Also available as: Epub
The Case of the Missing Wizard
Chapter 9. The Order of the Phoenix
Discussion of cannabis and past use thereof by a character.
Chapter 9. The Order of the Phoenix
“What is this?” Sirius asked in confusion, looking at the dots and dashes and letters.
“Morse Code. Used by American soldiers captured by the enemy to pass along information in propaganda films or tapings made by the enemy back in the day. They don’t train people for it specifically any more, but some of the ones in Afghanistan still learn it just in case. And so do some of our officers, particularly the ones that might have value as hostages or for ransom. Doctors are very valuable,” he said grimly. “S O S is the universal distress signal. I don’t know how or why he learned Morse, but this poor bastard has been calling for help for two years. So how do I get through to him?”
“Usually we just talk to portraits,” Remus answered. “Just like people.”
“Oi! Snivellus! Wakey wakey, eggs ‘n bakey!” Sirius shouted at the portrait.
There was no response.
“I don’t think that’s going to work. If he could hear you, it would have been obvious already,” said John. “How about touch? Do portraits respond to touch from outside, or would some other portrait have to go in?”
“Who’d want to touch him?” muttered Sirius. “Get grease all over…”
“Mr. Black!” snapped John, turning to face him. “I don’t care what your problems with this man are. I don’t care whether you like him or not. Right now he is suffering, has suffered something you yourself said you wouldn’t wish on him, and all you can do is snipe at him. Now either say something helpful or shut up!” He snap turned back to face the portrait.
Sirius’s wand snapped into his hand without his seeming to will it consciously, only to have Sherlock’s hand instantly close over his, forcing the wand to point down to the floor. “Black. If you want our help, we will help, to the best of our ability. Don’t try to stop John from doing what he does best, just because you have a childhood grudge. I do warn you, if that wand points anywhere in his direction without an explanation and his permission, that’s the last you will see of any of us.”
Remus stepped forward to intervene, only to come face to face with a small pistol Mary whipped out of her jacket pocket. “Don’t,” she said, her face cold and emotionless.
Sherlock didn’t take his eyes off Sirius, but his next words were clearly for Remus. “It’s lead, not silver, Lupin. I don’t know if it would be fatal at this stage, but uncomfortable at the very least, I’m sure. Please don’t make the situation worse.” With a twist of his wrist, he made Sirius’s fingers go limp and removed the wand from the older man’s grip. A tiny silver spark shot from the end of the wand as he took it. Well. That’s interesting.
Remus held his hands up to show he was not holding his wand, and stepped back. Mary kept her gun trained on him unwaveringly.
Hermione and Dean glanced at each other and didn’t get involved. Let them learn the hard way not to underestimate the Holmes/Watson/Watson team. For that matter, they hadn’t seen Mary in action before. That was an … interesting … development. Naturally John would marry someone just as competent as he is, Hermione thought. She deliberately did not consider just how a woman might get those particular skills.
John ignored what was going on behind him, stepping close to the portrait and examining it carefully. He could see the brushstrokes, and had no idea how they moved when Snape’s hand twitched or his chest moved on inhalation. The rhythmic blinking continued, unaffected by the noise of the room. John pulled his emergency penlight out of his jacket pocket and flashed it across the painted eyes. There was still no response.
Hesitantly, he reached up and placed his fingers on the back of the painted hand. It felt like paint on canvas, but the hand jerked and the entire body became tense. Waiting. So the portrait could feel. John carefully tapped out a message of his own on the back of Snape’s hand. It was short, simple and to the point. Y E S, he spelled out. Y E S. We hear you. We’re here. We’ve got you.
The response was instant; every muscle of Snape’s body relaxed as he went completely limp, and John instinctively reached to support the fainting man before he realized he wasn’t going to fall out of his portrait. He managed to quell his next reaction, which was to reach up to take the pulse at the throat.
“Well, that was anticlimactic,” said Hermione. She stepped closer to look over the portrait, ignoring the standoff between the non-painted people.
“To be expected, actually. Think of him as a prisoner of war – he might have been held and interrogated for some time prior to his death. If what happened to him then carried over to his portrait … He’s been trapped, under continual stress, possibly in pain, trying to send a message and always failing … then suddenly, contact! Someone’s heard him. Someone’s there. There are normally two reactions – one is to strike out – ‘why did it take you so long to hear me?’ – and the other is to relax or even faint – ‘thank God someone else is here, I can let go now.’”
“Speaking from experience?”
“Yep. Both reactions at different times, and I’ve been on the receiving end, too.” For just a moment, he remembered his knees failing to support him in a darkened pool, the feel of Sherlock’s throat between his hands on a restaurant floor, the punch he took from an American soldier in Afghanistan before the man broke down sobbing on his shoulder. “So now we need to let him recover and see if he can do more than blink when he regains consciousness.”
Snape had been painted in a chair which looked desperately uncomfortable even for sitting, much less slumping in a faint. Nevertheless, his features were much more relaxed, the harsh lines smoothing out and making him look years younger. Still not handsome, he’d never be handsome, not with that hawk-like nose, but he was definitely a striking man.
“All right, you,” said John, turning to the inhabitant of the next portrait over, “I know you can move from frame to frame. Can you get in there with him? Help him into a more comfortable position?”
“I can try,” said the portrait. “Let me see if I can get through … there!” he said, appearing in the frame behind Snape’s chair and leaving his own frame blank. “What should I do now?”
“How much do you feel? I mean, I can see you’re both breathing, but are you really? Or does it just look like you are? Is there a heartbeat, can you take his pulse?”
“I can try it. As long as he’s not awake. He didn’t like being touched when he was alive, I can’t imagine that’s changed.” The other man pressed his fingers gingerly to Snape’s throat. “It feels like a pulse, but I don’t know if it’s real … it could just be simulated … maybe we could get a portrait of a Healer in?”
“If there’s one that can be trusted, yeah. For now, is there any way to swap furniture around? Get him a more comfortable chair? Or take him to a picture that’s got a couch in it?”
John felt incredibly strange even thinking about any of this, but a patient was a patient. He would treat it like trying to give direction over a computer connection, and have a screaming fit later, he promised himself.
