“We still return to the fundamental problem,” Hermione said, slamming a book closed in frustration. “All these spells are useless unless we have the soul. So, we’re back to where we were over a year and a half ago! How do we get Sam out of Lucifer’s cage?”
“I don’t know,” Ron said, throwing the book he was reading onto the floor with the other rejects, “why doesn’t one of us become God; that would solve all our problems.”
“We’re all equally frustrated, Ron,” Hermione replied. “There’s no need for sarcasm.”
Harry sighed. After the revelation about Sam, they had stepped up their meetings to weekly events again, only it had been several weeks and they were no better off than they had been before – though they did know a lot more about souls. Malfoy hadn’t come across anything either. Every few weeks, he would send Harry a page of references or spells for them to research, but, as Hermione so regularly pointed out, they were all useless without physically having the soul.
“Ok, so, square one,” Harry said. “What or who is powerful enough to get Sam’s soul out of the cage?”
“Not angels,” Hermione said, “or I’m sure Castiel would have done it by now.”
“I told you,” Ron said. “We need God.”
“God isn’t an option, Ron,” Harry sighed, “kindly only list viable options.”
“Fine,” Ron glowered, “we need an equivalent of God.”
“Fine,” Harry muttered, “I’ll write it on the list.”
“How about Malfoy’s notes from last year,” Hermione said. “Let me see them.”
“There’s not much here,” Harry said. “He kept most of his notes to himself.” Harry researched into his desk and pulled out a slim folder.
“Harry?” a desperate voice suddenly said from his pocket, “Harry, are you there?”
Harry dropped the folder, which opened and spilled its contents over Harry’s notebook. He quickly reached into his pocket and flipped open his mirror.
“Here, Dean,” Harry said. “I’m here, so are Hermione and Ron.”
“Harry,” Dean said. “It’s all gone to shit.”
Dean was hard to see in the mirror. He seemed to be sitting in a dark room. Harry was looking up at him from an angle that suggested that Dean’s mirror was lying open on a table of some sort. One of Dean’s hands was propping up his head, the other was holding a glass of whiskey.
“What’s happened?” Harry asked.
“Crowley lied,” Dean said. “He couldn’t actually get Sam’s soul. So, Cas killed him – but he was our only lead and now...now Sam doesn’t want his soul back. So, I really am going to have to sneak up on him with it – only I don’t even know how to get it. And I gotta get it Harry, you don’t know what it’s like – what he’s like...I can’t-”
Dean broke off and breathed out heavily before taking another swig from his glass.
“Please tell me you guys have something,” Dean finished in a plea.
Harry looked down at the pile of papers on his desk. There were a handful of different spells for soul-work, but that would involve having a soul to begin with – then there was his new list:
People/Things That Can Rescue Sam:
Half on the list was a fallen piece of paper from Draco’s work:
He said ‘Life and Death’ would ‘only have to blink’, but were unlikely to get involved. I’m not sure what he meant, but he mentioned that they went by many names, so it’s a possibility he is not referring to the states of being, but rather sentient entities.
“Dean, where are you?” Harry asked. He glanced up at Ron and Hermione, who were both staring at him, looking rather concerned and suspicious.
“Bobby’s,” Dean’s said without raising his head.
“And where is Sam right now?” Harry asked, focusing back on Dean.
“Out getting herpes,” Dean muttered.
“Sex,” Dean clarified, lifting his head.
“Um, ok,” Harry said. “Do you know when he’ll be back?”
“Hm, tomorrow morning, probably,” Dean said. “I made him promise to come back – not that it means anything, but I let him think the soul thing was negotiable, so maybe...and I still have all his stuff.”
“Ok,” Harry said. “I’m going to arrive in a half an hour. I want you to sober up as much as you can, ok Dean?”
“What?” Dean asked. “Why?”
“Just do it, Dean,” Harry said. “I’ll see you in a half-hour.”
Harry snapped the mirror closed.
“Harry...” Hermione said. “You’ve got that look...”
“Could you get Ginny?” Harry said. “I don’t have much time and I don’t want to explain this more than once-”
When Bobby got back from the store, he wasn’t expecting to find Dean nursing a pot of coffee. All signs before he had left had been pointing to inevitable drunken pass-out.
