The Case of the Missing Wizard
Chapter 7. Welcome to Diagon Alley
Sherlock and John officially enter the Wizarding World, and learn some things about themselves.
Sunday, August 2, 2015
Twenty-four hours later, Hermione Granger and Dean Thomas were back at the front door of 221 Baker Street. This time they were both in casual dress, and Sherlock and John confirmed that they were both seeing the same thing before they brought them in. The only thing that wasn’t the same was Hermione’s bag, which to John now looked more like a comfortably slouchy canvas bag than the beaded purse which still didn’t match her outfit. They were buzzed in and this time waited to be escorted down to 221C.
Mary joined them, and introductions were made all around. Hermione didn’t waste any time getting down to business, reaching into her bag and pulling out three silver disk pendants, two strung on leather cords and one on a silver chain. She gave Mary the one on the chain and the other two to the men. “You can change the cords out for chains or something else if you prefer; it’s the pendant that matters.”
Sherlock looked his over carefully. It looked and felt like real silver, just over 1 inch in diameter, and had an elaborate knot design on one side. If one looked carefully, the letters S.C.U. were worked into the design, but someone looking at it casually would probably miss it. The other side was blank and mirror-shiny.
“Now we personalize them. Hold the pendant in your dominant hand, make a fist around it, that’s right … inscribere signum!” She tapped Sherlock’s fingers briskly with the vine-carved wand, and he felt something cold tingle through his hand. “Go ahead and look now.”
He opened his fist and looked at the pendant. The knotwork side was unchanged, but the smooth side now bore an image, marked out in delicate lines. The fact that it was the labyrinth, complete with tiny encircling runes, didn’t surprise him. It did, however, surprise Hermione.
“Well, that’s … odd. I hope it means you’re going to be successful. Maybe you were always meant to be on this case from the beginning. Perhaps there’s some other connection. Or maybe it’s just magic doing what it wants. Let’s see what else we get. John?”
John’s symbol turned out to be a Rod of Asclepius (one serpent, not two, no wings – John was pleased that the symbol was correct) crossed with a sword. Not surprising, given his occupation(s). Mary’s was more unusual: a closed book, with a double-bladed axe laid across it. Hermione frowned a bit at that, but did not comment.
“These are your identification for the magical world,” she said. “I put them on necklaces because that’s the best way not to lose them. You can just tuck them under your shirt if you don’t want them seen. You’ll be using these instead of a wand if you need to get into – or even find – Diagon Alley or the Ministry or any other magical places. If you’re ready, I’ll show you how it’s done.”
A short cab ride took them to Charing Cross Road. John looked about, mystified. “But this is just … normal. It’s right in the middle of London. We could have taken the Tube here.”
“I told you, once the wizarding community and the non-magical community were intertwined. And it’s really impossible to separate them now. We’re here because everybody was here, back in the day. Our centre of government, our largest hospital, and our main shopping district are all within walking distance of here. This is the tricky part. Do you see the grotty little pub sandwiched in between those two clothing shops?”
“The Leaky Cauldron. I’ve seen it. Never been in it,” said Sherlock.
“I’m impressed. Most people never even notice it.”
“Noticing things is my line of work,” Sherlock said dryly.
“True. In any event, most non-magical people won’t even notice it, or if they do, tourists will assume it’s a local place and locals assume it’s a tourist trap, and they won’t go in. You won’t have to worry about that effect as long as you’re wearing your pendants. Now, see the colour of the potion in the cauldron?”
“Yeah, it’s red,” said John.
“That means both of the CCTV cameras covering this section of the street are pointed this way. There, it just turned yellow, one of the cameras is turned away … and green, now neither camera is covering it.” She strode confidently over to the door and pushed it open, ushering the others through. Dean brought up the rear and the group moved out of the way so several patrons could exit the pub. She turned and pointed to a candle burning with a green flame in a sconce above the door. “Same thing going out. If you don’t want to be seen going out, wait until the candle flame is green before you open the door.”
“Why all the precautions?” asked John.
“Most of the time it doesn’t matter. But there are times this pub gets far too much traffic for what it looks like. And, ah, persons of interest to the ‘British government’ might not wish to be seen ducking in and out too often. There are a number of other places with similar issues. We’ll pick up guide books for all of you showing the major locations you’ll have to know and the instructions for getting in without being noticed.”
“I’m going to have to learn London all over again, aren’t I?” Sherlock complained.
“Somehow I think you’ll be up to the challenge,” she said, smiling. “Consider yourself lucky; the guide books are new – twenty years ago, we had to learn all this on the fly. Now, this is the official beginning of it. Welcome to wizarding London!” she said, with an expansive gesture that took in the entire pub.
John and Mary both gawked, and John at least was sure that Sherlock would have really liked to gawk but felt it beneath his dignity. The room was large, much larger than they would have guessed from the narrow street frontage, and filled with life. A long bar took up one side, there were large and small tables and a few shadowed nooks for privacy, and a large staircase indicated that there was more space upstairs, where there should have been a law office by John’s reckoning. The tables were filled with people eating, drinking and chatting – some people wearing clothing of a style that had been antique centuries ago, others as stylish as Sherlock, most somewhere in between. A tray bearing plates of sandwiches, home-made crisps and glasses of beer went sailing past them without benefit of a waitress to carry it, landing on a table on the far side of the room. The air was redolent with the odours of good cooking, good beer, and centuries of patronage. While they were looking around, the small fire in the large fireplace suddenly flared up brilliant green, and a woman walked out through it, followed by several children. The flames died back down to their previous state and the family settled down at one of the tables, apparently ready to enjoy a casual luncheon.
