Since Harry knew that Dean had confined himself to Bobby’s until Sam woke up, he used the mirror to check in every evening. It seemed Dean had just left it lying on Bobby’s desk, because sometimes Bobby answered, told him Sam was still asleep and that Dean was ‘hanging in’ and that was that. Which was why a spike of adrenaline ran through Harry when his pocket said his name one evening, nearly a week since Harry had brought Till to visit the Winchesters.
Harry pulled the mirror from his pocket. Ginny, who was sitting next to him on the couch, put down the book she was reading and sat up straight. The kids carried on playing across the room – it wasn’t too unusual for Harry to get a call in the evening after all.
“Dean?” Harry asked, flipping the mirror open and waiting the excruciatingly long three seconds until Dean’s image swam into focus. Dean was smiling. Dean was smiling very broadly.
“Shh, check it out,” Dean said, and then angled the mirror away from him. Harry saw the wall of Bobby’s study, then the open door into the kitchen, and then...then he saw the large form of Sam puttering around the kitchen, getting a plate from the cupboard, getting food out of the fridge. Harry stifled his urge to call out to the man, and he felt Ginny draw a breath beside him.
Sam was humming off key to himself, then he stopped, and without turning around called out.
“Hey Dean, do you want ham or bologna in your sandwich?” As he spoke, he opened one of the packages in front of him and smelled it. Then opened another and did the same, only to pull his head back immediately. “Nevermind! You’re getting bologna.”
Harry watched as Sam turned to throw, what was most likely, the ham into the bin, and then caught sight of Dean in the corner of his eye.
“Oh, you’re right there,” Sam said. “Why didn’t you- What-”
“Harry,” Dean said. “It’s Harry. Come say hi.”
Sam smiled, really smiled – and Harry knew it had all worked.
Sam took the mirror from Dean, causing the image to shake a little bit. Beside Harry, Ginny ducked out f the way wand wiped a little at her eyes. Harry couldn’t blame her.
“Hi Harry, how’s it going?” Sam asked.
“Brilliant,” Harry said. “Everything is going really well. How are you?”
“Good,” Sam said. “I uh, Dean says I was gone for a year and a half, but I don’t remember- um, I don’t remember anything, just uh, falling. I remember falling, and then I woke up here – and Bobby’s alive, and so’s Cas apparently.”
“That’s good,” Harry said. “The wa-”
“Yeah,” Dean interrupted loudly. “I hope he never remembers any of it.”
Harry paused, and realized what Dean was saying.
“Oh,” Harry said. “Right, yes, exactly. It’s really worked out well.”
“Dean told me it was your idea to talk to Death, Harry,” Sam said. “He shouldn’t have done that. I told him not to-”
“I know, but you didn’t tell me anything,” Harry said. “And it’s not like I forced him. So don’t shoot the messenger. Besides, are you really going to tell me that you aren’t glad?”
“No,” Sam said. “I’m glad. I’m....thank you, Harry. I mean it. Even if I don’t remember- ...I thought that I’d never- ...when I fell, I really thought that was it, and...”
Dean cleared his throat awkwardly.
“I’m just happy you’re alright now, Sam,” Harry said.
“Samdean?” a voice suddenly said from across Harry’s living room. Harry looked up to find his three children staring at him.
“Do you want to say hello to the kids?” Harry asked Sam in the mirror, as he beckoned his children over.
“Yeah, sure,” Sam said. Harry turned the mirror towards the children as they lined up in front of him.
“Hey guys, you remember Sam, right?”
“Hi Sam,” James said.
“Samdean! You’re back!” Albus smiled.
“Hello,” Lily said cautiously.
“Wow, hi guys,” Sam smiled. “God, you’re all so big now! Is that little Lily? I can’t believe- I mean, Dean said it’d been a year and a half, but it’s one thing to hear it and another to- ...just wow.”
“You were gone,” James said. “And it was scary, but I wasn’t scared.”
“No?” Sam said, a little confused.
“No,” James said. “Lily was scared, but I was brave. I’m going to be in Gryffindor like Daddy.”
“Sounds like it,” Sam said.
“I wasn’ scared,” Lily pouted. “I giffendor too.”
“All right,” Harry said. “I didn’t bring you over here to bicker, you can go back and play if you’re done talking to Sam, but say goodbye first.”
