Several points I need to quickly touch on:
A guest mentioned that there are some errors with my French (nooo google translate, how could you let me down?!) but if that is so, please let me know what they actually are okay? :) I don't know how to fix it otherwise.
A couple of mentions of Castiel by readers has me concerned that I've given you guys the wrong idea, so: Dean's deal hasn't come due yet. The story is currently taking place between episode 3.03 and 3.05. 3.04 has not happened (yet, maybe) because of Harry's presence changing certain things.
Re: Hedwig. I completely forgot to mention what happened to her! I've edited the first chapter to fix that but basically Harry worried that Hedwig would be trackable whereas he, changing his name by adoption, would be almost impossible to find. The power of a name for Wizards is pretty well-known (in this 'verse) but he has no idea how/if it works for owls and can't take the risk. So, he left her behind. Sorry guys, it was one of those unimportant background things that got away from me.
Someone mentioned that in canon it can be inferred that the USA has 'wand' witchcraft on account of Quadpot and the Salem Witches' Institute being presumably based in Salem Massachusetts (or any of the other dozen Salems in the USA). According to the wiki there's also a mention of Boston's weather in the film version of the Daily Prophet, a mention of American Wizards by Rowling in an interview and an expansion of Quadpot leagues in the spin-off Quidditch Through the Ages book.
I first have to clarify that I was ignorant of the interview (but would ignore it anyway) and haven't paid attention to film-canon since the unforgivably ludicrous error of Harry casting Lumos Maxima over and over during the summer in the third movie. (You can see it at YouTube, watch?v=9PEIzXskHZg). I consider these both to be non-canon. I also consider the spin-off book to be non-canon although I admit to forgetting about Quadpot when starting this story.
Salem Witches' Institute, could be in any of a dozen countries with places named Salem but it, Quadpot and any other American references have been folded into the story regardless. You'll see them mentioned later on. My thanks to whoever pointed it out!
Right, I think that covers everything. Sorry for the unusually long author's note. A sign of my failing! :P
24th July, 2007
Well, that had been an eye-opener.
Fourteen hours later, on the road just outside of Sioux Falls, he was still reeling. There'd just been so much. He hadn't felt so foreign since his time stationed in Japan. Two men with plaited beards had argued over the quality of pixie dust while in the next tent over, a woman with grey skin had crooned to four dozen hand-sized spiders as they spun about looms and dummies to weave shining throws and shimmering dresses.
Half a lifetime of hunting had his hand itching for a weapon. And yet… half a lifetime of hunting had also honed his instinct of when not to shoot. And nothing had really screamed 'danger' to him, or at least not 'evil'. He'd seen a ghost entertain a group of kids with stories of the past that sounded suspiciously autobiographical and their parents just seemed glad to drop them off.
Everything had been… bright. And human. Loud and messy and full of people - strange people, but still people - just living their lives.
He'd loved it and really wished he hadn't. He was comfortable with life as he knew it, dammit, and he was too old to go discoverin' that there was more to it than he thought.
"…just found it in a book, a witch who single-handedly defended her town from attack." Harry chattered on in the passenger seat. The trip up had been reasonably quiet but the afternoon (and next day) of browsing together in a world he plainly loved and Bobby hadn't been able to hide his interest in, had broken down a few more barriers. The kid was acting his age for once, rambling from potential avenues of investigation to barely-related memories or thoughts. He'd somehow jumped from talking about religious power against the supernatural to his old owl of all things.
"But when Hermione and I became friends, she told me she thought the name was very 'sweet' because apparently Hedwig is also the name of a Saint, of children - I mean, orphaned children - and she thought that was why I picked it. But, no, I had no idea."
"Technically, she's the saint of deceased children." Bobby corrected absently.
He glanced over and pressed his lips together briefly. Crap. He was well outta practice at dealing with kids, if he ever had been.
"So, what're ya gonna name the new one?" He glanced back at where the massive bird was perched on some shopping in the backseat. Yellow eyes glared back at him. Harry had 'argued' with it about it flying home but, worried it wouldn't be able to find him because of some 'new bond' rubbish, had ultimately decided it was coming in the car with them.
If it crapped on anything…
"I'm not sure." Harry looked too, stretching back to pet the thing which allowed it with half-closed eyes.
"How about Ho-ho?"
"…like Father Christmas?"
"No, it's a Japanese myth - the sun in the form of a bird."
Harry glanced back at the bird and Bobby did the same in the rearview mirror.
"He's not really the right colour…" The kid said dubiously and privately, Bobby had to agree. The over-stuffed feather duster went right back to glaring at him and walked sideways to be out of view.