Shortly a picture containing a chaise longue was brought up from the parlour on the ground floor and Snape transferred into it, Mary’s gun was returned to her pocket, and Sirius had reclaimed his wand after apologizing and agreeing to Sherlock’s terms. A portrait in a Victorian nurse’s uniform agreed to sit with Snape and notify Sirius if he regained consciousness. Or started blinking again. Or did anything except sleep.
“I promise, we’ll let you know instantly he wakes up!” Sirius assured them, eager to get back in their good graces.
“You’ll need my mobile number, then,” John started to say.
“I don’t use a phone, but Hermione’s got your number, right? So I’ll drop a message to her and have her call you. Phones don’t work too well here.”
“Magic screws up the electronics, right!” said John.
“Sometimes. Here, it would just suck the battery empty in nothing flat. If you need to make a call, go out on the front step, into the back garden or on one of the balconies. They’re safe. And speaking of calling … people should be arriving shortly. You will be staying for dinner, won’t you? I hope I haven’t put you off that with my idiocy. Hermione said you had a baby? Do you have to call whoever’s watching him? Her?”
“Her name’s Amanda, yeah, our landlady’s been playing grandma for the day,” said Mary. “It would be a good idea to call in. Are we staying?” she asked, glancing at Sherlock.
He nodded shortly.
“Okay, then … the nearest place?”
“I’ll show you to the balcony, Mary,” said Hermione. “And then we can freshen up before going downstairs to dinner? Wouldn’t want you to get lost in this house.”
Sirius stiffened as he apparently heard something no one else could. “Ah, excuse me. People at the Floo. Dean, could you and Remus bring Sherlock and John downstairs the slow way? Thanks.” He stepped, turned, and vanished.
Hermione flicked her wand. “Tempus.” Bright green digits appeared and floated in the air for a moment. “That’ll be Molly then, she’s always early. But she’ll be leading the horde, and we’re going to be inundated with Weasleys in a few minutes.”
“Weasleys? Related to the infamous Ron?” asked Sherlock.
“Oh, he was a git, but the rest of them are all talented, worthwhile people. If it wasn’t for the hair, I’d almost wonder if he was actually related to the rest of the family. Um, please don’t mention that last to his mother … he only died a few months ago – trust him to have a stupid Quidditch accident – and she’s still seeing him through rose-coloured glasses. Mary, shall we?”
Mary glanced over at John and Sherlock, both of whom nodded minutely, and let herself be led off by Hermione.
“Dean, can you take John? I’d like to talk to Sherlock for a moment,” said Remus.
Another brief look between John and Sherlock, a nod from Sherlock.
“Splitting us up for a reason?” Sherlock asked Remus as Dean led John out of the gallery.
“No, no … I just wanted to ask … I mean you obviously know …”
“That you’re a werewolf? Yes, obviously. Your sense of smell is heightened beyond the human range just after a full moon, traces of coarse fur cling to your clothing, you have an old wound that affects your movement and a new one that you’re letting heal naturally instead of using magic on it, and I take your name, Remus Lupin, to be some sort of pseudonym related to your condition. I did make an assumption about the silver, but your reaction confirmed it. Yesterday I didn’t know werewolves existed, but now I do. I also know they’re not nearly the hazard depicted in popular culture, and that your people have therapies for the condition, though presumably not a cure. I hadn’t expected to meet one quite so soon, though.”
“Actually Remus Lupin is my real name – my grandfather was French, and Latin names are common in our culture. Though I can see where you came to that conclusion.”
“Ah. There’s always something.”
“I can see where you might have thought … anyway, I just wanted to assure you that I’m no danger to you or your friends.”
“You would not have married or had children if it wasn’t controlled, am I correct? You married into Sirius’s family and have at least one son.”
“I married a cousin of his; we have two sons and a daughter. More than I ever hoped I’d have, really. I never thought I’d find someone who’d look past …” He shrugged. “There’s a bit of a stigma to it in our community, you see.”
“Always, I’m afraid. Unless they find a cure, or a countercurse, or something. Control is difficult and voluntary, and if an accident makes you miss just one dose ... No, I just wanted to assure you, and Mrs. Watson, that I’m no danger to you. Until the next full moon, anyway.”
“Understood. But you should probably be aware that Mrs. Watson may be a danger to you for some time. She doesn’t take even the vaguest of threats to her husband lightly. And the next time there very probably will be silver bullets.”
“Point taken. I’ll warn Sirius too, shall I?”
“It might be for the best.”
As they descended the elegant staircase to the ground floor, Sherlock heard a woman’s voice, with a familiar Devon accent, saying, “… missed her Portkey from Cleveland so she’ll have to take the International Floo directly here, sorry for the inconvenience…”
“No inconvenience at all, Molly. I’ll just take a few precautions …” The unknown-hominin-foot umbrella stand floated from its place in the foyer into the parlour with the fireplace. “That should do it.”
“Thank you, I’m sure she’ll appreciate it. Now let me just get these tarts down to the kitchen … no, I know I didn’t need to bring anything, I just thought we might like a little sweet for later …” The owner of the voice, a short, plump woman whose hair had obviously once been brilliant red but which was now faded and streaked with grey, stepped out of the parlour just as Remus and Sherlock reached the foot of the stairs. She headed past them to the back of the house, three large platters of fruit tarts floating along after her, with a vague “Oh hello Remus, Harry …”
There was a pause, and then a shriek and a crash as all three platters hit the floor.
The woman pelted back around the base of the staircase and caught Sherlock at the entrance to the parlour, grabbed him by the upper arms, and practically slammed him up against the doorframe. “Oh heavens, Harry!? Where have you been, you…”
“I’m sorry, madam, but you have clearly mistaken me …” Sherlock started at the same time Sirius said, “Molly, no, that’s not … I’m sorry, Molly, that’s not Harry.”
