For a moment there, Dean had been lost in thought. Sam had been weary for a moment, thinking Dean would refuse Dumbledore and insist that he and Sam leave immediately; Sam didn’t want to go back to America, back to the constant moving, back to John... But good old Dean always seemed to come through in the end…
“Excellent,” Dumbledore praised. “Now for a slightly less pressing, but not unimportant issue… the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, has decided to send one of his 'loyal' employees to observe the happenings of Hogwarts. I’m afraid it’s partially my fault,” Dumbledore said with an amused twinkle in his eye. “Fudge is under the impression that I’d like to have his job.”
Sam didn’t know Fudge, but Sam was sure that a man like Dumbledore would be a very intimidating opponent.
But Dumbledore and McGonagall were both smiling. “I, of course, have no desire to be a part of the Ministry, nor do I have any desire to work at the Ministry of Magic.
“Which is why Senior Undersecretary, Dolores Jane Umbridge will be a professor here this year.” A frown appeared behind Dumbledore’s half-moon glasses. “She will act as Fudge’s eyes and ears. And on more than one occasion I have seen that she enjoys severe punishment.”
Sam raised his eyebrows. “She sounds like a sweetheart…” he muttered darkly.
“Dolores Jane Umbridge? That’s really her name? Geez, what a freakin’ mouth full…” Dean chuckled, nudging Sam in the forearm.
Sam was quick. He caught on to what Dumbledore was trying to convey to them. “So she’s gonna want to meet us then, isn’t she?” Sam asked.
“Right again, Sam,” said Dumbledore, pleasantly. “She is actually on her way here as we speak. She obviously wants to make sure parts of your ‘story’ add up with that of the Headmaster at the Salem Academy of Magic. Of course, she won’t believe for a second that you two are actually students. Fudge accused you both of being international wizarding spies.”
“Ha!” exclaimed Dean, beaming at Professor McGonagall, who gave him a stern look. The smile slipped off Dean’s face and he looked away awkwardly.
“They sound really paranoid…” Sam observed, running a hand through his dark hair.
Dumbledore nodded gravely. “Dolores Umbridge is especially paranoid, as well as bitter, angry, corrupt, irritable, and in-denial.”
Sam bit the inside of his cheek. He turned to his brother who faced him in turn.
“It seems like she’s pretty unstable… what do you think?” he asked.
“Sounds like she’d be pretty open for demonic possession.” Dean answered simply.
“Definitely,” Sam agreed. Things were finally getting started…
“My thoughts exactly,” sighed Dumbledore, who picked up the wooden wands again. “Umbridge wants to meet you today, but over the school year she will interrogate you in order to find faults that make you slip up and reveal that you are not truly wizards. Of course, without wands, there is no way you’d last a single minute in her investigation. That is why I have made these.” He held one wand out to Dean and one to Sam.
Sam carefully but quickly, took his wand from Dumbledore, and weighed it in his hands.
Dean on the other hand, stared at it like it was something the Impala had run over. “You’re serious?” he blurted. “You do realize that we aren’t wizards and that there’s no way in Hell we can do magic, right?”
“Believe it or not, Dean, I have been gifted with a certain amount of brainpower and have already realized and solved that problem.” Dumbledore snapped, though playfully. “These are not the sort of wands your classmates have, though they look and perform identically like them.” He placed the wand in Dean’s hand, and Dean held it gingerly by the end and extended away from him. “I developed these wands myself. It took many hours, but through a complex series of charms and enchantments, I’ve managed to harness the excess magic around Hogwarts to channel through these wands whenever commanded to.”
Sam and Dean stared at the Headmaster blankly.
“English please?” Dean joked.
Dumbledore blinked. “Think of the wands as conductors of magic. Sort of like how metal is a conductor of electricity. Normally, magic comes from within a wizard, and is controlled through incantations and ultimately the wand.” Dumbledore took out his own wand, and demonstrated by saying, “Accio quill!”
A quill immediately flew in mid-air, all on its own, across the room to Dumbledore’s hand.
