A/N: Hey, sorry about the late update, again. I didn't have enough written yesterday to warrant updating, and my internet was out for most of today, so I couldn't have posted any sooner even if I'd been capable of it. I'm going to try and have the next chapter done by the time I leave on Friday, but that only leaves me tomorrow to do it in, and there's all sorts of last-minute packing and stuff to do so... I'll try my best, but no promises.
Oh, and this chapter title made more sense in my original plans, but I couldn't be bothered finding something to change it to.
Chapter 19 – Life as a Hunter Library:
Harry spent the week after Sam and Dean's phone call fixing cars, free of charge. He needed something to do with his hands, to occupy his time and his mind with. Unfortunately, since he pretty much knew all the cars in Jackson inside and out by that point, he was working on auto-pilot, and so had more than enough time to think about everything that had happened. It hadn't been one of his best moments, or one of his best decisions.
He couldn't take more than a week of it.
In the end he hopped into his own car and drove all the way back to Nebraska and the Roadhouse, hoping it would be able to ease his mind.
Ellen was ecstatic to see him, though she hid it well. Jo was standoffish for the first two or three days, apparently miffed as hell that he didn't bother calling her often. No-one else really cared either way – he had, after all, only spoken to Ash the other week.
Slipping back into life at the Roadhouse was ridiculously easy; it was almost as though he had never left. He didn't plan on staying for too long, but he needed the company of other people – people in the know, not just random people – for a while.
He even actually indulged Ash in a beer or two. Never enough to veer anywhere close to drunk, but enough that Ash stopped being surprised when he accepted his offers.
Mostly he just spent an absurd amount of time on one of Ash's laptops.
No matter what he tried he hadn't been able to shake the feeling that there was something seriously bad going on out there, and that John was trying to put himself in the centre of it all. He needed to know what – even if the hows and whys were never explained.
Never let it be said that the internet was straight-forward. Yes, if you were looking for something normal, Harry supposed it would be better, but it was a long, drawn-out process to find what he was looking for.
He could find nothing concrete – he had nothing to go on, after all, apart from yellow eyes, and lore never spoke about eyes, not really. Hell, he couldn't even tell what lore was legitimate and what was bogus.
Alcohol and nerves fuelled his lengthy, time-consuming search.
When he narrowed down his options Harry figured it wouldn't hurt to simply make an educated guess on the topic. The problem was whether to risk giving that guess to Dean, who it would probably make a lot more sense to. But even if it did make sense to Dean, would he then be sending him off to some possibly deadly fight as well? He knew well enough that Dean was older than him, but only by a little bit, he argued to himself, and he didn't want him to do anything rash. At the same time, he could guess wrong. There could be exponential fall-out from that too.
It was such a pain!
His life would be so much simpler if he could stop forming random attachments to people. He'd never even met Dean before!
Ellen was concerned about him; especially that one morning when she walked into the bar to find not only Ash, but Harry as well passed out on the pool table – he'd passed out from exhaustion, not because he was drunk, but it still went against everything he normally did.
She had yelled at him, taken Ash's laptop off him and locked him in a spare room, ordering him to sleep. He'd grumbled for awhile, before acquiescing. The sleep cleared the fog from his mind, but made his choice no easier.
In the end it was guilt that made the decision for him.
He sent off a simple text to Dean - "Azazel?" - and tried to convince himself that he was washing his hands of the Winchesters, though he knew that wasn't true.
Harry ended up spending three months at the Roadhouse – much longer than he had originally intended. He wasn't complaining though. It had been fun, having Jo insult his form while she checked him over to make sure he'd been keeping up with his training.
He'd also forcibly been introduced to another info-guy.
This guy, Bobby Singer, was his kind of guy – all books and no computer. But he didn't exactly feel like comparing notes, so he simply wrote down his number and left it at that.
Going back home to Jackson – Harry still found it weird calling Jackson home, when he was so used to Privet Drive, Grimmauld Place and Hogwarts – wasn't exactly high on his priority list, but he'd pretty much expended his capacity for road-tripping while looking for a place to live. There was nothing to draw his attention elsewhere – he didn't want to encroach on some hunter's work, because he was in absolutely no mood to deal with a shitty hunter – so he was resigned to going home.
The main reason he wasn't overly looking forward to going back to Jackson was because, while working for everyone, they'd all gotten rather friendly towards him. If it were just that, it would be fine, but to them, friendly seemed to mean nosy. If anyone did something or went somewhere they wanted to know who, what, where and why. Only the wizards had been that nosy about his life back in England, and that was because they couldn't afford him running off and getting himself killed before he could defeat Voldemort.
He didn't appreciate the lack of perceived privacy.
But still, home was home, and he could always just lock the doors and unplug the land-line in order to get away from them for awhile. They weren't so nosy that they'd throw a brick through his window or pick the lock like Cassidy was known to do. If they were he'd have moved out ages ago.