“You suddenly get a craving, or did something happen that I should know about?” Bobby asked, as he set the bags on the counter.
“I gotta be sober in...five minutes?” Dean said, glancing a little blurry eyed at the clock, “but it took me fifteen minutes just to find some frickin’ coffee – had to get it from the car, man, you’re out.”
Bobby lifted the fresh supersized tin of ground coffee out of the nearest grocery bag. “I thought I was going to have until morning before that became a problem.”
“’S’ok,” Dean said. “My tongue’s numb anyway, can’t taste how shitty this coffee’s gotta be.”
“Ok, now, why is it that you have to be sober in five minutes?” Bobby asked, wondering if he should bother taken off his jacket. “You driving somewhere?”
“Harry says I gotta be,” Dean replied. “He’s coming over.”
“Harry Potter,” Dean clarified, “you know, the little wizard dude? You’re pen-pals with one of his best friends - ringing any bells?”
“Yes, I know who Harry Potter is,” Bobby said. “Why’s he coming here?”
“I called him,” Dean muttered, “told him about everything.”
“I leave you alone for half an hour and you drunk-dial a wizard,” Bobby sighed and took off his jacket.
“Shut-up,” Dean grumbled.
There was a knock on the door. Dean’s only reaction was to start chugging his coffee, so Bobby moved to open it. He had spoken to Hermione about Harry of course, and the boys had told him a great deal as well – he had, in fact, conspired indirectly with Harry nearly two years previous, in order to get the Winchesters a vacation. Though, that had hardly turned out to be as relaxing as Bobby had hoped it would be. Still, he wasn’t quite prepared to see the famous wizard on his door step. He looked as young as Sam, and the boys hadn’t been kidding when they said he was small. Bobby had to remind himself that this kid was the saviour of an entire culture. Harry smiled at Bobby and held out a hand.
“Hello Mr. Singer,” Harry said. “I’m Harry. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you. I believe Dean is expecting me.”
“Call me Bobby,” Bobby corrected automatically. “Come on in. Dean’s chugging coffee in the kitchen.”
Bobby stood back and let Harry walk over the threshold – passing two of Bobby’s tests. Harry made a beeline for Dean, who actually straightened up like he was about to be inspected.
“Hey Harry,” Dean said, his voice about as rough as he looked.
“Dean,” Harry replied, and Bobby wished he could see his face, because Dean expression turned sorrowful and a little desperate. Harry reached into the bag that he had slung around his shoulder and pulled out an old fashioned tincture bottle.
“Drink this,” Harry ordered.
“Yes, sir,” Dean replied, uncapping the bottle and drinking it without question.
“What is that?” Bobby asked, because someone had to keep some sense in their head.
“Sobering potion,” Harry replied, without taking his eyes off of Dean, “I’m not doing this with Dean drunk.”
“Doing what?” Bobby asked.
“Three, two, one...” Harry counted down, and then Dean turned an odd shade of green, leaned over, and vomited what looked like a mouthful of water into the sink.
“Ugh!” Dean groaned, running the tap and wiping his mouth off. “What the hell, Harry!?”
“How do you feel?” Harry asked, smiling.
“How do I feel?! I just threw up what tasted like-” Dean cut himself off and his eyes widened. Bobby could already see it – all the signs of alcohol consumption were gone. Dean looked like he hadn’t touched a bottle at all that day. Dean glanced back at the empty sink. “Did I just throw up pure alcohol?”
“Not pleasant, I know,” Harry said, pulling a wrapped candy from his pocket. “Do you want a sweet?”
“I am not eating anything else you give me!” Dean said. “Last thing I want to do after that is turn into Big Bird.”
Bobby had the feeling he was missing something with that reference.
“Fair enough,” Harry said, glancing past Bobby into the other room. “Let’s have a seat, shall we?”
Dean and Bobby both followed Harry into the Bobby’s library. Bobby watched as Harry surveyed the room.
“May I?” Harry asked, pulling out his wand. Bobby nodded, only then realizing that Harry had effectively taken over his house the moment he had walked into it: Dean had obeyed him just as fast as he used to obey his father, and even Bobby was having flashbacks to some of the men he served with in ‘Nam - The kind of guys who looked like nothing, but could have you on your ass quicker than you could say ‘sorry.’
