amiss. He strengthened the bulb of light in front of them and stared at the spot where he had discarded his clothes. There was nothing but a small puddle of water in its wake. "What?" John asked impatiently. "It took my clothes," Harry said. He turned to find John searching the ground frantically. The man lifted his eyes to meet Harry's and, in a second, they were both dashing toward the exit, scrambling to the surface in their urgency to get back to Bobby's. The shifter hummed as he ran the rusty blade across Dean's cheek. The hunter remained still, unwilling to show the creature any kind of weakness. The thing stepped back with a proud smile, expecting Dean's reaction. "You know, it's a shame you have to die. We would have made a cute couple," he said. "You're not Harry," Dean spat. "Not yet," he said, moving over to stand beside Sam. "You shouldn't care so much. It's not like you really know him. Not like I do." Sirius snorted. "Pathetic," he muttered. The shifter was standing over him in a flash, giving him a vicious slap with the hand that held the dagger. When he stepped back, Dean could see the shallow gash that marred Sirius' right cheek.

"Pathetic?" the shifter growled. "You're pathetic. You don't deserve to speak in my presence after everything you put me through." "You aren't Harry," Sirius said forcefully. The shifter's dark expression cleared. "That doesn't really change the reality of what you've done to him, does it? You know, he isn't even so angry about you dying anymore. You're alive now so it's pointless to hang on to that kind of pain. He knows that but what you did to him" "What did I do to him?" Sirius' tone was mocking but Dean could tell he really wanted to know what the shifter was talking about. The thing's expression was icy. "You called him James. Right before you fell out of his life, you called him James." The shifter leaned against the back of Sam's chair, enjoying the confused silence that followed his words. "Imagine how Harry felt, after years of trying to fit the role of the great Harry Potter and so many other expectations, the one person he thought saw him for who he really was, didn't see anything further than James' son." Sirius was staring at the shifter, eyes far away as he tried to remember what the shifter was referring to. Finally, he shook his head and turned his head away, strands of hair falling in his face as he slumped a bit in his seat. Dean could read the guilt in his face and apparently so could the shifter. The thing huffed out a laugh, gazing intently at the man. He rolled his eyes and stepped toward Dean again. The sound of shattering glass echoed in the room and caused the shifter to roll to the ground and land in a crouch, eyes staring out of the broken living room window in annoyance. The yard was silent, only enveloped in darkness and cold air. The shifter moved a little, floorboards creaking slightly as he made his way slowly to the shattered window. It was around that time that John appeared in the doorway, gun firing as soon as he caught sight of the shifter. The thing leaped away, putting Sam between the hunter and himself. John cursed as he stepped into the room. The shifter suddenly rolled away from Sam and John pulled the trigger. The unwelcome Click caused the shifter to smile and stand up straight. It slinked away from the window and was halfway across the room when a figure flew out of the darkness and crashed into the shifter, rolling away once the shifter started kicking out. Harry stayed close to the ground, watching the shifter pull itself to its feet with trained eyes. The shifter smiled when it caught sight of Harry. "Well, look who showed up. It's a great honor to meet you, Mr. Potter," the thing gushed. Harry stayed where he was and said nothing, eyeing the thing that looked exactly like him. This was going to be the weirdest fight The creature smiled at him and then, without warning, it attacked, a rusty dagger slashing the air in front of him. Harry dodged easily and spun until he was facing the

creatures back. He kicked the back of its legs hard and flipped away when it collapsed, flipping easily in the air and landing in a crouch by Dean's chair. He gave the tied up man a disbelieving look but released all three men with a flick of his wrist. The ropes pulled themselves apart and the man were on their feet in a heartbeat, staring at the shifter as it regained its footing, posture more wary but his eyes set firmly on Harry. It still had the dagger in its hand. "You don't deserve your destiny," it hissed. "That's kind of you to think so," Harry said, motioning for the Winchesters to step back. The shape shifter seemed to know some of Harry's skills and while it couldn't really execute them properly, it would be enough to get one of them killed. The Winchesters, of course, ignored his signal. "See, that's exactly what I'm talking about!" it snarled. "You don't know how lucky you are to be important, to know that the world would go down the drain without you. And yet, you complain about it. You go on, hating your magic, hating your responsibilities, when some of us aren't lucky enough to be graced with either." Harry considered the shifter for a moment. "You're serious," he said and glared at Sirius to keep him quiet. "You don't know what you'd be giving up if you left all of this behind. Besides, you'd be condemning Sam and Dean if you tried to ignore the prophecy -" Harry shook his head, gears in his mind turning frantically at the mention of the prophecy. Voldemort was dead. What the hell was it The latest prophecy. Harry's memories swooshed in his mind in a rush and he was suddenly staring into Trelawney's blank face as she spoke of a new prophecy. "The Chosen One will be the end of Dark Lords in this world and the next. The one with the power to bring an end to ruin will bless the cursed. He will be the savior to the righteous and the marked." The words were being spoken out loud by the shifter and Harry could do nothing but stare in shock. "What would they have to do with any of that?" Harry asked through the painful constricting in his throat as he swallowed. The thing smirked. "There's something off about these two, don't you think? When you were healing Sam and his blood resisted Enervate. You must have realized that no normal human would react like that. I may be going on a limb here, but," he pointed at Dean, "righteous," he moved his arm toward Sam, eyes burning, "marked." "Enough of this," John suddenly leaped forward but the thing dodged him and kneed him in the stomach.

"You know," it hissed. "So does Harry, even if he can't see it yet. You're keeping something from your sons, thinking it'll protect them. Why don't you ask Harry how many people good intentions kill?" And with that, the shifter tried to dodge its way out of the broken window. To its credit, it very nearly made it but Harry was there, crashing into it with a force that knocked them both into the wall. Harry leapt to his feet but the creature was there, fighting him off with a stolen knowledge of how to handle to the weapon held in its hand. Harry was about to change his attack when Sam and Dean were beside him and the shifter chose Dean to go after. It was a lot stronger than Harry thought it would be and it quickly had Dean crashing into the opposite wall where his father was fighting to reload his gun. Harry glanced away to make sure Dean was alive and that was all it took. The shifter's blade sunk a few inches into his stomach. Harry clutched at the thing's arm, attempting to stop the dagger from going any further as the sharp pain left him breathless and grimacing in pain. He looked up to meet brilliant green eyes. His mother's green eyes. Harry's own gaze narrowed at the thought that the shifter had stolen what little he had from his dead mother. While he focused on that anger, hand still straining against the shifter's own, a flicker of green around the creatures neck caught his eye. The pendant his aunt had passed on to him was hanging on the chain around the shifter's neck. It must have come off when he was changing. He looked back at the thing's face and found his own features pulled into a mocking smirk on its face. Harry's eyes narrowed a bit more, eyes starting to cloud with tears of pain and anger. Without thinking, without wanting to think, he heard himself hiss coldly. "Crucio." It wasn't like the first time he cast it on Bella. There wasn't a loud, pained scream of pain followed by a mocking smile that infuriated Harry further. The thing let go of the dagger and crumbled to the floor, shrieking and writhing in pain. It clawed at its own skin, ripping out shreds of it as it tried to escape the pain. But it continued and after a few seconds, its throat was too raw to be able to form a proper scream and it instead continued to thrash in pain, tears pouring down its cheeks from its tightly shut eyes. Harry stumbled back and lost his balance. He fell hard on his back, hand still clutching the dagger that had managed to work its way almost to the hilt. The pain wasn't nearly as terrible as Harry was used to but he cringed as he thought of the rusty blade being anywhere near his precious organs. With a deep breath, he pulled the dagger out and winced, his breath whooshing out again as he tossed the offending weapon from his sight. He remained still as he felt the shifter fall into unconsciousness. He sat up gingerly, only glancing at the wound that was gushing blood onto the white shirt. He put his hand over it, willing his magic to slow the blood down and was more than a bit surprised when his magic did its best to obey.

He stood carefully, still clutching his wound, and walked over to the still twitching figure of the shifter. The things flesh was mostly in shambles where it had pulled off skin. Harry grimaced as he leaned down. It was then that he realized the unnatural silence in the room. He looked up and found himself the center of attention. One look at Sirius' face was enough to have him realize what exactly he had done to the shifter. He stared back at Sirius, expression blank but he felt his eyes betray him, revealing every bit of pain and confusion that had haunted him for years. He looked away and bent down to retrieve his pendant, feeling a scary amount of pleasure as gave a last look at the unconscious shifter. The feeling made him sick to his core. What was wrong with him? How could he possibly take pleasure in causing someone pain? He had protested so vehemently when Shane attacked unarmed Death Eaters but here he was, doing so much worse. He slumped to the ground beside the shifter, feeling lost and confused along with that horrible satisfaction at causing the creature pain. He pressed his hand tighter against his wound, relishing the pain it caused him and he held the pendent hard in his hand. His mind swam at the pain and he felt the world tilt uncomfortably. "Easy." Dean was beside him, helping him to his feet and practically carrying him over to the dusty couch in one corner of the room. "We'll clean that up for you." His reassuring voice calmed Harry's frantic thoughts and he was able to focus his attention on the other men in the room. Sam was pulling a first aid kit from a drawer and coming to stand beside his brother as Dean set to work on Harry's wound. Over Sam's shoulder, Harry could see John and Sirius standing side by side, watching them. Harry's magic expanded automatically, allowing Harry to catch their conversation. "He's not what I remember." Sirius' voice was pained, full of regret and anger at himself. "No one stays the same after living through a war," John said. His voice was different, surer, like he finally solved the puzzle that had presented itself in the form of Harry Potter. "He shouldn't have had to go through this, not alone." Sirius sounded close to tears, his voice lowering in an attempt to keep it from breaking. "He isn't alone anymore," John responded, catching Harry's tired gaze and giving him a shadow of a smile. Harry looked away and focused on Dean, who managed to lull him to sleep by humming Led Zeppelin under his breath as he worked. He woke to the feeling of a cold breeze rustling through the room. He peeled his eyes open and was met with a view of the shattered window and the cloudy day it opened up to. It looked like it might rain. Harry put a hand to his stomach and found it expertly dressed in white bandages. The white shirt he was wearing the night before was no where in sight but a dark blue t-shirt

was conveniently draped over the back of the couch. He raised himself up, getting used to the stinging in his stomach, and pulled on the shirt. He stood from his spot on the couch and stretched slowly, wincing in pain but managing to rid himself of sleep. He looked around the room and found himself alone. The place had been cleaned up, he noticed as he walked into the kitchen. The sight that greeted him almost made him laugh, if he wasn't so scared to strain his stomach. Sirius was standing with his back to Harry, wearing a flowered apron and humming something that sounded suspiciously like "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" and he was bustling around preparing breakfast. Harry was so shocked that he didn't react when Sirius turned and saw him, spatula in hand and a streak of flour on his face. They stared at each other for a moment, Sirius expression a comical mixture of surprise and innocence as he tried to conceal the simmering pan behind him. Harry could tell his eyes were wide and he was probably gaping at the other man. "Oh." Sirius said then cleared his throat. "Hi." Harry pulled his mouth off the ground and nodded to Sirius, suppressing a smile. "I think the bacon's burning." Sirius' eyes widened in alarm and he spun back to the pan, eyes determined and found that the bacon wasn't even in the pan yet. He turned back to Harry, glaring. "One word," he threatened as he pointed the spatula at Harry, "and I won't feed you." Harry smirked but held his hands up in surrender. "Where's everyone else?" Sirius continued working, flipping pancakes. "Sam's looking for something to fix the window with, Dean's probably still asleep, and John went out to get rid of the body." Harry's stomach flipped uncomfortably as he thought of what the shape shifter had gone through. He lifted his head to find Sirius looking at him intently. "When did you learn to work that curse?" he asked hesitantly. Harry could tell he expected an outburst about how it was non of Sirius' business and he had no right to ask him anything. The truth was, no matter how angry Harry felt toward Sirius, he couldn't deny that it still hurt him if the man thought ill of his godson. It didn't matter as much to Harry's wounded heart that the man thought of him as James' son, in the end Harry would still seek the comfort of someone familiar. And what could possibly be more familiar than his father's best friend. The man cared enough about James, that meant he had to care a bit for Harry, even though it wasn't in the manner Harry needed. That had to count for something, right? Harry pushed his jumbled feelings away and focused on the question. "I never learned to use it," he answered truthfully.

Sirius glanced at him before turning back to the food. "The shifter said you were trained." Harry nodded at the man's back. "But I never tried using that spell after using it on Bella two years ago." Did he really just admit that? Oh, well. Hopefully, Sirius ignored it. Sirius tensed. Blast, Harry really had to start thinking before speaking. "Two years ago? After I fell?" "Yeah," Harry answered uncomfortably. "Shane, our DADA teacher, mostly stuck to weapons and physical combat." Sirius nodded and turned back to him, letting the food cook itself. "Harry, I - " "Don't," Harry interrupted. "I'm still getting used to seeing you." Sirius nodded slowly, not really convinced but he changed the subject. "You must have learned a lot from that teacher of your if last night is anything to go by." Harry felt the automatic blush rise to his cheeks as he thought of Shane. "Yeah. He was pretty helpful." Damn. Sirius was tilting his head curiously at his blush, eyes twinkling mischievously. "In a educational sort of way." Harry almost kicked himself as Sirius' eyes widened at his attempt to save the situation. "Harry," Sirius said innocently. "Is there something I should know?" "No," Harry answered a little too quickly. He cleared his throat nervously. His reaction seemed to answer whatever questions Sirius had because his eyes widened and he grinned. Harry groaned and tried to fight a losing battle against the color on his cheeks. "Harry, did you - Is it possible that you" Sirius trailed off with a knowing smirk. Harry tried to look innocent. "You did!" Sirius whistled. "Wow, not even James or me got up to that with a teacher." Harry glared at the pride he heard in Sirius' voice. "I sure hope you didn't. You only had teachers like Flitwick around!" Sirius frowned thoughtfully. "Yeah, that would take a lot of maneuvering" "Sirius!" Sirius gave his bark of a laugh and smiled at Harry. "Come on, Harry. Don't worry about it." He waved at Harry's flushed face. "It's not like you - " His eyes widened and he dropped the pancake he was in the process of flipping. "You lost your virginity to a teacher!"

Harry groaned and covered his burning face with his hands. It was about that time that Harry felt someone else enter the room. He turned slightly and peeked between his fingers at the figure standing behind him in the doorway. Dean was leaning against the doorframe, eyebrow raised and staring straight at Harry. Sirius was still chuckling and flipping pancakes at a dangerous speed. Harry dropped his hands and glared at the man's back. Before Dean could question him or Sirius got another chance to embarrass him, Harry ran for the kitchen door. "I'm going to find Sam!" He announced, not looking at Dean as he flew outside. Harry finds Sam leaning against the Impala, the picture of misery. Harry slowed as he approached, not wanting to intrude but Sam turned as he heard the footsteps and gave Harry a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. Harry stepped up beside him and stared out at the cloudy sky as Sam did the same. He stayed quiet and waited for Sam to speak. "I wondered for a really long time whether our family was cursed," he finally whispered. "Now, it turns out it wasn't our family but me that was cursed." Harry frowned. "You didn't actually believe what that thing said, did you?" Sam glanced at him. "You didn't hear half of what it said and it all makes sense, Harry. I never really wondered why Mom was killed are why Jess was murdered. I was just so focused on getting revenge that I never wondered why the demon went after them in the first place." "Sam -" "Just think about it for a second," Sam pleaded. "The demon went after people close to me, people I couldn't protect. And, if that wasn't enough to get me thinking, Dad's avoiding me. He knows something and he isn't sharing," he finished angrily. Harry remained silent for a long time until Sam turned to look at him. "What was wrong with my blood?" Harry was surprised at the question but he thought back to the day he was healing Sam. "I don't know," he answered. "It was different, not like anything I've ever seen." Sam slumped back with a nod. "There's something wrong with me." Harry shook his head. "There's something wrong with everyone, Sam," he said tiredly. Sam glanced at him again, reading the exhaustion in his bones. Harry knew he felt the same way. "Do you think maybe we were bad people in a past life?" he asked. Harry shrugged, eyes intent. "Before I met you, I reckoned I was just a bad person now." Sam smiled sadly. "And now?"

Harry watched as John's truck came into view. "Now, I'm not so sure." They practically swallowed their breakfast whole, much to Sirius' dissatisfaction. He mumbled about ungrateful hooligans as he followed Sam out to Bobby's shed to get started on the window. John left the room intending to change into clean clothes and left Harry alone with Dean to wash the dishes. Harry moved slowly, throwing out the few crumbs left on the plates and rinsing them before handing them to Dean to place in the dishwasher. They finished fairly quickly, much to Harry's dismay who was dreading having to talk to Dean. He was beginning to realize how much he cared for the hunter and it was starting to scare him. He had trouble keeping his friends alive around him, how did he expect to keep his whatever Dean was alive? Not to mention the fact that Dean was as gorgeous as could be and Harry had an inkling that Dean knew it. What if Harry fell in love and Dean got bored with him. If anything was worse than having the people he cared for die, it was having them purposely abandon him. He looked up after wiping his hand with the dishtowel and found Dean staring hard at him. Harry tried to pretend his breath didn't hitch at the man's piercing gaze. "So, a teacher, huh?" Harry remained silent, inspecting the tablecloth. "Did you leave him behind when you fell through?" Harry's eyes met Dean's. Was that what he was worried about? That Harry still had feelings for someone? Harry filed away this moment just in case he ever needed it and tried to suppress his goofy grin as best he could. "No," he answered, smiling slightly. Dean's eyes narrowed, searching his face for a sign that Harry was lying. When he found none, he stepped close to Harry and took his chin in a steady hand. "Good," he said and planted a soft kiss on Harry's expectant lips. It was a surreal feeling, to have his heart fill to bursting with such a simple act from Dean but it wasn't any less welcome and for the moment, Harry forgot about his worries and responsibilities. Someone cleared their throat. Harry would have jerked away in surprise but Dean's hand held his head firmly and the man made sure to linger a bit before pulling away, leaving Harry a bit dazed. John was looking at them with a raised eyebrow but Dean just shot him a grin and walked out of the room where Harry could hear Sam and Sirius working on the window. "I guess that explains how the shifter got to Dean," he said. Harry remained silent, staring at the man until he sighed and took a seat at the old table. "Alright, have at it. What's on your mind?" "It's none of my business and it doesn't really matter if I ask. You haven't told them the truth, I'm even less entitled to it," Harry said.

John's eyes narrowed. "I wouldn't expect you to understand." Harry snorted. "To understand what exactly? That you want to protect your sons and the lack of information the have is going to get them killed someday? I'm well aware how that scenario ends. After all, it's how Sirius got landed here." "It's complicated," John said and Harry wondered why the man wanted to convince him. He probably thought Harry would rat him out. Well, there was no need for that. Harry heard the voices in the living room stop and suddenly they were standing in the doorway, staring at Harry whose eyes were burning with repressed rage, and John whose jaw was clenched tight. "That doesn't mean they don't need to know. It doesn't take an idiot to figure out that you're fighting something deadly that could easily kill you. When your stubbornness leads you there, where does that leave them?" Harry said coldly. "In the dark, blind and ready to follow down your road." John stood. "Son, this is family business." "Then maybe you should let the rest of the family in on it," Harry hissed out. "Whatever you think you're doing for them, stop it. Not knowing something this big gets people killed. You can't control that." There was a tense silence where everyone in the room thought John would take a swing at Harry. The wizard stared up at the man, not defiant or mocking, just angry, which confused John. "Speaking from experience again?" Harry tilted his head in agreement. "Like I said, me not knowing is what landed a lot of people in an early grave. I don't expect your sons will appreciate having to get people killed while they figure out what it is you already know." He turned to find Sirius staring at him, pride in his eyes. It wasn't the same as when they fought side by side, it was the pride a father shows for his son, the kind Harry never expected to see from Sirius after the veil incident. He looked away, not willing to accept the praise into his muddled thoughts, and found John gazing at him with an unreadable expression on his face. "I think we should figure out how to get rid of Bella," John said quietly. "She's our more pressing problem." It wasn't exactly what Harry wanted from the man but his words didn't completely ignore Harry's argument; they just asked for time. Harry nodded. "Let's get to work then." The wind whistled ominously, rustling leaves and branches with a demanding force that promised a wild storm. It moved around the unkempt lawn, kicking up a flurry of mini tornadoes that clustered around the leaning tower of cars visible from the newly repaired window.

Harry silently thanked the others for their quick work as he saw the leaves rustling more insistently. He sank further into the couch and shuddered at the thought of being outside in that moment. Somehow, the barely darkened sky and faintly restless winds left Harry feeling more anxious and jumpy than being caught in a downpour. The calm before the storm was always the worst. He turned away from the window, blinking away the tiredness from his eyes as he slid gracelessly onto the floor. He stared at the map spread out in front of him, frowning at his own scrawl as it blurred before his eyes. Harry leaned closer, glaring hard at the words, and smiled victoriously as they became legible to his tired eyes. Harry took the pencil clutched in his pale hand and moved it delicately over the map, hovering briefly over Colorado. Carefully, lips parted and tongue caught between white teeth, Harry marked off a few towns just outside of Illinois. He felt more than heard someone enter the room so he wasn't too surprised from his project when Dean said, "It's past midnight." Harry completed his mark and glanced briefly at the large grandfather clock positioned beside the fireplace. Through the cracked glass and layers of grime Harry could see that it was indeed almost a quarter past twelve. He looked back to find Dean standing directly in front of him wearing black sleep pants, an old shirt, and sleep tousled hair. He was squinting down at Harry's map. "Is this what you've been doing all day?" He kneeled down to inspect the many carefully placed X marks and then gave Harry a raised eyebrow. Harry laid the pencil down and leaned back against the couch with a shake of his head. "Just for the past few hours," he said, rubbing tiredly at his eyes. "It's taking longer than it should." Dean settled across from Harry with his legs crossed, eyeing the wizard's tired form. "Maybe you're pushing too hard. You can't expect for her to be sitting around just waiting for you to find her." Harry sighed and rubbed at his eyes again. "I found her last time. I know I have the power to do it no matter how many wards she puts up. My magic's just decided to be difficult." Dean smiled a bit at the sullen tone in Harry's voice. "Your magic's been pretty helpful so far," he said. Harry snorted. "It's just trying to make a good impression. You'll see what a pain it can be after a while," he said bitterly. He picked up the pencil and finished his work a lot more carelessly than before. Dean watched him for a while and remained silent while Harry worked. Once Harry put the pencil down with a relieved sigh he said, "You aren't too happy with your magic. Is it really that bad?"