“The Leaky has been located on this spot since 1500 or so,” said Hermione, raising her voice a little to be heard over the cheerful din. “As a matter of fact, the street had to be routed around it when the area was renovated in the early 1900’s. It’s the major interface between the wizarding and Muggle worlds. If you like, we can sit down for a bit on our way out of the Alley. It’ll be less crowded then. Follow me, please.”
She escorted the little group to the back of the pub and out through the door into a small, grimy courtyard complete with overflowing waste bins and some weeds. Crossing to the far wall, she pulled out her wand. “This is the official entrance to Diagon Alley. We use our wands to gain entrance; you can use your pendants the same way.” She tapped the tip of her wand three times on one of the bricks, and it wiggled and flipped and revealed a small hole. The adjoining bricks also flipped away, and the hole got bigger, and shortly there was an archway which revealed a cobbled street that twisted between old-fashioned buildings and turned out of sight. Crowds of shoppers moved from one store to the next, most of them accompanied by one or more children. The place looked like a scene out of a Shakespearean drama with a bunch of extras anachronistically clad in modern clothing.
Mary clapped her hands in delight while John just looked about and breathed “oh my God” several times in succession. Sherlock was trying to pretend he wasn’t trying to look at everything at once and failing miserably; there was so much new and unusual that even (or perhaps especially) the preternaturally observant detective was having difficulties.
“Oh, right, the school letters just came out yesterday,” Dean said.
“I planned on it. Nobody will take notice of a few extra non-magicals more or less in this mob,” Hermione said. She plunged into the mass of people, and willy-nilly they followed.
“How do you fit this all here?” Sherlock asked. “There’s no space for it all.” He was comparing his mental map of London with his estimate of the space needed for just the part of the Alley he could see, and it just wasn’t possible.
“Magic, Sherlock,” Hermione replied with a grin. “As I understand it, space is flexible, and we just borrow some that isn’t being used for anything else. The bits that get squeezed out of black holes, maybe. Dr. Hawking could probably tell you. We can do the same thing with mass and some forms of energy. Time is trickier and more likely to cause problems, so most people don’t try.”
“But you have?”
“A bit. Here and there. I wouldn’t recommend it.”
For someone as attuned to his senses, as used to seeing and categorizing everything as Sherlock, Diagon Alley was a special kind of hell. The only reason he was able to pick out the unusual detail he did in his observations was because it was framed against a background of the normal. As he’d told Lestrade, it was the things out of place that attracted the attention: the cut of the suit, the corgi hair on the suit, not the fact that the suit itself existed. Here there was nothing normal. The buildings were strangely proportioned; nothing was in straight lines or right angles and even the window glass was not flat – many of the windows were old-fashioned hand-blown glass which distorted reflections. The street itself was cobbled and the footing uneven. Though there were still other streets like that in London, they were far from common. The people on the street wore clothing in peculiar mixes of antique styles and unusual colour combinations and fabrics and spoke with accents he couldn’t quite place (population isolated for generations, linguistic drift, right). There were stores selling cauldrons (collapsible and self-stirring?), astronomical equipment (brass telescopes, and is that an orrery?), a pet store (no, a specialty owl store, the pet store is further down the street – he wondered briefly if Gwenhwyfar had originally come from that very store). There was even an old-fashioned apothecary, and here he was diverted by the supplies of animal and plant parts in open bins – specimens of creatures and herbs that he’d never heard of before, oh the experiments he could do! He practically had to be dragged out with the promise that they would return after John had seen the Healer, that was what they were there for!
By the time they reached the Healer’s clinic or surgery or whatever they called it, Sherlock had a pounding headache and could barely stand on his own, and it was quite obvious that it wasn’t John that was going to be seeing the Healer first – it took John and Dean both to carry him up the winding stairs to the second-story office flat.
Dr. Mallard was waiting for them, clad in normal clothes but wearing a doctor’s coat in a hideous shade of green over it. “Auror Granger, good to – Good heavens, what happened to him?”
“Don’t know, he just collapsed on the way in. It was faster to bring him here than St. Mungo’s.”
“Get him into the examination room; we’ll see if we can set him to rights.”
The whole group of them crowded into the exam room, with nobody complaining about patient privacy. They sat Sherlock down on a cot which then levitated to a reasonable examination height with a swish and flick of the wand Ducky produced from a pocket designed for it in his jacket. John found himself checking one of Sherlock’s dilated pupils while Ducky examined the other. Pulse-taking and other basic examination procedures seemed to be the same in both worlds, but then Ducky waved the wand again and coloured lights started flashing around Sherlock, which made both John and Sherlock wince.
“What’s wrong?” Hermione asked anxiously.
“Sensory overload, causing a migraine, which in turn increases sensitivity to sensory input, which makes the overload and then the migraine worse. I thought he was a Muggle?”
“He is, yes.”