Strix was almost his next suggestion, before he had second thoughts about the history behind the name. There was superstition and then there was inviting trouble - the line was thin, for hunters. The only Greek or Celtic names he could remember were all for girl birds.
"What about another Saint, then?" He offered, half-thinking that it couldn't hurt to get a little divine influence in their lives. "Make it a tradition or something. St Eustace, maybe? St Jude? Quirinus?"
Harry made a face. "Oh Merlin, not that last one. I had a professor called Quirinus Quirrell. He had a Dark Lord sticking out the back of his head and tried to kill me. What's Eustace about?"
"Patron Saint of hunters." Bobby filed the snippet of somewhat disturbing information (and the flippant manner in which it was delivered)away. He hadn't actually looked into the boy's background much beyond that he wasn't the Wizard he'd written to but was willing to help. Then it had all been about composing a contract and communicating with a family eager to be rid of him. He'd thought he'd understood why. He was already starting to think he'd been completely wrong, but having kid in the house who'd been attacked by another of his kind might explain it.
"He's a bit debated among hunters who actually follow the religion." He carried on. "Some people really identify with his constant losses, others think he was just an entitled noble whose 'suffering' was mostly carried by other people. He's also known as the Patron Saint for anyone suffering 'adversity' which is just a 'difficult or unpleasant' situation, something a lot of hunters - our sort anyway - spit at. So."
He trailed off a bit uncomfortably, used to being mocked for his scholarly interest however a subtle look only showed genuine interest brightening unnaturally green eyes. Harry's attention was fixed and it was… not an unpleasant experience. It kind of reminded him of Sam as a kid, except Sam had often been running to keep up, wanting to find it all out himself from books and then discuss it.
"St Jude is the Patron Saint of lost causes and desperate situations. He was one of Jesus' apostles, but that's about all I know."
Harry hummed and glanced back, his owl meeting his gaze.
"Yeah. Maybe. What do you think?" He asked it.
The bird barked and ruffled its feathers. A mess of 'em filled the cramped space and then it was on the back of the chair between them - and then dropping down to sit next to the teen who talked to it like it could understand everything he said.
Then again. Magic. Maybe it could.
Great. He was gonna be lookin' sideways at every damned animal he saw for the rest of his life.
He eased off the gas and frowned as he approached the gate to his property. Sleek black lines and gleaming chrome sitting in his yard gave evidence to Sam's impatience and his brother's failure to reel him in. He supposed it was his own fault. He knew he shouldn't have made any, even vague, promises. He was gettin' old and soft. Still, between arrival and travel time and investigating the Witches' world and sorting out the car he was towin' behind him, it had only been a week.
"Customers?" Harry piped up, studying the car that was very obviously not part of the salvage yard's normal stock. It was shiny, for one.
"Pains in my ass." He retorted. "Which makes them the Winchesters."
Startled green eyes flashed to him then back to the car, wary and a little anxious now.
"Listen," Bobby decided as they cruised in to park. "Grab your owl and head upstairs. Gimmie a second with the boys and then we'll move the rest of this stuff in."
Black hair nodded, St Jude shuffling over to stand on his hand, then shoulder, without a word spoken.
They got out of the truck, Harry keeping close until they were inside at which point he scampered up to his room. Bobby could hear the main shower running upstairs and movement in the kitchen had something of Sam's lanky energy to it.
"Well, make yourself right at home." He invited sarcastically, entering the kitchen just as Sam's head snapped up from the book he was buried in. The pot on the stove next to him, utterly forgotten, bubbled its way towards being burned. From the smell of it, some already was.
"Bobby!" Sam blurted, by parts guilty and eager to see him. "Any luck with-?"
Bobby shook his head. Before Sam's expression could finish falling, he added "Too soon to tell."
Sam blinked but even as his mouth opened to ask for more, his head tilted - just slightly. When he wasn't buried in obsession the boy did have a hunter's set of ears on him. The slight creak of floorboards above them wasn't Dean's familiar tread.
"You brought someone back?" The boy switched tracks. "Are they-"
"An expert, of sorts." Bobby rubbed his chin. "Look, give me a hand emptying the truck and I'll give you the highlights. Is your brother…?"
Sam snorted, amusement and pain paired inextricably in his eyes. "Nah, he's been waxing romantic about the pressure in your pipes since we hit the state line. You not actually being here when we arrived means he won't make it quick."
He grinned at the older hunter's sour expression and put his book down at the kitchen table before following him out.
"Turn the stove off, idjit."
Bobby was banging around in the kitchen, ostensibly making coffee but probably actually just giving Sam time to process.
Magic. Bobby had dug up a magic user. And not just any magic user, but a member of a magic society.