Harry stared at him for a long moment, face expressionless, before giving Dean a half smile and a shrug. "I just never really saw the perks of being a wizard, I guess." Dean frowned. "I've seen you save people and from what you've told us, you've saved a hell of a lot more back in your world. That's gotta come with benefits," Dean said. He grinned. "I mean you can do practically anything. How is that not a perk?" Harry opened his mouth with a fire burning in his eyes, feeling the strong need to protest Dean's assumption that his life was great because he was a wizard, but he closed it after a second thought. Dean wouldn't understand Harry's growing hate of his magic. He wouldn't understand the ache Harry felt every time he thought about what his life could have been had he been born a day later or not at all. Dean loved his unnatural life and he couldn't possibly know what it felt like to want to be normal. Harry shrugged again. "Like I said, I've never seen it." He started to pick up the discarded scraps of paper around the map and moved to get to his feet. He was stopped by a steady hand on his shoulder. Dean was giving him a stern look, lips pressed into a determined line as he shook his head. "Uh uh. You've barely had an hours sleep since we started looking for Bella. You haven't said more than a few words to us about what you're doing, either. I've got a feeling whatever grudge you've got with your magic, it's got a lot to do with what you're doing to find her." Harry gave him a half hearted glare but Dean's grip on his arm was as firm as the man's gaze. He sat back down and felt the hand on his shoulder vanish as Dean settled back down, this time directly beside him. Harry huffed in annoyance and tried, unsuccessfully, to conceal a yawn. He didn't have to look to know that Dean was smirking at him. He glared at the wall opposite them. "Magic's great, I suppose," he said with a careless shrug. "But?" Harry glanced at Dean, taking in the honestly curious expression on his ruggedly handsome face. It was probably the lack of sleep or the lack of information on Bella's whereabouts. Or maybe it was just that Harry wasn't all that good at hiding his emotions around the very observant hunters. Whatever it was, Harry found himself minus a good explanation that to keep Dean from knowing what was going on in his jumbled mind. "Do you like hunting?" Dean looked taken aback at the sudden question. "Of course. What's not to like? Killing evil, saving people. It's who I am." Harry nodded in understanding. "And I'm a wizard. That's who I am and I hate it," he said softly. Dean hesitated before saying, "What the shifter said?"

"It was fine at first, Dean. My parents were dead and I was living with an awful family so finding out I could escape to this magical, surreal world was brilliant," he said with a faint smile as he remembered the awe he felt when Hagrid told him the news. He looked back to find Dean smiling at him. "It was fantastic for that whole month that I spent waiting to go to school." "Just that month?" Harry's smile faded and he looked away from the hunter. "I showed up in that world, knowing next to nothing about my own past. Strangers knew my parents better than I did. That didn't really bother me at first but once I got to Hogwarts" He glanced toward Dean again, feeling the constricting feeling in his throat. "I was famous for what happened with Voldemort." Dean frowned. "Most kids would be happy to have all that attention." Harry shook his head. "I'm not most kids, I guess. I didn't see all that I could get with my fame. All of it just left a really awful feeling in the pit of my stomach." Dean placed a comforting hand on Harry's knee. "What?" he asked softly. Harry blinked back tears as he thought back to his life in that world. "Guilt? I," he cleared his throat. "I was famous for something I couldn't remember. For my parents' deaths." "It wasn't your fault," Dean said firmly. "That didn't make it hurt any less," he said quietly. He shook his head in an attempt to rid his mind of those unhappy thoughts. "But, I pushed that away and just enjoyed that world after a while. Everything was fine, more or less, but something was always off. I met Voldemort for the first time at the end of that first year and survived. I didn't really question the headmaster's vague explanation of how I got away but he wasn't telling me everything. The next year we had another incident and my questions were met with those same half truths." "They were lying to you." "They were protecting me," Harry corrected with a roll of his eyes. "Even after the Dark Lord came back, they still wouldn't tell me anything. I could understand the lack of information when I started at Hogwarts but after he returned, I needed to know." "You eventually found out, though." "After I got Sirius killed," Harry said, his voice cold and his eyes distant. The small lamp beside them on the table flickered angrily before Harry shook his head and focused on Dean. "They waited until I lost almost everything. Until he took everything and even then, the headmaster only told me part of what I needed to know." "But it's over now. Voldemort's dead and you're here now," Dean said.

Harry shook his head slowly. "Ignoring the very pressing issue of that new prophecy, I'm still a wizard. I never wanted this, any of it and the only thing that ever kept me sane was that someday it would be over but that isn't looking like an option anymore." The silence that followed his words was tense but Harry couldn't bring himself to regret anything he just admitted. Now Dean would know exactly where he stood. The ball was in his park and Harry would just have to wait and see if Dean would stick around. An ache in his heart told Harry that maybe Dean wasn't one for sticking around. He held his breath and waiting for the hunter to say something. The hand on Harry's knee twitched but remained where it was. "So," Dean began with a furrowed brow, "you hate your magic because it reminds you of everything you've lost and the laundry list of crap that world continues to put you through." Harry looked away guiltily. "It's juvenile and bratty- " "And you're right." "Er- what?" That was no where near the response Harry was expecting. He looked back at Dean only to find him staring at the wall, face mostly obscured in darkness. "I always thought I was pretty selfish for not wanting anything to do with magic after the war." Dean snorted. "I'd say you have a pretty good reason to wanna bail." He glanced at Harry. "Don't get me wrong, you had responsibilities but you've done all you can." He smiled at Harry's startled expression. "What?" "I didn't expect that," Harry said slowly. "After everything your dad said about Sam, and how close you are to your dad, I just thought you'd have his same thoughts on the issue." "You talked to Dad about this?" That was definitely surprise in Dean's voice. Harry shrugged. "Yeah, and he wasn't all too pleased with where that conversation ended up." At Dean's blank look he elaborated, "My argument reminded him of Sam's, I guess." Dean looked away from Harry's startling gaze, the dark making his expression hard to read. After a pause he said, "You want the white picket fence life, too?" Harry stared at Dean in confusion as the man continued to stare at the wall. The neutrality in his voice wasn't present a second ago and Harry couldn't fathom what could have caused the change. "I wouldn't mind being able to lead a normal life," he answered. He lifted an eyebrow as Dean gave a barely audible scoff. "Is there something wrong with that?" Dean shook his head with a lopsided grin. He removed his hand from its warm place on Harry's knee and stood up, still not looking at Harry. "It's getting late. No matter how good you are, you still need your sleep."

And then he walked out of the living room, leaving Harry sitting on the floor with a dimming light and a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. "My, my haven't we come a long way." Harry was sitting in the Gryffindor Common Room, staring into the warm fire when the voice pierced through his relaxed mind. He made no move to turn, just sunk down into the warm depths of the blood red cushions of the couch. "I'm dreaming." A cackling laugh echoed throughout the otherwise empty room. The fire burned innocently, illuminating Harry's pale face. He shut his eyes as he heard footsteps approach him, pinching his leg in an attempt to wake from his nightmare. But then the warmth of the flame vanished as the figure stepped between Harry and the fireplace and he had no choice but to face his tormentor. He glared at the hateful, dark eyes of Bellatrix Lestrange. "I'm dreaming," he repeated with conviction. She smiled her yellow toothed grin and gave a quieter version of her cackle. "Maybe. Or maybe you've finally cracked, little Potter." She moved to the other end of the couch and sat down with as much grace as a princess - or a very snobbish madwoman. Harry tried not to flinch as she settled only inches from him. He instead focused on the now empty hearth. "You're one to talk," he said quietly. "When's the last time you even thought of the word 'sane'?" "Now, let's not get nasty. You are the one dreaming of me so show a bit of hospitality. I know your mother raised you better than that," she said sweetly. "Shut up," Harry hissed. The couch shifted as Bella leaned closer. "Why, Harry, you seem upset. Was it something I said?" Harry's hand twitched as he contemplated the many ways to end Bella's squawking. "Come now, none of that. You're dreaming, remember? What good what it do to kill me in a dream?" "What harm would it do?" Harry countered with a sardonic smile. "I don't see this dream getting me anywhere in particular. Why not end this on a good note?" He turned back, a throwing star conveniently clutched in his hand, and found - nothing but thin air. He jumped up from the couch and looked around wildly but there was no sign of the witch. More disturbingly, the comfortable couch had magically disappeared, taking the empty fireplace and the entire Gryffindor Common Room with it. Now he was standing alone in the middle of a clearing. Naturally, the sky was an eerily dark shade of black mixed with midnight blue. Harry's eyes adjusted quickly to the darkness and he looked around warily. He found himself staring at nothing but tall oak

trees and, beyond that, more wilderness. He sighed. There was definitely something wrong with his head if his dreams had joined in on the Harry torture. A sudden shift in the forest made Harry jump as he felt the very real touch of a very cold burst of air surround him. A long moment of silence found Harry crouching anxiously as he looked around for any source of danger. The seconds dragged on and Harry clutched at the cold dirt nervously, eyeing the darkness. Another gust of wind had Harry leaping about a foot in the air. "Damn it," he hissed. He looked around again but the darkness remained as unmoving as it had a second ago. Harry huffed in annoyance and stood up straight. "Well, this is ridiculous." "Most of your dreams are." That voice was as unwelcome as Bella's and a hundred times colder. Harry turned slowly, wondering why he didn't keep a supply of Dreamless Sleep Potion handy, and then he was face to face with the Dark Lord. After the initial shock of having the Dark Lord make a cameo appearance in his already screwy dream, Harry was able to take in the fact that the Dark Lord was looking pretty healthy. Back in his sixteen year old body kind of healthy. Tom Riddle stood tall and imposing in his Hogwarts robes, Slytherin crest shining in the dark. He was smiling softly at Harry, green eyes gleaming in the darkness. "You're dead," Harry informed him. "I killed you." Tom smirked. "Really." Harry shot him a disbelieving look. "Yeah, I'm pretty certain that was you I killed." Tom circled the clearing slowly, keeping Harry in the center. "Well, isn't that just excellent. The great and mighty Harry Potter finally saved the world from the big, bad villain," he stopped and faced Harry. "How are you enjoying your freedom, then? Bought a house, have you? Swore off magic for life and got yourself a plastic wife, maybe?" Harry's eyes narrowed. "What do you want?" Tom looked surprised at the question. He stepped closer to Harry who managed to hold his ground, albeit a bit reluctantly. "Want? What could I possibly want from the allpowerful, destroyer of Dark Lords?" "So, you're just here to annoy the hell out of me while I try to catch some sleep? Your evil, diabolical plans have gone downhill since you died. I am not impressed." Tom smiled, his green eyes suddenly blood red. Harry took an involuntary step back as Tom came closer. "I'm not either, Harry," he said with a stern look as he stopped a few inches from Harry, towering over him. "I mean, you're really disappointing me here."

"How's that," Harry sneered. Tom smiled and started circling again. The scenery, Harry noted, was no longer the creepy forest with the growling trees. They were now standing in Bobby's living room and Harry felt a bit calmer at his more familiar surroundings. It should have bothered him that a stranger's home made his anxiety drop faster than any room in Hogwarts could have. Tom stopped to perch himself on Bobby's old desk and he settled next to a precariously balanced stack of papers. He picked up a book carelessly from the middle of a large stack, which remained oddly in tact, and flipped through it. He smiled as he caught sight of Harry's confused face. He set the book down carefully and turned back to meet Harry's suspicious gaze with a charming smile. "Of course I'm disappointed, young one. After everything we've been through, you and I, you plan on settling down, being normal," he spat the word out like poison. "I expected more from you, Harry." Harry snorted. "Yeah, you and the rest of the world." Tom frowned. "I didn't destroy your life, Potter, so quit your whining. I made you into something great, something powerful." "You killed my parents," Harry hissed. "You murdered innocent people to get to me." "Aren't we full of ourselves," Tom said with a smile. "It wasn't always about you. Sure, I may have gotten sidetracked with my potential foe but I had bigger plans. World altering plans. But, then you came along and I lost my vision in light of the challenge you presented." Harry glared at the man. "This is what you're wasting my time for? A history lesson?" Tom shot him a scornful look at the interruption. "My point was not to bore you with our past but to give you a piece of advice for your future." "Advice? From you? I'll take Samuel Clemens' advice over yours, thanks. Why would you want to help me?" Tom smiled in that way that made Harry feel like he'd lost some vital brain cells. "Harry, a better question would be: why does your subconscious want to use my form to get its point across? This is, after all, your dream." That actually made sense. The Horcrux was gone so whatever was happening was his own mind's doing. Harry raised an eyebrow. "Alright, so what's this advice I want to give myself then?" Tom nodded in satisfaction and picked up the book he had been flipping through. He looked at its leather bound pages and then back at Harry. "Now is not the best time to start fighting," he proclaimed.

Harry's eyebrows furrowed in confusion. "What does that mean? I shouldn't be going after Bella?" Tom smiled. "I'm talking about yourself. You had years to fight your destiny but you did not. You played your part as Dumbledore's pawn and did what you did to save the world. But now, in the face of a similar situation, likely facing the same consequences, you're kicking and screaming, dragging your feet the whole way." Tom tilted his head, looking the picture of confusion. "You aren't normal, Harry, so why are you so determined to squeeze yourself into that meager shell?" "That's what this is about, my wanting to have a life that isn't controlled by everyone else?" Harry scoffed. "It isn't a crime to want something better." "Losing all ties to your true world, living a perfect life and knowing nothing of the evils on the other side of your rose-tinted glass, that's better?" Tom smirked, eyes flashing again. "You feel suffocated now, with the lack of control you have and the prophecies lining up at your doorstep, but how will it be better to purposely give up what little pull you have? Is it better, having someone else fight your battles, having them decide how the wars will end? I took you for a lot of things, an idiot coward wasn't one of them, young Gryffindor." Harry glared at the man, unwilling to hear any truth in what he was saying but Harry couldn't help but think over his mind's words. He almost never thought of any of this, only in passing when he was cursing his magic and cursing his destiny but there were never arguments for the other side. The side that would say that Harry's true place was in the magical world, living the life of a warrior. Harry was always too consumed by grief or anger to be able to think about what a normal life would truly lead to. But, if he wanted to be fair, then he had to think that there had to be some truth in his subconscious' words, no matter how unwelcome. But that wouldn't keep him from arguing for his life, not this time. Harry looked away from the glaring red eyes. "I'm tired of fighting, of having to fight someone else's war." He lifted his eyes and tried to show every ounce of exhaustion he felt. " I can't do this forever." Tom sighed. "You'd rather someone else take on this task, learn every single thing you have, to take on whatever's coming? Pass the torch on to Neville, maybe?" Harry felt guilt wrench at his heart at the thought and he had to look away. "No, I just- " he forced back tears before looking back at Tom. "Why me?" Tom looked almost sympathetic. "You know why. Or, you have some pretty good theories of why locked in here, some of which aren't laced with self-pity." Harry sank to the floor, ironically exhausted in his sleep. "Really. Like what?" "You're still here, for one. You've been put through more than anyone else would stand and you're still alive, mostly balanced, determined to finish what you set out to do. Anyone else would have cracked by now."

"Are you- " Harry paused and made a face. "Are you complimenting me? I'm convinced you are in fact my conscious, or whatever, but you have got to know how odd it is to have my parent's murderer paying me any sort of respect." Tom smiled again, a real green eyed smile. "That's part of the point of this whole little escapade into the farthest reaches of your mind," he said grandly. Then he pointed an elegant finger to his chest. "This man has caused you more trouble than you know but hating him any more won't go over well with your sanity. That goes for your hate of Bella, as well." "You're talking about the spells and what I did to the shifter," Harry said softly. "My hate will consume me, change me into a monster, is that it?" "There's nothing wrong with revenge. It's the poor man's justice and I'm all for it. I'm only saying that once you start doing things, like torturing Bella, just because you can, maybe it's time to move on." Harry nodded without meeting Tom's eyes. "I never thought I was so deep," he muttered. Tom laughed. "You just don't know yourself as well as you think." Harry thought back on his buried feelings of identity crisis and nodded. "Tell me about it." Tom was giving him a knowing smile. He stood suddenly and looked over at the grimy clock. "Looks like you should be waking up soon. Oh, and do yourself a favor and figure out whether normal is what you want. Whatever choice you make, you're sealing Dean's fate along with your own." Tom placed the book carefully face down on the table and then turned to Harry. "And, for the record, Harry would not have enjoyed 'normal'. Where would be the fun in that?" Harry awoke to find the sun's piercing glare directly in his face. He very nearly crashed onto the floor as he opened his eyes too soon and temporarily blinded himself. He groaned and shifted to a sitting position, rubbing his eyes with a scowl. When had the weather decided to be so cheerfully blinding? After taking a few moments to fully wake up, Harry managed to peel his eyes open. He wasn't all too shocked to find himself sleeping on the old couch in Bobby Singer's living room. It had faithfully served as his bed for the past week and Harry had a special place in his heart for the lumpy old thing, even if he hadn't actually slept for more than a few hours on it. He patted the sofa and stood up, feeling the cold floorboards through his wool socks. Winter was coming soon. A quick peek in the kitchen told him that everyone was still fast asleep. Harry took the opportunity and grabbed some clothes for a warm shower before they had another Mexican standoff to see which occupant would claim it. Harry smiled at the memory of a half-asleep Dean keeping Sam in a headlock while trying to head butt Sirius on his

way to the bathroom. Much to their dismay, Harry's small form helped him gain entrance to the sacred room and that battle was over without casualties. Harry took the hottest shower he could manage and successfully avoided cooking himself. He emerged from the steaming room completely awake and incredibly disturbed. Last night's events, along with that incredibly vivid dream, had evaded Harry upon awakening but now the strange occurrences were all he could think of. Between his civil conversation with Tom Riddle and Dean's cold demeanor, Harry was thoroughly confused and he had no idea where to start analyzing. It was times like these that Hermione's absence became achingly apparent. He walked into the living room, still trying to catch a thought long enough to poke at it, and was surprised to find John sitting on his 'bed' with the map spread in front of him. He was still dressed in his regular jeans and layers of shirts along with a coat so Harry could conclude that he had just arrived. He stepped fully into the room and sent John a smile when the hunter looked up. "You're back sooner than we expected," Harry observed as he came to rest against the very same desk dream-Tom had. The stack of papers was as near collapse as it had been in Harry's dream and he gave it a sharp glare as he settled comfortably beside it. John was giving him one of those calculating, hunter-patented stares, letting Harry know that the man hadn't missed his moment with the inanimate object. "It turned out to be a vengeful spirit and not your crazy witch. Any luck on your end?" Harry frowned as he remembered his wasted night. "Nothing. Sirius has done all he can and I just hit a wall," Harry answered and John nodded, probably having expected this result. "What do we do now?" John looked surprised, eyebrows-reaching-hairline kind of surprised, for a second before regaining his stoic appearance. The request for an order must have thrown the man off. "I don't think there's anything we can do. We'll just have to wait for her to make the next move." Harry nodded in understanding but couldn't keep the tension from showing on his face. The situation they were in was too familiar to past events for his liking. The waiting around and hoping to catch a break was more than he could handle while trying to defeat the Dark Lord; Harry wasn't too sure he could handle another round of playing the sitting duck. "We'll find her, son." Harry looked up to find that piercing gaze on him again. "Yeah." A loud crash followed by a barking roar cut off any conversation. Both men looked toward the door cautiously, ears straining and limbs twitching in preparation for a fight. But, alas, their paranoia settled when Sam walked into the room, seemingly unperturbed by the loud noises pouring from upstairs. He was towel drying his hair but he caught sight of Harry immediately.

