Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Seventh Safeguard [XVII]



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Chapter XVII ~ Retrospection

It was the first of September, and the sun had sunk below the horizon. Baker Street had fallen into deep evening twilight. Sherlock Holmes, perched in his customary armchair, was reading and rereading a long letter. I was sitting and looking out the window, wrapped in contemplation. My thoughts were with the Hogwarts train, as it wound its way through the highlands to the castle by the loch. Harry Potter had told me that it usually arrived shortly after dark had fallen. He would be aboard it now, as would Ron and Hermione, for their last year in school. I thought of all the eleven-year-olds, newly apprised of their wizardry, who were now safely embarked on their schooling, and nearly at Hogwarts. I was almost envious. It would be a fine thing to go to school in a great stone castle in the highlands, to learn to fly, and to see dragons. But mostly, I thought of the fact that Mary Watson, the unschooled wizardess whose overseas birth to muggle agents of the British Embassy in India had led to her being overlooked for decades, was downstairs, having tea with Shirley and Mrs. Hudson, instead of being on that train.

When Mycroft had asked Mary to follow us and watch for Death Eater reinforcements coming, Mary had gone to Ginny Weasley, and asked for her help as a guide. Ginny, and Luna Lovegood, her friend, the Ravenclaw girl who Sherlock and Hermione had gone to for advice, were under-age members of Dumbledore’s Army. They had been delighted to be asked to help in a non-combat role. Luna dressed Mary in robes which had belonged to her late mother so that she could try to pass as a wizard if she was seen. And together they led her to an old house outside of Hogsmeade Village and showed her a secret passageway – one of the seven on the Marauder’s Map. There, Mary had insisted that they stay behind, and had gone on, through a tunnel and into the grounds of Hogwarts. She had waited in the grounds, hidden in some fashion, until she saw the cloud of dementors, and knew that someone inside the castle was summoning unsavoury reinforcements. She set off her flare, sent her beautiful patronus, and then entered the castle. I believe, though I am not sure, that she levitated onto the battlements.

The robes now hung in her closet, and her Hogwart’s letter lay on her bureau. The discovery of an entire world of people with her abilities had enlarged her area of study, and brought her in touch with persons like herself. We had interesting friends calling at Queen Anne’s Street. Ginny Weasley and Mrs. Lupin had called only yesterday. But she had not chosen the new world over the old. She had broadened her horizons, but not transplanted herself. She had not gone where I could not come as well. She had stayed in my world, with me and our daughter.

Sherlock rolled up his letter; rolled, not folded. It was written on a parchment scroll instead of notepaper.

“So who’s your other Wizarding correspondent?” I asked.

“Oh, very good, John.” he said. “It occurred to you that a muggle-born wizard would use either the internet or the muggle post office to correspond with a muggle while she’s staying with her muggle parents?”

“And it’s a little too early for Hermione to be writing from school.”

“Just a little. It’s Severus Snape.”

“He’s somewhere in the Andes right now, isn’t he?”

“Yes. I think he’s studying the potioneering techniques of some fringe society of Peruvian warlocks.”

“Why is he writing to you? You’re a muggle.”

“I seem to be his source of British news.” replied Sherlock. “And he repays me by sending back enlightening commentaries on it from an inside perspective.”

“And why not write to a wizard?”

“Who would he write to? The vast majority of British Wizarding society thinks he should be locked away at the very least.”

“Not to sound naïve, but he could write to Harry Potter. Harry would write him back.”

“You’re right. He could write James’ Potter’s son and ask him for news. It would be quite possible. It would even be practical. Of course, he’d rather cut his own hand off …”

“Bit extreme, don’t you think?”

Sherlock shrugged.

“This works. I get my Wizarding news from Hermione. And I send her back Snape’s commentary, mixed with my own observations, and she makes sure it gets to the appropriate Wizarding channels.”

“The information he gave you and Kingsley at Hogwarts wasn’t enough?”

“No. That was just a large block of facts. His inside perspective on the Death Eaters gives him a very valuable insight on current events. By the way, Hermione asked me to tell you something in particular.”

“What was that?”

