Author's Note: This was written for cordeila_gray's prompt at the OhSam Comment Fic Meme:

"So after last episode, it has become my unshakeable head canon that Sam is a sekrit Harry Potter fan, and that Jess was the one who got him into it. So - anything, really. Jess gives Sam the first volume as a birthday present, or Sam & Jess go to one of the movies as a date, or Sam never wanted to see the final movie because it would mean that part of his life was truly over. Just something involving Sam & Jess & HP."

And since the missing year has gotten far too confusing within canon to deal with, let's just say season 7 is set in 2012 for the sake of this story.

Disclaimer: I own nothing you recognize.


Erised


May 2, 2004

Sam sat in the library with open books scattered on the table in front of him. It was finals week and he still had a lot of studying to do. He had to keep up his grades to keep his scholarship, after all. And if his color-coded highlighting and carefully organized notes were a bit excessive, well, Dean had been calling him neurotic for years.

His insides twisted at the thought of Dean. Since the blowup before Sam left for Stanford, their few phone conversations had been short and awkward, devolving mostly into texts here and there. It had been nearly two years year since he'd left the family business and Sam didn't miss hunting, but he missed his brother. In twenty years, Dean had never forgotten his birthday, even if it meant scrounging up a cupcake and a candle from a 7-Eleven. Even last year, on Sam's first birthday at Stanford, Dean had sent a little package with a book—which Sam suspected he'd liberated from Bobby's—and a card. This year, Sam wasn't really sure what to expect, if anything, considering the awkward standing between them.

A loud thump made Sam jump and pulled him from his reverie. He blinked at the gift-wrapped package that had landed on his open psych book in front of him.

"Happy Birthday, Sam," a female voice said. Sam looked over to see Jessica sliding into the seat next to him. She was smiling and Sam couldn't help but smile back. Brady had introduced them a couple of months before at a party and they'd hit it off immediately, but both were scholarship students and too busy then with midterms and now with finals to ever meet outside of group outings.

"Jessica, hey," he said. "How'd you know—"

"Brady told me."

Ah. That made sense. He'd been pushing Sam to ask her out for the last several weeks, but Sam had fallen headlong into his books in preparation for finals. He'd been planning on asking her out after they'd both finished their exams.

"You didn't have to get me anything," Sam told her, eyeing the neatly wrapped package, in a neutral blue paper, complete with a perfect bow.

She shrugged and looked a little embarrassed—which, Sam noted, was adorable. "I wanted to. It's not much, but you're away from your family and…" She trailed off, color rising in her cheeks, then shook her head. "Go ahead, open it," she told him.

Sam toyed with the bow for a moment longer. He wasn't used to getting gifts with actual gift wrap—birthday or Christmas gifts Winchester style were usually wrapped in newspaper if at all. It struck him, not for the first time, how foreign the life he was living here was.

"Is the bow too much?" she asked, watching Sam play with the ribbon. "The bow's too much," she decided before Sam could open his mouth. "I'm such a do—"

"It's perfect," Sam cut her off. "I just grew up with my brother and my dad, so we didn't have many bows on presents." He smiled slightly. "It's nice."

"A world without bows is a sad world indeed," Jessica replied sagely with a nod.

Sam laughed and eased the tape off at the seams of the wrapping paper with a finger. He pulled out a hardcover book and blinked at the cartoony cover. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone it read.

"I don't know if you've read them or not," Jessica said quickly when Sam didn't say anything. "But Brady says you don't have very many books of your own and I know you love to read and these books are so much fun and… Oh, I'm babbling. I'm sorry." She looked nervous and flustered and Sam thought she'd never looked more perfect since they'd met.

"Thank you," Sam said quietly. This might have been the first birthday gift he'd gotten from someone that wasn't his family or a family friend. "You've read them?" he asked.

"More times than I'd like to admit," she admitted with a self-deprecating smile. "They're wonderful. It's a world of magic and good versus evil and coming of age… Anyway, I think you'd like it." She nodded to the book in his hand. "That's just the first one. There are five more so far and I need someone to talk to about them."

