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The Case of the Missing Wizard
Chapter 5. Special Crimes Unit
A late lunch was barely over when Lestrade called again. He was blunt and didn’t waste time on preliminaries. “Sherlock.Bad news. We’re being pulled off the Dursley case.”
“What do you mean, ‘off’? By whom?” Sherlock put it on speaker for John and Mary’s benefit.
“Well, it seems it’s been kicked a couple steps higher than us. Special Crimes Unit is taking it over. They’ve already collected the bodies; my people are packing up all our files, notes, samples and evidence for them.” Lestrade’s voice sounded bitter. “I know I promised to work with you on this, but it’s out of my hands. Maybe, if we’re very good boys, they’ll let us know how it worked out. But I wouldn’t count on it.”
“No, that’s fine; I’ll keep working it from my end. I have copies of all the evidence, and—”
“Sherlock, I’m sorry. When I say ‘off’, I mean all the way off. And you too, not just the Yard. Look, they already knew you were involved, and they’re coming to pick up your stuff, too. Probably make you delete your files while they’re at it – and if you don’t do a total deletion voluntarily, they’ll arrange for a nasty accident to happen to your hard drive. SCU really don’t like civilians involved.”
“How can I not be involved at this point?” Sherlock paused and took a deep breath. “Did you tell them about my … connection to the situation?”
“No. They didn’t ask, and I figured that was up to you to do if you wanted. I even pulled the fingerprint card and Anderson’s written report out of the file. I’ll have him rewrite it without reference to you before we turn it over. That’s the best I can do to protect you. Personally, I don’t trust SCU as far as I can throw them – none of us do – but they’re the top investigative unit in the country – specialize in the really weird cases – and if they want the case, they get it. End of story.”
“I’ve never heard of them before, and some of our cases have been plenty weird.”
“You generally solve things so fast they don’t have time to get in on it. And they pick and choose the things they do go after – everything from confidence scams and fortune-teller fraud all the way up to arson, murder and terrorist attacks. If the Baskerville thing had been a Yard case, they’d have been all over it in a heartbeat. And we might or might not have seen Henry Knight ever again.”
“This isn’t a police group, then. Who is it really? MI5? I wouldn’t be surprised, this sounds like something Mycroft might pull …”
“It’s not MI5. We know them, and this isn’t them. Look, just box your stuff up for them and let it go. I’d really hate to see you disappear along with the files. You can expect two DIs to show up at your place probably in fifteen minutes or so. They just left here, so it’ll take them at least that long to get there. Male is named Thomas, female is Granger. He’s tall and black, she’s short and white with her hair in a bun. She did most of the talking. This pair is at least pretending to be polite, not like the last couple of times SCU grabbed a case from me. Cooperate with them, and we can all bitch about it at the pub Friday night. I am sorry." There was real regret in Lestrade’s voice as he rang off.
A stunned silence filled the sitting room for a moment.
“What do they think they—” sputtered John.
“It doesn’t matter what they think,” snapped Sherlock. “We’re going to have company, we’d best get ready. Mary, if you would – Damn!” The front doorbell, the one that was located under the shiny new Holmes & Watson Investigations plate, rang shrilly. Sherlock flipped open his laptop and called up the video from the security camera over the door. Two people, black male, white female, she’s pushing the doorbell button again. "Coptic Patriarchs! Now!”
Mary snatched up the baby and headed for the door and the stairs up to the Watsons’ suite at top speed. In seconds, she and Amanda would be locked in the nursery, which was set up as a safe room with a duplicate security panel.
Sherlock picked up Gwenhwyfar, who was napping on the back of the sofa. “Gwenhwyfar! Up! Still!” With a boost and a flap, she reached the top of her habitat and immediately became so still that she could pass for a stuffed owl. Given some of the other items of décor in the sitting room, she fit right in. Then he headed into his bedroom to make some swift preparations.