“So, by using the excess magic around Hogwarts, the magic will come from around you, and not inside you like real wizards, but will still only be cast through the wand.”
“Why don’t you try it?” McGonagall interjected.
“You doubt my work, Minerva?” Dumbledore asked, the mischievous twinkle back in his eyes.
She pursed her lips. “I doubt them.” she answered, tartly.
Sam felt motivated; he wasn’t used to having teachers doubt him, no matter what the subject. He focused, really focused. Almost like when he was about to take a big test in history, or more frequently, when he focused in his instincts during a hunt. He let the focus take over, and waved the wand as Dumbledore had. “Accio quill,” he repeated.
He couldn’t believe his own eyes as the feather pen flew from Dumbledore to him. His hand shook as he reached out and snatched it from the air.
Dumbledore grinned and clapped his hands. “Excellent, Sam! Really magnificent!”
Sam smiled back. He knew it was only a small magical feat compared to what Dumbledore could do, but he liked the attention; John had never praised him like that…
“Why don’t you try, Dean?” Dumbledore said.
Dean looked down at the wooden shaft in his hand. “Nah, no thanks, I’ll pass.”
“I’m afraid I’m going to have to insist.” Dumbledore stated, with a little bow of his head. “The whole plan revolves around the two of you being capable of wielding these wands.”
Dean sighed dramatically. “Fine,” he scrunched up his face a little, looking at the quill in Sam’s hand. “Accio quill.” he growled.
Sam watched with his own embarrassment as Dean turned a little pink, and cleared his throat. “Accio quill,” he repeated a little louder.
Dumbledore did not look discouraged however. “It may take a few tries. Sam getting it on the first try was not something I anticipated…” he admitted, and Sam felt McGonagall’s eyes bore into his back.
Dean tried a third, and fourth time. It wasn’t until the fifth time that the quill moved in Sam’s hand, and finally floated slowly to Dean.
“Wonderful,” Dumbledore stated. “Those wands will work perfectly in time.” He promised. “As for Umbridge, she will be here in a moment’s time, so stick with your story, and all will go over smoothly.”
Sam heard the secret stair-way to the Headmaster’s office open up. Dean looked to Sam, pointedly, hearing the click-click of high heels coming up the stairs.
“Y’think this chick’s gonna be hot?” Dean uttered, to Sam, hopefully.
Sam didn’t know at the time, but Dean’s hopes would never be realized.
With a name as ugly as, ‘Dolores Jane Umbridge’, Dean figured that if there was any good in the world at all, the woman would get some sort of universal compensation with a slamming hot body and a pretty face to go right along with it. But Dean should have known from all his battles with evil that there was no fairness and no balance in the universe; Dolores Jane Umbridge was one ugly broad.
Hey- he was an honest guy. And there was no way of putting Umbridge’s looks into a positive perspective. … And worst yet- draped on her shoulders was a frilly, fluffy, obnoxiously pink cardigan. Dean felt his whole body involuntarily cringe at the sight of it.
Sammy was looking resolutely away from him, but somewhere away from Umbridge as well. Dean knew his brother well enough to know that Sam was compelled to laugh, but was too ‘sensitive’- girlish Dean thought- to actually do it.
Umbridge seemed to be able to spot a troublemaker from first glance. She took one look at Dean with his ruffled hair, rugged jeans, and leather jacket, and her eyes bulged like a frog’s might. She clutched at the sleeves of her cardigan, as though Dean had every intention of ripping the frilly pink thing right off her shoulders and running off into the sunset with it. Then she shot a quick look at Sam, seemed dissatisfied and finally turned to acknowledge Dumbledore.
“Professor,” she squawked in a high-pitched voice Dean did not expect. “Thank you for meeting with me before term has even begun. The Ministry of Magic must take precautions you see…”
“But of course Ms. Senior Under-Secretary,” said Dumbledore in a low voice. “Though too many precautions can prove to be too tedious…”
“There’s no such thing as too many precautions.” rapped Umbridge harshly, then she let out a strangely girlish giggle. “Especially when it comes to foreign affairs…”
She looked to Dean and Sam again. “You must be Mr. and Mr. Winchester,” she continued. “Dean and Samuel, if I’m not mistaken?”