“This looks like a magical syndrome – Noumenal Headache. Most common among Muggleborn children on their first exposure to the wizarding world, but also seen in adults who’ve spent a lot of time in the Muggle world or a weak wizard brought inside the aura of a very powerful one. Sudden change in the amount of magical energy temporarily unbalances the mana flow, causing pressure in … well, that’s all technical, but the point is, he shouldn’t be reacting this way if he’s a normal Muggle.”
“He’s Sherlock Holmes – he doesn’t do normal,” muttered John. “Never has done. Oh, God.” This last as Sherlock leaned over the edge of the cot and vomited on the floor and John’s shoes. Fortunately there wasn’t much, as Sherlock hadn’t eaten since breakfast the day before.
Ducky Vanished the mess with a single flick of the wand, but that just made Sherlock groan again.
“Yes. Definitely Noumenal.” Another flick, a flash of light, a groan.
“Could you stop doing that and just give him the medication?” John was now getting a headache as well, probably from the tension, and his temper was getting even shorter than it normally was.
“There’s a small problem. The potion is poisonous for Muggles. Lethal, in fact. So we need to find out exactly what he is before we can treat him.”
“Just give me the damn potion!” Sherlock moaned. “Death can’t be worse than this!”
“Drama queen!” John snorted.
“No, he is truly that miserable. But let’s try something first,” said Ducky. He left the examination room briefly and came back holding a small black velvet bag in his hand. “Hold out your dominant hand, Mr. Holmes.”
Sherlock complied, flopping his right hand out limply. Ducky opened the flap on the bag and rolled a translucent black stone, the size of a large marble, out into his palm. The stone promptly turned purple and faint flickers of gold, silver and red appeared, vanished, appeared weakly, and vanished again. Then the stone turned grey and opaque, with a few hints of purple.
Ducky’s face became thunderous. “That … is … obscene!” he growled.
“Somebody … and whoever it was will be going to Azkaban for the rest of their life if I have anything to say about it … somebody took a wizarding baby and bound his magic to suppress it so deeply he doesn’t even register as a squib. He’s lucky it didn’t kill him as a child. Or break free and destroy everything around him. Who could have done this? Is his family even partly magical?”
“He’s adopted,” said John shortly. “Non-magical family.” He didn’t tell Ducky the details. Let them think it was an infant adoption.
“Ah. He’d be in his mid-thirties? There was a lot of unrest back then, at the end of the first war,” said Ducky with a sigh. “Somebody probably thought that was best for him, regardless of what side of the war they were on. Better off Muggle than dead …. We had so many orphaned ‘Muggleborns’ showing up then … Well, at least that means I can treat him properly now. His physiology is still magical, anyway.”
And indeed, the administration of a cloudy green potion that Sherlock claimed tasted like peppermint sweat socks got him back on his feet in less than five minutes. He still felt a little shaky, but Ducky prescribed a trip to the ice cream parlour to get his energy levels back in line. “Make sure it’s something with chocolate; it’s a strong general restorative after experiencing a magical shock.”
“So Sherlock really is a wizard? Why couldn’t the Unspeakables tell?” asked Hermione.
“The binding would have hidden all traces of his magic. It isn’t so much that he is a wizard as that he will be a wizard when the binding spell finishes coming off, you see. He’s somewhere in between right now. Something like that doesn’t come off all at once; it would be too much of a shock. There are stages for release. At least three, and sometimes as many as thirteen, depending on the spell used. I’ll send him home with a couple of extra doses of potion, just in case. He shouldn’t need more than that.”
“Why is this happening now? Is it because we brought him into the Alley?”
“No, I’d say it may have been fraying for a long time, but the release happened a few days to a few weeks ago, perhaps. I know he was involved with the Dursley case, perhaps there was something at the murder scene that might have done it – a booby trap or something like that. Or he may have accidentally stumbled across an incantation or password to trigger the release – these spells usually have something of the sort.”
“Oh. Oh!” Hermione got exactly the same look on her face as Sherlock did when pieces of a puzzle came together. “The labyrinth! Sherlock, did you touch that at all? Did you run it?”
“I ran it with my finger once, like you did.”
“Feel anything unusual when you did it?”
“It took a lot of effort. I was exhausted after. Couldn’t stop once I started, though.”
“That’s it! You accessed the magic sink too! You used Harry’s magic to start breaking the binding – that’s why you have his labyrinth on your pendant! Because it’s reading his magic, not yours!”
“So does that mean that Sherlock can find Harry by the magical Law of Association?” asked Mary.
“I’m sorry, magical what now?”
“’Two things, once connected, remain connected even if they’re separated.’” Mary recited.
“Where did you get that?”
“Um, I found it on the internet.”
“Oh, oh, the non-magical understanding of … well, no, that may work for quantum physics and particle things, but not for magic, not really. Good thought, though,” said Hermione.
“Oh. Just thought it might help.”
John cleared his throat and gave his crestfallen wife a hug. “Welcome to my world.”
A chair from the waiting room was floated in so Sherlock could get off the table and sit for a bit, and Ducky turned to John. “Now I understand that you were put under a Lesser Confunding Charm yesterday and want to make sure there are no lasting effects?”
