Everyone had left the compartment to put on their robes and gather their belongings, leaving Sam and Dean alone.
“Damn I really thought we had the sonuvabitch this time.” Dean groaned, shrugging into the hand-me-down brown leather jacket that was John’s not too long ago. Sam noticed that the sleeves of it looked longer than usual, due to the fact that Dean had de-aged. “Just once I’d like for the monster we’re hunting down to just come find us.” He grumbled.
“Dean, monsters find us all the time.” Sam felt an annoyance growing in him. “I mean we get bombarded with all kinds of supernatural creatures that seek us out every day; and usually when they find us first, the hunt doesn’t go that well.”
Dean pursed his lips characteristically. “Yeah well, that’s only because we go to where we know they are; where they’re killing people- then we look for ‘em. I just wanna get this job over with. I want it to be as simple as possible.”
Sam shook his head. “Since when do you look for an easy way out in a fight?”
Dean shoved his hands in his pockets, where Sam was pretty sure he fiddled with some sort of weapon. “It’s not an easy way out, Sammy.” He retorted. “It’s cool that you’ve embraced this whole school thing, but I want to get home and help Dad out with the real hunt.”
Sam opened his mouth to point out the fact that they didn’t actually have a home. He wanted Dean to want to be happy about going to Hogwarts as well, but he knew his brother, so he didn’t say anything.
Instead he cleared his throat. “We should probably change into our uniforms.” He suggested.
Dean raised his eyebrows, and smirked wickedly. “Sammy, Sammy, Sammy,” he placed a hand on either side of Sam’s shoulders, and shook him slightly. “Not on your life, sweetheart.” With another cheeky grin, Dean popped the collar of his jacket and left the compartment, leaving Sam to mentally wrestle whether or not to wear his uniform.
Dean noted with a certain amount of satisfaction that he still had the power to influence his brother with Dean’s own opinions. True- Sam came out of the compartment wearing the Hogwarts uniform dress pants and white collared shirt- but he held the long black robe and black tie at his side, rolled up in a tight ball. Dean also noticed that Sam cast a sidelong glance at him, as though trying to decipher his opinion.
Dean said nothing, and just slouched against the wall of the train, watching as students ran by, making their way toward the exits.
The train had come to a complete stop, and students were chatting animatedly.
“I’m starving,” Dean heard Ron say behind him.
“Ditto!” he exclaimed. “Please tell me that there’s gonna be food…”
Harry smiled. “Mate, there’s going to be so much food you’re not going to know what to do with yourself.”
Dean instantly brightened. “Alright then, what the hell are we waiting for? Excuse me!” he pushed around the crowds to the front, and out the doors. Even though he was nowhere close to his brother anymore, he still heard Sam muttering apologies to kids around him for Dean’s behavior.
Dean didn’t care though, his stomach was growling and he needed to feed the beast.
He followed the crowd to a bunch of carriages that at first he thought were pulled by some sort of horses, but as he approached, he noticed that they were slightly reptilian, black, fleshless, and had cloudy white eyes. There were wings on either side of their skeleton-like bodies, and Dean could barely suppress a shiver looking at them.
“Whoa,” Sam gasped, finally catching up to Dean. “What are those?
“What are what?” Ron asked, looking around blankly.
“You can’t see them?” Harry asked Ron, who shook his head, as did Hermione.
“It’s alright, I can see them too.” said Luna, who had no hesitation climbing into the carriage behind the strange beasts. “I’ve always been able to see them.”
Dean watched as Harry and Sam glanced at each other skeptically before climbing in after the abnormal girl.
Dean felt like he should know what the reptilian-horse was; shadows of horrible memories clouded his head, which made his insides drop, and for a moment he pondered on the dark thoughts. But his hunger overpowered his curiosity, and he too hopped into the carriage. Then the beast took off at a brisk pace, and they began their ascent up to Hogwarts.
It was something out of a dream. The Hogwarts castle loomed above them, growing larger and larger as they approached. The sky was black and dotted with gleaming stars that seemed impossibly bright. The castle’s turrets illuminated the castle’s huge outline, along with the green grounds surrounding. Sam stared out of the carriage window in utter awe; he couldn’t believe such a place could actually be a school. Sure, the supernatural horses pulling them left him with an uneasy feeling in his gut, but little else could spoil the moment.