“The interim administration has sworn off using the beings called dementors in any official capacity, and considering the extent to which people are now associating them with Riddle, they will probably not be brought back into service after the upcoming election.”

“I am very glad to hear it.” I said heartily.

Sherlock chuckled. “She seemed to think that you would be. I gather you must have expressed a most vehement opinion on the subject at some point.”

“Harry and I discussed it.” I looked out the window for a minute. “One of your more far reaching cases, Sherlock.”

“Oh I was involved in but the very tail end of a case which stretched over many many decades and involved some thousands of people. Chief credit must go to Albus Dumbledore. At the time of his death, he had amassed such a large depth of knowledge, and come to so nearly complete an understanding of the matter, that it is nearly inconceivable that Harry Potter, his agent, would not have been able to bring the case to a successful conclusion by himself … eventually. To the minor credit of having speeded up the final stages, I may perhaps lay some claim.”

“Did Dumbledore know?” I asked. “That Harry would survive?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, how did you know, then?”

“I didn’t. … I thought it possible. You see, John, when Dumbledore insisted to Snape that Riddle had to be the one to destroy the seventh safeguard, it was immediately apparent to me that this order was irrelevant to the horcrux itself. There was no earthly reason why the means which destroyed the six would not work equally well on the seventh. But it must matter in some way, or Dumbledore wouldn’t have called it essential – and if not for the horcrux, then for what or for whom would it matter except for Harry himself?

“That, in a nutshell, is what led me to theorize that Harry still had a chance of living. Dumbledore seemed to be arranging the matter for Harry’s own sake as well as the mere horcrux’s. This more than implied that something could still be done for him. Admittedly, that ‘something’ need not necessarily mean the possibility of survival. But what other possible benefit might there be for Harry in dying by Riddle’s hand?

“The killing curse, Riddle’s signature weapon, is nearly instantaneous, and so is probably also nearly painless, quicker than basilisk venom anyhow. But it was by no means assured that Riddle would, having Harry in his power, immediately kill him. He almost certainly would at some point. As long as he had at least one other horcrux remaining to him, he would likely consider killing Harry more important than having that extra horcrux – if indeed he realized that Harry was a horcrux at all. I don’t see how he could not know, but it is only fair to point out that Dumbledore thought that he didn’t. In any case, Riddle could have subjected Harry to any number of horrors before giving a final blow. So Dumbledore couldn’t have chosen that as the easiest way for Harry to die. It occurred to me that Dumbledore might have thought turning oneself over to the enemy a more honourable way to die than by plain suicide. But if that were the case, might he not have expected his pupil to come to that conclusion on his own? So painlessness could not be the point. Honour was a possibility. I do not know enough about Dumbledore to say how great a possibility. What else would matter to a dying man? Well, living would. I knew that Harry had survived that signature curse once before; but under circumstances which no longer applied. Curses cast by Riddle could do him injury. That had been thoroughly demonstrated. But what is the most remarkable thing about the killing curse, Doctor?”

“The lack of physical damage.” I replied.

“Quite. The lack of physical damage. Now, ordinarily, this does not much matter to the victim. They are dead. But supposing one were to be hit by it, really hit, and yet somehow survive. It would matter a great deal. Supposing someone had do something which would ordinarily kill them, but they were not actually going to die at all. Under most conditions, this would be a hellish thing, injured to the point of death, but unable to die. But perhaps not with the killing curse.”

“Hence your statement that Dumbledore was trying to hurt him as little as possible.”

“Exactly. Now, I saw no good reason for him to survive, myself. But I am not a student of the Wizarding sciences. Dumbledore’s knowledge of them was obviously vastly superior to mine. If he saw a possibility, then I was willing to take his word for it. … None of this proved anything, of course. And I was well aware of the possibility that there could be some other explanation which was completely invisible to me. But it seemed a strong enough possibility that I was anxious that Dumbledore’s instructions be followed to the letter – so that if there was any chance, Harry would have it.