“All right, I’ll do a quick Revealing Charm – that will tell us if there are any ongoing magical effects on you at all; I don’t expect there will be, from something as simple as that, but you never can tell what else there might be.”
“Oh, Dean and Sherlock made me take one of those Calming things yesterday, will that make a difference?”
“Standard Calming Draught?” Ducky asked Dean.
“Muggle-safe version, yeah,” the tall Auror answered.
“That will have cleared your system by now. Sit up on the table, please. Ready?”
“As I’ll ever be,” muttered John. The way he steeled himself, it was more like he was preparing himself to be shot again than to have a diagnostic spell cast on him.
“Specialis Revelio!” cast Ducky, and John winced as a white aura flashed around him briefly.
“No spell traces, but how are you feeling?”
“I’ve just got a touch of a headache myself, is all.”
Ducky frowned. “Do me a favour, John.” He picked up the velvet bag from where he’d put it on the instrument table. “Dominant hand, please.”
John held out his left hand, which for once actually was trembling, and Ducky let the stone spill out into his palm. The black crystal developed a hint of red sparkle in the centre.
“So what does this mean? Is there a spell, or what?”
“Would you put that stone in Miss Granger’s hand, John?”
John obligingly tipped the stone into Hermione’s hand. It burst into brilliant, scintillating blue-white light filled with specks and sparks of gold and silver and rainbow colours. Ducky held out his own hand and Hermione tipped the stone into his palm. The light dimmed somewhat, became filled with greens and reds and golds. He passed it to Dean, and the light dimmed again, just a tiny bit – the colours changing to a deep blood red with sparks of black and silver. Dean looked at Ducky, who nodded, then he held out his hand to Mary, who hesitantly held out her palm. Dean tipped the stone into it. The light went away completely – the stone was dark and opaque and drab. It didn’t even have the purple crystals that Sherlock’s did. Sadly, she tipped it back into John’s hand. Once again, it became black with the red sparkle.
“It means, John, that once upon a time, somewhere in your family history, there was a wizard or a witch. Possibly more than one. But just as magic can spring up in entirely Muggle families, as in Miss Granger’s family, it can spontaneously vanish from a magical line – sometimes completely, sometimes leaving just a trace. You have magic, John. Not enough to cast spells, you’re not a wizard. More what we’d call a squib. Looks like you’ve got a bit of Noumenal Headache yourself – a dose of paracetamol and some chocolate wouldn’t hurt, but don’t try taking Mr. Holmes’ potion. You don’t have enough magic to tolerate it.”
Mary and Hermione simultaneously produced bottles of headache medication out of their bags, and John dry swallowed the pills. Hopefully that would start to have an effect soon. Chocolate would have to wait.
“My great-grandmother on my father’s father’s side. Emma, her name was,” John said slowly. “They said she was a hedge-witch. She was a midwife. Sold potions to break fevers, relieve the pain of childbirth, cure the dropsy, drive off illness, ease the dying. Her son – my grandfather Hamish – became a doctor. Said she taught him more than university ever did. I became a doctor because of his example. And now … it was magic?”
“No, it was medicine. Two days ago, you reminded me of the origins of digitalis – possibly that very potion your ancestress used for ‘dropsy’ – edema caused by congestive heart failure. John, I’m a healer in both worlds. I’m a half-blood – half-and-half, actually. I went to Hogwarts, though I have records that say Eton, learned my magic, did three years of Healer training, and then returned to the Muggle world to study and trained at the University of Edinburgh. I’ve straddled the line between worlds since then. It hasn’t always been easy, but that was my calling. As it is yours, and it doesn’t matter what methods we use or what names we call ourselves.”
“But if I can’t use it … what good is it?”
“I didn’t say you couldn’t use it. I suspect you have been, all your life. I didn’t ask about your medical history when you came here; that was an oversight because we were dealing with your friend’s emergency. Now I’ll ask you, though, how many times were you ill as a child?”
“Not at all. Not even the chicken pox, and everybody gets that. I got perfect attendance marks in school, except for the year I broke my leg playing rugby and was out for a week.”
“And how well did that injury, and other injuries you’ve had, heal?”
“Ah, remarkably well, actually. And fast. Until, well, Afghanistan.”
“I read your blog yesterday. Fascinating, actually. How many times have you been injured, hit on the head, drugged, in the course of your adventures? Including the ones you didn’t write about?”
“Don’t forget the smoke inhalation,” added Mary, helpfully.
“No, can’t forget that, certainly. Far too many times.”
“And how much neurological damage would you say you display as a result of cumulative trauma? Joint pain, lung damage, liver issues? You know how it works, in a patient with your medical history, what would you expect?”
“Oh, um …” John chewed on his lower lip for a moment while he thought about it. “You know, I’m surprised I’m not a basket case by now.”
“Some would say you are a basket case – you hang around with me,” put in Sherlock.
“True enough. The only real long-term damage I’ve got is the shoulder. You know, and the nerve damage in that arm.”
“I suspect that what magic you have is going to keeping you alive and repairing damage as it’s incurred – you’ve been keeping it very busy. It’s not instant – it just helps you heal a bit faster and a bit more thoroughly than you would have otherwise. It’s also boosting your immune system, and I expect extending your life span, assuming you don’t do anything stupid or immediately fatal. You’re probably in the sweet spot where you have enough magic to protect you from Muggle illnesses, but not enough to make you vulnerable to magical ones. Will you let me do a check for you?”