He watched kids his age call to each other from all around as they jumped from their carriages and hurried through the great wooden doors that lead inside. Sam stared at them all eagerly; children really did take for granted the simple things in life. For so long, he’d been the new kid at school. For so long he’d been considered an abnormality- the class freak. For so long he’d wanted to feel accepted by his peers at school, and suddenly, along with a swooping feeling in his heart, came the realization that because of this hunt, he was finally getting his chance. He beamed excitedly, and Dean looked over at him, eyebrows raised.
“Keep your pants on, Sammy…” the older Winchester whispered deviously.
Sam shoved him, and avoided a half-hearted punch thrown back at him by Dean.
He looked up at Ginny who made immediate eye contact with him, her smile curving the corners of her full lips upwards. Her pretty freckled face made him blush, and she sat across from him, so his long legs caused his knees tap against hers as the carriage jostled along the path. He did not want to look away, but felt it’d be weird to stare at a girl he barely knew for much longer, so he quickly resumed looking out the window over Harry’s shoulder, attempting to eliminate any further eye-contact with the curvaceous red-head.
Trying to occupy his thoughts on something other than Ginny’s lips or her legs or the hand she ran through her long hair, Sam watched as Harry, who sat beside him, fidgeted nervously, leaning sideways every once in awhile in order to catch a glimpse of the strange skeletal horses shouldering the carriages. He seemed perturbed by them, and Sam knew that he should have been as well, but he somehow knew that the beasts were not dangerous. Maybe it was his hunter’s instinct, or maybe it was something anyone could feel. Luna seemed perfectly comfortable with their presence.
He shook his head slightly, and found himself looking at Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny’s robes. He noticed that they all had a red emblem emblazoned with a lion and a ‘G’ on them, while Luna’s had a raven, with a blue ‘R’.
“Do your robes represent what house you’re in?” Sam asked Hermione. He knew private schools, especially European private schools, had class houses in order to maintain order and create scholarly rivalry.
“Oh? Yes, yes they do.” Hermione immediately went into an in-depth explanation about the Hogwarts houses, supplying more information than Sam probably ever needed to know.
“So lemme get this straight,” Dean began, after Hermione’s elaboration. “There are four houses you guys are sorted into? Does that mean me and Sam are gonna have to be sorted too?”
Harry shrugged. “I don’t see why not. I mean- you are going to be students.”
Dean frowned. “Just as long as I’m not in Slytherpuff.” he said, completely serious, causing the entire carriage to erupt in laughter, eliciting a new explanation on the pronunciation of ‘Gryffindor’, ‘Hufflepuff’, ‘Ravenclaw’, and ‘Slytherin’.
Sam hadn’t felt nervous since he’d sat down on the train. But as they exited the carriage, made their way up the massive stone steps and went through the behemoth wooden doors, Sam felt his insides squirming sickly. He felt slightly ashamed admitting to himself that he wasn’t nervous because of the demon hunt, but rather about another first day of school.
Sam glanced over at Dean, who looked perfectly at ease, though completely out of place in the magnificent castle. He stuck out like a sore thumb in his brown leather jacket, ripped jeans, and worker boots while in a sea of black robes and black hats. He was certainly attracting a lot of attention, mostly from the female population, and Sam was pretty sure that none of it was negative attention. Sam suddenly felt awkward in his dress pants and button down shirt.
I should have listened to Dean, he thought, fumbling with his attire.
Ron shook his head. “You blokes have been inside for five seconds and you’ve already gotten more attention from girls than I’ve gotten my entire life.” he moaned, which garnered a scandalized expression from Hermione, though Ron did not notice.
“Very true, mate,” Harry admitted, thumping his friend on the back. “But I’d rather get no attention than be looked at like that…” Harry pointed to a group of younger students, who were staring at Harry like he was pointing an AK-47 at them; fear and accusation was written all over their faces. When they noticed Harry had seen them, they quickly darted into the crowd.
Dean looked to Harry, expectantly. “What the hell was that about? Why were those midgets giving you the old ‘evil eye’?”
Harry chuckled darkly, and pushed his dark hair over his lightning-bolt-shaped scar, attempting to hide it. “That’s a story for another day…” he admitted, and Dean, for once, didn’t press the subject.
“So, you guys live in a big ass castle?” Dean observed instead, staring up, seemingly to Sam, only mildly impressed by the vaulted ceilings, the gleaming silver suits of armor, and the elaborate paintings, that, like back at Grimmuald Place, were animated. “What’s in there?” he asked, pointing to huge room where all the students and teachers were assimilating.