“But it …” the woman looked up at Sherlock with brown eyes swimming with tears. “No, it isn’t. Oh my. Oh, I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.” She let go of his arms and patted his sleeves of his suit where she’d held him. “I thought … just for a second … ohh …”
Before she could totally collapse, two women swooped on her and caught her up in their arms, muttering, “Mum … Mum, it’s okay, let’s go sit down for a bit, all right,” and glaring at Sherlock like it was his fault their – mother-in-law? – yes, both of them are Afro-Caribbean, obviously no blood relation, therefore beloved mother-in-law – was in this condition. And really, in some way, it probably was. They helped her across the hall into the other parlour, from which Sherlock could hear her sniffles as she tried to pull herself together.
He started to follow her, but Sirius put his hand on his arm and shook his head. “Best not. The girls will calm her down.”
“I didn’t expect that. Do I really look like…?” He knew he did, of course, but the question would be expected from a Sherlock who had no idea he was Harry Potter.
Sirius looked at him critically. “Probably. It’s hard to tell, you know, how he would have grown up exactly, but … It was probably the hair. And the eyes, a little, yours have gone all green. Think you might definitely be a Black ….”
“My eyes are heterochromic. Different colours show depending on the lighting, my clothing, my mood …”
“Maybe that’s how the Muggles explain it,” Sirius said knowingly. “You should probably talk to Dora when she gets here.”
“My cousin. Remus’s wife. First full metamorph in the family in ages. Funny how getting a little Muggle blood in the family can wake up an old family gift … not that you’d get many of the Purebloods admitting that. James hoped Lily might do the same for his line.” He grinned wryly. “It’s even possible she did, but we’ll never know what it was. It could have been anything, and some things aren’t discussed in polite company. Or even impolite. Now let’s get you introduced around.”
There were three red-headed men and two platinum-haired women (plus John and Dean, who were chatting with the younger of the blondes) in the parlour, waiting patiently to be introduced. Well, mostly patiently – the ginger twins were practically vibrating with eagerness, and Sirius led him over to them.
Sherlock looked at them warily – he wasn’t used to people actually wanting to meet him. Identical twins but mirrored parts in their hair, is that natural or do they do it intentionally? Late thirties, early forties, deep laugh lines, plentiful freckles. He keyed their freckle patterns for later identification. Clothing … do all the wizards do bespoke? Maybe it’s less expensive on this side … excellent quality, sturdy, but not new … chemical stains, acid burns, scorch marks … resembles how some of my suits get after experiments. Stains and burn marks on their hands, too. Monogrammed cufflinks and signet rings, F and G. Both married, the husbands of the ladies comforting their mother. Both with bands of black fabric sewn around the upper right sleeve of their jackets. Mourning bands? A rather out-dated custom in our time, but preserved in this culture. Interesting.
“Sherlock, these are Fred and George Weasley, owners of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, and also the Weapons and Armour Masters for the Order of the Phoenix. Fred, George, Sherlock Holmes, the detective Hermione hired.”
“Sherlock, is it? Fred Weasley,” said the one with the F cufflinks and ring, shaking Sherlock’s hand vigorously. “My counterpart here is George. Very pleased to meet you, very pleased indeed.”
“Pleased to meet you as well,” wait for the tell … there it was! “… George. And Fred,” he said, turning to shake the hand of the twin wearing the G.
The twins were delighted. “Well done, well done! Things certainly won’t be dull with you around!”
“We’re going to go across and see if the girls have calmed Mum down. If they haven’t yet, maybe we can get her to yell at us.”
“That always makes her feel better.”
“We look forward to getting down to business with you later, yeah?”
With another pair of identical grins, they strolled out. John looked up from his conversation to give Sherlock a mock glare. Apparently he hadn’t passed the twins’ test.
“Nicely done,” said Sirius. “They won’t make it so easy next time.”
“It doesn’t matter,” said Sherlock. “I’ve got them memorized by their freckles and the scars on their hands now. By the end of the night, I’ll have differences in their voices down, too. They’ll never be able to confuse me.”
“Ooh, don’t tell them that. I’ll make book with the others on how long it takes them to give up.”
“Don’t worry, we won’t tell either,” said the other red-haired man, who had stayed in the room after his brothers left. “Bill Weasley. Current Head, Merlin help me, of the little circus I call a family. This is my wife, Fleur, and her sister, Gabrielle Delacour.”
Bill, in contrast to his stocky younger brothers, was a tall, slim man, wearing his hair long and tied back in a ponytail. Heavy freckling on his face and hands showed that he had, at some time in the past, worked extensively in the sun, but his skin now was about as tanned as your average Englishman, which was to say, not very. His clothing was an interesting combination of Regency buck and 20th Century casual, with a linen shirt complete with ruffled cravat and a discreet touch of lace at the cuffs, a blue suit jacket, and buff trousers tucked into heavy leather boots. A sapphire earring sparkled in his left earlobe. His wife was about six months pregnant, slim and petite and stunningly beautiful despite the three ragged scars that ran across her left cheek and down onto her chin; somehow she managed to make them seem like beauty marks. She wore a simple blue velvet gown, a silver lace shawl across her shoulders, and her hair in an elaborate updo; in contrast to the elegance of her dress, a wolf’s fang earring dangled from her left ear. Her sister, who was in her mid- to late twenties, wore jeans and a flowing blue-flowered shirt, and could have been a fashion model trying to go incognito. Bill wore a black band on his right sleeve, Fleur on her left, and Gabrielle not at all.
Gabrielle was engaged in animated conversation with John; she seemed to be flirting, John was smiling warmly and doing a little flirting back – best not to let Mary see that, John! You’ll be on the couch for a week!
Sherlock shook Bill Weasley’s offered hand and took Fleur’s – she offered it in the classic style, knuckles up, but since she did not move it toward him once he took it, he did not presume to kiss it but merely bowed slightly over it. Once he released her fingers, she nodded approvingly at him, and a certain tension in Bill’s shoulders relaxed. He mentally thanked Mummy belatedly for drumming the rules of etiquette into him despite how archaic and useless they’d seemed at the time – in twenty years, they’d only been important twice, and this was the first time they’d seemed remotely natural.
“Mr. Weasley. Mrs. Weasley. Pleased to meet you.”
“Bill, please. And Fleur. Ceremony doesn’t stand a chance around this place, nor should it.” Bill smiled welcomingly at Sherlock.