Sam couldn't quite shake the mental image of Fae Folk when thinking of 'magic' and 'society' together, or maybe a facebook group of Wiccan wannabes.
Except there were books. And a cauldron. Sitting in a pile on the floor of Bobby's living room. He picked up one of the nearest, a cheap-looking paperback titled A Beginner's Guide to Growing at Home. The roses on the front were indistinguishable from any of a hundred gardening books except that they changed colour. Opening the book, he found that the plants inside were sorted by what part of them you ultimately wanted to use - root, leaf, sap, petal or stem. Apparently, a tropical plant grown in a temperate zone drastically affected use but it didn't say exactly how. He flicked through, incredulous but unavoidably interested. The construction of different climate zones was outlined, as matter-of-fact as building a greenhouse. The listed runes and spells and materials at the back didn't look anything like the bits of black magic he'd seen on the job-
"Hello. You must be Sam."
He blinked out of his Dean-christened 'geek zone' and looked around at the light British tenor, then down. He blinked again. The short, dark-haired kid in front of him held out a hand to shake, which Sam took automatically.
Who was… wait. Was this kid… Bobby's expert? How had he missed that part of the explanation?
Sam blinked again.
Green eyes hidden behind thick, ugly glasses dropped to look at the floor before flicking back up to the much taller man.
"...Not what you were expecting, I take it." The kid offered with an odd mix of amusement and embarrassment.
Sam shook his head and smiled a little, natural manners kicking back in after the shock.
"No. Uh, I'm sorry. I guess I was expecting someone a little... older?"
The kid shrugged, but said nothing.
Sam hesitated, glancing around the room just in case Bobby and Dean were having a laugh at him in the corner. But no – the room was empty and he could dimly hear Dean belting out Metallica in the shower upstairs.
"So, you.." Unconsciously, his voice dropped. "You're a Witch?"
One black eyebrow ticked.
"I'm a Wizard." The kid – Harry – corrected him tightly. "Girls are Witches. Mr Singer has told me a bit about the 'Witches' you lot normally deal with, but I am very much not like them." He paused, considering. "I'm basically… part of a race of people. Maybe a subspecies? Magic is a biological ability for us, not a reward for anything."
"So... not evil?" Sam checked, trying to wrap his head around the idea. The kid's shrug wasn't exactly ringing endorsement.
"The magic? No. The uses some Wizards put it to? Sure." Harry said flatly. "Imagine if the entire world could use magic – like it was totally normal for everyone. You'd have magic thieves and magic murderers and stuff. But, you'd also have everything else. Magic policemen, magic pop stars, magic construction workers... Magic is just part of our lives."
"Well that's a damned better explanation than your daddy ever managed." Came Bobby's rough drawl, the man himself entering the room with three steaming cups of coffee. Sam took one from him automatically and Harry blinked as he was also presented with a cup but took with with mumbled thanks.
Sam watched curiously - but discreetly - as the kid took a tentative sip. When he showed no ill reaction towards the spiked drink – Bobby made 'blessed' coffee – Sam relaxed a little more and nodded subtly at Bobby in thanks.
"Yes, well, my father was a pureblood." Harry revealed with a wince, although his tone was fond. "And the Wizarding world is incredibly insular. Toasters and telephones are pretty exotic to most purebloods – even if they sneer at them and call them 'Muggle attempts at magic'."
"Sounds like a bunch of dicks." Bobby grunted, blunt as always.
The boy just looked straight back, his face mostly blank.
"Yeah. Some of them can be." He replied quietly.
"Anyway, that's enough backstory." Green eyes focused once more on Sam. "Mr Singer's… hired me, sort of, to help you and your brother out. So…" He shuffled, confident tone belied by his uncertain body language.
Sam glanced at Bobby then back to Harry. A million questions started to crowd at the back of his brain as he finally put the book and this kid and Bobby's serious demeanour together to form one startling conclusion.
This was real. A whole unknown world of supernatural knowledge to tap, straight from the source. This was…
This was what hope felt like.
"C'mon over to the couch." Bobby guided him, a look being enough to stall his tongue for a second. "'N we'll give you an overview of what we got so far before that brother of yours makes a nuisance of himself."
He sat. Judging by the ripple on the surface of his coffee, his hands were shaking. He tightened them to try and still it, focusing intently as Bobby gave a hunter's report. It was short and full of 'vital' information but even with Harry jumping in to expand every now and then, it wasn't enough. He wanted to dive into the books they'd brought home - general primers, Bobby mentioned - or go to the library Harry had failed to get a membership with and camp out inside it until he found what he was looking for. But…
"I couldn't set foot outside the marketplace." Bobby shook his head, unwittingly scrapping that plan. "Tryin' to walk over the bridge was like walkin' into a wall. Turns out the little trinket that lets us 'vanillas' in only extends so far."