Meanwhile, John sat at Sherlock’s desk, waiting a moment until the flash of a light indicated that Mary and Amanda were safe upstairs. An adjoining light meant that Mrs. Hudson’s security door had also been locked. Then he turned on the intercom, answering calmly, as if he didn’t suspect anything was wrong. “Holmes & Watson Investigations, may I help you?”
“Hello? May I speak to Mr. Holmes, if he’s available? It’s about a case.” The woman’s voice was rich and pleasant, her accent educated and refined but not overly posh, with just a trace of something Scots to it.
“One moment, please.” He switched off the intercom and watched the two on the video for a second before turning to Sherlock as he came out of his bedroom. Granger was facing the door, waiting patiently for a response, while Thomas looked casually up and down the street. “They’re very calm. If I didn’t already know they weren’t clients, I’d suspect, because they’re not nervous enough.”
“Good. Here’s your bud,” Sherlock said, passing John an earbud and mic set. He was already wearing one himself. “Get them down into the office. We’ll see what else we can shake loose.” They’d played this many times – friendly, unassuming John lured interviewees into a false sense of security, and then Sherlock came in and took them apart.
John buzzed the two visitors into the cramped foyer, and then headed down the stairs, leaving the door to 221B open just a bit, as was their custom. Sherlock watched on the video as John opened the inner door, greeted their “guests” and turned to lead them to the official “office” of Holmes & Watson, which was in the basement suite of 221C.
The video fuzzed out in a burst of static. So did the feed from the earbud.
A moment later, both returned as if nothing had happened, the video showing the second of the visitors passing through the outer door. Sherlock heard John’s familiar tread on the stairs coming up, followed by two other sets of footsteps. One light and fast, the other about my weight, taking the steps two at a time. Both wearing boots. The door swung open, and John, smiling as if nothing was wrong, escorted the pair into the sitting room.
“… And here we are. Sherlock, this is Her …”
John was too well trained not to respond to that, and immediately flung himself to the front and left, grunting softly as he hit the injured shoulder, but rolling out safely behind his chair.
Sherlock rose to face the visitors, John’s pistol pointing squarely at them.
The woman froze; the man, just behind her, made an abortive movement with his right hand but stilled as Sherlock twitched the barrel of the pistol a fraction in his direction.
“Sherlock, what the hell! They’re clients!” John gasped.
“What’s the status, John?”
“I, um, what?”
“Coptic patriarchs , John. Do you remember that?”
“Er, yes, but I don’t … holy shit!” John’s brain finally caught up. He glared at the two. “What the fuck did you do to me?!”
“I’m truly sorry, Dr. Watson,” said the woman, “but it is very important that we speak with Mr. Holmes. It’s a matter of the greatest—“
“Anybody going to die in the next five minutes?”
“World ending in half an hour?”
“Might take a little longer than that,” she answered seriously.
“Then you could have waited just a bit while we did the preliminaries and then Mr. Holmes would have talked to you. Without you getting his partner well and truly ticked-off by hypnotizing me!” John was in full Captain Watson mode, getting just close enough to the woman to be in her face without being in Sherlock’s line of fire. “Did you think we wouldn’t notice? You do know who you’re consulting with, right? Or does the Special Crimes Unit, whoever they are, just not believe in common courtesy?!”
The woman flushed with embarrassment and looked down. Her companion slipped in between her and John.
“I beg your pardon, Dr. Watson, but since I’m the one who, er, hypnotized you, I think you should yell at me instead.”
“Oh, good,” said John, just before he blurred into action. Less than two seconds later, the taller man lay on the floor, clutching a painfully wrenched arm and bleeding from the nose. “Because you, I can hit,” said John, as if nothing had interrupted his sentence. He wasn’t even breathing hard.
“Miss Granger. Don’t.” Sherlock’s gaze was fixed on the female DI; confident in John’s ability to handle the other man, he hadn’t been distracted by the altercation. The woman had taken a step towards John and DI Whatever-His-Name-Was Thomas, reaching with her right hand for something in her left sleeve.Too small to be a gun. Wooden handle. A knife? “Shooting police officers really isn’t my favourite thing to do. Too much paperwork.” He clicked the ‘K’ deliberately, partly to annoy her and partly to signal John to get the hell out of the way. He was still too close. Not that there was any place within the confines of the sitting room that was far enough away.