“Sherlock, is it?” asked Fleur. “You are ’ermione’s friend? She ’as spoken of you many times.” She spoke with a light French accent – her English had been learned as an adult and she spoke it well, but one never lost the traces of their childhood tongue.
“Surely not. We met for the first time yesterday, on a professional matter. She was trying to take a case away from me. Not the most auspicious of meetings.”
“Per’aps so, but she ’as been waiting for an opportunity for some time. Your reputation intrigues ’er.”
“Does it now?”
“She is a most intelligent woman. The cleverest witch of her generation, it ’as been said. She is wasted as an Auror, of course, but at least they ’ave the sense to give her some independence. But no wizard can keep up with ’er. Per’aps now…” Fleur eyed him speculatively.
“Stop the matchmaking,” Bill said severely. “We don’t want to chase him out of the house this early.”
“Oh, but Bill, you forget, I am veela. Matchmaking is what we do! When we’re not demolishing werewolves, of course,” she said, touching her fingers first to the scars on her face and then to the earring.
“Relationships aren’t exactly my area,” Sherlock said. “I consider myself married to my work.”
“Of course. But would you per’aps … consider cheating on it?” Fleur asked impishly.
Sherlock refrained from rolling his eyes impatiently. Matchmaking friends was about the last thing he needed about now – it wasn’t anything new, of course, but he had no idea why people insisted on doing it or why women kept insisting on being introduced to him. Fortunately they all went away after a short time, but it would be a complication to what was already a complex situation. Especially since Hermione seemed to have had a teenage crush on his prior self, no matter how loath she was to admit it.
Of course as fate would have it, that was the exact moment when Hermione and Mary, both looking immensely improved by whatever it was women did when they ‘freshened up’, entered the parlour.
Hermione’s gaze immediately settled on Sherlock. Everybody else looked at her. Then followed her gaze to Sherlock, and then looked back to her with varying degrees of speculation. Only Mary had no idea what was going on.
Hermione’s cheeks flushed and she crossed her arms across her chest. “What did you say, Fleur?”
Fleur smiled at Sherlock. “Did I not say she was intelligent?”
Hermione flung her hands up in disgust. “Matchmaking. Argh!” She turned and stomped out of the room and across the hall to the other parlour.
Mary hurried over to John’s side, where he circled her waist with his arm, introduced her hurriedly to Gabrielle and then whispered into her ear to fill her in.
Gabrielle, for her part, lifted an eyebrow at John’s cavalier abandonment of her charms, and retreated to her sister’s side.
“Sorry about that,” Sirius murmured to Sherlock. “I keep forgetting how she is sometimes. Wants to make sure everybody finds their ‘mates’.” He did the air quotes surreptitiously where Fleur wouldn’t see. “I think it’s a veela matriarch thing – Gabrielle isn’t anywhere near as bad. She’s still holding out for Harry herself, I think.”
“The hero’s mystique?” If he was going to become part of this world in earnest, that was going to become seriously bothersome. He wasn’t sure what exactly he was going to do about it.
“She actually has some justification – he saved her when she was only eight. There’s a legitimate debt there, and it may mean something special to veela, I don’t know. They’re only semi-human, after all, and they’re all female. They have their own ways that we mere men aren’t meant to know.”
Before the discussion could continue further, the small fire in the large fireplace suddenly turned green and roared up to fill the opening. “Ah, it’s the Hogwarts contingent,” said Sirius, as people began to step out of the flames, shaking soot and ash off their clothing as they stepped onto the outsized hearth. Sherlock recognized this as the means people had arrived at the Leaky Cauldron earlier, but he was fascinated to see it up close. It almost looked like the flames themselves were spinning and coalescing into the solid body of the traveller. The first person through was huge; so huge he had to bend at the waist to step out of the fireplace. He stood well over eight feet tall, wide-chested to match, and boasted long bushy curls and a beard of steel-grey. His hands and feet were large even in proportion to the rest of him. He stomped his booted feet on the flagstones in front of the hearth to dislodge a small cloud of soot from his fuzzy-looking suit. “Sirius. Remus. Evenin’, all.” He nodded to everyone and stepped away from the hearth to exchange greetings with Bill.
“Hagrid.” Sirius nodded in response to the giant’s greeting. “Rubeus Hagrid. Professor of Care of Magical Creatures at Hogwarts. Rescued Harry when his parents’ house was blown up,” he whispered to Sherlock. “I was on my way, but he got there first.”
Sherlock nodded, slowly. This was surely the ‘giant guy’ to whom Dudley Dursley had referred. If he was in a position to rescue Harry when he was a toddler, and came into contact with the Dursleys years later, he must have access to precious background information.
The flames hadn’t completely died down again when they flared up a second time. The man who came through this time looked small only in comparison to the prior giant; he didn’t have to duck to get out of the fireplace without bumping his head, but only by an inch. His clothing was pure Wizard – short black cloak over a red tunic embroidered in gold, black belt with a large carnelian set in a gold bezel on the buckle, well-worn wand sheath hanging from the belt containing a shaft of cherrywood angled to be drawn cross-body by the left hand, although the sheath was originally designed to be drawn by the right and has been redesigned, sturdy black trousers and short black boots. He looked like he might have come from one of the useless Renaissance Faires John went to occasionally, except that all of his clothing was intended to be worn regularly, not once or twice as a costume.
Hermione had referred to the Wizarding world’s conflict as a “war”, but Sherlock had seen little overt sign of it so far – this man was the first, looking like he’d been chewed up, spat out, and set fire to afterwards. The right side of his face had been extensively burned, and he wore a leather patch over that eye that covered the area from above the eyebrow to half-way down the cheekbone. Judging by the way his dark hair fell, he didn’t have much of an ear on that side, either. He wore a black leather glove on his right hand, probably covering similar injuries to his hand, which meant most of his right arm and possibly the side of his torso was damaged as well. There was stiffness to his movements which reminded Sherlock forcibly of John’s former commanding officer, Major James Sholto, who had taken similarly devastating damage in Afghanistan, and he heard John take in a hiss of breath in shock and recognition. Unlike Sholto, however, this man was smiling and had much more relaxed and upbeat body language – that might have had something to do with the attractive blonde woman in pale blue robes who emerged from the flames next and immediately went to her – husband, yes – her husband’s left side and smiled up at him. It might also have had something to do with the rich green aroma reminiscent of Mrs. Hudson’s ‘herbal supplements’, a scent very familiar to Sherlock, which clung to the man’s clothing.