"I guess it makes sense." Sam muttered. "We got into Witch-burning in a big way over here, much more so than in England." He winced a little as his ill-thought comment had Harry shifting away with a half-wary look in his eye. To his surprise, Bobby shifted in a way that Sam read as protective - even though he knew Sam wouldn't do anything.
He shook it off. It wasn't important.
"Okay, so we can't get in but Harry can." He summarised briskly. He turned to the boy who was already nodding.
"I can make notes and look up anything you need, find books that are mentioned elsewhere or whatever, but there's something you should probably know…" The teen and old man exchanged a look before the kid got up to grab an older-looking book bound in thick grey animal hide. It opened easily and Sam caught a glimpse of spidery writing before the boy handed it to him - whereupon it slammed shut. He dropped it with a startled curse and glared as Bobby chuckled.
"Bobby found out the same way." Harry consoled him, eyes glinting with mischief as the eldest hunter choked and scowled at him. Sam grinned weakly. "We did some experimenting and it looks like the older the book is" Bobby cleared his throat pointedly and Harry rolled his eyes "or maybe depending on content, the books get spelled with security so Muggles - er, normal people I mean - can't read them."
"Which isn't the end of the world." Bobby cut in before the curl of frustration in Sam could bloom into despair. "Since Harry can read 'em aloud just fine, or transcribe the important bits and we can still read other books that'll help give us a good grounding to work from." Sam bit the inside of his cheek but nodded anyway. Bobby was right. It was better than nothing but… God. He'd never been good at sharing the workload even at college - group projects had been a nightmare - but with Dean's soul riding on the outcome?
But, he had no choice.
"Okay." His voice cracked a little. He cleared his throat and forced his brain to adapt. "Okay. So, what's the plan?"
"You're welcome to take away any books you can open." Harry offered first. "And write me a list of what you'd like me to focus on. I'm not sure when we're going back up.." He trailed off and looked at Bobby, who frowned.
"We can go when we need to." The old man grunted, although Sam knew for a fact that the guy did actually need the income his job generated. He'd go of course, especially for Dean, but…
"I can swing the funds for a plane ticket any time you need it." He told them both. He didn't like hustling but it was at the bottom of a laughably long list of things he'd do for Dean. "Or come by and pick you up myself maybe. I'd like to get a look at the place, even if I can only enter the market. You're sure I can't get one of those..?" He pointed at the charm Bobby had shown him earlier, now left hanging from a pair of scissors stuck in a tin full of pens and pencils.
"Best not to risk it." Bobby said sombrely, as both he and Harry shook their heads. "From what I saw, tolerance for our kind was pretty low - and the last thing we need is Harry here gettin' arrested or all our memories wiped. He can probably go in with you-" He slid a look at the teen who nodded.
"I'll just say you're my cousin."
"-but it's best not to try it on your own just yet."
Sam frowned, but nodded. There was something to Bobby's tone, something adamant, that told him there was more to this than just caution.
"Sammy! Make me a sandwich bitch!" Dean abruptly hollered from upstairs, having apparently finished his shower and not noticed they weren't alone anymore.
"Make it yerself, princess!" Bobby shouted back. A clunk and a brief, stifled swearword was his only answer. Sam found himself grinning. Bobby turned to Harry.
"There's some cereal in the pantry. Why'ntchyu go get yourself a bowl while I fight Sam over which books he can take with him?" He suggested. Harry nodded obediently and left to dig around in the kitchen.
"Cereal for dinner?" Sam questioned, already heading for the pile of shopping. "I thought that was just a Dean thing."
Bobby shot him a sour look but beckoned him close.
"Listen boy," He lowered his voice, glancing over at the kitchen. "Legally, you ain't got no right to know any of this. From what Harry's told me and what I've read already myself, all three of us will pay if anyone finds out. Keep your head down and don't go lookin' for these people - or flashin' these books, y'hear me?."
"Yessir." Sam nodded. Bobby clapped him on the shoulder. "Good. Now, I was thinkin' it might be best to start with these three here…"
Dean hobbled as he left the bedroom. He'd nailed his middle toe on the corner of the bed when Bobby's gruff voice had echoed upstairs instead of Sam's and man was it throbbing. Still, he flexed it as best he could and straightened as he made his way downstairs. He let his tread be loud, not wanting to overhear anything the two were saying to each other. He was man enough to admit to himself that he didn't want to go to Hell - that yeah, it fucking scared him to even think about. But the demon bitch's warning had been clear. If he did anything that could be construed as 'weaseling his way out', if he helped Sam save him, the deal would be off and Sam'd drop dead.