"Of course there's an ulterior motive!" Sam teased, poking Jessica in the arm.

She poked him back. "Can't there be more than one?" she retorted.

Sam blinked at that. "Oh?"

She smiled sheepishly, curling a strand of blonde hair nervously behind an ear. "Well, I thought we could talk about the book over coffee when you finish. You know, if you'd like."

It took a moment for Jessica's words to register. But then Sam grinned. "Make it dinner and you're on."

"Sam Winchester," Jessica said in mock horror, "are you skipping the important first coffee date?"

"Of course not," Sam said, shutting his textbook and turning to face Jessica. "I thought we could do that now."

Jessica burst into a wide smile that somehow made Sam think of California sunshine. "You're on."

Brady and some of his friends had been pushing to really celebrate Sam's twenty-first properly, but Sam had managed to delay that until the weekend so he could study. But this was better than barhopping with frat boys. The card and protection charm that came in the mail from Bobby and the phone call from Dean later that night were just the cherries on top of what had turned into a surprisingly perfect birthday.


May 2, 2012

Sam was sitting on the motel bed with the laptop balanced on his outstretched legs. He'd been searching for the last week for any hint on what the chunk of clay they'd stolen from Dick Roman might be without much luck. But diving into research made holing up more bearable since they needed to keep off the radar while Roman was looking for them. It also kept his mind off of, well, everything else, including the date.

Dean was sitting on the other bed, flipping through the channels. Bobby was wherever he disappeared to when he wasn't visible; he never said. After a couple of cycles through the TV channels without luck, Dean finally turned the television off and stretched. He stood up, toed on his boots, and grabbed his keys.

"I'm gonna grab some grub."

"Okay," Sam said without looking up.

"Any requests?"

"Whatever you want is fine."

"Sam."

Sam frowned at Dean's strangled tone and looked up. His brother was watching him with a strange look on his face that Sam couldn't quite read. "What?"

Finally Dean shook his head. "It's nothing. I'll be back soon."

Sam shrugged as Dean headed out the door. For a few minutes, the room was quiet except for the clicking of the keys as Sam typed. But the silence made Sam antsy, like his skin was a size too small. He'd gone so long with a constant voice in his head that silence just felt wrong. It wasn't that he missed Lucifer's constant presence; just that he was used to it and didn't exactly know how to go on without it. When he was hunting, he could focus on the job and ignore the anxiety. But when they had downtime like this, Sam got stir-crazy.

He turned on the television to ESPN and, after rustling through his duffel for new clothes, headed for the bathroom. He jumped in the shower and just listened to the noise and, one by one, his muscles finally relaxed under the hot spray. As the water turned cool, Sam turned the shower off and grabbed a towel. He was pulling a t-shirt over his head when he heard the door open and shut and the television volume lower.

"Sammy!" Dean called.

"Here," Sam called back, draping the towel over his shoulders and opening the bathroom door. He stepped into the room and froze.

Dean was standing in the middle of the room holding a cupcake in hand with one lit candle. He'd put a movie into to obsolete DVD player and the opening credits were starting to roll. He was grinning. Bobby had appeared at Dean's side and had a smile on his face too.

"Happy Birthday, Sam!" they chorused.

For a beat, they all looked at each other. Then Sam fled back into the bathroom and slammed the door shut behind him. Sam sank to the tiled floor with his back to wall and pulled his knees to his chest. He was shaking and having a hard time breathing. His stomach had twisted violently at the familiar sounds of the movie credits, as it felt like a hand reached into his chest and squeezed his heart. It was a hurt long buried only to burst from the grave.

Sam started when he felt a touch on his arm.

"Hey. Easy, Sammy."

Sam looked up to see Dean watching him with a frown. His brother was kneeling at eye level but keeping enough space between them as though Sam might spook. Then again, Sam thought, he'd been doing that a lot over the past few months so he didn't blame his brother.