“That’s the Great Hall,” Ginny said, then turned away for a moment to briefly hug a group of giggling girls.
“It’s where we eat all of our meals and is pretty much the busiest section of the school.” Ron added rolling his eyes as Ginny’s friends made eyes at Dean.
Sam didn’t want to spend his time in the Great Hall, however. He was itching to explore, his natural curiosity nipped at his feet to wander and see all he could. He was still marveling at the sheer size of Hogwarts; he couldn’t believe he’d actually be living in such a place. He’d gone day to day for his entire life from living in shady motel rooms, sleeping in the cramped backseat of the Impala, and squatting in abandoned buildings, and suddenly, here he was, staying in a colossal ancient castle, fit for a king.
“So, since it’s a castle, does that mean we get servants?” Dean questioned, though his tone was unreadable, and Sam wasn’t sure if he was entirely serious.
Hermione opened her mouth to say something, when a hand touched her shoulder. Sam looked to see a tall, straight-backed, elderly woman, with graying hair pulled up in a tight and bun. She wore emerald robes, and reminded Sam faintly of a drill instructor- he could tell she was strict just by looking at her.
“How was your holiday, Ms. Granger?” she asked Hermione, but she stared at Sam and Dean from behind her spectacles.
“Professor McGonagall!” Hermione gasped, excitedly. “It was fine thank you. And yours?”
“Lovely,” the Professor added absently, observing Dean’s attire with an almost palpable distaste. “I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that the two of you are Dean and Samuel Winchester?”
“Yahtzee,” his brother stated, scratching the back of his neck, and smirking openly.
Ron and Harry glanced to each other and Hermione’s mouth popped open.
McGonagall raised one of her thin eyebrows and Sam went instinctively into damage control, fearing that Dean had already made a bad first impression. “I’m Sam and he’s Dean,” Sam explained, giving her a shy smile that never seemed to fail on authority figures. “Sorry about my brother,” he added to her in an undertone. “He gets like this when he’s hungry…”
The stern teacher’s expression was no longer hard, but she did not answer kindly. “I’m afraid you’ll have to wait a little longer for supper, Mr. Winchester,” she informed them. “The Headmaster would like to speak with you, right away.”
Harry perked up. “Dumbledore? Can I speak with him as well, Professor?” he asked, eagerly.
Sam noticed that McGonagall seemed to have a slight soft spot for Harry. The crease between her eyes softened a miniscule amount when she looked at his hopeful face. “I’m sorry, Potter. The Headmaster would like to see Mr. and Mr. Winchester in private.”
“But I’m supposed to stay with them,” Harry argued. “How are Sam and Dean supposed to look out for-?”
“Potter!” McGonagall warned. “We will not discuss such matters here.”
It seemed that what McGonagall ordered was law. Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and a sulking Harry, uttered good-byes to Sam and Dean before entering the now crowded Great Hall which left Sam and Dean to face McGonagall and Dumbledore, on their own.
It felt like the millions of other times during his old school days when Dean would be escorted to the principal’s office for some sort of misbehavior. Like the tons of times he’d beaten up snobby little ‘Mama’s-boy’s’, or the times he’d laughed in a teachers face, deliberately disobeying them, or like the time back in the fifth grade when he’d told Molly Ringer that the monster under her bed sounded pretty serious, and that Dean’s dad would be more than willing to blow it’s head off with his shotgun.
Dean had to keep reminding himself that, although he looked younger, he was still the nineteen year old man deep down inside; not a sixteen year old high school student. And he definitely wasn’t in trouble at the moment.
Or so he thought.
It was a long walk to Dumbledore’s office, and while McGonagall strode straight and true, Sam bounced along side Dean, his long lanky body quivering with excitement, absorbing all the information about Hogwarts he could. Dean himself smiled at the goofy expression on his little brother’s face, and he barely noticed in time that McGonagall had already halted in front of him.
Dean peered around McGonagall’s thin frame, to see that they stood before a stone gargoyle. Its face was contorted in a snarl, and looked pretty life-like, but other than that, Dean found it unremarkable; and impassable. There was no way around the wall or the hideous gargoyle. He was about to ask McGonagall if they had taken a wrong turn; Dean was even slightly embarrassed for the woman, thinking that she was getting on in age, and perhaps was becoming more forgetful.