He couldn't do it. He just couldn't. He knew it wasn't fair, knew it was cruel even to make Sam work for every fragile straw of hope he could find, to make him have to find a hunt in order to get Dean to agree to go anywhere Sam wanted to go…
But it was for the best. It was.
"Hey Bobby!" He greeted cheerfully. "I hear you-woah. The hell is this?" He gestured at the pile of stuff on the floor of the entryway. Not so much the books - that was to be expected really, especially in recent months - but the giant cauldron and bags with funky-looking plants sticking out was giving off an unsettling 'yay witchcraft' vibe. It didn't take a genius to put Sam's desperation and Bobby's connections together to get something he was not happy to see.
"Calm down." Bobby growled right back.
"Yeah, sure." Dean agreed amiably. "Christo."
No eyes turned black but they did roll.
"Pipe down ya idjit. Harry! Get out here."
A teenager of all things wandered out of the kitchen, bowl of cereal in one hand and spoon in the other. Could this get any more surreal?
"Hello. You must be Dean." The teen greeted him, British accent stark.
Okay, yeah. It could.
"The hell?!" He looked back at Bobby, flicking a glance to Sam who ignored him in that special way that meant 'you're being an idiot and you're embarrassing me'. "Somethin' you wanna tell us Bobby? A little indiscretion last time you jumped the pond?"
"What?" "What?" The oldest and youngest people in the room exclaimed. Sam just buried his nose deeper in a book, head shaking slightly.
Under Bobby's powerful glower and the kid's not-insignificant bitchface (somewhat spoiled by a paired look of 'ew, gross'), he sheepishly raised his hands and took a step back.
"I mean, uh, congratulations?"
Bobby shook his head and muttered something to himself but waved the kid forward anyway.
"This is Harry… Singer. He'll be staying with me for the next few years. Harry, this idiot is Dean Winchester, Sam's older brother.
The kid dropped his spoon into the bowl and held out his right hand.
"Pleased to meet you." He said dubiously. It might of offended a normal person. It just made Dean grin. He took the kid's hand, automatically noting the contradiction of smooth youthful skin with calloused fingers and palm. It was the hand of someone who'd been working them for years, like a farmer's kid. Maybe he was a nephew? Or distant cousin? He was skinny and the bones of his hand felt easily breakable, but maybe they grew like that in England. There was a faint scar on the inside of his forearm that looked old but was clearly made by a blade and not self-inflicted. It was paired with another, much fresher scar on the kid's forehead, peeking out from under his fringe just over his right eyebrow.
The kid had been in an accident maybe or, judging by the differing time between the injuries, was a survivor of some pretty serious domestic abuse. It made Bobby's sudden adoption and intense 'none of your goddamn business' vibe make sense. It maybe even explained all the weird shit in the house - British plants were probably weird and who knew if they still used cauldrons…
Okay, no, the cauldron was still a little weird.
"So what's with the cauldron?" He blurted, unable to shake his finely honed hunter's instinct that something was not adding up here.
Bobby opened his mouth to say something - something like bullshit, considering Sam's telltale change in posture. Harry beat him to it though.
"I'm a wizard." The kid said calmly. "The cauldron is for brewing potions. Most of them don't react well to stainless steel pots."
There was a long silence. When Dean glanced up to see if this was supposed to be a joke, twin stares from both his brother and pseudo-uncle told him that not only was it not a joke, reacting by brandishing a weapon wouldn't be approved of by either one of them.
He took a step back instead, gaze flicking from the pile to the kid, to his brother and back again.
…Could the kid be a little slow or something? Or raised by those dorky neo-pagan types or a more serious brand of magic users maybe. Or gotten out of a dangerous situation by one of Bobby's contacts and shipped to the states before it was too late? But then why would Bobby let him bring a cauldron home, let him carry on thinking all that magic stuff was okay?
Sam sighed and snapped his book shut.
"Wizards in England are different to the Witches we've met here in America." He explained succinctly, like it was obvious knowledge he'd known his whole life and Dean was some kinda moron for not knowing. "They don't make deals, they're just born with magic. They have entire societies hidden all over the world and mostly don't interact with regular humans. Harry's one of them. Bobby and he just got back from shopping at one of their hidden enclaves. It's real, Dean."
There was another long silence. Harry looked a little worried, edging back and glancing to Bobby for direction. The old hunter waved him back to the kitchen and took a long step to block the way, should Dean feel like following.
He didn't. He was too busy being stuck on What the fuck?