“As it turns out, I was correct. Harry survived. But whether Dumbledore knew that he would, or whether he was just trying something wildly risky in a last desperate hope of saving his young pupil, I do not know. The fact that he did not allow Harry to try it until the last possible moment suggests that he was less than perfectly confident. Not confident enough to be willing to risk Harry’s life with it until it could no longer be helped. The fact that he did not tell Harry of the possibility that it would work might point to the same lack of confidence, or there might have been some subtlety in the nature of the attachment of the fragment of Riddle or the working of the killing curse, which necessitated that Harry go with no hopes for himself for the operation to work properly. I don’t know. And because I didn’t know which subtleties were necessary, I elected to act as if every possible subtlety was necessary, and didn’t breathe a word to him of my suspicions. … As to how it worked? … There, I admit, I am almost totally at a loss for an explanation.”

“Harry himself credited his mother, Lily.” I said. “He put it down to her spell, even though I had thought they had said it was destroyed.”

It was Mary who responded.

“No, not destroyed.”

She had come quietly up the stairs while we were speaking, and was now standing in the open doorway.

“Oh.” said Sherlock. “So is the witch going to enlighten us on what really happened on the strength of her intuitive knowledge?”

“Sherlock! You can’t call my wife a witch!”

“But, John, she is.” said Sherlock innocently. “And a very able one, too.”

No, she’s not. She is not a ‘witch.’ She is the possessor of a number of extremely useful telekinetic and telepathic abilities, derived innocently and naturally in the same fashion as the colour of her hair. That makes her not a bargainer with unclean spirits – which is what the term witch implies – but something more along the lines of a … super-heroine. A subtle super-heroine. But she’s helped a lot of people in her quiet way.”

Mary cast me a smile, to be the recipient of which was better than all patronuses in the world.

But Sherlock just chuckled and said:

“Semantics.”

“No.” I insisted. “It’s an important distinction.”

“In the British Wizarding world, ‘witch’ is merely the feminine of wizard.” Sherlock said. “And I’ve noticed you have no problem calling her ‘wizardess’. But very well then, is the wizardess going to enlighten us?”

“Not really.” said Mary. “I was merely going to point out that if the matter has been portrayed to me correctly, nobody ever said that Lily’s spell had actually been destroyed. What Voldemort did was try to steal it. By spreading it to both, it was no longer between them, and could not strictly block him. But it still existed. By stealing it into himself Voldemort created an ‘outpost’ – so to speak – of the enchantment, but it was a gift that belonged to Harry alone – though now separate from him. It could no longer act as a shield, but still protected him in some way. Perhaps you’re right, Sherlock, and anything but the killing curse would have merely injured him to the point of death – to die shortly thereafter when the outpost in Riddle was destroyed. Or perhaps, if he had sought death elsewhere he would simply have died. I don’t know. … Here’s my understanding, for whatever it’s worth. What is more unlike the soul of Lord Voldemort, than giving up life itself for the love of others? That lonely walk the boy made was part of a surgery, that any insidious bonds formed over the years between himself and the invader would be by his own action of will, broken. So that when Voldemort’s blow came, the image of love and the image of hell should as disassociated as possible. So that the one should be protected and the other destroyed. It wasn’t just to kill Riddle. By choosing willingly to give up his life for others, Harry kept it and became free.” Mary smiled at Sherlock, and her earnest tones became flippant, “But I suppose you quite renounce such a theory.”

“Only a fool goes into denial when faced with the unexpected. And I have never ruled out the possibility of such matters as you suggest. Although I admit that I have assumed as a working hypothesis that I would never encounter such things in the course of my criminal investigations. And I am still not completely convinced that I have done so. …. Remarkable woman, Lily Potter – whatever it was that she did. A very large amount of credit must go to her. It was, after all, her action which knocked Riddle back for so many years, allowing the time for the research would lead to his final overthrow.”

“What about that other woman?” Mary asked, sitting down beside me. “Amelia Bones. Did you ever find out why she was murdered?”

Sherlock shrugged.

“Just another of his many political murders.”

“But why her in particular?” I asked.

“As far as my inquiries have been able to ascertain, she was an upright, conscientious woman of integrity in a position of some power. But what was the particular incident which led to her murder? … We will probably never know.”