But she seemed unfazed by the barrier, and gazed on it with purpose. “Fizzing Whizbee,” she stated, causing Dean to glance at Sam, who looked equally dumbfounded.
There was a sound of the scuttling of stone, and Dean looked back at the gargoyle just in time to see that it had sprung to life, and leaped aside. The formally impassible wall separated magically, revealing a spiral staircase.
“Ah... Again with the secret passageways?” Dean observed, grinning cheekily. “You know plain old doors work just as well…”
Dean could have sworn McGonagall’s lip had given the slightest of an upward twitch, as though she would like to have smiled, but instead she just scrutinized them behind her eyeglasses.
“The Headmaster would like to have a word with the both of you,” she explained hastily, her eyes boring into them, urgently. “But we do not have much time. We have much to inform you of, however-”
Dean waved a hand, “We’re good with quick facts. We don’t give much crap about details…”
“What Dean means is,” Sam began, yet again in his ‘damage-control’ mode. “Is that in our job, we relay information fast and effectively. Whatever you can tell us will suffice for now.”
Dean resisted the urge to clock his little brother one on the head.
Suck-up… he thought.
“I see…” McGonagall uttered, though Dean could tell he had made her even more hesitant. He was getting really good at making really bad first impressions.
“Look Professor,” Dean blurted, bluntly. (He saw Sam physically cringe in his peripheral vision.) “I know you don’t like me, or like me and my brother’s tactics, but I swear to you that we’re here to do our job- which is to help you and this school however we can.”
Dean didn’t break eye contact with her because he knew that he couldn’t show weakness. He and Sam needed the respect.
She broke it first. “I’m glad to hear it, Mr. Winchester.” she said, visibly relaxing.
Sam mirrored Dean’s feeling of surprise.
“Now quickly- up the stairs, please. Professor Dumbledore has much to explain in only a little time.”
Dean, now feeling more confident in his ability to soften the heart of even the coldest of old ladies, trooped up the stairs first, came to the oak finished door, and raised his hand to raise the brass door knocker in the shape of a griffin; but before he was able to bang it, Dumbledore somehow knew to summon them:
“Come in please, Dean,” his old deep voice invited, and Dean obeyed.
Even from just walking in, Dean immediately felt that Dumbledore’s office was inviting. He felt completely out of place in the round room, surrounded by strange silver instruments, piles of magic books, clean plush furniture, and the countless portraits of older important looking wizards, but nonetheless, he was at ease. Again for some impossible reason or another, the Headmaster’s office almost reminded him ever so slightly of an impeccably clean and expensive version of Bobby Singer’s house. Well, almost.
Headmaster Dumbledore himself was behind an enormous claw-footed table, seated in a high-backed chair. “Dean, Sam,” Dumbledore greeted. “Welcome to Hogwarts.”
Dean wasn’t sure what he was expected to respond. Thank you, perhaps? So he took Sam’s lead and just inclined his head, politely.
“Please, have a seat,” Dumbledore waved his wand hand and two wooden chairs appeared from thin air.
“Hm, neat trick,” Dean said, trying to seem unimpressed.
Truth be told, Dean didn’t want to have anything to do with wands or their magic. He had enough hunting experience to know that in a fight, those who used magic never played fair.
He and Sam sat, and while Dean eyed Dumbledore’s wand warily, Sam observed it eagerly.
“I anticipate that you have quite a few questions-”
That’s the understatement of the century, Dean thought, sardonically.
“However and to our further misfortune, I am afraid that we have no time but for the most immediate and pressing issues.” He paused for a moment, as though planning his choice of words in advance. Dean couldn’t help but think that he and his brother were about to be slighted by the ancient Headmaster.
Dumbledore placed his elbows on his wooden desk, and pressed the tips of his wrinkled fingers together lightly, and stared past Sam and Dean to where Professor McGonagall was standing. “With the Ministry of Magic… how do I put this… more involved with the affairs at Hogwarts this year, I have gone to great lengths to make your enrollment here appear to be legitimate.”
“Hmph!” huffed McGonagall, making both Sam and Dean raise their eyebrows and glance back at her in surprise. “’Involved’, Albus! The Ministry has been prying into business it ought not! Practically shoving their noses up our a-”
“That will do, Minerva,” Dumbledore cautioned, and she fell silent.