He pulled the towel down to his side, leaving strands of his hair to fall over his eyes, and grinned as he took in Harry's still-wet hair. "Dean swears you put a spell on all of us to get to the shower first." Harry rolled his eyes and shook his head. "You lot will sleep through a hurricane." "They're getting sloppy," John said sternly. Sam's eyes lost their humor and he gritted his teeth before facing his father. "We've done fine so far, sir." The mocking tone with which he addressed John wasn't lost on Harry and apparently nothing got past the wise hunter. John put the map aside and got to his feet. "'Fine' will get you killed someday. I know I raised you boys smarter than that." Harry heaved a great sigh as he watched the two men continue their argument. It was pointless to intervene; Harry lost enough breath those first days of being around them. He opted to follow Dean's advice of only getting involved when they were looking murderous. Harry turned away from them as the topic changed onto something even more trivial. He looked out the window and was almost completely immersed in thoughts of how to find Bella when something on the desk caught his eye. There was a dusty, leather bound book lying beside him, open face down on the table. Harry must have seen it before but something about it Harry frowned as he tried to figure out why the book had caught his attention. He picked it up carefully and suddenly, as quick as a breath, Harry could see another person picking the book up in pale hands, flipping through the pages. This was the same book Riddle had held in his dream. That was odd, Harry thought as he turned the book over and inspected the yellowed pages. His natural dreams weren't usually so detailed and the details almost never appeared in real life. Carefully, Harry dusted off the pages and peered at the small print. The first few lines only held information on cursed objects but further down, there was a large sketch of a man. The first thing that jumped out at Harry were the man's completely black eyes, no sign of white in sight. It was unnerving and Harry was completely entranced by the resemblance to Voldemort's own red pools that passed for eyes. Harry tore his own brilliant gaze from the sketch and continued down the page curiously. The first few paragraphs described the methods in which powerful spirits could control a living being and the consequences it had on victims but the rest of the page, along with the rest of the book, described demonic possession in gruesome, uncensored detail. Harry felt sick after just the first sentence. Why would his subconscious find such an interest in this book? Or, could it be that Harry was only reading too much into a crazy dream? Harry doubted that was true; simply looking at the worn pages and glancing at the possessed man tugged at the edges of his mind like something important that refused to be forgotten, that much Harry could tell. Unfortunately, Harry was oblivious to what this something was and all he

had to support his theory was a vivid dream and a feeling. That didn't exactly spell certainty. And, besides, why was he still even worrying about some random dream that was the result of not getting enough sleep. It was silly. But Harry couldn't shake the urgency with which the dream had gripped him or the need he suddenly had to find out what it all meant. This book was just another puzzle in this unfolding mystery and already it was making Harry's head hurt. He was pulled from his thoughts by footfalls on the creaky floorboards. He looked up just as Sirius trudged into the room, wearing a frown that was only a blink away from a full blown pout. Sirius glanced at him and then moved passed the now silent Winchesters to collapse in a heap onto the couch. He glanced at them all again, heaving a great doglike sigh. Harry suppressed a smile as the room went quiet and Sirius looked up at them expectantly. "That boy of yours is possessed," Sirius finally accused. Harry winced at the wording. "There is no way anyone has that much speed this early in the morning." Sam let out an amused chuckle, apparently dropping the argument with his father. Harry wasn't concerned; there would be others. "Maybe you're just getting along in years. Us youngsters made it to the shower ok," he said, with a gesture toward Harry. Sirius pulled a face and Harry couldn't stop the laugh that escaped him. Then Sam joined in and Sirius' frown turned into a mischievous, half smile. "I'm going to make breakfast now." Their laughter ceased abruptly at the very obvious threat in Sirius' words. It was John's turn to laugh at the alarmed expression Sam and Harry shared as Sirius left the room, humming happily. Perhaps the dream was only reflecting Harry's conflicting feelings over the prophecies and his growing worry that he would never have a life that belonged solely to himself. The dream must be Harry's logical mind trying to make its opinion known. After all, Harry wasn't well known for his logic-based decision making; he ran on emotion and instinct most of the time and this whole situation was just one of those times. It was hard to believe that he had accepted a similar role so easily only a few years ago. Dumbledore and Voldemort forced him into the mold of a hero and he did his best to fit the title. How was this new prophecy any different? Maybe, Harry reasoned, because the last prophecy had taken the lives of so many people he knew, people he loved. It nearly destroyed his adopted world and that was a good enough reason to want - no need to fight back. Someone had to make the deaths stop and Harry had been relieved to know that there was something he could do to help. Granted, he wasn't real savvy about anything he was getting himself into and Dumbledore made sure it stayed that way for as long as possible. But, despite the lies and secrets, there were only a handful of moments that Harry honestly wished that someone else was in his place. This was most likely because his sappy Gryffindor heart kept him from wishing that life upon anyone else. So, maybe he hated his destiny to its

very core but that hadn't stopped him. He hadn't liked the task but he had set his heart and mind to its completion, not intending or caring if he survived the ordeal. And therein lied his other issue: the lack of interest he had for his own life. He hadn't thought of it for months now; he hadn't needed to but this whole soul searching episode he was having was insisting that he dig deep into the darkest nooks of his mind and really think for once before doing something he couldn't take back. So, this lead to his contemplation of the many reckless, bordering on suicidal, things he had ever purposely walked into. After having thought of only a few incidents where he was well and ready to throw in the towel, Harry could finally see why Dean had reacted the way he had to Harry's wounds. Even now, mere months after crossing the veil, Harry couldn't fully comprehend his own thought process of that night. The only thing he could come up with, using his logical mind, was that it had felt right at the moment and he couldn't see anything wrong with carelessly taking blood from a dangerously fatal area. But, that was Harry's logical mind, the minority, speaking. When he honestly thought back to how dark and completely out of his control his life had become in those dreadfully lonely days, having nothing but pages of obituaries and fear to keep him company, well he hadn't been such a far leap from dead already. His thoughts now were quite far from what they had been on that first day. Now, he was feeling the disgust and shame that should have been present any time he even thought of ending his own life. Then again, it didn't really matter what he felt now because things were different. Sirius was alive, Harry was cautiously getting to know his real godfather, and Harry had some feelings for a certain someone maybe. So, all things considered, Harry would probably not attempt to end his life anytime soon, no matter how harsh things started to look. Harry groaned to himself again as he realized that he had gone off on another tangent. He rolled his eyes and looked away from the bright blue sky to his surroundings - and promptly fell off the edge of the Impala with a surprised squeak. He managed to push of with his feet and he landed on one knee with fairly good balance but Harry winced at his stupidity. Letting his guard down out in the open would never have gone well with Shane. Not one bit. Apparently, impressing a hunter wasn't as difficult. Harry blushed at the obvious respect in Dean's eyes as he stood to face the hunter. "You startled me," Harry admitted, uncomfortably. "I was starting to think that wasn't possible," Dean said with a raised eyebrow. He walked around to the driver's side and paused at the look Harry was giving him. Harry schooled his confused expression into a neutral mask immediately but it was too late. "Is there something wrong?" Dean asked, reluctantly. Harry felt that yes, there was something wrong but he had no idea what. Finally, he shrugged. "Did you find another hunt?" he asked instead. Dean's jaw clenched slightly but there was no other sign of tension on his body. "Nah, Sam cheated at paper, scissors, rock so I got stuck going for food." He pulled the car door open. "It'll be nice seeing the rest of civilization, though."

Harry nodded. "You want company?" Dean smiled faintly. "I'm just going for food, Harry. I'll be back in a few." Harry watched as he climbed into his beloved car and turned it on with the utmost care before peeling away from the yard and out onto the deserted road. He frowned at the strange and short conversation he just had. The past week had been spent alternately hunting out leads of Bella's location and blushing madly after long chats with Dean. But now, he was acting aloof and distant and it made Harry's stomach ache. He tilted his head in confusion and touched a hand to his stomach thinking it could possibly be indigestion caused by Sirius' mad experiments with food Whatever choice you make, you're sealing Dean's fate along with your own. The sudden reminder of his dream startled Harry from his growing suspicion of Sirius' wacky cooking. Where did that come from? Thoughts of the dream had more or less flown out of his head the moment Harry caught sight of Dean but he had to admit that the timing was kind of perfect. Could it be, Harry now wondered, that Dean's behavior was linked to their conversation last night? That was, after all, when Dean had suddenly shut down on him. This morning was completely void of innuendos and 'accidental' brushes past Harry so it would make sense that something he said had caused Dean's behavior. Deciding to listen to his conscious for once, he thought back to the conversation that seemed light years away. He remembered telling Dean about his feelings toward magic and how he felt about his world. That was pretty much it. Oh, then there was the bit about wanting to pursue a normal life Bingo? Harry shook his head. Why on earth would that comment, or any other for that matter, bother Dean. Harry couldn't quite comprehend Dean's interest in him to begin with so anything beyond physical attraction seemed next to impossible coming from the hunter. Dean didn't seem the type to 'settle down' in any form which was one of the main reasons Harry had mostly laughed off and joked about the man's advances. Harry didn't have much experience in the love department but a general knowledge of how he felt toward people he cared about told him that he definitely wouldn't be anyone's convenience shag. He shook his head more fiercely and succeeded in giving himself a headache. He glared at the empty patch of dirt that belonged to the Impala and resolved to think about his love life some other time. He rolled his eyes at the thought. Gosh, he felt like a girl. He turned around, intending to head back to the house and find something to keep his mind from wandering onto Dean or dream territory, when he nearly ran into Sam. He gasped in surprise and clutched his chest reflexively, body too shocked to move which is what he should have done at the first sight of danger but he had been too preoccupied with his relationship problems. He really was turning into a girl. He glared at the amused giant. "I swear, I'm going to put bells on all of you," Harry promised. It was actually a very appealing idea, now that he thought of it

Sam huffed out a laugh. "I don't think that would help in our general need for stealth and silence." Harry snorted. "I honestly don't think you possess general stealth or silence, Sam." Sam smiled and looked around at the empty lawn. "What have you been doing out here?" Harry shrugged. "Thinking." Sam gave him a look. "On your feet?" Harry shot him a cocky grin. "It's what I do best." He sobered a bit as he recalled why he was on his feet. "I was actually lying down until your brother took my thinking place on a mission for food." He frowned as thoughts of Dean's temperament filled his mind again. Sam motioned for him to follow him around back. Harry fell into step beside him easily just as Sam asked, "What's going on with you two, anyway?" Harry shot him a look. "What do you mean?" he asked carefully. Sam raised an eyebrow, apparently not buying his act of ignorance. "I mean that you two barely looked at each other this morning and last night, Dean practically slammed the door to splinters." Harry winced at the description. "Honestly? I have no idea what's going on." How could he describe his feelings toward Dean? How could he possibly tell Sam what he was feeling, if he had no idea what he was feeling to begin with? "Penny for your thoughts?" Sam offered as they came upon a worn old bench near the door leading to the kitchen. He sat down and motioned for Harry to do the same. Harry plopped down with a sigh. "I guess I may have said something that may have upset him somehow," he admitted. "Maybe," he added as an afterthought. Sam smiled at him, his hair falling into his eyes. "What happened?" he asked slowly, obviously expecting for Harry to close down and push him away. Everyone was so careful when asking about Harry's life. Maybe he was crazy. "We just spoke yesterday and the 'normal' thing came up," Harry said easily, surprising himself with his honest answer. Sam was really starting to grow on him. "What 'normal' thing?" Harry shrugged. "I told him that after Bella was gone, I might want to have a normal life here, that I couldn't have in my own world."

"Oh." That one word held more meaning than Harry could have imagined. Sam no longer looked confused but he didn't seem to be getting ready to share. "What?" Harry pressed. Sam turned in his seat to face him and Harry did the same. "Well, Dean hasn't exactly said anything about you two but he likes you, Harry." He smiled as Harry's complexion took on a rosy tinge. "And, trust me, this is a pretty big deal for someone like Dean. He's something of a Well, I guess you could call him a Casanova," Sam said. Harry felt a twinge of something go through his entire body; it wasn't pleasant. He nodded. "I had a feeling." Sam sighed. "Relationships are pretty hard to maintain when you're a hunter and I've never seen Dean get involved with anyone beyond the casual one night stand." He caught sight of Harry's guarded eyes. "But you probably had a feeling about that, too." Harry nodded, making sure to keep his face blank. "My point is that it's not like him to wear his heart on his sleeve but it's pretty obvious to everyone that he really does like you, Harry. And that's probably scaring the crap out of him." "What has that got to do with what I said to him?" "Well, everything. If Dean likes you as much as I think he does, it would make sense for him reacting like he did if he told him you were leaving." "But I didn't-" Harry protested. Sam held up a hand and nodded. "Look at it from Dean's point of view. You came into our lives and Dean was instantly attracted to you because of your general know-how with all things evil. Then you go and tell him that you hate that part of your life and you're getting out the first chance you get." Sam's face became pained and Harry knew it probably had something to do with the way Sam left hunting for Stanford. And here was Harry's crash, face first, into reality and the world that most definitely did not revolve around him. Here he was this past week, hunting Bella night and day with an obsessed fervor and all he really wanted was to leave all the unnaturalness behind. But, what about everyone else? If Sam was right, which Harry seriously doubted, then he would be hurting Dean when he just vanished from their lives. More importantly, and realistically, Harry would be abandoning the very real prophecy that, according to a crazy copycat, had a lot to do with Sam. Didn't that sort of qualify this prophecy as 'worth taking on'? Sam and Dean, no matter Harry's feelings for the latter, mattered to Harry and he wouldn't leave them to face disaster when he could have prevented it. Even Harry's feelings for his magic, the hate and hope that he could just leave it behind, those feelings seemed childish compared to what was going on with Bella and what happened with Voldemort. Harry couldn't honestly say that he would be happy leaving his fate, and the fate of others, to someone else's hands. Hadn't he learned anything from the last war? He rolled his eyes to himself as he replayed Tom's words in his head. The more he thought of it, the more Harry's fantasy became less tempting.

"Sam," Harry began, hesitantly, not really knowing what he wanted anymore. "I-" Just then the sound of the Impala purring to a halt in the front yard cut their conversation short. They both turned toward the sound as the engine died off and footsteps on gravel could be heard. Harry turned back to Sam, eyes determined. "I'll talk to him," Harry promised. Sam smiled reassuringly and then stood to make his way into the suddenly alive kitchen. Harry followed, chewing his lip worriedly. "Have I ever told you what a terrible cook you are, Sirius?" Sam asked through a mouthful of Harry's shepherd's pie. Sirius' answer was to pull the serving dish toward himself with a happy sigh of agreement. Harry smiled at his godfather's enthusiasm as he dried the washed dishes and stored them in the rickety cabinets above the sink. He went over to the oven and pulled out the cool apple pie that he had protected from the others until now. He presented it to the men at the table with a flourish. Sam groaned at the sight and Sirius almost went into a food coma. John's nostrils flared behind the newspaper he was reading and he eventually put it down for a long look at the beauty sitting before him, smelling of home and happiness. He'd forgotten what a homemade meal tasted like. Harry took the knife and cut a slice each for Sam and John. Sirius was then instructing him on how large his slice should be ("What am I, a size zero? I need my strength!) when Dean zoomed into the kitchen, looking for all the world like he just ran from the top floor to the kitchen. "I smell pie," he said, an excited light shining in his eyes. He looked around and his eyes stopped at the giant slice that Harry had just finished cutting for Sirius. He glanced up at Harry who raised his eyebrows with a glance to Sirius. Quick as lightning and with a barely visible smirk on his face, Dean snatched up the slice with as much care as one would a newborn and ran out through the back door. Sirius, hand still outstretched toward the memory of his perfect slice, stared in horror as the door slammed shut behind the thief. He lowered his hand and leveled John with a hard glare as the man took refuge behind his newspaper, probably holding back a laugh. Sam chuckled and nearly choked on his own pie and Harry cut Sirius a bigger slice then set it in front of his godfather with a consoling pat to the head. "He's pushing his luck, John," Sirius growled but he perked up at Harry's peace offering. John snorted behind his paper. "I'd like to see you try to get the better of either of my boys, old man." The pride in that simple sentence, the obvious smugness, was that of a parent boasting to another parent over his child's good grades. Harry caught Sam's eye as Sirius continued the banter and wasn't surprised to find the hunter's eyes narrowed in shock and confusion. Harry smiled at him and Sam visibly shook himself, looking a bit pink as he analyzed his father's words.

Harry continued to put away dishes and he also gave the counter a good scrubbing with Sam helping to clear the table and clean the refrigerator. The friendly banter soon died down and the two men at the table lapsed into a comfortable silence. This lasted for a few minutes until John suddenly closed the newspaper and set it firmly on the table. Harry and Sam exchanged a confused look and waited for John to speak. John glanced at the now blank faced Sirius then looked at Harry. "We haven't seen you more than a few minutes for the past week so I couldn't ask you then but I need to ask you now." Harry put the dishtowel aside and gave the hunter his full attention. He nodded for the man to continue. Maybe John had had enough of Harry or maybe he knew what was going on with Dean Oh, that would be more embarrassing than the day John had walked in on them kissing. He held his breath. "We have to talk about that prophecy the shifter mentioned," John stated bluntly, his voice and eyes determined. Harry let out the breath slowly. He had expected this to come up sooner and, while it still wasn't a welcome topic, he had an idea about what he wanted to say. He took a seat facing John and he felt Sam sit beside him offering whatever support he could. "You want to know if it involves Sam and Dean," Harry concluded. John nodded. "I don't know," he answered honestly. "What I do know is that I'll take care of it." John raised an eyebrow. "Really. This isn't going to be some two minute job, son. And all that talk about you wanting to be a civilian Well, we need to be ready just in case." Harry nodded, feeling his thoughts clear and his decision burn in his throat. He couldn't keep running, he wouldn't. "Just in case I bail?" John's only answer was a raised eyebrow. Harry glanced at Sam, recalling every bit of Tom's words as he really thought over his options. "I'm not going anywhere. Honest." "Harry, what about when Bella's gone?" Sam asked. "I can't walk out on a prophecy even if I wanted to. And, as of this morning, I don't want to," Harry answered. John still looked skeptical. "I know what I said before and I did mean it. I hate magic sometimes and I really hate being singled out. But, that doesn't change the fact that I'm not ever going to be normal." "This doesn't have to be your life," Sirius said quietly. Harry looked at him and in that moment, staring into the poorly concealed depths of sadness that were Sirius' eyes, he knew that he would never walk away from Sirius or the others. If his godfather, who had spent a year searching for a way back to him and then spent the past week doing his best to just make him feel comfortable, if he was willing to put Harry's happiness before his own "I want it to be," Harry said firmly. "I wouldn't know how to adjust to a normal life after sixteen years of being everything but. And, besides, I'm good at what I'm doing now."

"Harry-" "After you died," Harry interrupted. "I spent the summer being sheltered from everything that was going on with Voldemort and I freaked. I didn't know how to handle being useless and I wouldn't know how to handle that now," Harry said with a certainty that seemed to destroy any argument Sirius might have had. "You can still live however you want after the prophecy is taken care of," Sam said fiercely, surprising everyone with his intensity. "Sammy," Dean began and Harry jumped in alarm. It seemed the other hunter had enough stealth and silence to effectively return into the kitchen without Harry noticing. "No. This isn't right, Harry." "Sam, leave the boy alone. He's made his choice," John said, giving Harry an understanding nod, the kind Shane used to give him after a failed rescue mission. It told Harry that he was not alone. "You would think that wouldn't you? Now that he's on your team, that is," Sam bit out. "Sam," John said in a completely different tone than Dean. It was a warning. Sirius stood warily and kept his eyes trained on John just in case he decided to throw a swing at his son. Sam also stood, body tensing for a fight. Harry glanced at Dean and it was obvious that the argument was tearing at him; this was his family, after all. "Just say it, Dad. You want me to make the same choice and fall into the little soldier act, right?" Before John could do something regrettable, Harry got to his feet. "This isn't helping," he said quietly. "Harry, I-" "You've had this fight more than a dozen times since we've been here, Sam." He gave the taller man a pleading look. "I thought you wanted me to stay." Sam looked away. "I did," he responded immediately, then clarified, "I do. I just- This isn't fair." "I know. But you already knew that and fighting over this won't fix or change anything. Things are how they are," Harry said with a shrug. There was silence then Sam said, "I thought you said we weren't bad people." Harry gave him a half smile. "We're not. Bad people don't get pie, Sam." Sam rolled his eyes but his gaze was still questioning when it locked on Harry and the wizard didn't really know how best to answer. "I'm not giving up what little control I have left." "Being safe is a good deal better than having control," Sam tried.