“Neville!” Sirius greeted him with real pleasure and enthusiasm. “Glad you could make it! Wasn’t sure you would, your prime growing season and all.”
“Oh, he would have made it if I’d had to drag him out of the greenhouse by his feet,” said the blonde. “He missed his own birthday party last week, and I’m not going to let him get away with something like that twice in a row.”
“If you ever do have to drag him out, take pictures. I’d love to see that,” said Sirius.
Sherlock agreed that it would be a sight, especially since Neville’s wife was petite and perhaps half his mass. There would have to be magic involved, of course.
“Wouldn’t mind seeing it myself,” agreed the tall man. “Not that I’m anxious to experience it – Hannah’s got a mean Summoning Charm.”
He had a pronounced Lancashire accent, though with that touch of Scots that Sherlock was coming to associate with people educated at their school and the vowel shift that seemed to be common to Wizards generally.
Sirius held out his left hand for Neville to shake in greeting, and drew him in closer to Sherlock.
“So who’s this? The Order recruiting Muggles now?” The line was very reminiscent of something Sally Donovan once said to John, but with more good will (wouldn’t take much, it being Sally).
“Not recruiting, no,” said Sirius. “This is Sherlock Holmes, an investigator Hermione hired to try to find Harry. Sherlock, Neville Longbottom, Professor of Herbology at Hogwarts, and his wife Hannah, Healer at St. Mungo’s Hospital and on-call Healer for Hogwarts.”
“Neville Longbottom?” Sherlock said with some surprise. “That wouldn’t be –?”
“Yeah, Neville Longbottom, backup Boy-Who-Lived, vanquisher of Voldemort the, what was it, fifth? sixth? time. For all the good it did us.” He flexed the fingers of his gloved right hand in a gesture John sometimes did with his left when the tremors were particularly annoying.
“—Longbottom of Longbottom Leaf?” Sherlock continued as if he hadn’t noticed an interruption.
“Huh? Oh, yeah, that would be me,” he said, a wide smile spreading over his face. “Surprised you know it.”
“Me, too,” said John, inserting himself neatly into the conversation. “I thought you didn’t know those books, Sherlock.”
“What books? I’m talking about the weed. Longbottom Leaf is the best brand. Stuff got me through uni with my sanity intact, and actually saved my life a couple of times. Sometimes it was the only painkiller I could use when I was hunting down Moriarty’s organization. You know how idiosyncratic my reactions to drugs are. I couldn’t afford to disable myself. Surprised you don’t know about it, actually.”
“Yeah, well, I’m a doctor. We usually prescribe things that are a bit more legal.”
“You were also in the Army. In Afghanistan.”
“Doctor, again. I never moved in those circles. And in Afghanistan the problem was the harder drugs, not … Still, Longbottom Leaf?”
“What else should we call it?” asked Neville reasonably. “It’s our family name and brand. It’s in the books because of us; the Professor was a good friend and a customer of my grandfather’s back in the day. I mean, everybody was, before the Muggles started getting weird about it.”
“But pipeweed was tobacco.”
Neville grinned at him. “Ah, no. The Third Age of Middle-Earth was supposed to be before the Americas were discovered, yeah? And tobacco is native to the New World. No way would it have been available then. The Professor was a stickler for things like that. But pipes, now, pipes and smoking bowls in Europe and Africa way predate that. So what do you think they were smoking? And, cannabis is, like, actually useful for potions and fibres and so on. It’s a major part of our economy. But tobacco’s just a killer. The nicotine is useful, but too easy to abuse, and the rest of the plant is loaded with poisons.”
“No arguments there,” said John.
Sherlock pointedly ignored the turn the conversation had taken. He didn’t consider his use of nicotine patches to focus his thought processes ‘abuse’, but he knew John did.
“Wait, was Tolkien a wizard too?” John suddenly yelped.
“No, just a Muggle friend of Granddad’s, though I’ve always thought he knew more than he let on. If he did, he certainly never let it slip.”
“Just don’t tell me you have a bunch of short, furry-footed people growing the stuff for you, and we’ll call it good.”
“Okay, then, I won’t. And I also won’t invite you out to the greenhouses, okay? Wouldn’t want to blow your mind or anything.”
While Neville was casually demolishing all of John’s illusions, the flames disgorged two more people, an older woman in a floor-length green robe topped by a tartan shawl, wearing an actual pointy witch hat – the first Sherlock had seen up close. She wore square glasses and carried a walking stick, which she used to steady herself when she first spun out of the fire but which seemed more of an accessory than a necessity afterwards.
She was followed by a younger woman with ash-brown hair pulled back into a bun that Sherlock realized strongly resembled the older woman’s in style – were they possibly related? She was dressed all in black – the classic ‘widow’s weeds’, modern in style but Victorian in concept – and therefore was undoubtedly the spouse of the late Ronald Weasley. He wondered if she was going to condemn herself to a lifetime of wearing purple, the way Mrs. Hudson had.
The younger woman didn’t pay attention to the strangers in the room, but ran up to Bill Weasley. “I got it! I got the job!”
“As if there was any doubt,” the older man replied. “Hogwarts couldn’t have a better Divinations teacher than Lavender Weasley. You start on the first, of course?”
She nodded enthusiastically. “That gives me a month to get my classroom set up; I can’t use the North Tower because Sybil is haunting it pretty violently. She really didn’t like the Board of Governors saying they wouldn’t allow any more ghosts to teach. Can’t say I blame them, I just wish they’d finally exorcise Binns … So I have to pick a new room and do all the staging for it, I have to sell that great barn Ron bought in Ottery St. Catchpole and get a more reasonable cottage in Hogsmeade and get Timmy transferred from Muggle primary school to the Wizarding one … It’s going to be so busy, I don’t know how I’m going to get it all done.”