“Have the police given up on the case?” asked Mary.

“I spoke to Inspector Hopkins about it a few weeks ago. I told him I’d solved it; said that the murderer was Tom Riddle, seventy years old, born here in London to parents named Merope Gaunt and Tom Riddle, that the motive was politics, and I reminded him of my previous explanation of how he got in. But I told him it was no good trying to track this Riddle down, since my investigations had satisfactorily proved that he had recently, but quite unsurprisingly, been killed himself. … I did not say by whom. And I am not sure he entirely believed me.”

Sherlock chuckled, set Snape’s scroll down on the desk, and reached for his violin.

~ The End ~


For those of you have have gotten so far, thanks for reading!
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This non-commercial, derivative work is an independent production by Charlotte Ann Kent and is not associated with The Doyle Estate, the BBC, Warner Bros, or J.K. Rowling.
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Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Seventh Safeguard [XVI]



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Chapter XVI ~ Lord Voldemort


While we were near the Headmaster’s office, we walked quickly. But before long we slowed down. By and by our heavy feet came to a complete stop. Sherlock put down the sword and tore the duct-tape off his hand with a ripping sound. He held the little silver bottle up in the air and swirled it gently, watching the contents shimmer and whirl in the shaft of light from an arrow-slit.

“A pretty little thing, isn’t it?” he mused. “You would never know, to look at it, what it holds.” There was a sudden spasm of his hand, as if he yearned to throw it away, smash it on the floor, let its shameful, black knowledge be lost in the dust.

“Do we have the right to give that to him?” I asked.

“Do we have the right to keep it from him?” asked Sherlock.

“It’s a death sentence.”

“It is.”

“Sherlock, I know that none of the wizards think it’s a good idea…”

“Because it’s not.” he interrupted.

“… but what if we did just kill Riddle as is?”

“Then he’ll come back.”

“Yes, but what if he didn’t? What if … we so completely destroyed his organisation that there was nobody left to help him return? He wouldn’t technically be dead but …”

“But be unable to come back in the sense which would render him a politically dangerous entity.” Sherlock’s voice had sunk very low. “‘A mere spirit of malice that gnaws itself in the shadows, but cannot again grow or take shape’.

It took me a moment to place this.

“I didn’t know you’d read Tolkien.” I said after a minute

“Of course I have.”

He fell silent again, gazing away into the distance. Through the arrow-slit we could see a glimpse of forest. There was a flash of something dark, as some flying creature swooped past.

“Harry’s life, Sherlock.”

“And what if it was you, John?” said Sherlock softly. “Would you have me keep this from you?”

I was silent.

“See? You would not. … And neither would I. … And we both know that Harry wouldn’t either.”

He stopped again, gazing quietly at the softly glowing bottle.

“No. We both know that wouldn’t suffice. Even if the Death Eaters were to be utterly wiped out, there would always be people who would seek the same things as Riddle, who would bring him back to help them accomplish them. The man who nearly brought him back five years ago was unrelated to the original movement. … And Riddle can still do terrible things in the spectre state. Reports have come back from Albania. … Do as you would be done by, John. I have to give it to him.”

A dog howled in the distance.

“And besides – I did give my word.”

“What exactly did you promise?” I asked.

“To tell him anything I find which might help him defeat Riddle; to hide nothing – nothing which could possibly aid him in his task. I asked him how to help him, and he did not ask me to save his life, he asked me to defeat the sorcerer, no matter what the cost would be for him. … I know, it does seem like betrayal, doesn’t it?”

“It does.”

“But wouldn’t it be a worse betrayal to hide it from him?”

Suddenly Sherlock’s manner of brooding reverie snapped. He snatched up the sword from the ground.

“John, bring the pensieve.” And he dashed down the corridor out onto the battlements.

“The what?” I asked as I followed.

“That thing you’re carrying.” he said, setting down the sword and taking the bowl. “Don’t cut yourself on the sword. You’d be dead in under a minute.” He placed the bowl on the broad ledge and uncapped the little bottle.

“Do you know what you’re doing?” I asked.

“Vaguely. Harry’s told me about this.”