"What the fuck?" He managed. "Sam, you can't seriously-"
Mistake. Like kicking a slumbering bear right on the nose, Sam's temper jumped to snarling life. The whole subject of Dean's deal and Sam's attempts to save him was avoided partly because Dean himself didn't want to think about it but mostly because Sam broke down when it was. Sometimes, though, he didn't cry.
Too bad Dean was pissed too.
Harry folded his arms and leant back against the fridge. He wasn't sure why Mr Singer had sent him here - it wasn't like he couldn't still hear the brother's argument going on at the top of their lungs in the very next room - but at least it got him out of the blast zone.
Dean was furious. A little at Mr Singer but mostly at his brother. He kept saying things like 'slippery slope' and 'bullshit' and how all Witches were evil Witches who needed to be put down or at the very least not enabled and talking over Sam's attempts to reason with him until both of them were just shouting at each other.
"ENOUGH!" Mr Singer's voice roared over both of their own.
"Boy," His new guardian said, angry tone meaning it was probably directed at Dean "what the hell kinda fool do you take me for? I've been doin' this since before you were a twinkle in your daddy's eye and you think I'd just be taken in by some demon-dealin' sham? This ain't the first time I've tangled with these wand-waving people and there is no way anyone could fake the things I've seen so zip it. And for the record; I'm just gonna lay it out here and now so we're all on the same page. That kid is legally my son now and I aim to treat him that way. That means anyone who threatens him gets the business end of my shotgun - even you two. Y'hear me?"
There was a mumbled assent. Harry stared blankly into the middle distance, mind turning over his contractual guardian's angry statement. I aim to treat him that way. How much of that was the contract speaking? …Did it matter?
A rough call of his name had him back in the living room, the trio of men standing in a loose triangle. Dean pinned him with a scrutinising look but Sam's was downright apologetic. Mr Singer's was just grumpy.
"Maybe we should move this into the kitchen." He suggested, not meaning to sound as tentative as he did. "It's dinner time…"
"I am not eating with a Wit-ooof!"
Sam smiled tightly at Harry as he removed his elbow from his brother's side.
"I'm starving." The tallest guy he'd ever seen strode forward, large hand lightly touching his shoulder to pull him along. "I started some soup earlier, it might still be good…"
The pot of soup was still on the stove and even faintly warm. There was no way it was 'good' though. Sam just added another two cans of soup then switched it back on. There was a stiffness to his movements that sort of put Harry on edge but right when he was about to find an excuse to retreat to his room, the shaggy-haired man turned to face him.
"I'm sorry about Dean. He can be an idiot sometimes. He'll come around, I promise."
"It's okay." Harry said awkwardly. "He's not supposed to be involved anyway, right? So long as he doesn't shoot me or Jude, it's all good."
"Who's Jude?" Sam asked automatically, most of his attention obviously back on the lounge room where Mr Singer and Dean were having another - very quiet - argument. Harry noticed the soup bubbling, saw Sam completely fail to notice and went to stir it himself.
"Jude's my owl." He explained. "They carry mail and they're very intelligent. If they have a name or address they can find almost anyone. I'd planned to use him to ferry books back and forth between here and the library but since they won't allow that, maybe you and I can instead?"
At that, Sam seemed to come back to the conversation. He looked down - way down - and frowned.
"That seems a bit slow." He thought about it. "Although, since we don't exactly have a fixed address, I guess it makes sense, especially if you're buying... But for regular things - updates and stuff - I'd prefer to just phone you or - oh! What's your email?" The hunter rummaged in the same drawer Mr Singer had pulled paper and pencils from before, coming out with one of both with the ease of familiarity. He quickly scribbled his own email and phone number down, tearing it out to place on the counter before looking expectantly at Harry.
"Um, I don't have one?" Harry had to admit. Sam's look of shock was somewhat unflattering.
"See, mugg-um. Technological things don't tend to work at my school - too much magic in the air - and my relatives… well, they didn't like magic much so I wasn't allowed to use their computer. Sorry."
He thought he did a pretty good job at explaining himself without letting on about the depths of his family's scorn for him but something about Sam's expression for a split second made him think twice. All the guy said though, was:
"No problem, I'll set one up for 's still on dial-up I think but at least he's got it. I'll set you up with Skype too, it's quicker and easier and it's on my phone so-"
"Geeze, Sammy, quit geekin' all over him." A disgruntled Dean stalked into the room and sat down sulkily - there could be no other word for it - at the table. Sam shot him a narrow-eyed look so Harry, who'd been stirring the pot this whole time and was so not interested in another fight starting up, butted in.
"Dinner's ready. Sam, uh, do you know where the bowls are?"
"Sure." Sam stomped off to get them, digging up spoons as well and taking over serving the soup from the pot. That left Harry to sit at the table with Dean - he chose the opposite end - and get stared at.