“Busy is good, you know you need it. And you know the family will be there for you. Plus you can get your sons off their arses to help you move house, isn’t that what kids are for?”
She giggled. “Oh, they’re going to be so embarrassed that their old Mum is going to be teaching at their school now. At least none of them have signed up for my class.”
“Old?” said Fleur. “Thirty-five is not old.”
“It is when you’re thirteen,” Lavender said.
“Thank you for giving Lavender the position, Headmistress,” said Bill, turning to the older woman. “The Weasley Family really appreciates –”
“Tosh, Bill, she was easily the best for the position. I look forward to her being with us for many years to come. Now shall we give the good news to the others?”
The Weasley party headed across the hall, and the Headmistress nodded pleasantly at Sherlock and John as they passed, but did not interrupt the conversation with Neville, who was now discussing herbal medicine with John, Mary and Hannah.
“How many are we still waiting for?” asked Sherlock. “It looks like you have quite a full house already.”
“Mm, should only be three more. And I’m really only concerned about Ginny. International Floo can be rough. Dora and Shack can just come in whenever they … ah, here we go!”
The flames in the fireplace roared up again, but this time they were bright purple, with little red sparks mixed in. They spun and whirled into the form of a young woman, who staggered dizzily out of the fireplace and fell to her knees. She gagged helplessly for a moment, and the umbrella stand slid over to her so she could vomit into it. Hannah Longbottom bent over her to hold her long red plait out of the way and rubbed her back until she was finished. “Gah! I … fucking … hate International Floo! Wish I could take a plane the way Muggles do … oh God …” She dry heaved for a moment more, then sat back on the floor. She drew a wand from her sleeve and cast a spell into her own mouth while Neville did something to the contents of the umbrella stand, dissipating the smell instantly.
Hannah fished a potion out of a previously unnoticed belt pouch (which flickered and promptly became invisible again once she’d finished) and gave it to the redhead, who quaffed it unhesitatingly. “Ta, you’re a lifesaver! I’m not too late, am I?” She looked up and suddenly became aware of the others in the room. “Oh my God, new people. I don’t suppose you’ll forget that just happened?” She scrambled to her feet and blushed heavily while introductions were made.
Ginevra Weasley was an attractive woman, short and full-figured and maybe a year or two younger than Sherlock, with chocolate brown eyes that were unusual for someone with her hair colour. She was dressed in casual non-magical style clothing – jeans, boots, leather jacket, Bugs Bunny t-shirt – and carried a backpack, but there was, most disturbingly, a hand crossbow dangling from her belt on one side and a quiver of bolts for it on the other, with a bandolier of sharpened wooden tent pegs crossing her chest.
Her greetings to John and Mary were welcoming but casual, but she gave Sherlock just as thorough a look-over as he was giving her. It wasn’t sexual, just frankly assessing. Finally she relaxed into a mildly flirtatious stance. “Well. I’ll definitely have to thank Hermione for bringing you in. We’ve needed some new blood. It’s time to stop all this waiting and get things moving again, if you understand me.”
“I thought you couldn’t really do anything until you got Potter back.”
“And what good will it do Harry if we’re not ready to help when he does come back? If all we’ve done is collect rumours and have dinner parties when he needs us to be ready to fight? The Order let him down before – left him to stand alone when he needed them most. Well, that’s not going to happen this time, Mr. Holmes. Not if Ginny Weasley has anything to say about it,” she said fiercely. She shifted her backpack on her shoulder. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go up and get rid of this soot and change for dinner. My usual room ready, Sirius?”
“As always, Ginny. It’s good to see you home again.”
“Maybe for good this time.”
“Don’t make promises. You know you love what you do.”
“True. Hunting’s good. But there are plenty of others, and I’m more useful here … and maybe now there’s some … incentive.” She gave Sherlock a saucy wink and whirled off upstairs with a clatter of weapons.
The fire flashed green a final time at the same moment the locks and chains noises sounded from the front door. Sirius stepped out to the foyer to greet the arrival there while Remus caught the person who tumbled less than gracefully out of the Floo.
She was of medium height, wearing a dark red wool short robe over a black tunic and trousers – obviously the uniform Hermione and Dean had been working from the previous day – with an enamelled badge clipped to her belt. She had a heart-shaped face and black hair and was basically average in appearance – until her husband took her in his arms and kissed her soundly and her hair suddenly turned bright red and started curling madly.
John coughed and looked away, but Sherlock watched with unabashed interest. This must be Dora, and he could see why Sirius wanted him to talk to her, if this was the Black family gift. Sherlock regretted the fiction for a moment, and wished he really was a Black. This talent would be so incredibly useful for the Work – as Dora no doubt found it for her duties as an Auror. Whatever talent the Potter line had – if indeed it had been awakened by his Muggleborn mother – had either been bound with the rest of his magic (likely) or was just so totally esoteric and useless that he’d never come across the circumstances to make it work (less likely, but still possible).
Remus was in the process of introducing his wife to Sherlock and the Watsons when Sirius returned with the person he’d met at the door – and both Sherlock and the new guest froze.
“Sirius, what’s he–”
“Sirius, he’s an agent–”
They both stopped in mid-sentence. The stranger half-drew a wand from the sleeve of his (Savile Row, expensive but not bespoke, non-magical) suit while both John and Mary stepped away from Sherlock (out of the line of fire) and went for their guns. Sirius quickly stepped into the middle of the group so he would be in everyone’s line of fire. “Okay, weapons down, people. We’re all friends here. Sherlock, problem?”
Sherlock pointed at the large black man in the expensive suit. “That is Kingsley Shacklebolt,” he spat. “He’s one of the Home Office’s top data analysts. If he’s here, the government knows everything you’re doing. Your hidden buildings, your infiltration of Scotland Yard, your secret war, everything. Probably feeding it to MI5, too. That’s a bigger leak than my just knowing about the houses.”
“And you know this because ...?”
“He answers directly to my brother, who coordinates the various security agencies for the Home Office. At least that’s what Mycroft says he does this week. We worked together on the Moriarty matter.” He glared at the other man. “I find myself wondering, now, why my brother decided to throw me off a roof instead of having you turn Jim into a pebble and dropping him in the middle of the Thames.”