“Ok, bye, Sam,” James said.
“Goodbye,” Lily said dutifully.
“Get well soon!” Albus said, and kissed his fingers and then smudged them on the mirror.
“Albus,” Harry sighed, whipping the mirror off with his shirt.
“Nice stomach, Harry,” Sam said.
“Sorry,” Harry said. “I think Albus might be a little confused as to where exactly you’ve been.”
“Probably better that way,” Sam smiled. “Thank him for the kiss-better, regardless. I think the last time I got one of those, I was five.”
Later that night, as Harry was tucking Albus into bed, he couldn’t resist asking.
“Albus?” Harry said. Albus looked up from where he was studying the illustrations in the book that Harry had been reading him.
“Yes, Daddy?” Albus said, placing his finger on the elf character in the picture, as though holding his place.
“Why did you tell Sam to get well soon?” Harry asked. Albus looked at him as though he were incredibly stupid.
“Because he’s hurt,” Albus said.
“How is he hurt?” Harry asked.
“He’s all bloody,” Albus said, “but he hasn’t noticed yet, so it’s not that bad.”
“What will happen when he notices?” Harry asked, trying to keep his voice level and calm.
“I don’t know,” Albus shrugged. “’member when I stepped on Lily’s toy and hurt my foot?”
Harry nodded, remembering that Albus had limped stoically half-way down the stairs, but, as soon as he saw the trail of blood behind him, he had burst promptly into wailing tears.
“Maybe like that?” Albus said.
“Oh,” Harry said. “Do you know when this will happen.”
“Daddy,” Albus rolled his eyes, “I can’t see the future.”
“Right,” Harry said, “that was silly of me.” Harry quickly changed his strategy. “Do you think Sam will be okay?”
“I gave him a kiss better,” Albus said.
“Yes, but sometimes that’s not-” Harry cut himself off, because Albus was giving him a very confused and concerned look. Harry realized that Albus had never had to fathom an injury that couldn’t be kissed better. He had never seen his friends die, nor heard his parents’ death-screams in his dreams, and Harry was going to make sure that he never did.
Harry took a deep breath.
“Maybe he needs more kisses than just me,” Albus offered.
Harry smiled, looking down at the son who looked the most like him – black hair, green eyes, the only difference was the smattering of freckles across his nose, and the innocence that comes from growing up in a loving home. Harry wasn’t about to take any of that innocence away from him.
“I love you,” Harry said.
“I know, Dad,” Albus said, “I love you too.” Albus eyed him, his forehead crinkling. “Do you need a moment?”
“Yes, I need a moment,” Harry said, and Albus moved over in his bed, so that Harry could lie down beside him. Albus turned back to his book.
“Tell me how the story ends?” Harry asked.
Albus smiled, pointing at the picture of the elf in the illustration inside his book.
“The elf and the dwarf become friends,” Albus said, “and they go on a lot of adventures together. They climb a mountain, and go in a cave, and through a forest, and fight bad guys, and help their friends when they are in trouble. Then they live happily ever after.”
“That’s a good ending,” Harry said.
As Albus tried to read the caption underneath the illustration, Harry thought about Sam and Dean. He wondered how long they had before Sam’s wall came down – before he saw the blood, as Albus put it. He wondered how it was that his son could see such a disturbing image, when all Harry saw was Sam, healthy, happy, and unharmed. He wondered about endings and whether or not it was actually possible for the Winchesters to have a happy one.
“In the...dark...val-ley, the trave...the travellers...stopp-ed to rest for the nig- night,” Albus read out loud beside him, then turned to smile at Harry.
“Good job,” Harry praised.
“In the dark valley, the travellers stopped to rest for the night,” Albus repeated, then he looked at Harry and smiled, “and the day ended happily ever after.” Albus snapped the book closed.
“What about the rest of the book,” Harry said, pointing to the edges of the unread pages.
“That’s the future,” Albus said. “Today, they live happily ever after in the dark valley.”
“But-” Harry said.
“Go to bed, daddy,” Albus rolled his eyes, “if we stay awake to see what happens next, we’ll never get any sleep.”
Harry smiled, kissed his son goodnight, and followed Albus’ advice. Whatever the future might bring, Harry would certainly need his rest.