“Just … like a checkup? Sure, if we have time.”
“It’ll just take a few moments.”
He rolled a sheet of fine white paper out on the examination table and asked John to lie down on it, face up. Then he cast some spells, murmuring softly in what sounded like Greek, and the paper glowed momentarily. The process was repeated on another sheet with John lying face down. He didn’t even have to take his shirt off. Both papers were whisked off the table and stuck to the wall – each showed a ghostly shadow outline of John’s body, with a few markings in various colours.
John studied the papers carefully. The most noticeable marks were a grouping of red lines radiating from a circular mark on his left shoulder, front and back. Two red rectangular patches crossed the network of fine lines where his shoulder blade lay under the scarred skin and muscle. There were also some pink marks on his right femur – a line going through the bone and a mottled area above and below the line – and a blue shadow inside his skull. That one drew his attention, and his mouth went just a little bit dry.
“As I thought. John, you are in remarkable physical condition, given your activities.”
Sherlock had to agree; he suspected his own record, if he had Ducky do this, would be far from pretty.
“You’re not showing any signs of the degenerative conditions from aging common to Muggles,” Ducky continued, “and you’ve healed well from your various injuries. May I see your shoulder?”
John unbuttoned and stripped his shirt off, trying to ignore his audience; Mary and Sherlock had both seen the scars, but he barely knew Dean and Hermione. Neither of them gasped or flinched or looked horrified – obviously both of them had seen injuries of the sort and Hermione bore a scar that was worse than his, if he was honest.
Ducky performed a quick and very thorough evaluation of his shoulder, palpating the scars on both sides, testing the flexibility of the joint and the strength of the arm and hand, comparing it to the right. He cast something over the shoulder – and wasn’t it amazing how fast John had adapted to that, his paranoia was almost gone – and a feeling of warmth filled the shoulder and crept down the arm to his fingers. When he tested again, the left arm was perceptibly stronger than it had been. Ducky then raised his wand to the side of John’s head.
John startled, and raised his hand to fend it away. Ducky waited for a moment, and John lowered his hand and nodded, closing his eyes so he wouldn’t see Ducky running the tip of his wand close to John’s skull. After a moment, the older doctor said “Done” softly and stepped away when John opened his eyes again. He gestured for John to put his shirt back on.
“You realise how lucky you were, do you not? An inch or two either way …”
“I could have bled out from the subclavian artery or the lung and never made it back to base, or had a shattered joint, yes.”
“Not to mention the sequelae. The real reason you were sent home.”
Sherlock looked up abruptly. “I thought the limp, the tremor …”
“Not enough to get me discharged,” John said harshly. “The army could have used me as a GP or an administrator if I couldn’t work as a surgeon. They need doctors and wouldn’t be stupid enough to cashier a good one just because of a simple tremor.”
“If they discharged everybody with PTSD, they’d have no army left. There are plenty of non-combat positions available and plenty of military therapists to help you deal. They only discharge you if you’re basically non-functional. No, it was the, ah, opportunistic infections afterward. Staph. aureus is a nasty little bugger. It’s on the skin and on the bullet, gets into the bloodstream, finds a weak point … two days later you’re dead or dying of a massive infection somewhere completely different from the original wound.”
“Osteomyelitis in the femur, settling where the previous break was. Successfully treated, but caused quite a bit of pain at the time,” said Ducky.
Sherlock’s eyes widened in surprise.
“Yeah, the infection was resolved by the time I met you and the pain was mostly in my head, but the original cause was real. The limp failed me for fitness for service in the field, but again, they could have worked around that, assigning me to a military hospital here at home, for example.” He tapped his index finger on the blue mark inside the ghostly outline of his skull. “That right there is why they kicked me out.”
“A brain abscess causing a seizure or seizures,” said Ducky. “Quite serious at the time, I imagine. You’ve been under continued observation ever since, am I right? Especially with your penchant for further injuries?”
“Yes.” John sighed. “Even one seizure disqualifies you from serving in any role for ten years. Even the Reserves. I was seizing off and on for over a week. No way in hell they’d let me stay.”
“But it’s been years since you had a seizure, hasn’t it?”
“Not since they resolved the infections and released me from hospital. It’s been five years, they even let me drive now. Although if I ever have another, my driving days are over permanently.”
“No cognitive, sensory or behavioural after-effects?”
“Some synaesthesia at first, but that was gone in a few months.”
“Well, then I believe I have good news for you. Your magic has been essentially prioritising and dealing with the most crucial injuries first. The brain injury was most important to resolve, and so it has. I doubt if it would even show on a Muggle brain scan now, aside from a very faint shadow. Another year and likely even that will be gone. As you can see, there are no other marks indicating brain injury, so you’ve been resolving concussion damage, if any, as you go. You needn’t fear developing epilepsy or any other seizure disorder in the future – not from this, anyway.”
John let out a long, shuddering breath and his shoulders relaxed – he hadn’t really been aware how much tension he was carrying with him. Mary gave him a warm hug.