Her hand fell away from the handle of the possibly-knife.
John patted the groaning Thomas down briskly – he’d learned a few things watching Lestrade’s group over the years – and relieved him of what looked like a wooden stick about nine inches long that was mounted in a spring-loaded holster on his right wrist, and a leather folder from his right jacket pocket. The stick was a smooth, dark brown wooden shaft tapering to a rounded end, with a carved double spiral around the thicker end which afforded an excellent grip. A very unusual weapon; he wasn’t sure exactly how one would wield it effectively, since it had no point and was not heavy enough to bludgeon an opponent. He left the man groaning on the floor and moved to Sherlock’s side, flipping open the folder for inspection. “Warrant card. DI Dean Thomas, Special Crimes Unit, CID.”
Sherlock glanced down at it, actually did a double-take, and grabbed it out of John’s hand. Gold badge, purple enamel lettering. Dean Thomas, Auror. DMLE. Not a warrant card. Why did John think it was? What was an Auror? DMLE was no official group he’d ever heard of, and he’d heard of them all. Even the ones he wasn’t supposed to.“Miss Granger. Or is it Auror Granger?”
She drew in a single, almost gasping breath, and then steadied herself, facing Sherlock and his pistol down fearlessly. “Auror Hermione Granger, yes.”
“Your weapon, please. From your left sleeve. Draw it with your thumb and forefinger only. Give it to John. Do not point it at him.”
She did so, following his instructions exactly. It was another stick, not a knife, made of lighter-coloured wood than Thomas’s, with a carved vine, stained green but showing the signs of long wear, serving as the grip.
“Now the one in your right boot top.”
John looked at her right leg. It was a very shapely leg, one he would be happy to look at any time, but it was definitely not wearing a boot. It was wearing a sheer stocking and a black pump at the foot end. Yet, the woman bent down slightly (flashing a bit of cleavage in the process – he was married, not dead, and he noticed these things), slid her hand along her calf just below her knee, and drew out another stick from somewhere he couldn’t quite see. This one was black, with a knobbly textured grip, and had noticeably more wear than the other. It joined the first two in John’s hand.
“Auror Granger, please help your partner up, he’s only lightly damaged. John, please escort our guests down to the office where this conversation should have been in the first place. I’ll just lock your sticks up in the safe and join you. I won’t damage them, but I don’t think you should be having them at the moment.”
John knew quite well that they didn’t have a safe, but what Sherlock wanted hidden stayed hidden. They exchanged the sticks for the gun, and John took the chance of tucking it back under his jumper where it belonged. He’d be able to get it out fast enough if needed.
By the time Sherlock joined them in 221C, Thomas and Granger were seated on the sofa with Thomas holding an ice pack on his nose and Granger holding one on his elbow, and John was in his own chair, having metamorphosed from the dangerous Captain Watson back to kindly, amiable Dr. Watson. His legs were crossed and he had a stenographic pad resting on his knee, ready to take notes. It really was an amazing transformation. Only Sherlock could tell that he was still fuming and ready to deal with either opponent at an instant’s notice.
Sherlock dropped himself into his own chair – there were no desks here, it was designed to make clients feel at home, and also to allow for freedom of movement if things went pear-shaped – and smiled brightly at the two Aurors.
“So! Perhaps we could start by asking you why someone from a society of magic-users living hidden alongside our own would decide to murder two perfectly average, though repellent, non-magical individuals in such a way as to reveal their society’s existence.”
John dropped his notepad.
Coolly, Sherlock continued, “And what does it have to do with a twenty-year old missing person case? Why you are trying to claim the case is obvious – you must be from some kind of magical law enforcement agency, trying to get things under your own aegis so us non-magical people won’t find out – you’re a little late on that, by the by. And, last but not least, what exactly did you do to my partner, and can you undo it immediately?”