“No mistakes,” said Dean cockily.
“It’s a…pleasure, to meet you both.” Umbridge stated; though she certainly didn’t seem pleased. “I am sure we will soon be great friends.”
Great friends my ass, thought Dean wickedly, making a mental note to give the woman as much trouble as humanly possible.
Umbridge and Dumbledore spoke for awhile, but Dean really wasn’t paying any attention. All he could think about was the grumbling in his stomach; besides, Sam, being the perfect little suck up that he was, was totally attentive, and therefore was listening enough for the both of them-
“Dean,” Sam’s voice interrupted his lazy stupor, making him look up to realize that all eyes were upon him.
“Hmm?” he grumbled awkwardly. He had slouched over in his seat, and Dumbledore stared kindly down at him.
“I was just saying to Sam here, how it’s getting late,” Dumbledore noted. “And if we Sort the both of you now, we just might be able to make it back to the Great Hall in time for some pudding.”
Dean was tired and hungry enough to only truly process the word ‘pudding’. He immediately nodded. “Yeah sure, I’m totally ready.”
“Wonderful,” Dumbledore said, clapping his hands together, and Umbridge frowned. “Here at Hogwarts, we have a very special way to separate our students into their houses…” he walked to a high shelf, and pulled down an old pointed hat and sat it down on his desk. “We call it the Sorting Hat.”
“Yes, it is quite unique, isn’t it Headmaster?” piped up Umbridge, evilly. “Tell me, Mr. Winchester, how do they sort students at Salem Academy?”
Realizing that the ‘Mr. Winchester’ was directed at him, and that Umbridge was totally trying to trick him, Dean gave a fake innocent smile, and answered, “Well, see Professor, we don’t Sort at all back home in Salem.”
His sarcasm earned a warning glare from Sam, whom Dean ignored and forced his attention back on Dumbledore.
“So, I think oldest should go first,” continued Dumbledore. “Dean if you would be so kind…”
Dean awkwardly placed the raggedy hat upon his head, feeling ridiculous, and very aware that all eyes were still on him. He liked being the center of attention, but definitely not under the circumstances.
Besides, he doubted the whole ‘Sorting’ thing would even work on him; he wasn’t magical, and he didn’t want to be at Hogwarts. He wanted to be back home in the Impala, following his dad’s truck that flew down open stretches of endless highway. Dean wanted to open all the Impala’s windows, and blast ACDC, and sing loudly and obnoxiously in Sammy’s ear, until his brother, who sat in the passenger’s seat, gave in and sang right along with him. He wanted to-
“Such loyalty”, a voice said in Dean’s ear, startling him from his daydream. Dean realized that the voice was the hat. “Loyalty to your brother and your father… my, my, what an interesting mind…”
Dean tried not to let his face convey too much of how uncomfortable he felt, as the Hat observed his thoughts and memories, because Sam, Dumbledore, McGonagall, and Umbridge still watched him; though Dean was pretty sure they could not hear what the Hat was saying.
“Courageous and heroic- and such confidence, though perhaps arrogant at times…But what’s this?” the hat continued. “Underneath all of that, you are just trying to avenge the death of a mother you can scarcely remember…?”
Get out of my head, you son of a bitch. Dean thought, wanting to tear the hat to shreds. There was no way a dumb hat could understand what he and Sam and his dad had been through-
“On the contrary Dean, I see and feel everything you ever have.” The Hat wasn’t taunting him, it wasn’t evil…. but it was unnatural. “In spite of all your hardships,” the Hat continued, “you’ve still managed to stay on a righteous path; helping others that need it, and keeping what remains of your family together. Even if it wasn’t required, Dean Winchester, I would still put you in-”
“GRYFFINDOR!” the Hat voiced aloud so that Dumbledore, McGonagall, Umbridge, and Sam could hear.