His house had a ridiculously dilapidated feel to it when he returned. Sure it was dark and a bit dusty and he needed to go shopping for food the moment he got back, but it wasn't that bad. He'd only been gone three months. Nothing had crawled in and died, nothing had leaked, nothing had gone off – he'd thrown all his food out before he left, not sure when he'd be back – nothing had broken, and there had been no spontaneous electrical fires. There were no demons trapped in the many circles around the house, no disturbed salt lines, nothing had mysteriously vanished.
It was perfectly fine, and for some reason that annoyed him.
Why wasn't anyone out to get him? What about all those demons who hated Crowley? Why had none of them come after him?
All the time he'd spent on the internet looking up things about Azazel, well, maybe he shouldn't have. He was getting paranoid with all the different demon lore he'd stumbled across.
Sometimes he wished he could just obliviate himself. That way he wouldn't be so on edge.
Nerves and the still lingering guilt eventually forced Harry to do something he hadn't done, well, ever, since he left England.
He actually rang Cassidy. It was a long shot really – it had been years and years, who said she even still lived in the same place?
Harry held his breath as the phone rang.
"Hello, this is Cassidy."
Harry nearly laughed at the sound of her voice. He shouldn't have doubted her. He should have called her sooner. Much sooner.
She was going to be so mad at him.
"Hey. I don't know if you, ah, remember me but, well, it's Harry."
There was a long pause. Harry could almost hear her teeth grinding in irritation. It was a beautiful sound to him. Eventually she sighed loudly down the phone.
"You have no idea how much I want to yell at you right now young man, but I suppose that would be counter-productive..."
"It's good to hear your voice Cassidy. I was half expecting you to just hang up on me."
"I probably should too! But Nathan would kill me if he found out you rang and I hung up on you. So I'm going to give you a chance to explain, though lord knows you don't deserve it. We thought you'd been kidnapped until we managed to break into your apartment and found all your bloody books gone!"
"And why the hell didn't you call earlier?! It's been seven years Harry! You could have been dead for all we knew!"
That was true. Harry hadn't really stopped to think of what it would seem like for them when he suddenly up and disappeared. His reasoning wouldn't stand up to her scrutiny, because she didn't know most of the story. He had been trying to cut all ties with England, just in case – in case of what, he was no longer sure, but it had been just in case.
"I just needed to get away." Harry told her quietly, thinking back to how he had been coping – or rather, not coping – back then.
"... I suppose I can't blame you for it... It's just a shame that I – we – couldn't be enough for you though."
Oh man. There was enough raw emotion in her voice to imply that it was simply her thoughts, but he knew her, she was sneaky, and she was guilt-tripping him. Damn. But he definitely deserved it this time. He could take it in stride.
"Hey, you know me, I didn't want to be a burden. There was simply too much history for me around London. I'm coping much better where I am now."
"And where are you?"
"Bloody hell, of course you are."
Harry could imagine her shaking her head in exasperation. It was one of her favourite expressions when it came to him.
"Yeah. You don't have to worry about me anymore though. I really just needed to hear your voice – things have been sort of hectic at the moment."
"I'm honestly not sure if I want to know. Listen... Nathan is coming over in two weeks. He's staying for a month. You had better ring at some point during that month and talk to Nathan; if you don't I'll track you down and drag you back home, understand?"
Chuckling lightly, glad that she wasn't too mad, Harry pulled his chain from under his shirt and examined it as he listened to her talk about all the things that had happened while he was gone. They were family too, and it was nice to patch things up. At least this way, if something happened to him they'd leave on good terms.
It made him realise that he should probably make peace with other parts of his life as well.
Not the wizards as a whole, that would be too much too soon, but perhaps at least with himself, his heritage. Holding his phone against his shoulder with his ear, he used his hands to unclasp the chain of his necklace and pulled it off, letting the rings slide off the ends. He held them in his hand, weighing the metal.
"I can do this," he muttered to himself, interrupting Cassidy's story-telling.
"What?" She asked, confused.
Harry shook his head, although she couldn't possibly see it.
"I will definitely remember to ring you back," he offered, straightening up and cradling the phone in his hand again.
"Oh. Well, good then."
"I should probably go now though, before my phone bill gets any higher."
"Right, sure, sure. Goodbye Harry."
Hanging up Harry put the phone down on the side-table and shifted all of his attention to the two rings in his hand.
Potter and Black.
Theoretically, no-one should know what that meant here in America. It should be safe. They were just rings.
What was the good in hiding them away?
No, he needed to start embracing himself and who he was, magic or no magic.
Making his mind up, Harry slipped the rings onto his fingers.
That would have to do for now.
If only Harry knew what sort of mayhem would come about when he next heard from any of the Winchesters, perhaps he might not have allowed himself to relax.