Thomas leaned forward and dropped his head between his hands. “Oh God, we are so screwed. ‘Go to Azkaban. Go directly to Azkaban, do not pass Go, do not collect 200 Galleons.’”
Granger, however, seemed pleased. “Wonderful, Mr. Holmes. I had not expected you to get it so quickly. I anticipated at least a half hour of explanations.”
“Are you insane?” John sputtered at Sherlock. “Magic?”
“You quoted Clarke’s Third Law just last night.”
“Yeah, but that was about technology looking like magic, not actually ....”
“You forgot the reverse: any sufficiently developed magic resembles technology. I could add the whole horse/zebra analogy, but that would be beating a dead … zebra at this point. So, since we can accept the existence of some sort of magical society as a given—“
“No we bloody well can’t! Sherlock, this is totally mad –“
“’I am but mad north-north-west: when the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw,’” quoted Sherlock. “And when it’s from the east I can tell a witch from a Jedi.”
Thomas groaned, his face still buried in his hands. “So, so dead.”
“Just look at them, John! Really look! It’s all there.”
“Perhaps you should walk him through it, Mr. Holmes. I confess, I’m interested to know where we slipped up, so we can avoid it next time.”
“To start, you should avoid getting across town in far less time than would be required by even the fastest taxi. Second, your clothing is rather inappropriate.”
“What’s wrong with their clothing?” asked John. “Looks perfectly fine to me.”
Sherlock looked puzzled for a moment, and then his face cleared. “Ah! It’s the bedroom door again! Let’s do comparisons. John, could you describe our guests’ clothing, accessories, that sort of thing?”
“You know I never do well at these things, but all right.” John took a deep breath and focused on the two people sitting on the couch. “Starting with Mr. … Thomas, was it? Very sharply dressed, black designer suit, white shirt, dark red tie with gold stripes, black socks and dress shoes.Gold cufflinks. I also know he’s got a wrist holster under his right sleeve, the jacket is tailored both to hide it and to allow easy access. A few wrinkles where I roughed him up a bit. Okay, um, Miss … yes, Miss Granger, no wedding ring, black skirt suit – seems to be the equivalent of Mr. Thomas’s, so maybe a uniform, but very high quality if it is. No tie, blouse worn with top button open. Sheer stockings, black pump with about a one inch heel. Black leather shoulder bag.” John wasn’t about to mention the very nice legs, not with his wife listening in to the conversation. “Both very professional overall, well groomed, overdressed for police officers, but not out of the realm of possibility if they really wanted to impress their audience. Sort of a Men in Black vibe.” He glanced over at Sherlock again. “How’d I do?”
“Very well, John, you’re getting quite good at this. That would be fine. If that was what they were actually wearing.”
The slight, ever so superior smile Auror Granger had been wearing suddenly disappeared.
“Miss Granger has had an active morning and her hair is coming a bit loose, she’s worn off most of her lipstick and not refreshed it – there are distinct marks where she’s been chewing on her lower lip. Her manicure was recent but there are a few chips missing – she’s been working with her hands. Her clothing, now that’s most interesting, her suit jacket and skirt are old-fashioned in style, not terribly well fitted nor suited to her figure, and the skirt has pleats that make it look more like a school uniform skirt than anything else, made of rough-textured dark red wool. Gold buttons, with an identical scratch mark on each one, evidence that they are all copies of one original button. No stockings, the skin on her legs is pale, not habitually exposed to light, so she’s used to wearing either trousers or a much longer skirt. Her bag is blue with beads and sequins adorning it – quite worn, out of date, and not at all coordinated with anything else she’s wearing. Brown boots, reaching to just below the knee, the right one with a built-in sheath for the stick you relieved her of earlier. The boots are custom made, heavy, shaped to the foot, half-inch heel at most. They’re working boots showing signs of wear and water stains; months old at least, possibly as much as a year. They don’t match the suit at all.”