“Because he doesn’t know,” said Shacklebolt. “I work very hard to make sure he doesn’t know. And if he does find out, it will be my job to Obliviate him so hard his brain will turn into custard. Just like I should be Obliviating you and your friends right now,” he said grimly.
“New information, Shack,” said Sirius. He pointed at Sherlock, John and Mary in sequence. “Wizard. Squib. Allowed spouse.”
Sherlock pulled his medallion on its cord out from under his shirt. “Ministry credentials. So no doing anything to anybody, all right? Although I’m sure my brother could only be improved by turning his brain to custard. He’s already so fond of it …”
“And just when did we find all this out?” asked Shacklebolt. “I’ve been watching you as long as I’ve been watching him. I signed off on you being a Muggle, for Merlin’s sake! How did I miss it?”
“Really new information,” said Sirius. “Short version: somebody bound his magic, but he may be a cousin of mine. Go ask Hermione, she’s got the background.” He gave Shacklebolt a small shove in the general direction of the other parlour.
“Sorry about that, didn’t know you two had met,” he said to Sherlock. “Kingsley’s been the Ministry’s inside man in the Muggle government for years. Mostly he keeps them from finding out about us. But if things get messy and they have to know, he’s the point man to connect them.”
“And turn people’s brains to custard afterwards?”
“Not really – it would be too late to do anything but damage control at that point. We’ve run scenarios on it. Hope it doesn’t happen. Shack’s also the only Wizard we know who knows more about computers than Hermione. We’re lucky to have him onside.”
“I hope you don’t mind if I don’t trust him unreservedly.”
“I’d be surprised if you trusted any of us. You’re not known for taking other people’s word for things, and we’ve dropped an awful lot on you today.” He clapped Sherlock on the shoulder companionably. “And I don’t know about you, but after that, I need a drink. My parents laid down a very nice elf-made wine in their cellar, which is about the only thing I have to thank them for, or I’ve got some Old Ogden’s if you’d care for something a little stronger …”
He tapped his wand on the fireplace to close the Floo now that everyone had arrived, and drew the group across the hall to socialize.
The parlour was large, but the number of people in it made it crowded and noisy, exactly the sort of environment Sherlock most hated. And of course everybody wanted to talk to him, while all he wanted to do was circulate and listen in on conversations; you learned more that way, he always thought. Fortunately John and Mary both knew how to intercept and distract people, and both of them were better conversationalists than Sherlock was, so all Sherlock had to do was pull the relevant data out of all of the surrounding fluff.
Thus he got the details of Ron Weasley’s recent death (killed by a rogue Bludger that got loose in the equipment room of a sports team he worked for – none of this made sense yet to Sherlock, but he was sure it would soon), Ginny Weasley’s transit delays (ran into an unexpected nest of demons – demons?!? – on her way to the Portkey site and it took longer than normal to finish them off), the absence of Remus’s son Teddy (he’d turned down attending an adults-only dinner in favour of “helping” Bill and Fleur Weasley’s oldest daughter, Dominique, watch the pack of younger children belonging to the various attendees, which Molly Weasley fondly predicted would involve lots of snogging in the apple orchard and the complete demolition of her living room by the unattended little ones), and Kingsley Shacklebolt’s work headaches (suddenly acquired when certain people disappeared into areas they should not have even been able to see, and why didn’t Hermione inform him of this little excursion in advance?).
While John and Mary worked the room, Sherlock himself contemplated the large photograph of Harry Potter which had been placed on an easel in one corner of the room. A stand before it bore an album of photographs. Aside from the lack of flowers or a wreath, the whole thing looked disturbingly like a memorial display at a funeral. He flipped through the album looking at random pages and then turned his attention to the photograph. It was one of the moving wizarding ones, and started off showing a group of four young people. One of them was obviously Fleur Weasley when she was a young woman, in her late teens – before she had acquired the scars marking her cheek. The other two were male, also in their late teens, and Sherlock had no context which might indicate who they were. The fourth individual was Harry, who was obviously much younger than the other three and much less assured in front of the camera. The older three were properly posed and facing the camera for what was obviously a publicity shot of some sort, while Harry stood awkwardly and was looking somewhere off to the side as if for reassurance. The shot zoomed in on Harry until the young man was the only one in the frame; then he reacted as if someone spoke to him from off-camera and he suddenly relaxed and smiled, a brilliant grin animating his face. Then the shot ended and the picture returned to the original view before starting its cycle again.
It was the first time Sherlock saw what Harry Potter had actually looked like. It puzzled him. As he had told Lestrade’s team, the general description of Harry Potter also fitted him nicely. But now, on looking at the face of the boy, he could imagine the face of the man he would have become, and it was definitely not his own face. Not with any amount of reconstructive surgery. The eyes, yes, they both had vaguely almond-shaped eyes, slightly tilted, but Harry’s were an intense shade of green that Sherlock’s had never come close to – brilliant emerald compared to pale jade. That was as far as it went. The face in general was rounder, the hair straighter, the lips thinner – and there hadn’t been any work done anywhere near his mouth (except for that early case where he’d had his lip ripped a bit, and he knew if John had been there he wouldn’t even have a scar from that). The hair was straight and flyaway, darker than Sherlock’s, and not curly at all. The skin tone, the cheekbones, the jawline, all different. It was no wonder Hermione hadn’t been able to identify him.
Only the fingerprints, those impossible fingerprints, could prove to him that he hadn’t been mistaken back in Lestrade’s office. The fingerprints and that scar, the lurid red lightning-bolt scar that peeped through Harry’s fringe, and which Sherlock had seen his own brow before the surgery was done to remove it.
“I remember that,” said Fleur, coming up from behind Sherlock to look at the picture. “’E was so nervous, and so young, and nobody ‘ad prepared ’im for anything that was going on. I am ashamed to admit we did not treat ’im well. We did not understand that ’e did not want to be there, that ’e ’ad been forced. We saw this – this ‘leetle boy’ pushing ’imself into a grownup tournament and some’ow being allowed, because ’e was the Boy-Who-Lived and was privileged over the rest of us. We thought ’e was arrogant enough to think ’e could take us on and win, when ’e was three years behind us.”