"Safe and ignorant aren't the same thing. But, maybe it's best for you. I don't know," Harry said honestly. "That's your choice and no one else's." "But?" Sam sighed. Harry hesitated. "You came back for a reason, Sam. If you really wanted a normal life so much, you would have found a way to stay, no matter what happened." Sam's eyes flashed with anger then a terrible sadness that made Harry's heart die a little in its presence. Everyone else was silent, apparently understanding the importance of the conversation. The moment was broken a few seconds later when Hedwig swooped into the room in with all her angelic beauty. "Where have you been?" Harry asked, sternly as she settled on his shoulder. "What's that you've got there?" She had a small sheet of paper clutched in her tiny claw. Harry removed the small note and Hedwig immediately took flight and soared into the living room. She came back with a rolled up paper which Harry recognized as his map. He took it from Hedwig and looked around to find the startled expressions on the faces of all three Winchesters. Sirius simply looked curious. A sharp peck to his hand drew his attention back to the owl. He unrolled the map one handedly while looking at the paper. It looked like regular motel stationary and Harry couldn't find a single word written on it. "Hedwig, I think you've gone mad," Harry said. The owl gave him another peck and landed on the map and proceeded to peck at it fiercely. "Hey! What do you-?" The owl hopped away and gave an indignant squawk as Harry swatted at her. She stared pointedly at the wizard then hopped over and pecked at the sheet of paper discarded on the table. "Ok, what?" Harry asked irritably. He looked down at the white sheet with a stamp set across the top, advertising the Clearview Motel in Boston. With a curious glance at the map, Harry was startled to see that Hedwig's pecks poked a hole straight through Massachusetts. He handed the paper over to Sam and looked at Hedwig. "You found Bella," he said blankly. She hooted in agreement, owl chest puffed out proudly. Sam let out a surprised laugh. "You're joking right?" Harry kept looking at Hedwig and Dean was the one who answered. "It looks like the owl was doing the job while we were having our group therapy session." Harry wasn't the only one that heard the respect in Dean's voice; Hedwig's glare wasn't present as she hooted in acknowledgement to the truth in Dean's words. Harry's eyes lit up as he noticed the sun creeping slowly down beneath the horizon. He shifted restlessly then promptly stood to flick on the few lamps in the darkening living room. With a satisfied smile, he resumed his seat on the old couch and attempted to calm his anxious limbs, to no avail. It seemed his little adventure toward the lamps and

back wasn't enough to rid him of his bottled tension. He tapped his foot on the wood floor and wondered if pacing would do the trick. Dean shot him an annoyed glare and Harry felt his foot tapping cease at the look. Dean shifted in his seat in front of the rickety desk and his gaze returned to the computer screen. His expression, too, returned to that of frustration. Harry worried his lip between his teeth then asked, "Find anything," for the umpteenth time. He grimaced at the sharp glare the hunter turned on him but it had lost the heat to really worry Harry. Dean, Harry realized, was probably thinking along the same lines. Dean shook his head, frown deepening as he scrolled down the pages of police reports. "I'm not doubting the owl's spidy senses," Dean said, glancing to make sure the owl was no where in sight, "but it's quiet. No death, mutilations or missing persons report. Nothing even a little weird," he finished, sounding deeply disappointed about the last bit. Harry tapped his foot again, missing the exasperation on Dean's face as he thought about the situation. Maybe Hedwig had been wrong or perhaps Bella was just long gone by now. Or, maybe, Bella was just trying not to draw attention to herself. Harry's eyes focused on the hunter sitting across the room. "If Hedwig says she's there, then she's there," he said firmly. Dean almost protested but one look at the stubborn set to the wizard's jaw successfully quieted the hunter. Dean just nodded to Harry and went back to his fruitless searching, glancing up at the wizard every few minutes. Harry, for his part, was staring thoughtfully out the window, oblivious to Dean's gaze as he sunk into his thoughts. It had been a few hours since the explosive conversation in the kitchen and Harry hadn't spoken to Dean about anything other than Bella since then. It hadn't been awkward at first because of their urgency to find out what the witch was up to, but their investigation was winding down to a pile of nothing and Harry's restlessness wasn't all caused by the danger Bella posed. Harry didn't know what he was expecting from Dean now that he had committed himself to the life of a hunter but these tense silences and brief glances weren't clueing Harry in on what the other man was thinking. Harry didn't have much experience with relationships but he had a feeling nothing would get solved if they didn't talk about it. Unfortunately, Harry wasn't programmed to chat about his feelings; it was honestly a miracle that Sam had managed to get anything out of him. Besides the fact that Harry wasn't looking forward to any sort of confrontation, he also wasn't sure where he stood with Dean, even before anything got between them. From what Harry gathered during his heart to heart with Sam, Dean's attraction for Harry was sparked by the ease with which Harry took care of himself and others while hunting with them. What if that was the only thing that mattered to Dean? It would certainly explain Dean's behavior when Harry admitted that hunting would be dreadful; that conversation must have turned Dean away. Harry closed his eyes with a small shake of the head and resolved to push all thoughts of Dean out of his mind. Nothing good would

come of a relationship with Dean, even if the hunter cared for one, which he didn't. Harry's mind conveniently failed to notice the glances the hunter in question was still shooting Harry's way. Across the room, Dean was having an inner battle with his feelings, as well. A few hours ago, he had been completely sure that his feelings for the wizard were not feelings, but just his regular lust for another person. He had thought that the conversation in the wee hours of the morning had cleared his sex-wired brain and made him realize that he only wanted Harry because he was a looker. He had been convinced that the attraction was just physical and it wouldn't matter that Harry would leave as soon as Bella was taken care of; the feeling in his gut was just disappointment at the prospect of losing a good partner in bed and an equally capable hunter. So, he had returned from his enlightening trip to the market, happy that he hadn't done anything to seriously damage his friendship with the wizard, and then had proceeded to lock himself in the guest room of Bobby's house at the sight of Harry cooking dinner for them. Harry moving around the kitchen with a practiced ease while bantering with Dean's little brother had sent a warm tingling down his spine and, more disturbingly, the feeling had spread south of his stomach and left him with such an unexpected hard on, that he really had no choice but to flee. And, of course, he had managed to convince himself that the warm feeling was the prospect of a homemade meal with what was left of his family and some new friends looking, for all the world, like a normal family. His aroused state, he had reasoned with himself as he took care of the problem with a cold shower, was the result of going so long without getting laid. That, he could take care of easily and he planned on doing so with a trip to the nearest bar after dinner. Then, Dad had decided to go and question Harry about the prophecy. The conversation that followed had shattered any thought Dean had that his feelings for the wizard could be nothing but him thinking with his downstairs brain. The moment Harry had all but swore that he would stick to hunting, Dean's heart had constricted in an unfamiliar way and he had had the urge to pull Harry into his arms for a hug, of all the crazy things. His mind had supplied him with other things he could do with the wizard after the hug and that had confused Dean even more. All thoughts of sex with a random beauty had flown out of Dean's mind. So, for the past few hours of finding absolutely nothing dangerous or remotely appealing to a hunter, Dean was trying to figure out the bigger mystery of his feelings (ugh, he was turning into a chick) for Harry. He had thought back to their meeting in the hospital in Colorado and all Dean could come up with was that Harry had the most beautiful - sexy eyes. They had been and still were, a vibrant shade of emerald green but it hadn't been the color that had Dean obsessing over the beauty, it was what Harry's eyes had been hiding. Dean, much like Sam, had felt such a familiarity with the exhaustion and torn gaze of the wizard. But that still didn't explain why Dean was attracted to Harry, where Sam was definitely not (God, help him if he tried anything), and it also didn't explain why Dean's gaze had lingered on Harry's eyes more than any other part of his body. Dean wasn't usually so disgustingly romantic.

He shuddered a bit and gave the wizard another glance before resuming his train of thought. Then there was that day Dean had caught sight of the very fresh and very dangerous looking wound on Harry's forearm. He couldn't even explain why looking at that had sent his heart racing madly and he had gone from zero to sixty so fast that it had scared the hell out of him. The thought that someone had done that to Harry had eaten him up inside until Harry had admitted that the wound was self-inflicted. That admission hadn't gone well with Dean's simmering anger. He had needed an explanation, a damn good one, and he remembered practically demanding a promise that it would never happen again. That kind of thing never happened outside of Sam and their father and it had freaked Dean out every time he thought of it but he couldn't say he regretted anything. Then there were the absolutely thrilling moments when Dean had managed to plant one on Harry. The odd feeling he had in the kitchen was always present during those few seconds, making Dean's heart frantic and his mind swim with a heady content that he had never felt before. As much as he wanted to find an explanation for that, Dean couldn't say that it was anything other than some mushy, girly feeling that he was not familiar with. There was no describing that rush and even comparing it to hunting was inadequate. So, the hunter was scrolling down pages of useless crap, no closer to figuring out why he felt the need to submit himself to a Sammy-style chick flick moment for the sake of mending his relationship with Harry. And, he also had no idea what his relationship with Harry even was. He almost groaned aloud and he was about two useless pages away from tossing Sam's computer for its unwillingness to provide any useful information. It was probably a good thing for Dean that Sirius and John chose that moment to enter the living room; Sam would have torn him a new one for even thinking of hurting his baby. Jeez, what some people will do for unfeeling objects, Dean thought to himself as he nodded to the men. Sirius faltered slightly as he caught sight of Harry sitting on the very edge of the couch, as far from Dean as the old thing allowed. Harry didn't notice his godfather's confused stare because of the speck of white hovering in the sky that caught his attention. He busied himself with unlatching the window and missed the automatic glance Dean gave him as he got on his knees. The hunter looked away and caught his father's arched brow directed at him. The man looked at Harry and then back at his son. Dean turned back to the screen and cleared his throat nervously. "We haven't found anything," he supplied, helpfully. John's expression darkened. "No. We didn't expect you to find much." He shared a look with Sirius. Harry's godfather nodded, solemnly, no trace of laughter on his pale face. "She must be planning something big." Dean shut the laptop, thankful to have an excuse to stretch his legs; he was getting just as restless as Harry. "Then we should get moving," he said, standing up.

The silence that followed Dean's words drew Harry's attention away from his owl. He turned to find Sirius and John sharing one of those 'parent stares" that Harry had familiarized himself with during his fifth year. He stood up, shared a confused look with Dean, and waited for someone to say something. Sirius cleared his throat. "We were thinking that you three should sit this one out, Harry," Sirius said, carefully. "Now that we know where she is, it would be safer for John and I to take care of this." Harry stared at Sirius blankly, brain caught somewhere between shocked and incredulous. Dean was shaking his head but he looked as surprised as Harry felt and he didn't say anything. The silence came back, broken only seconds later by Sam's appearance in the doorway. He was glaring at John but his voice was a good impersonation of calm when he said, "She's dangerous. We're stronger together and you know it." "It wasn't a suggestion, Sam. I'm giving you a direct order to stay clear of Boston until you hear from us," John said, meeting Sam's fury head on. "Didn't you hear what I just said?" Sam burst out, fiercely. "I did and you're wrong. All of us showing up there will make us easy targets. We have to be smart about this if we want to get her before she gets us." Sam's eyes narrowed and he had that 'I just figured something out' look about him. "If hunting together would be a bad thing, then why did you want our help hunting the demon?" John's jaw clenched and Harry could tell the man wanted to turn away from Sam. He looked the picture of guilt and didn't answer Sam's question. This only made Sam angrier; Harry could feel the fury coming off of the youngest Winchester as he placed himself directly in front of his father. "You never planned on taking us with you," Sam concluded and John didn't deny it, "what were you really planning?" "Sam, it's too dangerous for you boys to go after that demon," John answered, through clenched teeth. Sam looked triumphant at having forced some information out of John but then his expression went dark. "We have as much right to try to get ourselves killed as you do. That demon didn't just take something from you!" John finally looked away, eyes pained, and he lapsed into silence again. Sam practically growled and his large hands clenched into fists in anger. He was practically shaking with the effort it took to not do something he would regret. Dean stepped forward. "Sammy," he said, in what Harry was starting to recognize was his big brother voice.

Sam spared him a glance but turned his gaze back to his father. Surprisingly, his next words were directed at Harry. "Harry, can you do what you did at the hospital?" his gaze shifted to the confused wizard. Sam tapped a finger to his head in an oddly familiar gesture and Harry suddenly got it. Sam wanted Harry to dig into John's mind. Harry's eyes widened when he realized this, partly from surprise that Sam would request a violation of his father's mind and partly because, in all the time he had been frustrated with John's secrecy, it had never occurred to Harry to simply pluck the information from John's mind. Harry, for the millionth time, wondered how he managed to get anything done when he was obviously so incapable. Harry looked at Sirius and wasn't surprised to see confusion in his expression. Dean, Harry found, was staring right at him but he didn't say anything. John, for his part, was completely on guard the moment Sam had asked for Harry's help. He probably had no idea what Sam wanted but had most likely deduced that it would involve magic, which John still wasn't fond of. "Sam?" Harry questioned, hesitantly. The hunter looked away from his father and met Harry's gaze, completely determined. "I'm tired of his secrets, Harry. We've given him enough time to come clean and we aren't leaving until we know what's going on." Harry gazed at John thoughtfully, not completely comfortable with what Sam was asking him to do. Harry knew exactly what it felt like to have his mind forcibly invaded and he wasn't too keen on causing that experience on anyone. He looked at the hunter, hoping he would give in, but it was becoming clearer to Harry just which parent Sam had inherited his stubbornness from. Harry cringed at the expectant look Sam was giving him, combined with John's glare, Harry was starting to get anxious at this turn in the conversation. Harry was saved from giving a suitable response by Sirius clearing his throat, loudly. "What, exactly, are you asking Harry to do?" he asked. "He wants Harry to read Dad's mind," Dean answered, stonily. Harry ignored the urge to explain that the mind was not a book. Sirius eyes widened in shock as he looked at Harry. "You can work that spell now?" Harry blushed at the attention and that odd pride in Sirius' voice. "It was one of the things I had to learn, along with Occlumency." "You aren't reading anyone's mind, son," John interrupted, fiercely. "You gonna tell us yourself?" Sam snapped. "Sam," John growled, "you're my boys and I just gave you an order to stay out of danger!"

Harry studied his features and a sudden thought struck him. "You were going to send them in the wrong direction," Harry realized. John whirled around in fury and almost charged at Harry with balled up fists. If it hadn't been for Sirius rushing to place himself in front of his godson, John probably would have slugged him. It also helped that Dean had somehow ended up at Harry's side, looking between his angry father and his shocked brother. No one moved for a few seconds. Harry glanced thankfully at Dean and stepped around Sirius, and closer to Dean, to look at John. He almost wished he hadn't because the expression on the man's face made the wizard step a little closer to Dean and he couldn't even think about how close he was to the hunter. "I didn't get that out of your head," Harry said, quietly, "I got it from your actions." "What happened to you not being observant?" John growled out, making a visible attempt at calming himself. Harry shrugged. "I have my moments," he said, noticing that everyone was gradually calming down now that John wasn't yelling, " and that's the only thing that made sense. If you want to protect someone this stubborn," he gestured to the Winchester siblings, "you make them think they're getting their way." John, to Harry's complete and total shock, immediately nodded, apparently believing Harry's explanation. Harry felt that maybe he needed a moment to consider the possibility that John trusted him? This was going to give him a headache. "You were going to send us off somewhere to be able to hunt that thing on your own," Sam said, coldly, from his position behind his father. "After everything, you still think this is your fight and no one else's." "My job will always be to keep you two safe," John answered, firmly, "We are going to take care of Bella and you will stay here and wait for Bobby. That's an order." He was back to his 'general' voice. "Why did the demon come after us?" Sam demanded. And, just like that, John's whole body shook with some suppressed emotion and he turned away from both his sons, shaking his head, not intending on giving them an answer. Sam realized this and stepped away from him and walked toward the door. "You can have your stupid demon hunt and you can have your revenge; it's always meant more to you than anything else. We're going after Bella. Dean? Harry?" With that, Sam's huge figure made an impressive show of storming out the front door, not waiting for a response. John almost went after his son, eyes hard and jaw clenched tight, but Dean stepped forward and made his way to the door after his little brother. "Dean." The name was said as a warning or maybe it was a plea, Harry couldn't tell.

Dean spared his father a glance. "My job is to protect Sam. You do whatever you want. You always do anyway," he said and continued, throwing back, as an afterthought, "sir." John looked as if he'd been slapped. Harry knew, from the way John usually treated his sons, that he would have demanded they get back in the house with barely a look. But, in all the days Harry had witnessed the family arguments, Dean never once spoke a word against his father. That was the only thing keeping John rooted to the spot: the fact that his oldest had finally chosen a moment to stand up to him. Harry was almost sad to see what it did to the man. Harry grabbed his sweater from the armrest and moved to follow Dean out the door but a hand on his elbow stopped him. The hand turned him around and Harry was staring into the stern eyes of his godfather; he almost laughed at how odd the expression looked on the playful Sirius Black. Almost. "Harry, don't do this," Sirius pleaded. "You shouldn't have to deal with her anymore. She's my responsibility." Harry thought back to the moment he had said those same words. They sounded wrong coming from Sirius. He shook his head. "Please," he told his godfather, "I have to do this." Sirius eyes burned with a hatred for all that had been done to Harry. "You don't have to do anything," he said, fiercely, "Nothing." How could Harry make Sirius understand that part of the reason for his continued avoidance of his godfather was Bella's existence? Harry could barely hold a conversation with the man for a few minutes until thoughts of Bella's promise clouded his mind. He couldn't be happy and he couldn't accept that Sirius was alive until Bella was dead. He couldn't risk getting close to the man just to lose him a second time, this time permanently. Harry shook his head more forcefully. "I do. This won't be alright, not until I know she can't hurt you." Sirius' eyes widened in realization and Harry had to look away from the sadness that entered his godfather's eyes. Harry hated that it was usually him that caused that look. Sirius looked at him for a very long moment, taking in the differences that a year of training and war had done to Harry. "You look a lot like your mother," he muttered, brushing his thumb across where Harry's glasses used to be. Harry couldn't describe the feeling that entered his heart at the words so he didn't try. "Send word with Hedwig once you've finish." Harry nodded and was about to turn away when he was suddenly pulled into a strong hug. He felt a moment of panic before he caught the sent of his godfather, strong and clean and so familiar that, before he really thought about it, Harry was hugging back. He closed his eyes and felt a prickle behind his closed eyelids as he heard the warm

sound of Sirius' heart. He allowed himself this moment, knowing full well that it was possible that maybe Sirius wouldn't see him alive again. Once he was sure he wouldn't burst into very unmanly tears, Harry pulled away and gave the man a smile. Sirius looked a mix between horribly sad and extremely excited. Harry turned away and started for the front door. He was stepping onto the porch, ready to start toward the Impala and Sam's still form beside it, when he heard John say: "You take care of my boys, son." "With my life," Harry promised, quietly. The bell above the door jingled merrily, announcing the arrival of customers. Lindsey glared at the cheerful object and then turned her blue gaze to the horrific furniture in the dusty shop. How were people supposed to feel comfortable at a barber shop when a chair looked like that? Ben stepped in beside her, grimacing briefly at the state of what must be the barber's social area, and gave his fianc a loving nudge in the side. "It's the only place open this late," he reasoned. "We can just wait until morning. My parents won't mind if we're a bit late," she whispered to him, glancing around at the large room with its dark walls and ancient furniture. "No," Ben agreed. "They won't mind, they'll just blame it on me. I actually want to make a good impression this time," he said, recalling the last encounter with his future in-laws with a shudder. "Hello." he called out. "You may pass," a sultry voice answered from behind a closed door near a white armchair that was stained with an unpleasant shade of yellow. Ben gave her a reassuring nod and a peck on the cheek. "Just stay out here," he suggested, "and I'll be out in a sec." She nodded and watched him disappear behind the door. With a sigh, she began a search for a chair to wait for Ben. After a few minutes, it became apparent that the owner of this shop did not know the meaning of the word clean and Lindsey had to settle for wandering around the dark shop, looking at old photographs on the walls in the dim glow coming from one of the street lights outside. She was on her sixth circle around the shop and she was getting steadily more anxious at Ben's absence. Shouldn't he have been done by now? All he really needed was a quick haircut and that shouldn't be taking close to an hour. She checked her watch again and huffed in annoyance. Her fianc was probably making friends with the barber. Damn social butterfly. Lindsey opened the door and was greeted with a narrow staircase. She tugged her dark hair anxiously but took a deep breath and started upstairs, making sure to keep her coat away from the dusty walls. She reached the last stair and found another door directly in

front of her. She wiped at the dust on the wall, intending on pressing her ear up against the door, but she was surprised when it was pushed open by her hand, creaking as it went. No sound came from inside. She was starting to think that maybe they had gone somewhere else when she heard a soft cough from inside. Lindsey's shoulders slumped in relief and she pushed the door open completely. And promptly fell to her knees in horror. A scream was ripped from her throat as she stared into the dead eyes of her fianc in front of her. She scrambled away from his blood covered body and tried not to look at the gaping wound in his neck. Her breath was coming in gasps and she was staring around wildly, trying to wake up from the nightmare she just walked in on. Footsteps alerted her to someone's presence in the room but she couldn't look away from Ben. Her life, her life, was gone and she couldn't breath, she couldn't think. A hand yanked at the collar of her coat and she was pulled roughly to her feet but her eyes remained on the dead man lying in a puddle of his own blood. She heard shushing sounds near her ear but they were soon drowned out by her own frantic sobs. She knew somewhere in her mind, that she was in danger so she kicked her legs out as she was hauled into the air by a strong hand. She was really starting to panic when she felt the person's other hand caress the side of her neck. Or, she thought it was a hand. Her eyes closed and she choked on a sob when she realized that a cold blade was cutting into her. She prayed for a quick death and whispered her love to the corpse of her fianc. "Are we there yet?" Harry asked from his slumped position in the backseat. He smirked as a French fry came soaring at his head. He caught it and leaned forward in his seat. Dean punched his brother in the arm. "No throwing food in here," he said, sternly. "And, no we're about a mile closer to the town since the last time you asked." Harry sighed before tossing the fry into his mouth. Dean glanced at him briefly and Harry shot him a happy smile, wondering why he had never appreciated the deliciousness of grease back in his own world. Dean turned back to the road with a small smile on his lips. "Hey, Dean?" Sam asked with a frown to the screen of his laptop. "Mm," Dean replied eloquently around a mouthful of fries he had stolen from a glaring Harry. Sam looked up at them. "I thought you said there hadn't been any deaths." Dean swallowed hurriedly in surprise. "There weren't." Sam's frown deepened. "A couple was found on the side of the road a few nights ago. Their throats were slit from ear to ear."