He changed his gaze to look over the male Auror. “You looked at Mr. Thomas’s identification, and saw a warrant card for a Detective Inspector, something you are quite familiar with. I saw a gold badge from an unfamiliar agency, with an unfamiliar title. Mr. Thomas’s suit is black and better cut, but of similar fabric to Miss Granger’s; the gold buttons, however, do not have the scratch on them. The tie is years old and has seen heavy use; it must be a favourite. His shoes are also boots, black leather, ankle height but otherwise similar to Miss Granger’s, custom made, and have likewise seen heavy wear. The soles are heavily scuffed. I surmise that each of them was originally wearing another garment, which they have modified to appear like normal clothing, but Miss Granger in particular has not followed fashion trends, possibly since she left school. Which is the truth? It benefits them more to be seen as posh, put together, and impressive. Therefore what you are seeing is what they want you to see, and somehow they have a means of making you see it.”
“Why don’t you see it, then?” asked John, trying not to sound peeved about it.
“That’s a very good question. Possibly whatever effect Miss Granger and Mr. Thomas are using simply encourages people to see what they expect to see; thus you fill in the inadequacies in their garments. It may be akin to the Baskerville effect – it would be interesting to see if someone else would provide the same description unprompted, or if they would fill in details differently. However, I have no such expectations; I simply observe what is there,” said Sherlock, before addressing Miss Granger again.
“To continue: existence of a separate police force implies a whole society, with some sort of governmental authority. The need to get this case away from the Yard so fast implies that your society, or at least the government, feels the need for secrecy and wants to remain hidden. Inspector Lestrade informed us that your group has taken cases away from the Yard before, therefore there are continual contacts between your society and ours which you feel it necessary to manage by hiding them. The need for such policing also tells us that there are some individuals who either disagree or just don’t care to maintain this secrecy. The Dursley murders are a case in point.”
Sherlock steepled his fingers and looked at Granger coolly. “And I believe it is at this point that I must ask you what your intentions are. I already know far more about you and your society than you are comfortable with, more than your government would like. Inspector Lestrade implied that people who are involved with some of the cases your unit has taken over have disappeared; I believe he was warning me, however obliquely, not to talk with you at all if possible. Unfortunately curiosity is one of my major flaws, one that will probably prove fatal one day. But not today, if I can help it. I’m sure you can take away our paper files and the physical evidence, but I doubt you can wipe the Yard’s electronic files or ours. Even if you wipe our laptops the whole thing, including a recording of this conversation, will download again from the cloud in just a few hours.”
Mary, in the upstairs office, whispered a soft “righto” through the earbud to confirm that she would set it up immediately, if she hadn’t already. She had full access to everything from the safe room and knew how to protect the data.
“And if we don’t actively deal with it within a certain period, or if we turn up mysteriously dead or simply disappear, it might just go to some people that you really don’t want your society revealed to, I think. The British government might be a bit distressed to find out there’s an entire Ministry that doesn’t answer to it and that they have no control over.”
“Ooh, nice. On it,” came through the bud.
Mycroft might have his uses after all. Or not, given the tiny smile that appeared briefly at the corner of Granger’s mouth before disappearing again.
Granger and Thomas looked at each other and had one of those conversations that Sherlock and John sometimes had, conducted all in tiny flicks of an eyelid, a raised eyebrow, a twitch of a lip and a barely perceptible nod. Then she took a deep breath and sat upright, her bearing almost military, despite the best efforts of the sofa to draw her back into its cushions (a major reason why they’d bought that sofa – it was difficult for most people to get out of in a hurry).
“I will admit that I have conflicting sets of intentions here, Mr. Holmes – the professional and the personal. Professionally, as you have gathered, our objective is to retrieve any and all information and evidence you have regarding the Dursley murders and get you to delete it from your hard drives. We would then leave you alone, and gradually you would find yourself paying less and less attention to the matter. Within a week, you would barely remember the event except to be annoyed at us for taking a moderately interesting case away from you.”
John snorted. The idea of Sherlock ever forgetting something like that was ludicrous.
“That’s what our orders are, at any rate. I don’t intend to follow those orders.” Despite her formal bearing, she was wringing her hands together, betraying anxiety.