Bobby felt the hairs on the back of his neck prickle, as Harry muttered under his breath and swept his wand around a few times in a wide arc.
“What exactly are you doing?” Bobby asked.
“Checking your wards, and adding my own – I also made sure we were alone,” Harry said. “Then I added an area spell that will alert me if anyone approaches the house, and...” Harry flicked his wand again, “...no sound made in this room will travel outside of it.”
“That’s mighty cautious of you,” Bobby said.
“Nothing I am about to say to you can leave this room or your own confidence,” Harry said. “Is that understood?”
“Yes,” Dean and Bobby both said.
“Have a seat,” Harry slipped his wand into his sleeve, and sat in a chair in front of the desk. Bobby sat in his usual spot behind the desk, and Dean pulled up a chair and sat to one side.
“What’s up, Harry?” Dean asked, “You’re kind of freaking me out here.”
Harry took a deep breath and turned to Dean.
“Have you ever heard of the Deathly Hallows?”
“...and then he gave the cloak to his eldest son, and went and greeted Death as an old friend,” Harry concluded. “Now, what people don’t know is the truth behind the children’s story. There does exist an elder wand or great power, a resurrection stone, and an invisibility cloak of such quality that its charm never fades, nor does it tear or disintegrate with time. These objects are collectively referred to as the Deathly Hallows...if one manages to possess all three simultaneously, they are said to be the Master of Death.”
Dean’s mind was already running through various scenarios – if they got the stone, could they bring back Sam’s soul? Only, the woman who had been brought back in the story had been a faded version of herself – it seemed. But ‘Master of Death’ – what did that mean? Could the combination of all three give you some sort of super power?
“The rumour has it, that the Master of Death would be immortal – but I doubt that. The wand is not unbeatable. After all, it’s passed to new owners through defeat. The resurrection stone may bring back loved ones, but you can hardly use it on yourself,” Harry added.
“So, why are you telling us this?” Dean asked.
“When Draco was doing his research, he came upon a resource that seemed to suggest that there were two beings in the universe who could very easily get Sam out of the cage,” Harry said. “We believe Death might be one of them.”
“Death,” Dean said, “as in the Horseman?”
“Yes,” Harry nodded. “The source also seemed to say that Death would not get involved, but what if...what if there was something in it for him?”
Harry reached into his shoulder bag and drew out a cloak. Dean had seen it only once before – back in Boston, when Harry had hidden under it while they broke into the Department of Mysteries.
“This cloak has been passed down in my father’s family for generations,” Harry said, placing the folded cloak carefully on top of Bobby’s desk. “If the story of the three brothers is word for word true, then this cloak is made from Death’s own.”
“You...” Dean said, staring at the shimmering material lying innocently in front of him. “This is one of the Hallows? You have one?”
“I was the Master of Death for a few months when I was seventeen,” Harry said. “I can get the wand too – though, I’d prefer not to. I know where it is. The stone is lost. I lost it on purpose. I know where to look for it, but I don’t want to. It’s too great a temptation, as I’m sure you can understand.”
“So, let me get this straight,” Bobby said. “Your plan is to make a deal with Death?”
Dean watched as Harry grimaced at how it sounded. He had to admit, it sounded like certain previous plans that hadn’t necessarily worked out to anyone’s advantage.
“Not a deal, an exchange,” Harry said. “You offer him the cloak in exchange for Sam’s soul. If it’s not enough, if he wants more...I could tell you the location of the wand, and the general location of the stone as well. Of course, there may be a small problem-”
“And what’s that?” Bobby asked.
“Well, there’s a chance that the story isn’t true word for word,” Harry said, running his fingertips over the edge of the cloak. “We know the Hallows exist, but there’s no evidence that Death had anything to do with their creation. The Peverell Brothers, my ancestors and the first owners of the Hallows, were very powerful wizards. There’s a possibility that they simply created the Hallows themselves and the legend was invented because no one could believe such items could be man-made.”
“So, it might not even be a bargaining chip at all?” Dean concluded.
“Even if it’s not Death’s own cloak,” Harry persisted. “It’s still a powerful magical relic – as is the wand and the stone. It might be enough to get his attention. Even if he only shows up to tell us that it’s a load of rubbish, he still might show up – and then maybe we could plead our case to him and he’d ... I don’t know. I just... it’s the only idea I have.”