“That leaves the shoulder. Quite frankly, the reason you’re still having difficulties with it is because of the original treatment. There were places the bone had to be pinned and plated, surgical staples inserted, and so on – these little red bits on the scan. Those are no longer needed and your body is trying to find ways to get rid of them. Hence inflammation, irritation of the nerves, muscular weakness, and so forth.”
“So if all that were removed?”
“You could heal naturally. Perhaps a quarter dose of Skele-gro to fill in the chips and cracks in the scapula and strengthen the femur. We can reduce the amount of scar tissue, which is what’s really limiting your range of motion, but keep just enough for cosmetic purposes – can’t have people wondering why such an injury would disappear completely, can we? Muscle density and endurance would have to be gained back with exercise and use, of course, but I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t get full use of the arm and hand back.”
“I could be a surgeon again?”
“You could now. It’s only your own insecurity that’s holding you back. I’m sure they’ll make you recertify, but that won’t be a problem if you’re motivated.”
“Motivated? You bet your arse I’m motivated! What would it take? How long would I be out of action?”
Ducky looked towards Hermione, who nodded. “A squib would normally come very low on the list for elective treatment, but the DMLE can authorize our consultants jumping the queue,” she said.
“I’ll contact St. Mungo’s tomorrow morning, then,” said Ducky. “With luck I can get you in tomorrow afternoon; Tuesday at the latest. The procedure is simple and should take less than an hour. The Skele-gro will require an overnight for observation, and you’ll be out the next morning with a plan for therapy and exercise. The rest will be up to you.”
“One day?” John asked, unbelieving.
“The great advantage to magic is its efficiency,” said Ducky, with a smile. “We have an interface with the NHS for those who live in the Muggle world, so we’ll just backdate some records to make it look like you’ve been participating in a program of minor surgery and therapy for some months, and nobody will ever question it. Come along, we’ll get the paperwork started.” Ducky shrank the two diagnostic pages down to a standard stationery size and took the group to his office, which looked much like any other doctor’s office except for the use of real wood everywhere. He opened up standard NHS folders for John and Sherlock, with notations about John’s prospective surgery and a diagnosis of “Migraine Headache” and treatment notes for Sherlock.
“I don’t want special treatment …” said John.
“You’re going to be working as a consultant on a vitally important project with the Ministry,” said Hermione. “It’s in the interests of the DMLE to make sure all its employees and consultants are in tip-top shape. I’m sure Yard personnel get first billing, too.”
“Yeah, but we don’t.”
“You should. Really, this is something you’re entitled to anyway, as newly-discovered members of the magical community. Which reminds me, we should take you down to the Ministry and register you – possibly we could track down your great-grandmother and see if she comes from any of the recognized family lines, or just leave it as a squib line of unknown origin. There are plenty of those. Sherlock, once your magic is fully unbound we can do the same for you – just by looking at you, I’d say there’s a chance you descend from the House of Black, but there are a few other Houses you could have been born to as well. We can check the Blacks, anyway, I have a connection there. Or we could list you as an undiscovered Muggleborn if you prefer that. Start the House of Holmes. There are advantages either way. You will have to get a wand and at least basic training – it would be very dangerous to have someone with an adult’s magical capabilities and no control.”
“Blowing up the office and so forth?”
“Assuming this consultancy works out,” said Ducky, “there’s something else you might consider, John. I’m already past the mandatory retirement age for the Yard, and there’s only so far I can stretch ‘semi-retirement’ to keep my hand in. I’m going to have to move into the wizarding world entirely soon. The DMLE doesn’t have anyone else in place to do my job. Given your skills, it wouldn’t take much to get you in place to do what I do – which is to report any obviously magical homicides to the DMLE so they can be addressed properly. It would be part-time but steady work and more interesting than working in a surgery doing flu shots. That might get you and your partner some interesting cases, as well. It turns out you’ve run across one or two of ours already.”
“Which ones?” Sherlock asked eagerly.
“That ‘werewolf’ case last summer, for example.”
“Animal mutilator obsessed with the werewolf mythos, killed three large dogs on successive full moons,” Sherlock rattled off. “The Yard was concerned he’d escalate to human beings, but it just stopped.”
“Real werewolf. Sixteen year old boy, attacked while on holiday in Germany, traumatized and ashamed and unable to deal with what had happened to him. We tracked him down and got him a mentor and put him into a treatment program. He’s going into his seventh year at Hogwarts next month.”
Sherlock blinked. Werewolf treatment programs? More things to find out about. “That’s good to know.”
Dean spoke up unexpectedly. “It’d be good to have a Muggle doctor in the know for our families, too, in case of emergencies. Turns out you’ve already done my family a good turn, John. I know you do good work.”
“Bainbridge,” said Sherlock suddenly. “Private Stephen Bainbridge. There’s a distinct resemblance.”
Dean smiled. “My younger half-brother. We both take after Mum. John saved his life when he was stabbed by a stalker last summer,” he explained to Ducky and Hermione. “I thought it might have been him yesterday, but I called Steve up last night to verify before I said anything.”
“He recovered well, then?”
“Minor damage to one kidney, but complete recovery otherwise. So thanks on behalf of our whole family. I know you don’t have a practice of your own, but I think if you did set one up, the Muggle family network would send you a lot of patients.”