Dumbledore’s bright blue eyes surveyed Dean now. “I am old friends with the Headmaster at Salem Academy of Magic,” he explained. “and she swears that no matter what Ministry official asks, she will vow that Sam and Dean Winchester did attend magic school in Salem. Luckily, however, our Ministry is far too preoccupied at the moment to investigate too much into our little charade. It’s a small bit of luck for us; only this time last year the Ministry was immensely involved with every one of our foreign affairs, as we had many of them.”
Sam looked hopeful. “So there’s no suspicion about us?”
“On the contrary,” Dumbledore answered. “That is precisely why I’ve asked you to meet with me so abruptly.”
“Why don’t you just spit it out?” Dean asked quickly.
“Dean!” hissed Sam, who grew red.
“Calm down, Sammy,” Dean insisted. “Look, Headmaster- I just don’t wanna be jerked around by you guys. No offense, but I just want to do my job. And that’s to find this demon and kill it. Then I want to get back to the States. So please, just cut to the chase.”
A long moment of silence followed. Only the strange puffing and whizzing noises from the silver instruments broke the strained silence.
Dean wanted to look to Sam and McGonagall, both of who he was sure were glaring mutinously at him, but he looked Dumbledore in the eye instead, until, miraculously, the wizard broke into a smile.
“Of course, Dean- forgive an old man. I’m afraid old habits die hard.” Dumbledore bent down under his desk and pulled up two sleek looking wooden wands. “I am so used to protecting my students I suppose it must just be in my nature to want to protect the two of you. But I will learn to remember that you are not a child Dean, and that you and Sam have seen terrible things.”
Dean didn’t expect Dumbledore to be so understanding. “Um, thanks.” He stated, rubbing the short hairs on the back of his neck.
“Now let’s ‘cut-to-the-chase’, shall we?” said Dumbledore. “You are here, of course, to locate and destroy this demon.”
Sam opened his mouth to say something, and Dean was sure it was to ask how Dumbledore knew, but the wizard beat him to it.
“I know it is a demon, Sam, because I have seen it. The details are not relative at the moment, it is more important that you know that it is a demon. However, I must ask much more of you; too much, but I will ask it anyway.” Dumbledore’s eyes had lost their blue smile, and they had turned serious. “Harry Potter needs protection. I am sure this demon will try to go after him, and that’s where the two of you must guard him.”
“We’ve heard all this before.” Dean muttered impatiently, slouching down in his uncomfortable chair, lazily.
“But I have not stressed the importance yet.” Dumbledore answered quickly. “Harry’s protection and well-being is critical this year. If anything were to happen to him… well, he has a destiny to fulfill-”
“I don’t believe in destiny.” Dean interjected, feeling hard-headed.
“I am not asking you to. I’m simply relaying to you what has been prophesized over a decade and a half ago.”
Dean had no answer to that.
“Do you mind me asking what his destiny is?” Sam said, still playing the innocent part, whether intentionally or not, Sam and Dean always seemed to play the part of good-kid, bad-kid. Dean was, unsurprisingly, usually the bad kid.
“It is too complicated to explain at the moment when we are so pressed for time, but I can tell you; Harry’s destiny will determine the fate of the wizarding world.”
Dean clenched his jaw. Harry and Sam were around the same age, and Dean had a sudden sinking sensation in his stomach imagining Sam determining the fate of mankind. He would hate to have to protect someone he loved when they could so easily destroy the world. Dean shook his head to rid himself of the strange feeling. This was Harry they were talking about; not Sammy.
“Harry must stay safe in order to complete his destiny. And this year I will be unable to protect him myself.”
“Why can’t you protect him?” Sam asked. “I’m not trying to be rude or anything, sir; it’s just that I noticed already that you won’t even talk to Harry.”
Dumbledore shook his white head. “You Winchesters are so observant… that, Sam is another question for another day. For now I just want your word that you’ll protect Harry in every way you can.”
Dean wanted to argue, to interrogate Dumbledore further, but his instincts knew that Dumbledore was honest and wasn’t trying to deceive them. What Dumbledore was asking of them was no different than what John asked of Dean every day since he was four years old: to look after someone and keep them safe.
Sam answered immediately, suddenly and strangely obedient. “Yes, Sir.”
Dean sat up a little, and straightened his father’s brown leather jacket that still smelled every bit like John. “Yeah,” he answered. “Yeah, will do.”
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