Dean nodded and carefully picked up the cloak. It was silky under his fingers, the light shimmering off it oddly, yet beautifully. Carefully, he lifted one of the folds and held it out. He slipped his hand underneath and watched as the cloak seemed to disappear along with his hand, showing only Bobby’s dusty floor.
“Mind you, I don’t know how to summon Death, but I thought maybe...well, maybe you’d know that part,” Harry said, “or it’d only be a matter of research, anyway.”
“Mm, yeah, looked into it last year,” Bobby said. “Any reaper can summon Death, which means that all you have to do is contact a reaper. It’s hard, but not impossible. A powerful enough psychic, or you could always go with the last resort, which is creating an artificial near-death experience.”
“Hey Bobby, could you make another pot of coffee?” Dean asked. “My mouth tastes like a hospital.”
Bobby eyed Dean, as Dean knew that he would, but he nodded and left the room.
“So, uh, this was your father’s?” Dean asked.
“Yes,” Harry said.
“Do you have anything else of your father’s?” Dean asked, looking up at Harry.
“Um, I’ve got his hair and devil-may-care attitude,” Harry laughed. Dean smiled weakly, and Harry’s jovial smile dimmed into something softer. “No, that’s all that I have.”
“How about your mom? Do you have anything of hers?” Dean asked.
“I’ve got my mother’s eyes,” Harry smiled.
“I’ve got my mother’s eyes too,” Dean replied, “and my father’s car and leather jacket. Harry, are you really giving me your father’s magic cloak, just so that I can get my brother back?”
“Yes,” Harry said.
“It’s a family heirloom, Harry,” Dean pressed. “It’s all you have left-”
“No,” Harry said, “at the end of the day, it’s just an invisibility cloak. It’s not all I have left of my family, because I have James, Albus, and Lily. I have Ginny. I have Ron and Hermione. I even have this friend named Sam who was willing to suffer eternal torment, just so that billions of people he had never met, who meant nothing to him, could live.” Harry smiled, and then said softly and slowly, “If all I have to do is give away one little magical relic to save him – that’s exactly what I’m going to do. It’s not up for debate, Dean.”
“Thanks,” Dean nodded and swallowed. “It’s a good idea. Thank you, Harry. It’s – I can’t believe I didn’t think of it myself.”
“It might not work,” Harry said.
“That doesn’t matter,” Dean replied. “Thank you for thinking of it. Thank you for this,” Dean placed a careful hand on the folded cloak and handed it back to Harry, “but I won’t be needing it.”
“What?” Harry said. “Dean! I told you, it doesn’t matter-”
“I already have something that I know belongs to Death,” Dean said. “I have his ring.”
“What?” Harry asked, paling. “How is that possible, I-”
“The rings of all four Horsemen are the keys to Lucifer’s cage,” Dean said. “We had to collect them last year in order to trap him again. I met Death in Chicago. He was on our side then, I’m hoping he’ll be on our side now too.”
“You’ve met Death?” Harry said, his eyes wide.
“It was the most terrifying piece of pizza I ever had,” Dean smiled.
Dean told Harry about the weeks leading up to Lucifer’s capture a year and a half before, while they drank their coffees. Harry was finally able to connect the dots between the news reports and the Winchesters’ plan. He had meant to ask, of course, as soon as he had heard of their success – but then the news of Sam’s death had come instead, and suddenly how exactly it all happened hadn’t mattered anymore. All that had mattered was rescuing Sam.
Bobby reminisced about an attack he, Sam, and Castiel had made on a factory, while Dean had been off in Chicago meeting with Death. They spoke about Sam as though he were dead, not just out at a bar, or picking up a girl, or wherever his body actually was at the moment. Harry couldn’t fault them for it of course, in his opinion, it didn’t matter if his body could talk or not, Sam was still missing.
When Dean finished his coffee, he pulled out an old leather journal and flipped directly to a particular page, and then pulled out his mobile phone and pressed a series of buttons. Harry watched as Bobby raised an eyebrow and frowned.
“Dean?” Bobby asked.
“I’m gonna hit the road,” Dean said, putting the phone away again. “I gotta make myself an appointment with a reaper.”