When Dean had put the Sorting Hat on, Sam could not hear what it was saying, but he could tell it was causing Dean some sort of anger; his face had been etched with the stony glare he had only when he was remembering something that truly upset him.
Seconds after the Hat announced that Dean was in Gryffindor, Dean threw off the Hat and shoved it at Sam, not looking up at any of the Professors, or giving any further sign of what that Hat had done to trouble him.
Now Sam was filled with anticipation and excitement, and glanced to Dumbledore, who signaled that it was fine for him to put the Hat on.
Somehow inside his head, Sam felt the Hat internally shudder, and retreat away from him. “Oh my,” it said in his head. “Samuel, you have seen some truly terrible things… some things that you cannot even recall…”
He wondered if that Hat had found the memory of his mother. The one he could not remember, and yet had been right in the room as she had died; her stomach bleeding, as she burned on the ceiling right above his nursery.
But that Hat seemed to retreat further away from him. “I will not bring this burden upon you sooner than need be.” it whispered vaguely in his mind. “With all this darkness and evil you face, and all of it sleeping inside you… no… no- sorting you into Slytherin would only awaken that.”
Sam wasn’t sure how to react to the fact that a hat was not only fearful of him, it pitied him, so he did not say or think a word.
“I have not given advice to very many, so please listen.” the Hat continued. “I ask that you do your duty to the wizarding world and to Albus Dumbledore and Harry Potter- that you hunt down this demon and rid the school of its evil- but as soon as you get the chance, run away from here as fast as you can. Being here at Hogwarts, in this world of magic, it is not good for you, Sam Winchester. It will only bring you, and those around you, pain.
“So I hope to not see you again, Sam Winchester. Good luck in-”
“GRYFFINDOR!” the Sorting Hat’s voice rang aloud, and then it went limp- as though it were a regular old hat once more.
“Wow.” Sam stated, as they were suddenly shooed out of Dumbledore’s office. Sam found himself looking around at his brother, who in turn looked uncharacteristically frazzled.
“’Wow’ doesn’t even begin to cover what I’m feeling, little brother.” Dean sighed, his leathery hands pressing hard on his closed eyes. “I feel like I’m in a nightmare and I can’t wake the hell up.”
Sam frowned. ‘A nightmare’, was not how he’d describe the situation they were in; it was more like a crazy dream come true. But, he did not dare disagree with Dean aloud. “It’s all just…” Sam searched wildly for a word to describe how he was feeling. “Intense…”
Dean raised his eyebrows, “Ha!” he barked, stalking away from Dumbledore’s office, and from Sam. “‘Intense’ is even worse than ‘wow’.”
“Well, c’mon Dean- this is a little exciting, wouldn’t you say?” he was chasing after his brother now. “I mean, it’s not every day we get to go to a wizard school-”
Dean stopped in his tracks. “Dude- do not tell me you are in any way, shape, or form, actually liking this mess we’ve stepped in!”
Sam sighed, knowing some sort of argument was heading his way. “I’m not saying I like it necessarily, all I’m saying is-”
Dean shook his head. “No. Just, just no, Sam, okay?” Dean jammed his hands into his leather jacket pockets, staring frustrated up at the ceiling. “Man, I don’t even know why we’re doing this goddamn hunt in the first place…we should be with Dad. You should be at school. At a real school Sam,” Dean continued, seeing how Sam was about to butt in. “Not a freakin’ wizard school.”
“We agreed to do this hunt, Dean,” Sam explained calmly. “It’s not like we can walk out on all of them now. Hell, we came all the way here; we might as well finish what we’ve started.”
Dean’s green eyes pierced through Sam’s. “Of course we’re gonna finish the hunt. Did I ever say we weren’t?” he sounded insulted, and Sam was surprised. “I’m regretting ever agreeing to it, but we did, and now we’re gonna do it. And we’re going to do it as fast as we possibly can.”
Sam frowned. “But didn’t you just say, ‘I don’t know why we’re doing this goddamn hunt in the first place’-?”
“Can’t a guy complain every once in awhile? C’mon!” his jaw was clenched. “And that stupid Hat put me in a really bad mood.”