Harry eyes widened and he almost choked on a fry. "Where," he asked, urgently. "A few blocks from that motel," Sam answered, reading Harry's expression clearly, "Looks like she's done planning." "Or she's just bored," Harry said as he slumped back in his seat. Harry and Sam stepped into their motel room, being careful to step over the line of salt, and found Dean hunched over the local newspaper on one of the beds. He looked up as Harry kicked the door closed behind them. "No one's seen Bella," Harry said, before Dean had a chance to ask. Dean gave them a look. "They could be lying." Harry rolled his eyes. "People don't usually lie too convincingly in their heads, Dean." Dean raised an eyebrow at the implication that Harry had willingly dug into a stranger's mind. He was beginning to think that Harry was completely against the idea. Sam gave him a shrug and sat on the other bed. "Any luck?" Dean shook his head. "I spoke to the families and no one has any idea who could have turned those two into pez dispensers. How about you?" Sam gave a suffering sigh. "Their friends were pretty strange." "Dangerous, kind of strange?" Sam gave a snort at the thought and shook his head. "No. It's just, their friends were just murdered and they were more worried about decorating for some stupid Halloween party." "Halloween?" Dean's attention was definitely caught at the mention. "I completely forgot that's in a couple of days," he said, happily, sounding like a five year old. Harry smiled from his place on the couch and recalled the few decorations being put up as they came into the room. Sam, Harry noticed, wasn't especially excited over the event. He grimaced at the mention of Halloween but smiled at his brother's enthusiasm. "So, you think they had something to do with the deaths?" Dean asked as he tried to focus on the case. Sam shrugged. "They weren't really willing to talk to me so I don't really have anything to go on, but we should check it out." "How do you expect to do that?"

Harry cleared his throat and, once he had their attention, he pulled a flier from his pocket. "One of the blokes I talked to said everyone would be there tonight," he handed them the flier, "It's our best bet at figuring out what's going on around here." "The Halloween Party?" Sam asked, in disbelief. "And you think it's a good idea to go?" Harry nodded. "Everyone I spoke to was real tight lipped. Most of the information I got was from their heads." Dean suddenly looked at him. "How'd you get the guy to give you the flier?" Harry promptly blushed at the question and stuttered before clearing his throat. He mumbled something under his breath but Sam raised an eyebrow and gave him a smirk as Harry avoided Dean's gaze. "Sorry, what was that, Harry?" Harry glared at the hunter. "I just promised to see him there." Sam was still giving him that look. "And, I may have given him a number." "What number did you give him?" Sam asked in confusion. They still hadn't gotten around to getting Harry a cell phone. The wizard suddenly smiled. "I gave him yours." Dean snickered and Sam sat up indignantly. "Just speak with a British accent when he calls. He'll never know the difference." Dean's snickers turned into roaring laughter at the horrified expression on Sam's face. Harry joined him soon after and he collapsed onto the bed, trying to suppress giggles as Sam got to his feet. "Where are you going?" Harry managed to gasp out. "You two are going to need costumes," Sam said, a strange glint entering his eyes. The door slammed behind him. Harry's laughs were cut short. "Should I be scared?" "Terrified," Dean said seriously, then laughed at Harry's expression. It took Dean a few minutes to calm down and the pillow to the face Harry gave him only worked to set him on another giggle frenzy. By the time he was done, his stomach and face were aching. He shifted on the bed to find Harry lying on his side with his eyes closed and a soft smile on his lips. His eyes opened as Dean's laughter came to an end and his soft skin tinged pink as Dean continued to stare at him. "So, the guy hit on you," Dean said. Harry would have believed his indifference if his eyes weren't flashing with emotion.

Harry shrugged, heart fluttering when Dean's eyes settled on jealous. "I guess. He wasn't very subtle," he said and winced as he remembered the man's problems with respecting his personal space. "Oh," Dean said, "did you like him?" Harry couldn't hide the smile that graced his features at the straightforward question. Dean missed the look because he immediately turned away from the wizard and was probably cursing his actions. Harry felt a wave of affection and it spurred him into action. He sat up and caught Dean's attention by moving to his side. Slowly, giving the man time to move away, Harry leaned forward until he could feel Dean's breath on his lips. He smiled as he felt the other man's breath speed up. He shut his eyes and waited patiently. He didn't have to wait long. Harry's lips were caught in a soft, barely there kiss, making Harry dizzy with its sweetness. Dean kisses felt like fire, even that small contact was sending sparks throughout Harry's body and he had to clench his hands in his lap to stop himself from rushing things. Dean pulled away and Harry, still caught in his daze, followed him. He opened his mouth and gave Dean's bottom lip a soft tug and then sucked it into his mouth as a promise. He felt Dean shiver and he had a moment to enjoy the power he had over the man before Dean's arms were suddenly cradling him with a desperately strong force that left Harry shaking in pleasure. His groin tightened in response and he moaned softly into the kiss. Dean's arm wrapped around his waist and his hand went to Harry's jaw, taking complete control of the kiss. Harry's own arms moved over Dean's muscled back and clenched in surprise as the hunter pushed him back into the mattress, molding his bodily easily with Harry's. Harry let out a gasp as he felt Dean's arousal pressing into his thigh and he felt his own lust escalate. Dean's hands moved over Harry's clothed body and gradually slipped beneath Harry's shirt to the soft skin below, all the while keeping Harry distracted with sensual thrusts of his tongue. Harry's hands ended up clutched in Dean's short hair in an attempt to keep himself grounded. Finally, the lack of oxygen caused Harry to pull away. Dean didn't waste any time moving to Harry's neck, searching out all the spots that made Harry moan so sweetly. Dean stopped at Harry's pulse, smirking as he felt it pulsing against his tongue, and opened his mouth to sink his teeth into the skin. Harry's whole body jerked at the sudden shock of pleasure, his back arched and a breathless whimper escaped his lips as Dean continued to suck hard on the spot. Harry's legs spread of their own accord, allowing Dean to slip comfortable against his trapped flesh. He let out another moan and his hands moved frantically under Dean's shirt, feeling the muscles strain and beg to be caressed.

"Dean," Harry hissed out and the man knew exactly what he wanted. He moved away and quickly stripped off his shirt but it wasn't quick enough for Harry; he really wished his horny mind could recall that spell that would be so handy in getting rid of unwanted clothes Harry blinked in surprise as Dean was suddenly before him in nothing but his red boxers, skin glistening with perspiration and muscles coiled with the restlessness of a man on a mission. This man looked equally surprised as he took in Harry's similar state of almost-nudity. Harry shivered at the hungry spark in Dean's eyes. "Eager?" Dean said, huskily, eyes still trained on Harry's lithe form. He moved to his spot in between the wizard's legs. "Maybe," Harry said. His voice broke into a needy moan as Dean's velvety arousal met his own through a thin layer of cloth. Dean's hand moved to the hem of Harry's boxers and, suddenly unsure and close to panic, Harry's hand stopped Dean's progress. Dean caught his gaze and there was a question in his eyes that Harry was afraid to answer. Why would he want to stop, was what Dean would want to know. Harry blinked up at the man who was beginning to mean so much to him and couldn't bring himself to rush into anything no matter how much his body was aching for it. "Do you wanna stop?" Dean asked, concern and more than a bit of apprehension coloring his voice. It gave Harry the strength to answer. It didn't stop the blush from gracing his cheeks, however. "I've never done that," he admitted, quietly. Dean frowned. "But, I thought with your teacher" Harry shook his head. "We never got that far." "Oh." Harry couldn't understand how Dean could pack so much emotion into that one word. Harry studied the relief that was most prominent on Dean's handsome face. "You're ok with that?" "With you not having full on sex with your teacher?" Dean asked, then answered before Harry could say anything. "Hell yeah." He swooped down and invaded Harry's mouth with a passion that made Harry's toes curl in anticipation. He pulled away again, gasping and moaning as Dean pressed his lower half into Harry's aching arousal. "I actually meant," Harry gasped out. "If you - ah - were ok with - oh going slow." The last word trailed off into a low moan as Dean wrapped one of Harry's legs around his muscled waist, giving him a much better angle. "I think I can live with this," Dean hissed into Harry's ear, his hips moving on instinct as he focused on driving Harry mad with pleasure.

As we all know, weeks of sexual tension are sufficient foreplay and do nothing to assist in one's stamina when faced with an equally obsessed partner. So, just a mere quarter of an hour after the beginning, Harry and Dean found themselves all too close to the finish line. Of course, the building shocks shooting pleasurably through Harry's body and the near painful state Dean's weaponry was in, was nothing to complain about. Harry's hand held Dean's head pressed against his neck, with Dean's ear pressed right to Harry's mouth and he could feel the effect his moans were having on the hunter. Harry felt his own arousal reaching new heights. His groin tightened sharply and his back arched with Dean still molded against his sweat slicked skin. "Dean," Harry moaned, drawing out his name as the dam broke loose and he felt himself contract, hips grinding up into Dean as he came hard. Dean's own hips stuttered as his climax was ripped from him with a new force. His stomach clenched and his whole body warmed as he watched Harry shut his eyes and moan his name to the ceiling. He shivered as the sight sent another shock through him and it was all he could do to keep from collapsing atop the panting wizard. He pulled away and collapsed beside Harry. Dean noticed the other man was shivering so, without a thought, he turned on his side and pulled the dazed wizard to his chest. He snuggled in unconsciously and Dean's heart skipped a beat at the gesture. The silence that followed was the comfortable and Dean was almost positive that Harry had fallen asleep. He felt the drying come and he knew Harry must be getting uncomfortable but, before he could move an inch, the mess was suddenly gone and was replaced with a clean tingling feeling. "Cleaning Charm," Harry murmured, drowsily. He raised his eyes to meet Dean's, feeling like he should make sure that what they just did wouldn't simply be another notch on Dean's belt of conquered bedmates. "I'm not going anywhere," was all Harry could come up with so he added a glare to make his point across. Childish, yes, but Harry isn't all that poetic now, is he? Dean shot him an affectionate smirk, apparently catching Harry's meaning and feeling that odd warmth in his chest. "I'm not either," he said. Harry believed him. "Halloween shoppers are insane!" Sam announced. Harry smirked from his reclined position on the couch. He put the television on mute and moved over to give Sam room to plop down with his purchases. The large bags had a giant pumpkin printed on the front but Harry couldn't see past the dark colors to find what Sam had bought. "That bad?" Harry asked, eyeing the bags cautiously. Sam nodded and pulled out a piece of cloth then tossed it to Harry with a large smile. Harry frowned at the smile and didn't immediately look at what he'd been given; he was starting to really worry at the look on Sam's face.

"Where's Dean?" Sam asked, evilly in Harry's opinion. He nodded to the closed bathroom door and Dean suddenly emerged, a smile permanently stuck to his face. He stopped when he caught sight of Sam but the smile stayed painfully large. Sam gave his cheerfullness a confused frown and turned to Harry to ask what had gotten into his brother but Harry was too busy staring at Dean with a more subtle, but no less happy, grin. Sam's confusion grew until his mind put the pieces together (such a bright boy) and his expression morphed into one of horror. "Ugh. You two-" he cut himself off with a childish gag that drew Harry and Dean's amused attention, "I don't wanna know," he finished, looking faint. Harry blushed and tore his gaze from Dean who was giving him a very inappropriate smirk. Sam groaned again so Harry cleared his throat and focused on the item in his hands. "What's this?" Harry asked as he examined what looked like black pajamas. "You're a ninja." Sam answered happily. Dean gave a laugh until Sam tossed him his own costume, complete with fangs. "And you get to be Dracula." "What the hell Sam?" Dean asked, a bit insulted. Harry suddenly felt better about his ridiculous costume. Sam gave them both a giant grin. "I could have done worse," and Harry didn't doubt that, "and the only thing that saved you," he pointed a finger at Harry, "was the fact that you need to be able to make a quick escape if anything happens." "What about us?" Dean asked, sulkily. "I shouldn't be prancing around in a cape if I want to get out of there with my life and dignity." "If Harry's out, he can get you out," Sam said, with the air of someone who already thought of this and couldn't believe no one else had. "Why are you only referring to us, Sam?" Harry asked suspiciously. He patted the now empty bags with a frown. "Where's you costume?" he demanded. "I'm not big on Halloween," he said, seriously with a glance to his brother. Harry didn't push. "Besides, I scoped the place out earlier and it would be best if I snooped around while you two keep everyone busy." "That's very convenient for you," Dean accused. Sam smiled. "You two should get ready before you're late." Harry shot him a glare on his way to the restroom and Dean shot him the bird. Sam's smile just got bigger. "I look ridiculous," Dean complained from around his plastic fangs.

"You look ridiculous? What about me? No self respecting ninja would ever wear something this flimsy! I should know, I was taught by one," Harry grumbled from the back seat. "Really," Sam asked, impressed. "Dean, tell your heathen of a brother that, yes, I was trained by a very capable ninjatype individual." Sam rolled his eyes. "It's not that bad, Harry. At least now you can carry around those stars of yours and no one will suspect anything," he said. "Yeah, well what about me. I'm going in practically naked!" Dean complained, foot shifting in his boot to make sure the knife was still in place. "Quit your whining. We're here." Dean pulled the Impala into the last open spot and patted her affectionately as everyone climbed out of the car. Harry dragged his feet as Dean made sure the car was locked and gave her a pat. They all moved to the darkened pathway leading to a brightly lit street. Harry could see a sign on the nearest corner, reading Fleet St. He frowned as the name nagged at something in his mind but he shook it off and caught up to the arguing brothers. "Look," Sam was saying, "you two just need to mingle a bit. I'll go in through the back so just give me a signal when you're done." "What are you going to be doing?" Harry asked, forgetting that he wasn't supposed to be talking to the evil man beside him. "I just have a feeling about this place," Sam admitted. They reached the crosswalk and Harry caught sight of the brightly decorated shop on the otherwise deserted street. The building surprised Harry and not just because of it's massive size. "A barber shop?" Sam nodded and shot the place a distrusting glare. "Exactly why I wanna check it out," he said as they crossed and made their way to the shop. Harry could see hordes of people pouring in and out of the open doorway; he could hear music inside. "Alright. This is where I leave you two," he said, while pulling the hood of Harry's costume up so that it covered everything but his eyes. "Good luck," and disappeared with a smirk. Harry glared after him until Dean tugged on his arm to get him moving. The other man gave him a toothy smile and a wink; Harry's sour mood immediately evaporated. Seconds later, they found themselves being pushed and pulled among the crowd filing into the room. Harry's first thought was that nothing could compare to the magic of a Halloween at Hogwarts. Sure, the furniture was cozy, the dance floor illuminated by hundreds of colored lights from the ceiling, but Harry almost scoffed at the fake bats clinging to the

walls and the false spider webs connecting the stained furniture. It would actually be entirely creepy if Harry hadn't faced a mountain troll his first year at Hogwarts. Dean pulled him along until they reached the long table on one side of the room. He immediately started packing a plate with pastries and only smiled when Harry gave him a disbelieving look. Harry took a sugar cookie for himself and grimaced at the terrible pumpkin drawn with icing. He looked around and was a bit surprised at the amount of people still coming in. He took a moment to examine everyone else's costumes and started to think that maybe he wasn't the one that looked ridiculous. Most of the women were dressed as half naked nurses, fairies, and other skimpier things. Harry even saw one woman dressed only in her underwear and a giant pair of white, lacy wings. The men were dressed more conservatively in costumes similar to Dean's but Harry saw a few, including one muscular man, dressed as a Roman soldier. Harry turned back to Dean and found that he had also noticed the lack of clothing on everyone's costumes. Well, it was hard not to notice when faced with the woman in her bright red bra and those misleading angel wings. Harry's eyes narrowed dangerously and an unexplainable hate of the woman gripped him tight and demanded that he do something to get her away from his Dean. The feeling filled his chest and tightened his heart, making him feel like growling. It was all very odd and incredibly unlike Harry, so much so that he had to wait a few moments to make sure that he wouldn't do something very unbecoming of a highly trained, highly professional hero. Once he had calmed significantly, Harry approached the table again and placed himself beside Dean. He caught the man's attention immediately and Harry sent him a smile, knowing that his bright eyes were crinkling, showing Dean that he was smiling. Harry turned his attention to the woman, eyes sparkling with mischief and he was a bit annoyed when she visibly swooned as she stared into his eyes. She stuttered a bit and wobbled away on her high heeled shoes in a daze. Dean leaned in to speak in Harry's ear, making himself heard over the music. "You didn't have to scare her away," he said, amusement lacing his words. "You could've just shown her who I'm going home with." Harry was about to respond when the Roman soldier across the room turned around and caught sight of them and Harry almost groaned as he noticed the man that had given him the flier. Instead, the wizard glanced at the smirking Dracula next to him. "I don't thin she's the one who needs convincing," he said, just as the half naked man stopped in front of them, brushing his blonde hair from his eyes and looking down at Harry with a blue eyed grin. "I'm glad you came," he said, with a hint of a Turkish accent. Harry's head tilted in confusion as he wondered how he knew it was him behind the costume. "I'd recognize those eyes anywhere," the man answered with another bright smile, causing Harry to blush and look away.

Dean took that moment to step forward with a fake smile plastered on his face. He wrapped an arm casually around Harry's shoulders. "Who's this, Harry?" Harry's blush darkened and he was eternally grateful that his costume hid his burning face. He fumbled around for an answer but the man, whose name Harry couldn't remember, saved him the trouble. His eyes widened in realization and he backed off a few steps, disappointment written all over his face. "Just a friend, man," he said to Dean. "Anyway, it was good to see you." He couldn't have made a quicker escape if he had apparated. "You scared my suitor away," Harry mock-complained, crossing his gloved arms over his chest. Dean's arm tightened around his shoulder. "We're even," he said, possessively. "Now, let's get started so we can get out of here," he told Harry with a leer. Harry rolled his eyes but nodded and followed Dean into the crowd of people. Sam was starting to think he had been wrong about the building. After walking into five occupied bedrooms, seeing parts of people he really wish he hadn't, and found absolutely nothing worthy of Ripley's Believe It Or Not, Sam was starting to consider waiting in the car. He muttered another quick apology to the couple currently mid coitus but doubted they could hear him over their own soundtrack of moans and groans. He shuddered and closed the door quickly, not caring if it made any noise. One last door to check and Sam would grab his companions and leave this traumatic evening behind. He opened the door slowly, confused at the complete silence coming from the other side. Hopefully, this couple rejoined the party. Sam pushed the door open and almost cried in relief when he found the dark, unfurnished room empty. There was a narrow door at the other end that must lead to a closet of some sort. He sighed as he realized that there was nothing to see inside. Just as he was about to close the door, a sharp pain in his head made him stumble. The room blurred and his head ached in that familiar, pre-vision pain. He collapsed to the floor, barely aware of his surroundings, before his mind flashed with images. A woman dressed in red, lacy underwear was walking into the very room Sam was collapsed in, coming in through the narrow door. She had large wings attached to her back and her red heels were hanging from her hand in a coy pose. She looked back as she stepped fully into the room and smiled seductively over her wings. A man appeared behind her, blue eyes flashing black before twinkling as he looked the woman over. He was dressed in a Roman soldier costume, leaving his chest and back exposed for the woman's benefit. He grinned at her and shut the door behind him. "Great party. Too bad it's over," she said to him. He just smirked in return. "So," she purred, looking around the room, "how exactly are we supposed to do this?"

He came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her body, stroking her sides and brushing delicately over her bra. "I have a few ideas," he murmured in her ear, using his thumb to brush her blonde hair from her neck. He kissed it softly. She moaned and lifted one of her hands to guide his own hand to the front of her red panties. He stroked her and continued his careful mapping of her neck with his tongue. His other hand disappeared between him but quickly returned to the side of the woman's neck. Her eyes opened in surprise. "What-" Her words were cut off as the man moved his arm over her neck with a force that made her neck snap back and Sam could see, through his mind's eye, the flash of a silver blade pulling out of the woman's neck. She spluttered and choked, being cradled in the man's arms, and then she was dead. Sam's eyes snapped open. He found himself on his hands and knees and a quick look around the room assured him that he was still alone. The thought did nothing to calm his racing heart. He pushed himself up on shaky legs and gave the narrow door a wide-eyed glance before dashing out the way he came, intent on finding Dean and Harry before the party ended. "Thank God you got us out when you did," Harry moaned, grimacing at the soreness in his arm from having so many woman cling to him, "but we weren't done." Sam kept the brisk pace, not bothering to respond. Harry shared a worried glance with Dean. "Sam?" Dean asked but got no answer. "Sam!" He took his brothers arm and pulled him to a halt. "What!" Despite Sam's angry tone, Harry could hear real fear behind that one word. "Sam, what's wrong?" Sam glanced at Harry and the anger behind his eyes changed into a real, heart wrenching fear. "I had a vision," he said. "What?" Harry couldn't have heard that correctly. Since when did the anti-supernatural hunters have some unnatural quality? Dean spared him a glance, eyes guarded in a way Harry hadn't seen since that first week with the brothers. "Sam, what did you see?" Sam's attention was still on Harry and it was his question he answered. "I've been having visions for a while now but they stopped after meeting with Max and I thought they had something to do with the demon so-" "Sam!" Harry interrupted, stopping Sam's frantic rambling. "What did you see?" he asked, calmly.

Sam still looked panicked but he shook himself and tried to answer without rambling. "There's a room up there I was checking out. In my vision, a man was killed a woman, just like those victims that were found a few miles from here." Harry nodded like Sam had just told him it was going to rain; his demeanor seemed to be calming the frantic man so he tried to remain calm while panicking on the inside. Some ninja he was turning out to be. "How long do we have?" Dean demanded. "After the party," Sam responded, well aware that the party was breaking up as they spoke. Harry nodded and started to head back before remembering something. "What did the killer look like?" "He's dressed as a Roman soldier and the woman's in red underwear with-" "Wings?" Dean finished. Sam nodded to him and watched as Harry dashed back toward the shop. Sam looked confused as Dean followed at a calmer pace, trying not to draw attention to himself. "That sounds a lot like the guy that invited Harry," Dean explained, leaving out the fact that the woman had been hitting on the oldest Winchester earlier in the night. They entered the shop again and almost ran in to Harry. The wizard grabbed them and moved them away from the door, mostly concealing them behind a giant skeleton family. Harry gestured to the couple a few yards away, still mostly surrounded by dancing party goers. The man was whispering in the blonde's ear, running his fingers through her hair. "Something's wrong," Harry muttered with a deep frown. "Yeah, she's about to become part of the decorations. What are we waiting for?" Dean asked as he pulled out the knife hidden in his boot. Harry put his hand over Dean's and shook his head. "I can hear her thoughts. I wish I couldn't," he said with a grimace, "but his, I thought" "Harry, what the hell are you talking about?" Harry concentrated on trying to get something from the man's mind but, just like earlier that day, his mind was a complete blank. Not like he was blocking it from Harry, just like there was nothing there. Now, unlike the first time, Harry wasn't so sure it was his magic's fault. Something was definitely going on with that man. Well, besides the fact that he was also a killer. "I can't see into his mind," Harry clarified, "and that's not supposed to happen," he said simply. His eyes widened as his magic picked up their conversation. "We have to hurry. Dean, go distract the girl. I'll get to him while Sam covers that room. Go!"