“You have correctly deduced the existence and secrecy of our society. You probably understand why it was necessary for us to withdraw several centuries ago.”
“The witch hunts of the medieval and Renaissance periods. The overwhelming fear of magic, of a power unknowable and unusable by normal people.”
She nodded. “For millennia, our people lived in societies intertwined with yours. We were healers, advisers, protectors of tribes and villages and kingdoms. And occasionally villains and criminals, of course. You probably know some of our names. Imhotep. Moses. Asclepius. Daedalus. Circe. Ptolemy. And the most famous of all, Merlin.Real people, not myths. A thousand years or so ago, however, things started changing. Magic and science and religion all became different things, and magic was driven into the shadows. The rope and the flame awaited those of us who did not hide what we were.”
“But that was centuries ago,” said John. “Surely in the years since….”
“Do you know when the last trial under the British Witchcraft Act of 1735 was held, Dr. Watson? It was during World War II. Admittedly it was under the clauses about practicing witchcraft fraudulently, but the fact remains that the Act, all clauses of it, was still in force at that time. It was only repealed in 1951. In some areas of Africa, fear of sorcery is still a valid defence for murder. But hiding is becoming less practicable now.”
“Electronic records,” Sherlock said. “Your people don’t show up on them. You didn’t have the paper records that were integrated into the system. The few records that exist would be bare-bones – anybody looking for detail would realize immediately that there’s a problem with them, as we did. I would be willing to wager, for example, that any records of your existence only go up to the age of eleven in detail – assuming that they’re there at all.”
“You’d lose that wager, Mr. Holmes. Both Dean and I were born into the non-magical world and we’ve made an effort to remain in contact with it – including something resembling accurate records. It is hard, though, and many of us don’t go to the effort.”
“Ah. There’s always something.” He continued to consider the matter. “It’s not just a matter of this one case, either – so much of our world’s work is electronic these days that you have no access to it. Possibly electronics don’t play nicely with magic – our cameras went to static when you hypnotized John. But you can’t hide completely. I would imagine the increasing prevalence of CCTV cameras in urban areas in the last decade or so would have had the same effect on the magical people as it has on the criminal classes, driving them off the main streets and into back alleys and less prosperous neighbourhoods and rural areas, if they do not want to call attention to it. Private security cameras, even more so. And if you’ve been isolated all this time … most of you don’t know … what to hide … from.”
Sherlock paused for a moment and got that blank look that John always associated with him accessing random facts somewhere in his Mind Palace and coming up with answers nobody expected. Sort of like adding two plus two and getting ‘fish’. Sure enough, it ended with a look of surprise and elation coming across the taller man’s face. “Oh! Oh! I think I’ve just solved three of Lestrade’s cold cases! Or close enough, I knew the why and the who, now I know the how, but proving it in court might be tricky. Doesn’t matter, that’s not my problem. Miss Granger, would you happen to be free next Saturday? I can get access to the Yard’s cold case files; we might be able to turn up something interesting!”
Her formal posture relaxed and she giggled, actually giggled, tucking one of her escaped curls behind her ear. “That sounds, it might be fun, yes.”
John was less than pleased. “Sherlock, did you just ask her on a date? To go look at cold case files?”
“No, that’s not … um, maybe. Yes?” He looked startled, as though he hadn’t been aware of how his request might be construed.
John rubbed his forehead wearily. “Sherlock, maybe you’re just distracted by the promise of something new and shiny, but may I remind you that we are here specifically because Miss Granger and Mr. Thomas are trying to, oh, take a major case away from us. I don’t think Greg would appreciate your giving her access to more!”
“I don’t think that’s a problem now, John. Because we’re going to have to work together on this, and frankly they need us more than we need them. I don’t doubt that the Dursley murder can only be solved with information they have, but that’s a minor puzzle. The missing upstairs tenant is more important. He’s the key to everything. But I don’t understand how.”