Hermione nodded. “My dad got a lot of patients that way too, before he and Mum retired. They’re dentists,” she added.
“I’ll … we’ll consider it, thank you,” said John. “Um, one last thing while I’m thinking about it, Ducky … Mary and I have a daughter. She’s seven months old. Is it possible that she’s, ah …”
“Magical? It’s too early to tell now, but if she is, it should show between the ages of two and four – trust me, you’ll recognize it when you see it. If it doesn’t show, then bring her in when she’s about five and we’ll check to see if she’s a squib or a Muggle. We won’t be able to tell the difference until then. The same goes for any additional children you have, of course.”
“I … we’re not quite ready to think about that, just yet.”
“Of course. Something to consider, though. There are subsidies for Muggle and squib parents of wizarding children nowadays. To cover additional costs, schooling, damage to the house, that sort of thing.”
“We’ll keep that in mind. You’ll let me know about the hospital, then?”
“As soon as I have a firm time.”
Mobile numbers were exchanged all around, and soon they were back on the (incredibly crowded) street.
“Next stop?” asked John.
“Book store. I want to get you those guidebooks.”
“Would they have any of the books on Harry Potter you mentioned?” asked Sherlock.
“Of course they do. Best sellers, most of them, even though they’re pure fiction. I’ll pick up a couple of the more reliable ones for you.”
“I’ll pay for my own…”
“Expense account,” she said, waving it off. “You’ll need the background information. The current editions of Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts and Modern Magical History, at the very least. Harry Potter: The Early Years is rubbish but will show you what people are thinking, and of course there’s the definitive Harry at Hogwarts: Four Years a Hero.”
“I wrote it myself. As far as I know, I’m the only author of a Harry Potter book who ever even met him. Well, except Rita Skeeter, but she’s a hack. The publisher picked the title, though. Somehow they didn’t think Safe as Houses: An Analysis of Extraordinary Survival Strategies at Hogwarts would sell very well.”
“I can’t imagine why not,” said Sherlock.
“Think we could get that autographed?” asked John with a laugh.
“You know, I think you probably could,” Hermione replied, smirking.
The book store was packed with parents and children buying stacks of textbooks and supplementary reading materials; the shrieking and yelling drove them out again as fast as they could grab their books and leave. Sherlock was appalled by a garish ‘Harry Potter Birthday SALE!!!’ display featuring books and a variety of memorabilia and souvenir trash. Hermione just nodded at it and commented, “You see what we meant?”
The ice-cream parlour just down the street was called Fortescue’s. The ice cream Hermione ordered for Sherlock and John (and Mary, once she caught wind of it) was called Medicinal Chocolate. It was rich and dark and bitter and had only the minimal cream in it necessary to qualify as “ice cream”. It was wonderful, and the warm darkness of it spread through their bodies and drove off the last lingering traces of their headaches. John had two bowls of it. Sherlock had three.
While the last of the ice cream was being scraped out of the dishes, Hermione asked, “What do you think about meeting some of the other people who knew Harry?”
“Some. But I had in mind some of the adults who knew him then. His godfather, in particular.”
“His godfather? There’s more family, then?”
“Not on the Muggle side – maybe some distant cousins, but not close enough to matter. On the wizarding side – well, James Potter was a Pureblood, and that means everybody is related to everybody else through very complex interlocking family trees – even the Dark and Light sides cross. Harry’s godfather was James Potter’s best friend – and also second cousin, but from families on either side of the political divide. Sirius’s family was traditionally Dark, but he deserted and allied with James, who was on the Light side. Though both of them were pretty Grey actually, if you ask me. Sirius was supposed to take care of Harry if anything happened to James and Lily.”
“So why didn’t he? How did Harry wind up at the Dursleys?”
“It’s a long story. Short version: Sirius was wrongly accused of colluding with You-Know-Who, betraying Harry’s parents and multiple murders, unjustly imprisoned without trial for twelve years, escaped from the inescapable prison, and spent seven years in hiding before his name was finally cleared. It’s a little hard to take custody of your godson when all that’s going on.”
“I can see that, yes. But even though he was in hiding, he still knew Harry? And has he been involved in the search for him as well?”
“They were only in contact a few times during third and fourth years that I know of. But those few times were significant for Harry. And for Sirius – he loved – loves – him deeply. I told him about the labyrinth, what it means, last night. He broke down crying – something he hasn’t done since just after Harry vanished. As for searching for him, Sirius hasn’t been able to help directly. He doesn’t have Muggle world contacts. What he’s been doing, is heading up the fight against You-Know-Who.”
“You mean Vol-” Sherlock started to say.
Hermione shushed him fiercely. “No! Don’t say it in public. In private is fine, but too many people … it could attract the wrong sort of attention.”
“Followers? In the crowd?” Sherlock glanced around.
“Possibly, but it’s more everybody else. It could start a panic. I told you yesterday, people are so afraid of him, they’re afraid of the name itself.”
“Magical thinking.” Hermione shrugged. “It’s understandable, in context. This has been going on for a generation, now. It’s marked all of us. Even if it were to end tomorrow, given the lifespans of wizards, it may take centuries for the impact to fade.”