“Dean,” Bobby repeated. “What are you planning? Pam was the only one I knew who could...”
“It’s alright,” Dean said. “I know someone.”
“Who?” Bobby asked.
“You remember I told you about Tessa?” Dean said. “If I can summon her, then she could-”
“Only the dead can summon a reaper, Dean,” Bobby said.
“Yeah, well, that’s not a problem,” Dean said. “Come on, Harry, I’ll walk you out.”
“Dean!” Bobby said. “What the hell are you planning?”
Harry couldn’t move for the tension in the room, but then all Dean did was look pleadingly at Bobby for a solid few seconds, and Bobby sighed.
“I’m not looking to die, Bobby, I swear,” Dean added.
“Yeah, well, what do I tell your brother?” Bobby asked.
“Tell him I needed a day or two, and I’ll be right back,” Dean said. “He won’t care. Tell him to go get a motel room and have some fun and I’ll call him.”
“Yeah, ok,” Bobby said. “You gotta promise to come back though.”
“Can’t make promises like that, and you know it,” Dean replied. They all stood then, and Harry felt a little awkward as Bobby rounded the desk and pulled Dean into a fierce hug.
“Idiots, the pair of you,” Bobby muttered as he pulled back, then he turned to Harry and held out his hand. “It was nice to meet you Harry.”
“It was nice to meet you too, sir,” Harry said.
“Come on. I’ve got some ground to cover if I want to be where I’m going,” Dean said.
Harry took one last look around Bobby Singer’s house as he followed Dean out through the backdoor. It was amazing how much it seemed to suit the Winchesters. Harry could tell that the house had, at some point, been well maintained and cared for, and now it was lined with mythology books and weaponry – still cared for, but only in bare-bones practical way. Dean seemed at home here, in an old house surrounded by scrap-metal. It made Harry wonder where he had been living while Sam had been away.
Dean stopped by his car and held out his hand to Harry, which Harry grasped without thought, and then was surprised when Dean used it to pull him into a one-armed hug. Dean thumped him twice on the back and then released him.
“Thanks for everything Harry,” Dean said. “I don’t know what I would have done without- well, you know...you be sure to thank Ron, Hermione, and Drake for me too, ok?”
“Certainly, Dean,” Harry said. “But...what exactly are you planning? I could come too – maybe if the ring isn’t enough-”
“Harry,” Dean cut him off, smiling sadly, “take a lesson from your ancestor – don’t go to meet Death, unless you’re prepared to die.”
Harry looked back towards the porch, where Bobby was leaning against the inside door jam watching them, and then back at Dean.
“And you?” Harry asked. Dean gave him a confused look. “Are you prepared to die?”
Dean grimaced and racked a hand through his short hair.
“Harry... I know it’s fucked up,” Dean said. “But when I thought he was back - I loved Lisa and Ben, and I thought, all things considered, that I was doing alright. But it wasn’t my life, I didn’t... I didn’t belong there. I wasn’t happy, not like I was when I thought Sam... and they deserve better than that. I just... I can’t live like this anymore. I gotta save him, or die trying, and yeah, it breaks the promise – but I can’t... I tried, but I can’t...not without him.”
“I feel like I showed up at your door with an elaborate suicide plan. Some friend I am.”
Dean huffed a laugh and shook his head.
“Besides Cas, man,” Dean said, “you’re the best friend I got that ain’t some sort of family. That thing claiming to be my brother has nearly gotten me killed so many times in the past six months... and hey, at least you’ll be sad to see me go.”
“That’s not funny, Dean,” Harry said.
“Yeah, well... I’ll be fine,” Dean said. “I’ll call you, ok?”
Harry nodded, and then stepped back as Dean opened his car door and slipped into the Impala. He stood there while Dean gave him a wink and a wave and drove away in a cloud of dust. This was the problem with all Harry’s eleventh hour plans – they tended to involve the very real possibility of death, which never instilled much confidence.
“Do you hate me?” Harry asked loud enough to be heard.
“Not yet,” Bobby Singer replied. Harry nodded, turning to face the man.
“Let me know if you change your mind,” Harry said. Bobby nodded.
Harry pulled a paperweight out of his shoulder bag, looked once more at the empty road, and then braced himself for an unpleasant journey.