She reached out to touch the photo, which froze in mid-cycle at the moment when the wide grin broke out over Harry’s face. “We did not know ’ow frightened ’e was. And ’e would ’ave died before ’e admitted it.”
She removed her fingertips from the photo, which started cycling again. “We were the arrogant ones, Mr. ’Olmes. We thought we could ’andle what the Tournament would throw at us. We were too stupid, too proud to be afraid. Until we saw the dragons in the First Task; ’e was the one who made sure Cedric knew and was prepared – it did not occur to the rest of us. Until I failed utterly in the Second Task; that ‘leetle boy’ saved my sister from the depths of the lake. Until the Third Task; Viktor and I fell, and Cedric and ’Arry were kidnapped and only ’Arry returned, bringing back Cedric’s body.” She sighed heavily. “And when ’e needed ’elp most, ’e was alone. ’E should never ’ave been alone. There should ’ave been someone there … there was supposed to be someone there, but ’e left … greedy, stupid little man! And stupid, stupid Dumbledore for trusting him …”
She paused to get her breathing under control again. “I was not part of the Order then. I was barely eighteen, I ’ad returned to my family ’ome in Provence to recover from the Tournament.”
“You were injured badly?”
“Not in the body, no. My ’eart, my soul – yes. I ’ad been so proud, so confident, so sure . I was Fleur Delacour, and I was the best of the best and the future was mine to seize. And that ‘leetle boy’ showed me just ’ow wrong I was, and what it really meant to be the best. So when word came that ’e was missing, that ’e ’ad been lost some’ow, I came back to ’elp find ’im. And ’ere I’ve stayed ever since. It ’elps that you Englishmen are so devastatingly ’andsome,” she said, glancing over at her husband and blushing slightly.
Bill Weasley was chatting with Lavender but also keeping an eye on his wife. He lifted his wine glass in a toast to her when he met her gaze.
“He doesn’t trust a strange man talking to you?”
“Non, ’e’s protecting you from me. I am veela, and until I get to know you a little better … it can be dangerous.”
“I don’t understand,” Sherlock said, looking down at her with a puzzled expression.
“Ah, per’aps if we talked where it is less crowded? I’m sure a man like you already ’as lots of ideas … on ’ow to find ’Arry.” She licked her lips suggestively, and her face almost seemed to glow – or maybe it was the rest of the room becoming dim and quiet around them. He could see why Bill had married her – she was easily the most attractive woman in the country – maybe even the continent – scars notwithstanding. It was on the tip of his tongue to tell her, right there, that he had already solved the case, that Harry Potter was standing right in front of her. That he was ready and willing to save the world for her, to make her proud of him.
And then he blinked. Where the hell did that come from? Her hand was resting on his sleeve. When had she put it there? He blinked again, and stepped back. Her hand fell away from his sleeve, and the light and sound from the rest of the room came roaring back.
She smiled quietly and nodded. “Very good, Mr. ’Olmes. I do not think you ’ave anything to fear from me.” She picked up a wine glass from a tray that floated by, nodded to him over it, and returned to her husband’s side.
Hermione eeled through the crowd to Sherlock, glaring at Fleur’s back. “Are you all right? What was she thinking?!”
“I think it was a test. One I passed. Nothing to be concerned about.” To distract her, he looked down at the album. “While you’re here, could you explain to me why Harry appears in two distinct sets of these pictures? Were there two groups of friends who didn’t like each other?”
“What do you…? Oh, I see what you mean. That first group is Harry’s father, James, when he was in school. Harry looks exactly like his father, except for having his mother’s eyes. The pictures of Harry and the rest of us start about here …”
After the dinner was over and they took a taxi home, the three of them sat in the Baker Street sitting room in their accustomed places, Sherlock’s contemporary leather chair and John’s beloved and ancient red armchair by the fire, and Mary’s rocking chair by the window. Mary draped her knitting across her lap but was not actually knitting, John poured himself a scotch but was not actually drinking, and Sherlock … Sherlock was off in his Mind Palace somewhere and probably was actually thinking, though there was no external sign of him doing anything besides breathing.
Perhaps an hour passed this way.
Sherlock blinked and inhaled deeply and shifted as if to get out of his chair.
“No,” said John.
“What d’you mean, no?”
“I mean, no. Whatever little plan or idea you just got in your head to ditch me and Mary somehow and run off to deal with this Voldemort character, you can forget it. Delete it. You’re not going to get away with that this time.”
“I have no idea what you mean. I’m just going to get some tea …”
John snorted. “As if you’ve ever made tea anytime I was in the flat and could make it for you. Look, I’m not as observant as you and I may not think as fast as you, but after all this time I’m a pretty good judge of Sherlock Holmes’ facial expressions – even the micro ones that leak through when you think you’ve gone all impassive. Like now.” He knocked back his drink and considered pouring another before deciding against it. “What’s more, while you were discussing Death Eater tactics with Sirius and Dora up at the head end of the table tonight, I was down at the other end with Hermione hearing allll about how Harry Potter handled things. And truth to tell, you haven’t changed all that much. It may not take you an entire year to solve a case now – the Irene Adler mess notwithstanding – but at the end of it there’s still too much running off by yourself instead of calling in Lestrade, or Dimmock, or whoever’s job it is to actually arrest the bad guys that week. And that winds up with you spending far too much quality time at the local A&E.”
“John, you don’t understand. This could be dangerous –”
“Last time you told me that, you were trying to recruit me. Now it’s supposed to scare me off?”
“You have a wife and child to consider now–”
“And what sort of man would I be if I didn’t do what I could to protect them?”
“If things go wrong and you can’t come back–”
“This is why she has godparents who have agreed to stand guardian for her. Greg and Molly know the sort of thing we get involved in.”
“But this case is–”
“For God’s sake, it’s NOT a CASE!” John would have shouted except he didn’t want to risk waking the baby. “We know who did the murder and why. Even Hermione’s case isn’t a case – you’re the solution to it. Taking down Voldemort is not a case. It’s a goddamn hit.” And then he suddenly shut up, too.
“I was wondering when you two were going to realize that,” said Mary calmly.