“Magic again, Sherlock. It supports us, sustains us. The more powerful you are, the longer you’re likely to live – accidents and acts of malice excepted.” She nodded across the table at John, who was giggling with Mary over the moving pictures in one of the guide books. “Your friend – all other things being equal, as a Squib he’s likely to be healthy and active into his 90’s. Then one day he’ll just – stop. As a wizard, you can expect to reach a century at least based on what the crystal showed today, but probably more depending on your final power level. Right now you’re low end, but we don’t know how much more will be unlocked.”
“I saw how bright the crystal was when you held it. Was that a relative measure of your – power level?”
She nodded. “Yes. It’s generally considered rude to ask about it, sort of like talking about money is, or used to be at any rate, in the Muggle world. But you need to know, and you’d ask anyway, rude be damned – I know your reputation.”
“Nice to know I’ve been thoroughly researched.” Though apparently not thoroughly enough.
“I always do my research, Mr. Holmes,” she said archly. “I’m famous for it. The crystal gives you a rough, but visible, estimate of power level, and the colours in it give a hint as to what your particular talents and specialties are likely to be.”
“You had a lot of colours in yours.”
“I’m pretty good at just about everything. A Jill of all trades, mistress of none. And the brightness shows that I’m well above average in power,” she said, blushing a bit. “That makes me very, very dangerous. My expected life span could be up around 150, but I probably won’t make a century, because I threaten too many other people.”
“You’re very matter-of-fact about it.”
“Logic, Sherlock. I’m just being realistic. A century is more than a non-magical can usually expect, so anything over that will be gravy. Over and above that, we’re at war. I’m a very high-risk target. Even if I was just a housewife, I’d be in danger. So, quite likely, will you be. Until it’s over, none of us can predict our lifespans anyway.”
“Given the way my life has gone, I never expected to make it much past thirty in the first place,” Sherlock commented. “I was about that when I met John, and I haven’t been able to recalculate since then. Too many variables.” Time to change the subject while not changing the subject. “How about Harry Potter? You’ve said he was powerful. Was he ever tested with that crystal?”
“The crystal hadn’t been invented yet when he disappeared, and I don’t know what its upper limits are. Empirical study of magic is in its infancy, you see – it’s still more an art form than a science. Most people assume Harry’s power level because of his defeat of You-Know-Who when he was a baby. When we were in school, I witnessed a few events that indicated just how powerful he could be when he was pressed, and that was before he’d come into his full ability, which should have happened when he turned seventeen, plus or minus a few months. Details are in my book. What I saw placed Harry, at thirteen, already on an equal level with You-Know-Who and the Headmaster of our school, Albus Dumbledore, who were held to be the strongest alive at that time. Dumbledore’s dead now, so that leaves You-Know-Who and Harry, whatever level he topped out at. If we tested him with the crystal, I’d expect him to either blow it up or blind everybody in the room. As for his expected lifespan – who knows? Two centuries? More?”
She looked down to her empty bowl of ice cream and circled the rim with one delicate finger, scooping up a trace of chocolate sauce to lick it off her fingertip. “And that … is another reason we have retreated. Why we don’t keep contact with the non-magical world. It’s one thing for the Purebloods – their families, friends, are likely to live as long as they do. For us, for the Muggleborn, to outlive our siblings, our friends – it’s one reason we start separating in school, when we’re just children, we can accept it … by the time we’re adults we’ve already pretty much completed the withdrawal process. Harry … Harry hasn’t. If he’s made any kind of a life for himself, if he chooses to stay in the non-magical world, he’ll watch it age and die around him.”
She raised her gaze to meet Sherlock’s, and there were tears sparkling in her lashes. “As will you, most likely. You’re likely to outlive Mary, John, maybe even their children. I have to say – when Ducky gave you that crystal – I was sorry for the results. You didn’t ask for this, I mean, nobody does, but – to find magic as a child, to gain this whole new world, that’s amazing. Brilliant. And you don’t notice that the old world doesn’t have a place for you any more as you gradually grow into the new one. As an adult … I can’t even imagine the trauma.”
Sherlock reached across the table and patted her hand awkwardly. “And yet people move from culture to culture all the time and most manage to adapt. I dare say I’ll manage well enough. Certainly better now that I’ve been forewarned.”
Sherlock forced them to stop at the apothecary before they left the Alley, leaving with a supply of basic potions ingredients to play with and a book of simple formulas. Hermione assured John that none of them were poisonous, though she couldn’t guarantee that there wouldn’t be the occasional explosion if Sherlock started combining random items. John shuddered and started calculating how much it would cost to reinforce the ceiling of the basement lab. Not to mention fireproofing everything.
The Leaky Cauldron was still as crowded as it had been before, and their treat at Fortescue’s had dulled their appetites, so they re-entered the non-magical world reluctantly. Even after only one afternoon’s excursion, their perceptions had changed so much that it was John who looked both ways up and down the street and then huffed: “Boring.”
“Where to now? The godfather?” Sherlock asked Hermione. “Would he be expecting us?”
“I told him we might come. And there will be people showing up for dinner anyway – it’s the Anniversary tonight, and Sirius doesn’t like to be alone for that. Are you all right with that?”
“I don’t know. I keep feeling like I’ve fallen down the rabbit-hole, and I’m just waiting for the sudden stop at the end,” he said.