They kicked into action, each going a different way. Harry didn't look at the other men as he pulled off the hood of his costume and approached the flirting couple. His mind was racing with a possible way of getting between the two but he couldn't think of anything that would pass at subtle. So, naturally, he resorted to magic. With a heavy heart, Harry cast the Imperious on the unsuspecting woman. He felt himself in her mind, seeing the man as she would, and he whispered to her, making her pull away from his caresses. "I need to go, Les," she said, regretfully. The man almost protested but the appearance of Dean near her gave Harry an idea. "Oh, hi, lover," she said, a little too high pitched. Les looked completely take by surprise and it gave Harry the chance to signal to Dean to play along. "Hey, babe," Dean said, falling into the lie easily. "Whoa, hold it," Les said, just as Dean started to pull the woman away. "I thought you were with Harry." Dean shrugged. "Just a bit of fun," he said, making a point of looking pointedly between Les and his own 'girlfriend'. Before Les could say anything else, Dean dragged the woman into the crowd and left a gaping soldier behind him.. Harry stepped forward with a put out sigh. "Looks like we both got the raw end of the deal." He stepped up to the man with a coy smile and Les' eyes immediately brightened. "I wouldn't say that," he said with a charming smile, looking Harry up and down as he stepped closer. "How about we have a little fun of our own?" Harry ran a gloved finger across Les' bare chest, proud of himself for not flinching away as the man pulled him closer by the waist. "That's the best idea I've heard all night." "Sorry about the dust. I'm still working on renovating this part of the building." Harry just smiled and tried, once again, to hear the man's thoughts. His attempts were cut short as the narrow staircase led them to a door which Les opened, using his other hand to pull Harry through while keeping him close to his body. Harry shivered, though not from pleasure. He took in the bare room and frowned. "This certainly is" He honestly couldn't find a proper adjective. Les gave a charming laugh. "This isn't where the magic's going to happen. I just wanted to avoid everyone else on our way to a nice, cozy room," he said, tugging Harry toward the door across the room. Harry winced as he felt something oddly familiar stir his magic. He pulled away from Les just as the cocking of the gun resounded around the room. Les stopped completely, turning around slowly just as Harry jumped away from him, expecting Sam to start shooting, but he didn't. Harry stood and looked at the youngest Winchester standing in the doorway they had just entered from, gun in hand and pointed at Les.

The killer, Harry was disturbed to find, was smiling at Sam. Harry stepped further away from the man and closer to Sam, hand reaching for the stars strapped to the waist of his costume. Les turned his gaze to him as he reached Sam and the man looked disappointed for a moment before the strange smile was back. "Looks like I'm the only one with the raw deal, Harry," Les said. And he stepped toward, Or, he tried to. His foot wouldn't move. His confusion lasted up until he saw the symbols on the dusty floor of the room, easily missed in the mostly darkened area. "Devil's Trap?" And Harry realized that his magic was cringing at the very symbols that John had in his hotel room the day they met. "Hunters," Les concluded. "Demon," Sam hissed and, just on cue, Les' blue eyes turned pitch black and his smile grew wider. Harry's eyes widened and he almost stepped forward, planning on examining this creature that certainly didn't exist in his world. His progress was interrupted as the demon took a deep breath and glared at the symbols on the floor. Harry didn't know what to expect but it definitely wasn't the minor shaking of the room followed by a loud crunching sound as the floor cracked around the demon. Les looked up at the shocked Sam and the opened mouthed Harry. He lifted an arm carelessly and Sam went flying into the closed door. Harry was too surprised to do anything but watch as Les approached him, prowling like a lion, and stopped just in front of him, still annoyingly close to Harry's body. "I wasn't going to kill you," he whispered, affectionately. Harry was too busy examining the completely black eyes of the man to say anything. "I still might not," he admitted. Sam groaned and Les was about to lift his arm again but Harry lifted his hand and placed it delicately on the man's cheek, staring hard at the man's eyes and wondering in his shock why he couldn't hear what the demon was thinking. Les smiled, taking Harry's studying as awe. "No, I'm definitely not going to kill you," he purred. "Damn right you're not," Dean growled. He was standing directly behind Les, holding a bucket of something and wasted no time in throwing the contents at the demon. Harry would have thought the action odd if Les hadn't collapsed onto the floor, writhing and screaming as the liquid sizzled on his flesh. Dean grabbed the demons hands and tied some wet rags around his wrists which immediately sizzled. Harry used the moment to rush over to the grumbling Sam. The thing was immobile for a few seconds but then it had Dean flying into the wall and it was ripping the rags angrily from its hands. Harry stood up in alarm and erected a shield as the demon lifted its arm to do more harm to the now standing Sam. It faltered in confusion as nothing happened to either men.

Harry remained with his palms pointed outward, like a mime, and he smirked when the demon realized that Harry was responsible for his failed attack. He looked positively delighted. "I knew there was something special about you," he said. He couldn't say any more as Harry chose that moment to remember the immobilizing charm and nearly every bone in Les' body ceased all movement. Harry was a bit surprised it worked but was happy to let his shield fall. He glared at the shocked demon and helped Dean up. "That was fun, now we need information," Harry bit out. The smile was back. "You must be the Winchesters Azazel is always talking about," he said. "He must be very happy to have you in town." "Azazel?" Sam questioned. He nodded. "Why, the yellow eyed demon has a name too." Everything went still at his words. Harry seemed to be the only one capable of speech so he stepped forward, drawing the attention of his admirer. "What are you talking about?" "What I'm saying, Harry, is that he'll be very pleased to have you present yourself, practically on a silver platter." Harry his cheek and shook his head. "We want to know something and you're going to tell us," he said, suddenly, instinct telling him that this demon must know something. The demon smiled widely at him. "Of course, Harry Potter. What can little ol' me do for little, dead you." He laughed as Harry joined the Winchesters in their shocked silence. It seemed the wizard's instincts were correct; Harry never told it his last nam ime came to a screeching halt in that tiny, dungeon of a room. The demon's words hung in the space between the trapped thing and the trio on the other side of the room, not quite reaching the protective bubble of disbelief surrounding two hunters and a young wizard. Harry (young wizard mentioned above) vaguely noticed this strange occurrence shortly before wondering if he had gone into shock. It was difficult to say because his brain seemed to have short-circuited along with time. Maybe, he though to himself, he was in too much shock to realize that he was in shock. Now, that would be fascinating. Such a thing, of course, was more cause for intrigue than the smirking mad demon before them. Now, you may wonder why Harry and Harry's brain were in such a state at this moment. Well, you see, the demon seemed to know Harry's surname without having been told by Harry himself. Why the overreaction, you ask? Well, knowing Harry Potter is Harry Potter wouldn't be so shocking if Harry had existed in this here world of theirs a few months ago. But he didn't. And we all know how cautious Harry is with his personal

information after being hunted by a Slytherin all his life so he wouldn't go and give a stranger any information about himself to begin with. So, you ask, then how did one mister demon know that Harry was Harry Potter? Well, that is exactly what Harry's fizzled mind should be wondering right about now. "Who are you?" Oh, nice one, Harry. That's an even better question. The demon, ever so helpful thus far, smirked so viciously that Harry broke out of his confused fog a little more to wonder how Les's face hadn't yet cracked like crushed stone. The impossibly handsome features pulled grotesquely over themselves, forming something that rivaled the most ghoulish of Hogwarts creatures. Harry cringed inwardly, partly to keep from showing emotion but mainly because his brain was only just kicking into gear so it had no time to broadcast a command for more 'disgust' from his facial expression. Still, he managed to force out coldly, "Answer me." Les's face contorted to something akin to human in order for him to respond with glowing eyes the color of tar. "I'm only a humble demon with friends in high places," he said, gaze flickering over the still silent Winchesters he laughed again. "What's the matter, boys? Run out of clever one-liners?" Harry didn't have to look to know that Sam and Dean were making an effort at regaining their composure so he ignored them and moved closer to the figure pinned harshly to the wall by the magic flowing from his raised hands. "Who would these friends be?" Harry asked, curiosity coating his every word while, inside, his magic growled at the obvious answer: Bella. He knew something like this would happen but he expected Bella to try and seek revenge before finding another deranged master to hand her evil soul over to. Les' smirk softened considerably as he stared down at Harry. "She doesn't like you at all but I have no idea how she could not. You seem so," here his gaze swept the length of Harry's body so intensely that Harry felt his toes curl and his stomach churn in revulsion. Les parted his mouth, presumably to say something lewd and inappropriate but all he got was a mouthful of what Harry's mind referred to as "magic water". He turned his head from the hissing and cursing that the water and demon were doing, respectively, and found Dean glaring hatefully at the demon, green eyes narrowed and shiny metal flask held up threateningly. Here Harry's mind supplied the word "sexy". "Thanks for that," Harry said, turning his gaze back onto the now twitching demon. He looked a lot more psychotic now that he was thoroughly soaked in the magical acid water. "This would go a lot faster if you answered properly." Les glared at the pair of them, although the hostility was directed more toward the smirking Winchester. Dean just shook the half-full flask and raised an eyebrow.

"What does the yellow-eyed demon want with us?" Harry had almost forgotten the youngest Winchester was still in the room with them. From the sound of him though, he was a ways back from where the interrogating was going on but the soft question still managed to reach the demon. Les gave Sam one of those calculating looks everyone was so fond of then smiled at the wary Winchester. "He has his reasons, Sam. You'll know when he wants you to." And, just like that, Harry's minds cleared. He spread his fingers and brought them curling slowly toward his palm, keeping his hands facing the demon while he let his magic burst forward to do his bidding. Les cringed away from the power that slowly, almost lovingly wrapped around his demonic core and squeezed. "I'm not in mood for games. You will tell us what we want to know. Now," Harry said, coldly, his magic continuing to squeeze at the demon's power in what he imagined was the same way the exorcisms in that possession book described. He gave a Malfoypatented smirk when Les' eyes widened and the demon had to make a conscious effort to keep from crying out. Harry's fists uncurled and he eased up on the magical torture. "You should start talking," he suggested with an encouraging nod toward the gasping demon. "Well," the demon gasped out with a lot less cockiness, "I never thought you had it in you." Harry merely raised an eyebrow and made a great show of preparing to torture the helpless demon again. Les's eyes widened in panic and he shook his head almost frantically. "I don't know what Azazel's plans are. I'm not that high up on the food chain to have that kind of information. I just do what I'm told," he said, urgently, his eyes turning from black to blue, making him look very much like a human about to have a panic attack. "You just do what you're told," Dean repeated, words dripping with disbelief. "Harry," he gestured for the wizard to continue. "It's true," Les exclaimed, all pride forgotten. "I was told to lure you out here while they execute their plans undisturbed!" "And who told you to do this?" Harry asked with a raised eyebrow, showing that he was willing to consider keeping Les in one piece. "The woman like you. Bellatrix. She's gotten real comfy with the boss." Harry shared a look with Dean. "With Azazel?" Les nodded, eyeing Harry warily. "What did you need to lure us away for?" Les shook his head. "They didn't say." Harry's eyes narrowed. "They didn't! They just wanted you out of South Dakota for a few weeks. That's all I know!"

Silence as everyone absorbed this new piece of information. Then Sam stepped closer. "They wanted us out of South Dakota? How did they know we were in South Dakota?" Les shut his eyes in an attempt to remember. "Bellatrix said Harry Potter would be looking for her so I only had to stir up trouble to get you away while they did their thing." "What could Bella possibly want in South Dakota?" Sam's pondering was cut short by Harry's low hiss. Sam and Dean turned their startled stares onto the glaring wizard whose narrowed gaze was fixed somewhere over the terrified demon's head. "Sirius." The partygoers had long since abandoned the barber shop, leaving behind a graveyard of red plastic cups and half-eaten food among the cardboard cutouts of skeletons and ghosts. The large space, formerly filled with angels and devils drinking and dancing, had an air of eeriness, as if still in the Halloween spirit. The black and orange lights situated among the hovering bats seemed to have dimmed in the absence of life. They barely gave Harry enough light to see by and, had he been in a better mood, he would have stopped to appreciate the haunting atmosphere that had invaded the room. As it were, however, Harry was in no mood to admire the decorations. He rushed by the once-bursting buffet table, his magic clearing his path in a rush, and made his way out the open door where he caught sight of Sam's back just past the threshold. He stepped out into the cold night air and approached the other man just as Sam closed the cell phone in his hand with an angry snap. "Anything?" Harry asked, trying to keep the anxiety to a minimum for the sake of the nearly panicked hunter. "No," Sam forced out through clenched teeth as he turned to face Harry. "What if they're already at Bobby's?" Harry took a deep, useless breath in an attempt to clear his mind before he did something pre-training Harry would do. He couldn't let his emotions lead him; that would only make things more dangerous for all of them. That was easier said than done, however. The mere thought of Bella getting to Sirius and following through with her promise sent a cold, raw terror straight through his chest, making his breath short and his mind dangerously numb. He couldn't do this, couldn't lose Sirius, not again. He had to do things differently this time to make sure he got a different result. He shook his head before taking hold of Sam's forearms and giving him a firm shake once he noticed the panic in the other man's gaze. "Sam," Harry said, forcing the hunter to look at him, "Sirius knows she's out there and I know he'll have warded Bobby's house. Even if Bella managed to find him, he can handle her."

Sam nodded but his eyes were still wide and scared beneath the strands of hair falling onto his face. "What about the demon? Harry, it killed mom and then Jess. It's not gonna think twice about killing either of them." Harry shook him again. "Come on, Sam. Your dad knows more about this demon than all of us put together. If anyone can handle this, it's him and Sirius. We need to focus on other things right now, all right?" Sam looked away for a moment but gave a small nod. "Has the demon said anything else?" Harry frowned and motioned for Sam to follow him back inside. "Only the reason why he picked Les's body to possess." Sam watched curiously as Harry shut the door behind them and muttered a series of charms that made the wood glow faintly for a moment. "Really? Why?" Harry's frown deepened. "The bloke's full name is Leslie Hope and he's a barber who works on Fleet Street." Harry gave Sam a pointed look. Sam grimaced as he caught on. "Like Sweeney Todd?" Harry nodded. "And his name is," Sam stopped gave Harry a incredulous look as the wizard opened the door, revealing the stone staircase, "Les Hope. How convenient." Harry snorted and started up the stairs. "Exactly what I said," he said, his voice echoing off the stone walls. Sam shook his head and followed the wizard. As they reached the landing and moved to open the shabby door in front of them, they heard a loud screech and a sizzling like cooking bacon in a pan which could only mean that Dean was being generous with the water. "What's that magic water Dean's using anyway?" Harry asked, reaching out to stop Sam from pushing the door open. "Magic water?" Sam gave a quiet chuckle. "It's Holy Water." Harry raised an eyebrow. "Like blessed water?" Sam nodded with a smile. "And it actually works?" "Of course," Sam answered. They could hear Dean's voice get louder as the demon spluttered after the latest bath. "Don't tell me you don't believe in stuff like that." Harry shrugged and let go of Sam's hand, motioning for him to open the door. "I can do magic. Praying and the like weren't so appealing when I could turn water into wine with a spell." The hunter looked a little surprised at the comment but he had no response so he pushed the door open with a creak and found his brother sitting comfortably on a cushioned

chair he had dragged in from one of the other rooms. He was looking dispassionately at the demon stretched out on the floor in the middle of the room. "I don't know anything else!" The demon hissed weakly through chattering teeth. Dean smirked at the creature. "That's fine but I'm just having too much fun here." It hissed again as the holy water met the skin of it's exposed chest. It convulsed a few times then opened it's pained eyes to glare at Dean. The beginnings of a smirk were forming on the demon's face. "You think you're so much better than us, yet here you are - torturing like the best of us," he said with a glance in Harry and Sam's direction. "We don't kill innocent people like you cowards do," Dean said coldly. "No, you claim not to. You're just righteous dicks on a mission to save the world, aren't you? That supposed to make you feel better?" Another mouthful of water nearly sent the demon into cardiac arrest, if that was possible. "We are nothing like you," Sam said in disgust. He put his own flask of holy water back in the inside pocket of his jacket. Harry really needed to get one of those handy flasks. Les laughed harshly and focused his attention entirely on Sam. "Not yet you're not." "That's enough," Harry said stepping forward. "Can you get rid of it?" Dean left his seat and crouched by the smirking demon. He pulled the creature's forearm up to the dim light so they could see the irritated flesh. "This is sealing the demon into the person. It must be why the Devil's Trap didn't work on it. The demon put a down payment on the suit." "But it's not permanent, right?" "No," Sam answered. He crouched beside Dean and took the demon's arm. Dean stood but stayed beside his brother, eyes trained on the immobile creature. "We just need to break it. I think there's a fireplace downstairs. That should do it." He stood and took long strides out the door before Harry could ask him any more questions. "Fireplace?" Harry asked with a raised eyebrow. Dean grinned at him. "Fireplace." "NOOOOOO!" The demon roared as Sam advanced on him with a flaming hot poker. Harry and Dean winced at the volume. "You sure no one can here him, Harry?" Sam asked as he knelt and took the demon's arm while it continued to yell and struggle to gain movement in its limbs.

Harry nodded and cringed as the thing let out a particularly harsh cry. He had cast a charm to keep the noise level from waking the state but decided against silencing the demon itself; stress could break even the toughest of creatures and Harry wanted to hear everything the demon said before it was sent back to wherever demons were sent back to. Sam winced as he placed the heated object directly onto the raised flesh of the forearm. As soon as the poker met skin, Dean was there, dragging it into a newly drawn Devil's Trap. Harry steered clear of that area of the floor and promised himself he would figure out how to use his own magic against demons so they wouldn't have to use the Trap again; it really made him nauseas. The creature hissed angrily but Sam had already started chanting in Latin, making the demon turn its head away from the sound. It couldn't do much else with Harry's spell still in place. It was a few lines of terribly put together Latin, in Harry's trained opinion, that Les's head snapped back and his mouth opened as wide as was possible. There was a soft churning sound like a blender on slow and then black clouds of thick smoke were pouring out of Les's mouth with the force of a hurricane. The smoke spiraled in an orderly fashion and sped off into an open vent near the door. Harry shivered as it passed by him and he tried to commit the foreign power to memory; he had a feeling they would be dealing with demons more often than not. The sound of exorcised demon stopped as quickly as it had started and the trio were left staring hesitantly at the unconscious man on the floor in front of them. Harry nearly jumped out of his skin when the man stirred. He hurriedly ended the immobilizing charm and cast a cleaning charm on the various pools of water on the floor around them. Harry glanced around at the Winchesters and saw Dean motion for Harry to speed it up so they could leave without being noticed. Sam was already going down the stairs. Harry had just reset the cracked floor and had his back to the man when he heard the muttered, "What the hell?" from the real Leslie Hope. He glanced at Dean who just shrugged and followed his brother out. Harry glared after him and turned to find the Roman soldier shaking the water out of his eyes and struggling to get to his feet. The wizard stepped forward to help him stand. "Are you alright?" Harry asked, mind going a mile a minute to get a plausible excuse together. Les nodded then looked at the wizard strangely. "How did I get up here?" "Wow," Harry said, letting surprise lace his words. "You really had that much to drink? You should probably get some rest, Les. And maybe don't call that girl back," he added once Les noticed his soaking wet hair and face. "Right," Les answered with a frown, clearly trying to piece together the night. He looked down and was startled to find himself in a costume. "What the hell?"

"Seriously, man," Harry said, making an effort to imitate an American accent. "You should get to bed. Great party by the way." He let the man go and hurried to the door. He was on the landing when he heard Les mutter "party?". The wizard met the Winchesters at the still locked front door and gave them a glare before taking the spells with a wave of his arm. "How'd he take it?" Dean asked, teasingly as they headed for the car. "Don't worry about it. I gave him your number," Harry said innocently. "What's the plan?" Harry asked quietly. The silence in the car put him on edge even more now that they were all packed and heading back to Bobby Singer's place. The Winchesters certainly had a destination but that was all they seemed to have. "We head back to Bobby's," Dean said, stepping on the gas as if the extra burst of speed would make the states go by faster. Harry turned his frown away from the window and onto the tense hunter. Sam was still trying John's phone and, from his frustrated sighs, Harry guessed he wasn't having any luck. "What to we do when we get there, Dean? Even if Bella and the demon haven't arrived in the time it takes us to get there, they'll know their plan went wrong as soon as we show up." "I know," Dean burst out. Sam flinched beside him, hand clenched tightly to keep the phone steady against his ear. "I know," Dean repeated in a calmer voice while gripping the steering wheel tightly. "But we can't do nothing." Harry watched as Dean took a sharp left onto a back road opening onto a highway filled with tall trees all around. "Going in there without a plan is worse than doing nothing!" He was really starting to sound like Hermione. "Dad!" Sam's relieved shout stopped any angry retort from Dean and Harry leaned over the front seat eagerly. Dean motioned for Sam to turn the speakerphone on. "Sam, what's going on?" John Winchester's voice floated over their heads and they all had to take a moment to breath before answering. "Are you and Sirius still at Bobby's?" Sam asked urgently. "What? Sam, what's going on?" "Bella teamed up with the yellow-eyed demon and they're on their way to South Dakota. Are you still there?" Dean said clearly, giving the panicked Sam a look. "We just got back from a demon hunt in Iowa," John answered grimly. "Demon hunt? That can't be a coincidence," Sam said. "What happened?"