“It’ll take a long time to explain, Mr. Holmes. And right now I don’t have the time to do that, not fully. An hour or so at most. I promise I will explain everything when I can. But now … you’re right, we need you more than you need us. I would like to see you read in as a consultant to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, just the way you work with the police. We can start with just the one case. Harry Potter is a very important person to us, and you’re right, we lost him and can’t find him. If you could help us find him, it would go a long way to bringing our society out of the 19th Century and into the 21st. Even if you don’t take it as a consultancy with the D.M.L.E., I’d like you to consider taking it with me as a private client.” She fished into her pocket and pulled out a small black leather pouch, which she flipped to Sherlock. “I believe you need a retainer. This should do to start.”
Sherlock snatched the pouch out of mid-air automatically. He opened the drawstrings and slid a coin out onto his palm. There were several more in the pouch. Antique. Spanish.Gold. He raised an eyebrow at Granger.
“They’re real, Mr. Holmes. And legally acquired. If you can’t figure out how to exchange them for cash or sell them for their value as antiquities, you’re clearly not the man I think you are.” She leaned forward intently. “Harry Potter was my first and best friend in the magical world. He saved my life, and I supported him for four years. I thought I would always be beside him, but I failed, and he disappeared. I don’t know if he left voluntarily or if something … someone …” She choked a bit; clearly, even after twenty years, the loss of her friend hurt. “I want you to find him, Mr. Holmes. If there’s anybody who can, it’s you. And if … when … you find him …. The Ministry wants him back. They want to be able to use him. I just want to know if he’s happy, if he’s having a good life. If he is, that’s fine. You don’t even have to contact him. Let him be, he deserves to live in peace. And if he’s not … if he’s dead, I want to know that too. Closure, they call it.” And then she looked up, with an almost savage look that he’d seen once or twice on John’s face. “But I’ll also need to know whether to send him an honour guard.”
Sherlock leaned back in his chair and considered the request. He could, if he chose, end it right now – the shortest case on record. Take her money, reveal his identity, and send her away. But then he would never get his own answers.
“All right, Miss Granger. I’ll take your case – and the consultancy – on two conditions. First, your version of the case takes primacy. Your Ministry will be informed when I find Mr. Potter if, and only if, he agrees to it. Second, I really must insist that whatever it was you did to my partner be undone immediately.”
“About fucking time you got to that,” muttered John, glaring at Auror Thomas again.
“Okay, that. Dean, that was S.O.P.?”
“Confundus minor, non-verbal, singular intent.”
“Fine, then. Dr. Watson, you were subjected to a minor Confusing Charm. Its purpose was to encourage you to bring us directly to Mr. Holmes without delay. That was the only thing it would do, and it ended as soon as you did so. There will be no lasting effects from that charm.”
“Is there any way for me to check that?”
“There are no neurological or behavioural effects once the intended purpose has been achieved. There’s nothing that will show up on your medical tests. We could take you to one of our Healers and let them take a look at you – they could tell you if there are any ongoing charms or spells on you. Their Healers’ Oaths would require them to tell you the truth and keep the information confidential from anyone else unless you let them share it. An Oath, by the way, is self-enforcing and exacts a high price if violated, so you can depend on it to be accurate.”
John ground his teeth together. “Okay, I’m going to consider myself compromised until we can arrange that, and any decision I make until then can’t be trusted.” He reached under his jumper with his left hand and carefully removed the gun, holding it between thumb and forefinger and passing it to Sherlock. “Don’t give that back to me until we know it’s not going to be a problem. Use it on me if you have to,” he finished grimly. “Now you,” he pointed at Thomas – “you tell me why you did that to me.”
Granger looked at her partner as if she wasn’t exactly happy with him, either. “Yes, please do tell Dr. Watson. I thought we had agreed that I was to take lead on this.”
Thomas had the grace to wince. “I was anxious – and sloppy. Protocols for contact with non-magicals state that such contact is to be kept as short as possible and discreet use of magic is permissible to ease the way. I – we’d had some difficulty with the people at the morgue and the Yard, and I thought – I wanted to make it – I’m sorry, Hermione. Dr. Watson. I was thinking like a wizard instead of a civilian. It won’t happen again.” He smiled ruefully. “The paperwork she’s going to make me fill out will ensure I remember that.”