"So, you're a Witch-"
"-whatever, and you just happen to be born with powers huh? So if you're so powerful, why're you so scarred up? Not just your arm and your face, but your hand too. What is that, writing? What does it say, Harry?"
The tone was beyond accusatory. The slap to the back of the head that Mr Singer delivered as he entered was too loud to be anything but painful.
Still, pissed off now, Harry straightened his back and answered.
"The scar on my forehead is from an evil wizard who murdered my parents and tried to murder me. My arm was from one of his servants two years ago, as part of a ritual to resurrect him. My hand was just this last year at school, a Ministry stooge trying to shut me up about said resurrection by assigning 'lines'."
He displayed his hand coolly, too angry to be ashamed of it. He clenched, knowing it made the scars whiten into readability.
I must not tell lies.
"I'm not saying that Wizards and Witches of my kind can't be evil, Winchester." He said shortly. "No more so than any human. Sometimes people who have power, use it to hurt others. It doesn't matter if it's magical, political or even just a fist. Mr Singer has told me about hunters in general and about you and Sam. I know you've hurt people, even killed them - does that make you evil?"
Hazel eyes narrowed.
"You sayin' you haven't?" Was shot back. For a split second, Harry hesitated. Bellatrix Lestrange, writhing under his pain curse, flashed across his mind. Dean caught the hesitation though and smiled coldly. Harry lifted his chin.
"Yeah, I have." He admitted, distantly proud that he wasn't trembling. "I've gotten in fights at school. I even inflated my aunt once, by accident when she wouldn't shut up about my parents. And just this year I tried to use the worst curse I knew - an Unforgivable - against the woman who murdered my godfather right in front of me."
The kitchen was silent. Sam was frozen at the stove, bowls of soup held in his hands and balanced on his arms. Mr Singer was standing to the side, staring at him but Harry didn't budge his sharp gaze, hot with grief, from Dean's - which was suddenly a lot less intense.
He cleared his throat.
"But I didn't do any of that because I'm a Wizard." He finished quietly. "The method, sure, that's related. But if I'd been 'normal'? Like you? It would have been a fist in the schoolyard and a brick for the bitch who murdered Sirius. Same result, different method."
Dean sat back. Sam moved silently to put the bowls down on the table. He and Mr Singer sat down, eyeing the two of them warily. Harry didn't look away. He refused to be the first to look away.
Dean's eyes dropped to his food and Harry let his own fall, tension draining out of him like a burst balloon. Two drops - just two - fell directly from his eyes and into his soup. He blinked hard to clear them and two more drops followed. He stirred his soup and dug in silently.
The four of them ate their food and only when it was finished did Dean clear his throat and look up again.
"Sorry." Was all he said, but… it was plain that he meant it, so Harry just nodded.
"…But still…" Dean said cautiously, half-wincing like someone knowingly poking a hornet's nest "No offence or anything, but I don't think bringing witchcraft into our lives is the smartest idea any of us have had - in general but especially for this-"
Harry made an exasperated noise, stood up and stormed out of the room. Sam glared at Dean.
"What?" Dean asked defensively. "I'm not saying he's a bad guy, I'm just saying… well... he's a Witch! Which kinda means 'bad guy' by definition and how do we know this kid isn't just too young to know better?"
Before Sam could start in (again) on the differences between Wizards and Witches or just go ahead and punch him, Harry stalked back in and slammed a piece of parchment on the table in front of Dean.
"Where'd you find that?!"
Dean and Mr Singer spoke simultaneously, Mr Singer actually looking more suspicious than Dean for once.
"It's the contract between me and Mr Singer and I found it inside the cushion cover of the couch." Harry answered, addressing first Dean, then Mr Singer. "It's magical and in a non-magical place like this, it sort of… stands out. Any Witch or Wizard with enough exposure to magic can start to sense magical things when they're out in the Muggle world."
He paused. "Well, if they're actually looking." He conceded. "And… I kind of sat on it earlier."
Mr Singer grumbled under his breath but subsided, whereas Dean looked like Harry had just plonked a live scorpion down in front of him and nobody seemed to notice or care.
Harry frowned a little.
"Yes. Not cursed or anything. It's just a contract. I thought I'd show you." He leaned in and tapped part of it.
"You can see for yourself. '…to allow no harm, magical or otherwise, to befall Sam Winchester, Dean Winchester, Robert Singer or their friends and/or allies, through deliberate action or inaction' and so on and so forth. It goes on for a bit but essentially? I can't betray any of you. I can't hurt you. I can't do you any harm. I signed the contract and it'll enforce it."