"Sirius got thrown around a bit but they were in a hurry to get out of there." Silence. "Or maybe they wanted us out of there." "Did Sirius put wards up? Paprika isn't going to keep Bella out," Harry said, then scowled in confusion when Dean choked on a laugh. "Sirius wasn't in any shape to be doing anything. Didn't help that he refused to step foot in a hospital." If Harry didn't know better, it almost sounded like John was complaining. "So, you're holed up there without any protection," Harry concluded. "Son, we have enough arsenal here to rival the entire state of Texas," John said, sounding a tad bit insulted. Harry shook his head at the phone. "You need to get Sirius to ward the place. Even a quick alarm ward will let you know if she steps onto the property." "I'll see what I can do," John said. After a moment, "She's with the demon now." It wasn't a question. "Yeah," The word came out of Sam's throat along with a barely audible choking sound. John heard it. "We'll talk about this when you get ba-" Silence. "Dad?" Dean and Sam said at the same time. Sam checked the phone and grimaced. "No signal." Dean groaned. "Our luck just keeps getting better." The words had just left his mouth when a blur cut in front of them, leaping out of the trees and directly into the middle of the road in front of the Impala. A gasp barely managed to escape Harry before Dean let out a curse and stepped on the brakes, pulling the steering wheel to one side. They were going to flip. No matter how well built Dean's baby was, they were going to catch air and probably not make it out alive. Well, that just didn't sit well with Harry or his magic. There was a split second where the wizard's mind went blank and his magic took complete control, flaring out in geysers of strength never before felt by Harry. He reined the car in to avoid hitting whatever was in their way but the force of the stop pulled Harry forward and straight into the front window. He heard Sam and Dean yell as glass shattered around him and his body flew through the window with the force of a bullet. It was about the time he was flying through the air that Harry noticed the crouched figure with long dark hair ahead of him. Blood seeped into his eyes from a gash on his

forehead and he raised his arms to avoid hurting whoever it was but his magic was behind him, trying to stop the Impala from meeting with a tree so he was helpless to stop a human collision. He shut his eyes in preparation and grimaced as he heard the unmistakable sound of metal rocketing into nature. Then Harry promptly flew through the figure and met the road with a deadly force. Harry's panicked green eyes remained fixed on the approaching asphalt as his arms flailed wildly behind him in an attempt to gather enough magic for the wizard to avoid becoming one with the road. Through the ringing in his ears, he faintly heard the Impala do some damage to a tree somewhere behind his soaring body. Relieved beyond belief at the lack of destroyed metal in the sound, Harry relaxed his burnt out muscles and shut his eyes tightly but not before realizing the mysterious culprit of this entire disaster was nowhere to be found. Well, Harry reasoned with a wince as the air whipping around his face alerted him to various cuts caused by the car's windshield, at least he would be the only casualty. The thought had only just crossed his mind before his entire body, beginning with his head and spreading unmercifully through every inch of his body, exploded with pain that rivaled a well placed Cruciatus. His breath vanished as he felt bones crack and skin being ripped from his arms where they protected his glass covered face from the road. Through the excruciating stabs working their way down his spine as he slid rapidly over the otherwise silent (and quite uneven) ground, Harry fervently hoped that the Boy Who Lived would not meet his end as road kill in a state whose name he could not remember. Then everything went black. "Haaaarryyyy." He didn't think he'd ever have a worse headache than after that incident where Ron head butted him during one of the red head's spider dreams. Harry's aching skull gave another painful tug at the memory "Haaaarryyyy." Then there was that fight during fifth year when he and Malfoy crossed fists after Malfoy kept running his mouth "Harry!" Speaking of Malfoy. Why in Merlin's name was the boy's voice getting steadily louder? Did the idiot not understand the concept of using one's 'inside voice'? Anyway, then there were those times when he was younger when he would bang his head against the roof of his cupboard after Petunia rudely woke him so he could get started on Dudley's twenty course breakfast "Potter, we've had quite enough of your theatrics!" Theatrics? What could the voice that sounded like Malfoy be on about? He didn't have time to process his own question before he felt a strong hand secure the back of his

aching head and another hand forcing his mouth open. This was done, Harry was sure, in true Madame Pomphrey fashion so Harry didn't even think to struggle as he felt a horrid potion being poured down his unsuspecting throat. "Come on, Harry. Open your eyes." That was definitely Madame Pomphrey's soothing order. How a strict looking woman could adopt such a sweet voice was beyond Harry. He grimaced at the aftertaste in his mouth but thought better than to complain because his headache was already ebbing away. Enough so, actually, that he realized that he should most definitely not be in Madame Pomphrey and Draco Malfoy's presence. Panicked, Harry's eyes snapped open and he found himself staring into Madame Pomphrey's worried face before a relieved mutter of, "Finally" had him spinning around in his chair to gaze at the Malfoy heir. The very attractive Malfoy heir, dressed in a brilliant white suit that made his hair and eyebrows look all the more threatening. The brat was also sporting a dueling cane and the ever present smirk on his thin lips. Harry's eyes narrowed as he took in Malfoy's amused grey eyes which were locked quite firmly on his own. Either Harry's head was playing more tricks on him or Malfoy's smirk was a little softer and more smiley looking Odd. A low hum behind him reminded Harry that Madame Pomphrey was still in the room and was in the process of manhandling him into a reclining position while lecturing him about the importance of utilizing safe surfaces during sexual intercourse. Wait. What! Harry watched, horrified, as one of his dearest mother figures proceeded to explain, while gently tucking a quilt around him, that yes, while he and Mr. Malfoy were still quite young, it wouldn't hurt to pay closer attention to their well being when caught in the heat of the moment. Harry shut his slightly gaping mouth to look over pleadingly at the only other person in the room because he couldn't very well tell the woman himself that his brain had short circuited. Harry's eyes locked on Malfoy's again, who was most definitely smirking this time and who didn't look one bit uncomfortable with the topic. He was still leaning casually on a large oak desk a few feet from Harry. Seeing Harry's pleading green eyes, however, Malfoy's gaze softened and he straightened and strutted over to Madame Pomphrey, quite easily towering over her. Harry was more than glad when Malfoy gently took the woman's arm and whispered something into her ear. She, thankfully, stopped listing safe surfaces to have sexual relations on and pressed a hand to Harry's forehead. "I'll just leave you in Draco's hands then," she said, with a stern glare toward Malfoy. He simply smiled charmingly at her and watched in amusement as she grabbed her bag from beside a block on the side table and disappeared from Harry's line of sight. The silence that followed the opening and closing of a heavy door was the perfect time for Harry's mind to go into overdrive. Flashes of a dark night ending with him flying

through a car window to the sound of someone screaming his name pushed toward the front of his mind. Then he was looking into Malfoy's pained eyes before falling through something. Harry closed his eyes in pain as his head protested his attempt at gathering information. What was going on? Why was it suddenly so difficult to remember where he was and why did he have a sinking feeling making itself at home in his stomach? He had the oddest lurch in his gut when he burrowed under the quilt, his mind cringing at the unfamiliar fabric. Harry felt his brow furrow; why did he feel so out of place and why was his mind pushing the strangest images to the forefront of his thoughts? A hand gently pushed the hair from his eyes and a cold weight was placed carefully to his head. Harry sighed gratefully and relaxed at the soft touch. That is, until he realized who it was that was touching him. Green eyes snapped open in alarm as Harry bolted upright in his seat. His mind might have been in a jumble but he was pretty certain Malfoy was not supposed to be nursing him back to health! Well, maybe he was pretty sure Malfoy's sparkling eyes widened slightly as Harry narrowly missed a repeat of the incident with Ron. "Wow. What do you thing you're doing? You don't want us both to land under Poppy's care with a concussion, do you?" Malfoy's tone was teasing, so Harry didn't feel much inclined to snap at him. What he did feel the need to question, was Malfoy's sanity because the blonde had gone straight back to coddling Harry, complete with brushes of Harry's cheeks and hair. Something was very off here. "Er Malfoy?" Harry whispered with narrowed eyes. The other man's eyes widened marginally again, this time with mirth. "Malfoy?" he repeated with a smirk, "I haven't heard you call me that since before university." Harry's eyes, along with his confusion, grew at Malfoy's words. "University?" This time, Malfoy's eyes narrowed in thought before he replied with a dazzling smile that very nearly blinded Harry and made his stomach flutter oddly. "Don't tell me you're cross about this incident," he straightened and waved an arm vaguely over Harry to indicate the 'incident'. "It isn't nearly as bad as the time you broke your ankle after falling over the top of Granger's grand piano." "Hermione?" She was here and apparently had a piano that Harry enjoyed falling from? Malfoy nodded. "Besides, at least we weren't caught with our trousers down this time. As amusing as Weasley's expression was, I don't think I'd risk getting another lecture." He handed Harry a pillow from a matching chair at Harry's side and sat neatly on the edge, still entirely focused on the unnerved wizard. "Hermione caught us having sex," Harry repeated blankly. All previous trains of thought seemed to have broken down, leaving Harry with an awfully empty mind.

It didn't help that Malfoy flashed a distracting half smile again with a slight leer in Harry's direction. "Not the way I wanted to come out to your friends but what works, works." Harry stared hard at the smug man in front of him and when it became apparent that he was not joking, the confused wizard had quite enough of this madness. He may not know what was supposed to be going on but he had a feeling it wasn't supposed to be this. So, in all Harry Potter glory, he pinched his arm. Hard. "Ouch!" He shut his eyes and rubbed soothingly at the wound, hoping his efforts weren't in vain. "What the hell, Harry!" Alas. He opened one eye to find the blonde still in the same luxurious chair and himself still reclined beside him, sporting a massive headache and a sore forearm. Said blonde did not look amused. "Are you alright?" Before Harry could respond, his arm was already being cradled and inspected carefully by a very worried Draco Malfoy. What on Earth was going on? Harry took a deep, calming breath. This was wrong. This entire situation felt wrong and unreal. Closing his eyes in attempt to secure some of the odd, half thoughts in his mind did little more than confuse him even more. When was he in the presence of a threeheaded dog? "Harry?" The soft, hesitant voice o the man lovingly (lovingly? Harry's mind repeated, slightly in a daze) brought his attention back to the reality in front of him. Once Malfoy saw he had Harry's full, if slightly cautious, attention, the man hesitated before continuing. "Is this about what I said earlier?" Harry blushed a bit at exactly what he had apparently been doing earlier. And why couldn't he remember that either? (Not that he wanted to, mind you. He just didn't like having large gaps in his memory) Lost in embarrassing thoughts of ways Malfoy could have made him hit his head hard enough to fall unconscious, Harry very nearly missed the miserable sigh that burst from a pursed mouth. "I knew I shouldn't have told you at all," he said with a strong, almost angry look directed at Harry's shoulder. Apparently mistaking Harry's confused frown as one of objection he continued, giving Harry's arm a gentle squeeze. "I'm positive things would have been so much better if I hadn't told you but I thought you had a right to know about that man's expiration date." Frown deepening at the sudden appearance of a sneer on Malfoy's nice-looking face, Harry pushed all other confusing thoughts from his mind to focus on this even more confusing conversation.

"What man? What are you talking about?" Seeing the shock written clearly on the blonde's face, Harry's defenses shot up. "Well?" He demanded, a bit harshly. "Maybe I should call Poppy back," Malfoy said slowly, looking like he very much needed a drink. Harry had never seen anyone go from angry to almost-frightened in such a short span of time. It would be amusing if Harry wasn't losing his patience to the weight of his oncoming headache. "I don't need you to call her back," Harry stated, in a voice he hoped would convince the other man. It didn't seem to be working. "I want tell me everything again. My head's a bit fuzzy from the fall." There, that was enough reason for the possibly memory-less Harry to get answers. Why did he get the feeling he'd been through something like this before Understanding flooded Malfoy's cheeks and he didn't look so concerned anymore. Just a bit sheepish, probably remembering exactly why Harry had fallen in the first place. The concern returned however, once he met Harry's eyes. "I was talking about," he paused to stare at Harry, but saw no sign of recognition so continued with a harsh breath, "about Black." Flashes of dark hair and laughing blue-grey eyes pushed to the front of his mind with the stealth of a knife to the back and the same amount of pain. With a deep breath, Harry was able to meet Malfoy's eyes, feeling oddly hollow at the simple sentence that spurred such a strong emotion. Maybe his fall was worse than he thought if he couldn't piece together thoughts long enough to know what they had to do with his situation. "Sirius?" The name sounded dirty falling from his lips and Harry had no idea why he cringed as he uttered it. "What about him?" Malfoy looked relieved now that Harry seemed to remember something of his own accord but he didn't look pleased with the topic. His reaction piqued Harry's boundless curiosity and he raised an inquiring eyebrow when the other man didn't respond immediately. "We don't have to talk about this now," Malfoy said with a shake of his head, eyes pleading with Harry to drop the subject. Now that was an even better reason for Harry to be curious. Harry reached up to place what he decided was an icepack back onto his aching skull and reclined comfortably in his chair, making a mental note to find out where he was and maybe get the name of the interior designer. The room was very nice and spacious, he thought with approval. "Now's as good a time as ever. I'm not going anywhere," Harry replied with the hint of a threat, surprising himself with the way he was reacting. When did he become inclined to threaten for information? Or was he always this pushy? He repressed a groan as his rushed thoughts made his head hurt even more. "Like I'd let you walk around with that lump on your head," Malfoy retorted smoothly, placing his hand over the icepack and moving closer so that Harry wouldn't have to hold

it firmly to his aching head. Instead of thanking his irritating mother hen, Harry shot him a glare until the amusement died in Malfoy's eyes and he remembered their previous topic of conversation. "I don't think-" "Will you just tell me already!" Harry practically growled. A headache ridden partner clearly did not make a very good conversationalist. Malfoy's lips pursed in annoyance before his entire body set with determination. "They've set an execution date for the bastard. Your publicist felt it would be a sign of closure for the public if you were present but you refused." "Execution?" Harry's heart missed a few beats at those words. Why were they going to kill Sirius? His stomach gave another lurch at the thought of the man but he no longer knew how to decipher it. "I completely support your decision, of course," Malfoy continued, watching Harry's expression closely. "You shouldn't bloody care what the public wants anymore. Not after Black's days in your life are numbered." "They're going to execute Sirius." Saying it out loud didn't make the know in his stomach any clearer to Harry's jumbled mind. In fact, his entire body gave a shiver at his own words. Why was he having such a strong reaction to such a simple, if morbid, sentence. With the fierceness of a drowning man, Harry grasped the only other thought he might able to get results from. He looked up at his concerned companion and fairly blurted out, "I want to see him!" The shock on Malfoy's usually composed face did nothing to break the surreal quality of the moment and Harry, tongue-tied and weighed with apprehension, could only wait for a response. "What?" The other man spluttered before his own reaction broke him out of his stupor and his face smoothed out. "Harry," he began calmly, "you can't possibly want to meet with that man after what he did. You don't have to do this." Instinctively knowing that anything resembling confusion to those words would prove to be a major block on his quest for information, Harry kept his face blank. "I need to do this." "I need to do this!" Sam's lips pursed in frustration and his hazel eyes narrowed at his brother. "You can wait until he wakes, Dean! It's not like" His voice trailed off when he noticed a figure strolling toward them with purpose. The white coat and too-earnest nurse hovering around him made Sam grimace. He gestured for Dean to stop whatever angry retort was about to burst from his mouth and motioned toward the approaching doctor. Dean swirled around so quickly that it gave Sam's recently stitched up head a dizzy pull and he had to steady himself on the wall before stepping forward to speak to the doctor.

The man, looking to be in his late-forties, seemed equally annoyed by the busty chatterbox next to him. With a glare, he sent her scampering off to the front desk but not before she had a chance to eye up the Winchester brothers. Sam had to contain his eye roll to avoid another headache. Dean, having ignored the flirty blonde who sauntered off very sensually, pinned the doctor with a hard stare. The effect would have been greater if his face wasn't littered in tiny cuts that made his skin look pale and fragile. "How is he?" Sam asked before Dean had the chance to start growling at the silent doctor. The older man grimaced in a way that sent both Winchester's hearts on overdrive. Sam held his breath. "He's stabilized and does not seem to be in any immediate danger," he said with a soft baritone that probably came in handy when dealing with frantic families. A quick glance at his brother proved that it was not having the desired effect. Sam, too, felt the weighty pause after those first words for what it really was: nothing good. "And?" Dean ground out, barely holding himself from strangling the man in front of them. The doctor hesitated again, frowning to himself. "Well, he's patched up and it truly is a miracle that he didn't get too scraped up. But," there, again, a hesitation. Sam's stomach tightened marginally. "He should have woken up by now." A silence, deep and suffocating, settled over the trio. The doctor stared off, eyes unfocused at the mystery, but the Winchesters were frozen, neither knowing how to react to a sentence like that. The statement really only gave way to more questions, so why then, were they unable to even catch a breath? "Doctor, you're needed in Ms. Kyle's room." The busty blonde was back with a vengeance, more or less pushing the doctor out of his thoughts and in the direction of the patient's room. She, however, remained and placed herself strategically between the two men. Sam didn't even spare her a glance before walking on shaky legs toward the nearest plastic chair, unknowingly leaving his brother in the nurse's evil clutches. "Poor dear," she cooed to herself before turning to her victim. "Is there anything I can do for you?" She fluttered her fake lashes prettily but the sympathy in her eyes was mostly real. She was a nurse, after all. Dean's attention snapped to her, as if only just realizing that she was there but almost immediately his gaze unfocused and he demanded hoarsely, "I want to see him." "You must be starving. I'll have Dobby fix you something light." Harry froze on the landing, pausing in his glaring of the never-ending staircase to shut his eyes in pain as an image of a wrinkled creature with giant, tearful eyes popped into his mind. "Dobby," he muttered, thankfully out of earshot of the worrisome blonde who

had put up quite a fight when Harry insisted on moving about the manor on his own two feet. Our manor, Harry thought in awe. That comment had struck something inside him when Malfoy-no, Draco- had uttered it with such nonchalance, as if he said it every day. He glanced around the wide staircase and the wide open windows that positively screamed freedom and home, interchangeably. Even if everything was still a bit murky in his mind, he was beginning to recall small things about his surroundings, like the blue of the walls in a certain room and the tapestry that felt like silk beneath his fingertips. This was home. "Harry?" Draco sounded hesitant as they entered the dining room and moved past a long table Harry assumed they used for dinner parties. He was led to a glossy door which opened to reveal a man in a crisp suit with coattails. The man looked oddly familiar with his pointed ears and wrinkled skin. His tennis ball sized eyes widened with relief when he caught sight of Harry. Draco's next words were promptly cut off by a squeaked, "Master Harry Potter, sir! I'm so glad you're alright!" "He's in the need of sustenance at the moment, Dobby. If you will." Draco gestured toward the kitchen and at a plump woman with equally large eyes. "Of course, Master Draco! Winky." With a glance toward them and a nervous scuttle, the woman set to work over the spotless counter. Harry watched the entire scene, feeling like he was missing something very important. He was pushed gently into the kitchen and toward another, much smaller and circular table where Draco pulled out a cushioned chair and maneuvered him gently into it. He took the seat next to Harry and stared at the man's still slightly bemused expression. "Harry," he started again but was interrupted by Dobby hurrying over with a tall sandwich and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. "There you go, sir," he said with an awkward flourish, causing Harry to crack a smile which the other man returned tenfold. "Oh! Masters, before I forget, Luna called this morning saying the storm won't allow them access to a boat before Sunday so you shouldn't expect the young ones until then." Harry tilted his head curiously as he took a ravenous bite from the sandwich. He watched Draco's expression turn into an almost-pout at the news. He almost choked on his sip of juice when the blonde fixed him with a half hearted glare. "I knew I shouldn't have let you talk me into shipping our kids off to some dingy part of the world with your nutcase of a friend!" Now he was really pouting. How cute Wait. Kids? Their kids! This time Harry really did choke on his juice and he noted mindlessly that he shouldn't have taken such a big gulp of the delicious concoction. A small coughing fit ensued and Dobby rushed over with a glass of water, giving Draco a

disapproving glare on his way. Draco rolled his eyes and handed Harry the glass after snatching it from the butler. Harry accepted gratefully and tried to calm the sharp sting in his throat left by the acidic drink. "You alright?" Draco asked when Harry relaxed into his seat with a relieved sigh. Harry thought for a moment, examining the warmth that spread throughout his body at the thought of children, his children. He nodded with a small smile. Draco gave a content sigh as he leaned back in his chair, admiring Harry in the sunlight streaming from the open window in their cozy yellow kitchen. Just as they were going back to their previous activities of eating and Harry-watching, the phone rang, giving Harry another reason to pause. Phone? Why did the idea of a phone seem so odd to Harry? Before he had a chance to analyze yet another inconsistency within himself, Dobby rushed in -Harry was starting to believe he only knew how to rush when he moved- and handed Draco the cream colored phone with a worried whisper and a concerned glance in Harry's direction. That look sent thoughts about odd communicating methods out of the open window and Harry promptly forgot his half eaten sandwich in favor of staring at the quiet man in front of him. Draco seemed intent on listening to the speaker, eyes growing dark with some deep emotion. He gave a short nod as if the speaker could see him and raised his eyes to meet Harry's. "I'll get back to you," he said into the phone and hung up without waiting for a reply. Harry leaned forward when it became apparent that Draco wanted his opinion on whatever seemed to be going on with the mystery speaker on the other line. "What is it?" He asked anxiously when Draco just gave him a searching look." "They've moved the date of Black's execution," he said carefully. "It's tonight." Harry sat still as a hurricane of emotions hit him and all he could do was gasp and then gape at Draco before his mind even processed the words. "But-," he stopped as his voice cracked. "Why?" Draco grimaced. "It seems his lawyer is trying to wheedle him out of the death sentence and the authorities don't want him wasting anymore government money on a clean cut case." Harry's eyes widened and he felt a stirring of hope warm his hands which curled in his lap. He didn't stop to think of the reason why he felt hope at the thought of Sirius Black being acquitted. Instead, he blurted out, "If his lawyer has something new to try, shouldn't Black be given a chance so that we're sure he should be killed?" "Harry," Draco said in shock, "Yesterday you would have marched down to the Prime Minister's private home and demanded Black be drowned in a river. What's going on?" When Harry made no move to respond, understanding burned through Draco's expression. "Harry, we can go see him tonight if you really need to."