“Thinking like a wizard?” asked John.
Granger answered. “It’s an unfortunate side-effect of having magic that some wizards treat it as an easy answer to everything – they tend to use it for everything and anything, instead of thinking a situation through and finding a more appropriate solution. Dean and I were both raised in the non-magical world, and tend to look for a non-magical solution first – or at least I thought he did. We’ve both slipped up over the years.”
“Are you likely to do it again?”
“Not without our wands – those ‘sticks’ you confiscated, Mr. Holmes. Any delicate magic requires a wand to focus it.”
He noted that she had not actually answered the question. “How about indelicate magic?”
“We’re not children, Dr. Watson. We’re both well past the stage of having accidental magic happen except in the most life-threatening situations. I don’t anticipate anything like that happening here – and if it did, the result would be more likely to blow up the room than to perform a fiddly little memory alteration.”
Sherlock fidgeted lightly with the gun in his lap. “Then perhaps Auror Thomas wouldn’t mind handing over the holdout wand he still has in a sheath along his left calf, where he can reach it when he’s sitting with his legs crossed casually, as he is now. Handle first, please. I promise not to damage it.”
Thomas grimaced but complied. Sherlock took it gently and looked at it closely. This wand was dark wood with a knobbed handle and cross-hatched carvings going about half-way up the shaft; like Granger’s second wand, it showed more wear than the first one they’d relieved him of.
“So you just wave this?” he said, giving it a tentative swish through the air.
“No!” yelped Thomas, ducking.
It was obvious Granger didn’t care for random waves of a wand in her general direction either. “There’s a bit more to it than that, Mr. Holmes, and it won’t work for you at all since you’re non-magical, but we’d still appreciate it if you’d just put that down.”
Sherlock did so, carefully putting the wand in the drawer of the table in between his and John’s chairs, and tucking the gun in beside it. “There, now we can all feel safer. By the way, how can you be so sure I’m non-magical?”
Granger chuckled. “You’ve been investigated, Mr. Holmes. Twice by the DMLE, that’s the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, first when you started working with the Yard and again when Dr. Watson joined you – and yes, Dr. Watson has been investigated as well – and once by the Unspeakables, a special investigative division, after your remarkable return from the dead. There are parties in the Ministry who are convinced you would not be able to do what you do without being a rather skilled Legilimens or a Dark Wizard. Each investigation, however, has come up negative. You are 100% non-magical.”
“Nice to know I can keep even your lot guessing.” Though he had no idea how that was possible. If he was Harry Potter, and Potter was a wizard, then why couldn’t the wizards tell? “John, may we accept that your concerns about the validity of magic have been answered? You wouldn’t be this upset about it if you didn’t believe it on some level.”
“We can always demonstrate something for you once you’ve given our wands back, if you like – we wouldn’t cast anything on you, of course, just some simple flashy transfigurations or charms, the way the teachers at our school convinced our parents that magic was real.”
“Yes – no, I don’t know!” John said with frustration. “Can we just get on to the case now?”
“I think that would be best,” said Sherlock, shifting gears with his usual rapidity. “The Dursleys would seem to be unlikely targets for a magical murder.”
“I haven’t seen the bodies or the evidence myself yet – the Yard is still packing it up so we were going to get into it later, after talking to you. But I have it on good authority that the methods were magical, and so therefore must the motives be.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure of that. Magical people hate, love, are greedy, feel slighted or jealous and want revenge, do they not?”
“Then most of the motives for murder are the same – only the methods differ depending on what’s available. This case, however, is not a simple murder, and I agree with you that the motives most likely are specific to your community. Would it be helpful if we showed you our pictures of the scene and the autopsy?”
“It might save quite a bit of time, yes.”
“Good. Let us begin.”
Correction made to Hermione's citation of the British Witchcraft Act of 1735.
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