"...Right." Dean replied, clearly unconvinced. "The magic paper will make you."
"Parchment." Sam and Harry corrected, gaining a sour look each from Dean.
Harry sighed and sat back down in his abandoned chair.
"It's magic, Dean." He snapped. "I don't know how to make it any simpler for you." He got an even darker look for that.
"Look, just.. try and rip it. Try and burn it! It can't be done! It's a specially spelled parchment, that can only be destroyed by one person – Mr Singer."
Said man turned to stare at him.
Harry looked blankly back.
"You did read the contract before you signed it didn't you?" He asked slightly incredulously, having seen the man going over it twice.
"Of course I did." Mr Singer snapped. "It said only I had the power to break the contract, but.."
Harry nodded. "Yeah. In the Wizarding world, they mean that literally. You break contracts by destroying the contract itself. Only you are permitted to break it and thus only you can destroy the parchment, freeing us both."
"Why didn't you get that allowance?" Sam injected curiously.
"Because I insisted on only me being able to." Mr Singer grumbled, waving a hand impatiently. "Get on with it."
"Right." Harry drew a breath. "So, bottom line: Magic will quite literally enforce this contract. Especially for me. If Mr Singer tried to have the adoption cancelled without first breaking the contract, he would find it just didn't work. Paperwork would vanish. Officials would become deaf to him. If he tried to throw me out, the door would seal. That sort of thing. But me.. well, if I tried to break it I'd probably lose my magic at the very least. Possibly even my life, depending on the severity of the break." He leaned forward, trying to catch Dean's eye but the man wouldn't look away from the contract.
"I just thought.. Maybe this would help. I know you don't trust me. I can kind of understand why. So maybe this can reassure you where I can't. Seriously, try and damage it. You can't."
"Or this is all just a trick to get you out of it." Dean grumbled, but it was half-hearted at best. He did try to tear a small corner of the parchment, lightly at first then more firmly. Neither his hands nor his knife could even leave a mark though and eventually he tried his lighter only for the contract to completely fail to react.
"…Fine." He said eventually. "Whatever. We got places to be. C'mon Sam." So saying he got up and strode out of the room. Footsteps led upstairs, presumably to collect their stuff.
Sam turned to Harry and his guardian.
"Sorry." He apologised first to Harry, then: "Bobby, I need you to show him how to make an email account, okay? Or - I'll call when I have a second. I can probably talk him through it-actually, you know what? I'll make one and I'll call with the login details once it's done."
Footsteps stomped downstairs and out the front door.
"Move it Sam, or I'm leavin' without you!"
Sam shook his head but turned back to Harry.
"Seriously, it's not you. I think he just needs time to process it and… well…" He shrugged helplessly. "He can't be involved in getting himself out. He can't help. And if he thinks he might be by accident, he gets scared. And that looks like anger."
"Sounds like it too." Harry observed, but he tried to find a smile anyway. Sam seemed pretty nice and even if Dean Winchester hated his guts - it didn't matter. He'd signed the contract and he couldn't break it. Like him or hate him, he was bound to help.
Sam grimaced an apologetic smile back and jogged out as their car started up with a roar. He waved over his shoulder and shouted a goodbye, then there was the sound of doors slamming and tyres kicking up dirt. A loud beat throbbed steadily away into the distance. The house was quiet.
"C'mon and help me put the stuff away." Mr Singer said tiredly, collecting the bowls and dropping them in the sink. "Then it'll probably be a good idea to catch some shut-eye. Now that Sam knows about you, it'll be full speed ahead. Best to get some rest while you can."
Harry nodded and headed out. Bed sounded good although Merlin only knew how he'd manage to get to sleep. Maybe Mr Singer would let him have one of the sleeping potions they'd bought as part of a package of general household supplies.
He suddenly and powerfully wished he was back home in England.
"Dude, did you see the freakin' mess on my car? Some goddamn bird crapped all over it!"
"Maybe an owl." Sam offered, turning his face away to hide his expression.
"You think so? Whatever it was unloaded all over the goddamn hood. Freakin' birds."
Yellow eyes glared after the black beast fleeing his territory. A harsh bark declared his victory.
St Jude glided back through the open window of his new boy's room and settled smugly at the end of the bed. Nobody messed with his human.
Boring fact! Until I wrote this chapter, I used to think 'parchment' just meant a particularly thick, old-fashioned form of paper! But no, apparently it's very thin, specially-treated animal skin.
Sorry for the probably-very-boring chapter. At least it's big? Also, I've been editing this all day and am so sick of it I've probably missed a boatload of errors (as usual) but if you catch any, I'll fix them with the next update. Chaps 1, 2 n 3 have had minor fixes applied. Cheers!