"See him?" Harry mumbled then, remembering his desire for information and the confusing thoughts surrounding one Mr. Sirius Black, Harry nodded and his voice echoed in the silent kitchen. "Let's go tonight." "Let's go tonight." "Dean," Sam hissed, drawing the attention of the nurse who was fluttering around an unconscious and quite pitiful version of their wizard. She gave them an odd look but returned to checking vitals, apparently all business in the face (no matter how unconscious) of a patient. Once her back was turned to them, Sam faced his brother, who had never looked away from him. In fact, the entire twenty minutes in the room, Sam hadn't seen Dean look in the direction of the bed where Harry was attached to what felt and sounded like dozens of machines. Sam shook the depressed thoughts from his mind and put on his best 'strong' face for his brother who clearly didn't know how to handle the situation. "Dean, we can't go anywhere with Harry-" he broke off when his mouth refused to form any remotely negative words that might shatter them both. "Harry will want to come with us," he said finally. Dean's eyes narrowed but his jaw was set with determination and Sam knew nothing he said would stop Dean from doing what he wanted. "You'll be okay if someone else gets hurt because we didn't take care of whatever's haunting that road?" Sam frowned at the attempt to guilt him into going along. "They closed the road off and neither of us is in any condition to go hunting anything. Besides, have you already forgotten that we need to get a hold of Dad and Sirius?" There. Two could play the guilt game. Dean flashed him a sneer before the nurse sauntered over with a big smile. "He's as comfortable as I can make him. Quite a mystery why he hasn't woken up yet but it's too early to start to worry. He's probably just exhausted himself." Her smile stayed plastered to her face as she looked at Dean. He was oblivious to her stare as he finally looked over the pale form of the man he had grown so close to. Harry's eyes were shut tightly, as if in terrible pain, and his skin was bordering on an unhealthy yellow. Most of his lithe body was bandaged tightly and he had a few cuts and scrapes on his face which were a lot worse when Dean had checked him over after their accident. A grimace crossed his face as he remembered frantically trying to steer the car away from the road to keep from hitting Harry as he flew through the air. The result of his efforts would have killed Sam and himself if it weren't for Harry's burst of magic that cradled the car and tore at a tree in order to keep the Impala from making too harsh of an impact. Dean had been unbuckled and shouting for Sam before the car had fully stopped. A grunt of life from his brother was all he waited for before he was stumbling out of the car on unsteady legs and dashing over to the crumpled figure lying in the middle of the road, broken and barely breathing

He took a harsh breath and looked away from the bed just as the nurse was asking softly, "Is he your brother?" "No. He-" Sam began with a stern look toward the woman. "He's a friend of the family," Dean responded with a blank face, ignoring the confused look Sam shot his way. "Well," the nurse said with a subtle touch to Dean's shoulder. "He was lucky this time. You let me know if you need anything, hon." And then she was gone, glancing back at Dean with a smile and successfully ignoring a silently fuming Sam. "I'm going to call Dad," Dean snapped before Sam had a chance to scold him for anything and everything. "Dean," but it was no use, his brother was shutting down and there was no one he would listen to when in that state. Sam sighed and went to sit at Harry's bedside, hoping, for all of their sakes, that Dean didn't go and do something stupid. Whatever Harry expected from a high security prison cell, bleached walls and comfy looking visitor chairs was definitely not it. Sure, the warden's office was the definition of 'pristine' but Harry really didn't think picturing murderers entertaining in a spotless and brilliant room would help his growing anxiety. This was probably why the young man had such a difficult time crossing the threshold that separated one empty white corridor from one occupied white-walled room. Then again, maybe the occupant was more of a cause for Harry's discomfort than the surreal state of cleanliness of the room. He leaned carefully into the wall beside the open door and made a show of not actually looking into the room. With green eyes trained firmly on the tiled white floor, he held took calming breaths as the sinking feeling in his stomach became the plummeting of his organs into the snug depths of his toes. Why was he so nervous? "We don't have to go in there, Harry." Draco. Harry released the breath he didn't know he had trapped and caught the gaze of the man beside him. Shaking his head slightly, ruffling the dark locks, and digging a neatly shined shoe into the wall he was leaning on, Harry hesitated with his next request. "Draco," he began with a nervous glance toward the armed guard positioned only feet away, "I want to go in alone." The hour long trip from the manor to the small boat that transported them to their destination in the middle of a vast and tumultuous lake had taught Harry a lot about how Draco Malfoy functioned in public. Of course, he was a perfect gentleman when it concerned Harry but any other emotion was carefully pulled under a mask of indifference that was not easily broken. Harry's words, however, seemed to be the kryptonite to Draco's public persona.

Grey eyes flared to life and a hissed, "What?" followed promptly before the guard marched up to them with purpose. "You have a limited amount of time with the prisoner. Will you be going in or not?" His tone was brisk and he seemed anxious of having to stand so close to the open doorway, even though they all knew that the room was filled with at least a dozen armed guards. What the hell had Black done? "Yes, we just need a moment. Thank you." Draco's eyes barely flicked over the guard before the man was dismissed and grey eyes focused once more on Harry's half slumped form. The guard didn't look offended as he was probably relieved to take his place away from the door. "Harry, you don't need to do this alone. How many times do I have to tell you that?" Harry tugged lightly on his thick coat and looked away briefly before meeting Draco's eyes. "Why don't you want me to meet him on my own?" Of course Draco would perceive his words as a challenge because it wouldn't cross his mind that Harry's addled memory really didn't know why meeting with Black would be such a big deal. The sound Draco made in response to that was somewhere between a growl and a huff of irritation. "You don't have to pretend it doesn't hurt anymore." "It happened so long ago. Why should it?" Harry retorted slowly, testing the blonde's facial expression to know whether his pretending was off the mark. Ok, that sound was definitely a growl and Draco made a point of leaning in to not-quitehiss, "They were your parents, Harry! And he was supposed to protect them. Protect you!" He took a sharp breath through his nose, as if only just realizing that he was rapidly losing his calm mask. While Draco composed himself, Harry's curiosity and pain over the situation doubled. Black had done something to his parents? Pictures of red hair and green eyes filled his mind but he could only capture the feeling: one of despair. Did that mean his parents were dead. Harry's heart missed a few painful beats. Had Black killed his parents? Harry felt sick. "This is something I want to do alone. I need to come to terms with alone," Harry whispered around the tennis ball in his throat. He gazed pleadingly at the man that was so intent on protecting him and Draco stared back lovingly, resolve crumpling faster than a brittle wall. "I'll be right here when you need me," he said firmly. With a quick motion of his hand, almost gone unnoticed by a very surprised Harry, Draco had him in his arms and was placing a searing kiss to his closed lips. It ended as soon as Harry's body began to melt and before Harry's mind could quite process it, Draco had pushed him through the door and almost instantly, a lone guard was pushing him into a soft chair, directly across from the infamous Sirius Black. A high pitched giggle carried itself with an obnoxious ease in through the crack under the door of Harry's room. The sound made Sam glare tiredly at the door, causing him to

hope half heartedly that the source of the offending noise would burst a vocal cord for such an intolerable sound. With that wish firmly thrown into the wind for review and evaluation, Sam resumed his staring of the motionless body lying on the bed beside his chair. If telepathy worked so well, Sam thought as he tried to wake Harry with the power of his stare alone, why couldn't it ever help him when it really mattered? He continued his staring, which almost bordered on full-fledged glaring, until the same high pitched giggle reached his ears again. No. It was more like a cackle. Sam had heard giggles before and none of his past experiences with the sound made him want to claw his ears out in frustration and maybe, if he wasn't so tired, he would have noticed that every single one of those thoughts did not scream 'I'm the sweetest bad ass on this side of the pond'. But, thankfully, Sam was dead tired and seconds away from self combusting into tendrils of homicidal little spider monkeys. Damn cackles. Why the hell did it sound louder? The answer to that came to him as soon as the door to the room was flung open with a gusto that did not belong anywhere near unconscious patients or their beaten down loved ones. Sam almost growled at the dimwitted nurse until his eyes took in the reason for her shrieking. Of course, any other hospital visit in any other place with little to no knowledge of their comatose companion's existence, Sam would have drawn the conclusion in two seconds flat. But this wasn't any other hospital in any other place and both Winchesters had a very thorough understanding of their comatose companion's existence; one of the mentioned Winchester brothers had something going with said companion. So, naturally, Sam was dumfounded. And speechless. Mainly confused though. "You're just a doll!" Bimbo nurse 1 gushed to one Mr. Dean Winchester, who - if you haven' realized yet - was the source of such great times out in the hallway of the hospital. Sam was beginning to get a sinking feeling as his brother responded with his signature smirk and a wink toward the salivating nurse. "Your brother is such delightful company," she said to Sam, not really talking to him but more like through him with the way she kept her eyes on Dean. Sam's speechlessness was still very prominent at the time so all he could really respond with was a narrowed glare toward the oblivious nurse before he glanced to his brother for more information on the situation because really, Dean was not flirting with a stranger with his unconscious something lying in the bed a few feet away. That would be low on so many levels and Sam would definitely not like to visit a world in which his own brother made him feel like worthless trash by association. It seemed like luck was not on Sam Winchester's side because his dear brother sidled up to the blushing nurse and whispered something in her ear that sent her into another fit of shrieks, although thankfully almost silent in volume this time due to the motionless wizard nearby. How kind of her. "Dean," Sam began coldly, not surprised when his brother turned in his general direction but didn't meet his eyes. "Can I talk to you for a second? Alone," he said pointedly, sniffing disdainfully in the nurse's direction but not actually looking at her. He felt it too much of a risk to do so, considering his earlier homicidal thoughts toward

the woman and the newly acquired evidence that something was up between her and his very taken brother. Dean gave s short roll of his eyes before smiling apologetically at the highly offended nurse. With another soft whisper exchanged between the two, she scuttled off but not before tossing a filthy look toward Sam, which he promptly deflected with a deadly glare. He hoped it wasn't just his imagination that made him think she practically ran out of the room after that. "I called Dad and Sirius. They were able to hold the demons off long enough to make it to some kind of protected room Bobby's got hidden away. The demons seem to have cleared off so they're driving over here right now." Dean still wasn't looking at him. "Good but that isn't what I wanted to talk to you about." Sam remained seated but he felt the tension coiling low in his chest, telling him his brother needed a good kick up the ass. He very much agreed. "Sam," Dean sighed in that 'I am the oldest so you will obey my superiorness' tone he saved for special occasions. Sam really hated that tone. "What the hell do you think you're doing!" His voice cracked with the intensity of hissing he was doing. He glanced at Harry, half hoping the sound would have woken him, and turned back in time to see that his brother had done the same. At least he still seemed to care for the man he was clearly planning on cheating on. "I don't know what you mean," Dean tried, shifting uncomfortably but otherwise not backing down from his little brother. "I'm just passing the time, Sam." "Passing the time?" Sam's throat was definitely going to be sore at the rate he was going. "What the hell, man? Harry's just been made a pretty good impersonation of road kill, demons attacked Dad and Sirius, and there's some crazy ghost running around and you're just passing the time!" Sam bit out harshly, keeping a tight hold on the railings of Harry's bed lest he catapult right into his brother's moronic face. "Sam." One word in that tone usually meant the conversation was closed unless Sam was in the mood to taste his own blood after becoming acquainted with Dean's fist of fury and Sam would usually shut his mouth with a huff. Well, Sam's newly gained best friend wasn't usually in a coma, unable to defend himself or fight for what Sam could see he was falling head over heels for so there goes Dean's subject dropper. "Dean," Sam retorted with a hint of a snarl on his tired face. "What the hell are you going to tell Harry when he wakes up?" "If he wakes up," Dean corrected and now he was meeting Sam's eyes but the soft green wasn't giving any emotion away, not that Sam was in any mood to look. "Oh," Sam breathed with a defeated sigh and a barely noticeable slump to his shoulders. He was suddenly very tired of talking to Dean. "I get it. You've classified him as useless so you're moving on to your next conquest." That was just like Dean to do. He had done it before, burned through throngs of girls in one social circle, discarding them when

they lost his interest. But why, why did he have to do it to someone he clearly had deeper feelings for? Someone Sam and even John had a deep connection with? "It was never a good idea for us to be involved in the first place, Sam." Dean sounded as tired as Sam felt but he didn't bother confirming his guess, choosing instead to stare into the lifeless face of the wizard he'd grown so close to over such a short amount of time. "Getting close to people with this job It isn't something that should be done." "No," Sam agreed quietly, grasping Harry's cold hand in his larger one. "It isn't something you would ever be able to handle." "What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Sam could hear the warning in Dean's voice, could see the suddenly straining muscles in his neck as he tried to glare Sam down. "It means that you're too much of a scared idiot to be able to hold onto someone like Harry. I really can't see how you lasted this long without bolting like the pathetic coward you are," Sam stated mildly, not really caring what words spilled out of his mouth as long as his brother caught some sense of reason. Sam saw Dean's fingers clench so hard, his fists held a tint of white and he was probably doing some damage to his palms but he didn't respond. Instead, he turned away from Sam and walked right out the door. No storming or slamming of the door. He just walked out. He didn't look back. "You haven't said anything for almost ten minutes." The soft voice brought the slideshow going on in Harry's mind to an abrupt halt. His eyes snapped up to meet the cold, dead pools of grey that Harry assumed were Sirius Black's eyes. He took a moment to really take in the image in front of him, not having done so when he first sat across from the man, having been too caught up in the whirlwind of pictures that his mind provided for the prisoner, although each was as uninformative as the last. Black's hair was clean but messy, the dark locks looking as if Black had tried to cut them with a dull knife. His face was gaunt and sunken, much like the rest of his body, but his posture conveyed a sense of calm, almost relaxed. He was almost leaning comfortably in his chair as he gazed at Harry with some unfathomable emotion sparkling in his eyes. "How do you know it's been ten minutes?" Was the first thing Harry could come up with. The question made Black smile, showing a set of slightly crooked but mostly well taken care of, teeth. "There aren't a lot of things to appreciate in here. Time lost its meaning to me a very long time ago but is a concept I have recently thought to explore a bit more." "Because you're going to die soon." Harry concluded. Another smile, this one soft and broken. "Because I'm going to die tonight."

"Why?" Maybe Harry could get away with a bit straightforward questioning with nothing but a possibly senile Sirius Black as his only witness. The guard didn't count; he was backed into the furthest corner of the room. "Why? I would think you know why, Harry. I killed your parents." A grimace followed that statement and Harry couldn't help but notice the hesitance before that last sentence. Why would a murderer, crazy and boastful from what Draco said, hesitate before proclaiming his infamous murder to one of his victim's offspring? "I know what everyone else says. Why are you in here?" Black flashed him that same broken smile and his eyes took on a faraway look. "Because I killed your parents." He didn't hesitate this time. Harry's breath caught in his throat. "Why?" Black didn't respond but his eyes were still glazed with unforgettable torment that worried Harry. Why was the murderer of his parents showing so much It couldn't possibly be remorse that he was showing, could it? "Why?" Harry repeated, almost strangling himself with the force with which he flung the word at the other man and he was glad to see Black's eyes finally focus on him. "I couldn't protect them. Or you. I deserve to be here." Acceptance shown through his eyes and Harry didn't think he'd ever seen someone so sure of something in his entire life, even if he couldn't remember all of it. He just knew. Something was very wrong here. "Tell me what happened," Harry said quietly. "All of it." Black regarded him for a moment, probably weighing his words and wondering whether Harry was just messing with him, showing him an inch of sympathy only to snatch it away in the next moment. "I was framed." "Hey!" Dean jumped in alarm at the shout, his hand automatically searching for a weapon that wasn't there at the moment. He spun around toward the voice, stabilizing himself with the brick of the outer walls of the hospital before making an effort of plastering a charming smile on his face for the persistent nurse currently waving to him from beside a red convertible. Taking a deep breath, Dean sauntered over to her just as she unlocked her car. "Sweetheart, we've gotta stop meeting like this," Dean purred. The blonde gave a seductive smile and motioned toward the passenger side. "You're right. But while we're here" She trailed off meaningfully.

Dean didn't even stop to consider the consequences of getting into a car with a random woman. Thoughts like that were exactly what he was trying to avoid when he escaped his brother and fled to the crisp night air of the Colorado night. He didn't need to think right now. Or feel for that matter. He needed to be distracted. Distracted from the very real truth that he was an asshole and that his brother was right when he called Dean a coward. Mostly, he just wanted to escape the haunting thought that maybe Harry wasn't going to wake up. Crazy laws of magic suggested that Harry should have been restored within seconds with the rate at which he was healing even before the paramedics arrived at the accident sight. So why then was he still unconscious? The doctor and flirty nurse said it was only a matter of time before Harry awoke but that was them hoping. Dean couldn't live on hope. "You seem awfully quite." Dean couldn't even remember what the nurse's name was but she seemed pretty perceptive when she wasn't pushing her boobs up to her ears so he wasn't surprised when she asked, "Are you worried about your friend?" Dean cleared his throat anxiously, biting back the forming of a lump in his throat. "Yeah. A bit." "He'll be fine," she said with such certainty that Dean couldn't help but stick firmly to the topic. "How can you be so sure?" She glanced at him with a small smile as she maneuvered the car away from traffic and onto the mostly deserted main road. "I've read about cases where a patient heals pretty fast but their mind isn't as quick as their body in fixing itself up. Doctor Walsh told me about a woman that fell from a three story building and barely got a scratch on her thanks to some mattress delivery truck parked right where she landed. She was brought in and would have been discharged that same day but she didn't wake up until a month later." "A whole month? Why?" "Well, the doctor found out she was having some family trouble and he thinks stress kept her down. When she woke up, her family claimed it was like she was ten years younger with how refreshed she seemed. Her mind just needed the time to sort her life out, I guess. Medical mystery, ya know?" Dean nodded distractedly, wondering if maybe that was the reason for Harry's comatose state. The wizard had been going through a lot and that was even before he got wrapped up in the Winchester drama. Maybe his subconscious was healing what an awake Harry didn't even know was wrong. Dean frowned as he processed this new possibility. It was likely and it made a lot of sense but it didn't make him feel any better. So, maybe he knew that Harry would wake up this time. That was the thing though, wasn't it? Harry would wake up this time. What about the next time he got hurt and his magic wasn't able to heal him fast enough? Dean wasn't well versed in the ways of a wizard but he was pretty sure that magic wasn't limitless or at least couldn't be used up all at once.

No, this wouldn't be the only or last time that Harry scared him like this. It wouldn't be the last time he would feel like his soul was tearing and his was dissolving into the pit of his stomach. This wouldn't be the last time Harry nearly died. But it would be the last time Dean allowed himself to feel that way. It wasn't safe for any of them that he was affected so strongly by scrapes and scratches on a young man that he had just met. No matter how close they got, Dean could never allow Harry to screw with his emotions so bad that he forgot his person; he was meant to kill the evil things that lurked under people's beds, not fall for mysterious wizards that appeared out of thin air. He glanced to the beautifully woman in the seat beside his. She was still talking about medical mysteries or some other nonsense that wouldn't keep Dean's attention even if he weren't all screwy from a night of worry. Wasn't this what he had decided was good for him? A life of pleasure and hunting. That was his safety and he wasn't about to endanger himself or his family to try to discover whar living differently could mean for him. "Oh my god!" Dean winced at the sharp proclamation and then again when the car came to a lurching stop and his body tried to continue on at their previous speed. He shook the stars out of his eyes just as the nurse shrieked again. "What the hell is that!" Dean's head snapped up and he gazed at a familiar figure for the second time in the same night. They were in an area that at least had a lamp post so he got to see the long flowing hair of what definitely had to be a woman, dressed in dark brown clothing. That was all Dean caught before the figure vanished and he heard the nurse give another shriek of surprise before she promptly passed out. Dean restrained himself from rolling his eyes only because he wanted to keep his eyes peeled just in case the figure returned and became hostile. A few seconds passed and Dean let himself relax a bit before he glanced at the nurse beside him. "Well, shit." That seemed to cover his entire night.