"Dean," Sam rasped intelligently.

"You with me?"

Sam nodded, swallowing. "Yeah."

"You wanna tell me what that was about?"

"Not really." Sam just wanted to melt into the wall and disappear now that he realized what an idiot he must have looked like.

"It wasn't really a question, bro."

Sam knew that tone; there was no getting out of this one. And he supposed he owed Dean an explanation since Dean'd made an effort for his birthday even if Sam had been trying to ignore the date.

Sam sighed and considered his words. Images of Jess played across his mind's eye, of his first birthday in California and coffee with Jess, and everything that came after. It almost seemed like another person had lived that life after everything Sam had been through, which was why the sudden stab of pain in his heart had come as such a surprise at the reminder.

"Jess gave me the first Harry Potter book for my twenty-first birthday," Sam told Dean.

Dean blinked, clearly not expecting that response. Whatever trauma he'd thought was afflicting Sam, this clearly wasn't it. He'd probably thought it was Hell-related considering the last several months. Sam also rarely talked about his time with Jess, so he wasn't surprised Dean was caught off-guard. But then Dean smiled, taking Sam off-guard.

"I remember that day. It was one of our first real conversations after you'd left," he said. "You went out for coffee with her."

Sam nodded, oddly touched that Dean remembered. "Our first official date was dinner the next week. We talked about the book and she lent me her copy of the second one."

Sam's expression softened as he thought about that summer. Jess had stayed in Palo Alto since her parents were spending most of the summer traveling for work, taking a part-time job waiting tables while Sam worked as a stock boy at a grocery store. Sam had sped through each Harry Potter book, reading whenever he'd found free time, and he and Jess had coffee and dinner dates to talk about the books. Those dates, of course, had led to other things. That fall, when they told their returning friends about how they'd starting dating, Jess had called Harry Potter the "gift that kept on giving." It had been stupid, but they'd both thought it hilarious at the time.

"We went to the midnight premiere of the third movie that summer," Sam recalled. "We both had early shifts at our jobs the next morning, but we didn't care. When the next book came out, we were the first in line at the bookstore for the midnight release."

Sam's breath caught in his throat as a thought hit him straight in the gut. "She loved those books," he whispered. "I thought they would be silly, but she'd loved them so much, so I'd had to read them. And they were great." He realized his cheeks were wet and swiped at them with the back of his hand. "She never found out how they ended. The second to last book came out the summer before she died."

"Sammy—"

But Sam shook his head. "I'm sorry, Dean. I just… It all came back at once and I freaked."

"You gave Charlie that Harry Potter pep talk without blinking," Dean pointed out. He sounded more curious than anything, though.

Sam shrugged. "I guess I didn't really make the connection? I don't know, man. I'm sorry."

Dean gave him a look, telling him he was a moron. "Nothing to be sorry for. We don't have to watch the movie." He smirked. "You do have to blow the candle out. It's a special candle that stands for 29."

They looked at each other for a moment, understanding hanging on the air. Sam might be turning 29 topside, but his soul was so much older. Dean's too. It was just easier not to talk about, and avoidance was a Winchester specialty. Finally Sam nodded and reached a hand out to Dean. Dean grabbed it and rose, pulling his brother to his feet in one motion.

"How about a marathon?" Sam said. "All eight movies."

Dean raised an eyebrow at that but Sam shrugged. "What? It's my birthday."

"Damn right it is, kiddo," Bobby said as they emerged from the bathroom. "So are we going to get on with it or what?"

Dean shared a look with Sam. "I think we have another fan in our midst. You nerds."

Bobby sputtered and Sam laughed, blowing out the candle on the cupcake. After sorting out the food, they eventually settled in for the movies.

Sam drifted off in the middle of Goblet of Fire and Jess was waiting for him, his dream date to the Yule Ball. She practically glowed in her sparkling blue dress, complete with a bow. As Sam took put one hand on her waist and took her other in his, she smiled widely at him and said, "Happy Birthday, Sam."

- fin -