Sam felt a guilty jolt in his stomach, recalling the harsh and foreboding predictions that had been made about him as he was Sorted. Had the Hat predicted horrible things about Dean’s future, as it had Sam’s?
“Well, what’d the Hat say to you?” he asked, careful to appear anxious.
Dean looked at him seriously for a long moment, and for a split-second Sam thought Dean was actually going to tell him. But then his brother broke out in a grin. “Ha! Like I’m gonna tell you what some magic hat said to me in my head… I swear to God, it sounds like our lives have turned into some freakin’ Disney movie gone wrong…”
Before they had left, Dumbledore had told them to hurry back to the Great Hall, but Sam quickly formulated other ideas to get his mind off of his Sorting.
He and Dean had reached a fork in the hallway; the one on the right was brightly lit, and was the correct way back to the Great Hall. But the long corridor to his left was black, unknown, and practically begging to be explored.
“Hey Dean,” Sam beckoned, stopping at the dark corridor’s archway. “The Great Hall’s this way.”
Dean frowned, stopped dead, and looked back and forth between the two hallways. “I thought it was this way…” he replied, with a twinge of hesitancy.
“Nah, I remember.” Sam lied, knowing perfectly well that Dean was right. “It’s definitely this way.”
Dean looked skeptical for a moment, but then seemed to shake it off. “It’s hard to tell where the Hell I’m goin’ in these creepy hallways...” he complained, gesturing to the bracketed torches on the stone walls, while following Sam’s long stride. “Has anybody ever heard of electricity?!” he bellowed to no one.
Sam was about to remind Dean that electricity didn’t work at Hogwarts (which is why they couldn’t use their EMF readers or cell phones), but he thought better of it, seeing how Sam was already going to be in enough trouble when Dean found out he had lured them in the wrong direction on purpose.
After a few more minutes of walking down the hallway, Sam could hear Dean’s stomach start to growl.
“Dude, I want some pudding so bad right now…” Dean mumbled somewhere behind Sam. “There’s gotta be an easier…” Dean trailed off for a moment, and Sam realized that his brother was no longer following him. “Oh… oh you didn’t…” Dean groaned accusingly.
Sam looked back at his brother. “Didn’t… didn’t what?” Sam attempted feebly.
Dean snorted. “Yeah, you totally didn’t just lure me in the opposite direction of the delicious pudding waiting for me in the Great Hall just so you can get your weirdo nerd-boy-explorer kicks!!!”
Sam scratched at the back of his head. “I did.” he admitted.
“Yeah? No crap!” Dean turned on his heel, and began to walk back the way they came, muttering mutinously under his breath, “When I get some food in me, you are so dead!”
Five minutes later and even Sam had to admit he had no idea where he was. As if the glares from Dean weren’t enough punishment, Sam started feeling the empty churning of his stomach; he too could really go for some pudding…
But it was as they rounded yet another dark corner, that Dean threw his right arm out in front of Sam. Sam began to react, as though Dean were attacking him, but caught sight of Dean’s hardened face; the one he only wore when he sensed immediate danger, and stopped himself in order to heighten his senses.
Now that Sam concentrated, he, like Dean, could feel that something was amiss. He’d felt it a hundred times during every hunt he’d ever been on. He knew that something supernatural was around the corner.
Sam nodded once, and backed up against the cold stone wall behind his brother. In the same unspoken moment, they both unsheathed their weapons of choice from their jean pockets; Dean, a .45 pistol, and Sam, a Glock gun in one hand, and his new wooden wand in the other. Dean shot his second ‘weapon’ a quick glare, but realized that there was no point in arguing, and instead beckoned Sam to duck below him and around the corner, why Dean remained standing, so that they both had clear shots from two different angles.
Dean gave a signal with his hand, and at the same moment, both brothers turned around the corner, weapons raised, and cocked.
But before Sam could completely register the silvery form of the gruesomely half-decapitated ghost before them, Dean shot three quick rounds of rock salt through its opaque body; obliterating it in an instant.
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