“And you think you can operate it?”

“I don’t see why not. It can’t be too hard. The first time Harry did it, it was by accident. I want to know exactly what it is that I’m giving to him.”

He poured the contents out into the bowl. Strangely, they did not splash and then grow still. Instead, they began to swirl, very fast indeed. Now, spread out on the bottom of the bowl, the substance no longer seemed evenly pearly, lighter and darker sections appeared, glimpses of things, as if seen out of a dream. I was certain I saw a glimpse of an old man, tall and bearded, in the same silly sort of hat that Sherlock was wearing. Only, it didn’t look silly on the old man.

I turned to Sherlock. He wasn’t there.

“Sher!…” I spun around, looking. There was no sign of him; not along the battlements, not back down the corridor, not on the nearest stairwell. I looked back towards the basin on the ledge. It occurred to me that it was really rather precariously situated.

“I don’t like this.” I said aloud. But nobody answered.

So I leaned against the battlements to wait for him, within arm’s reach of the basin, but not so near that I might accidentally bump it and send it toppling down to the grassy lawn fathoms and fathoms below. The sun was rising towards noon. The day had become very warm. The lawns swept away from the castle wall, ending in dark woods, rich in their summer garb, and at the edge of water. A narrow lane, either paved, or made of stone so flawlessly laid as to appear seamless from a distance, wound away through the grounds. Outside the castle, on the lawns, was a number of what were quite unmistakably greenhouses, and garden beds surrounding them. Away by the edge of the forest, there seemed to be a little cabin. Smoke curled up from it, even though it was summer. Everything was well kept, orderly, and beautiful. But in all the vast expanse which lay open to my eyes, there was no sign of human presence. There was movement and sound everywhere; the rippling of the loch and the quiet sound of its waves, the faint unceasing movement of the trees, the calls of the birds, and their dark shapes, swooping in front of the sun. Something larger was flying down around the treetops (it was enormous whatever it was). A dog was barking. The breeze whistled around the castle turrets. But none of this was human. The castle, the grounds, lay almost empty, awaiting the return of the school year.

I was startled out of the gloomy train of thought this reflection brought on by the sudden realization that Sherlock was standing beside me again. His breathing was fast, and he was muttering very rapidly under his breath.

“Voldemort.” he was saying. “Why? … Why Voldemort? … It’s necessary that it happens before but, why … Oh!” He nearly jumped. “That is insane! That is ridiculous! But then so is this whole preposterous affair!” With every sign of eagerness, he grabbed the pensieve, full though it was, and rushed down the corridor and into the stairwell.

“Sherlock!” I snatched up the sword and followed. “You were procrastinating a minute ago! What happened?!”

He spun on the stair and looked back up at me, his eyes shining.

“Snape didn’t tell us everything Dumbledore said. Obviously he didn’t think to attach any great importance to it, and since he was sending Harry the message through this” he indicated the shimmering basin “and not really through me, it didn’t occur to him to mention it to us.”

“Mention what?

“Dumbledore insists that it must happen at Voldemort’s hand! His and no other’s. … Does that not seem highly suggestive to you? … No? Merely appalling? … Well, perhaps I am mistaken. But no! I am sure I am not! Why else could it be so very vital? Essential, he called it; essential. Of course, it was really the only way to handle the affair all along, what with our intention to accost Riddle in open battle anyhow. But I don’t see any good reason why it should matter from the point of view of the horcrux and if it doesn’t matter to the horcrux then …”

Sherlock broke off, and would have rushed on again, but I called him back.

“Sherlock, has it occurred to you that maybe we’ve just been wrong! Wrong, wrong, wrong all this time about trusting Dumbledore!”

“Yes, of course it has – did long since. But the theory stood up to no scrutiny and I dismissed it.”

“Well have you any idea what that means subjecting Harry to? We know the man is a bloody psychopath! We know what he’s already done to Harry. Does Dumbledore – did Dumbledore – want to hurt the poor kid as much as possible?”

“No. No, not as much but as little as possible. As absolutely little as could possibly be helped.”

“Well then why?!”

“Well don’t you…” he broke off for a minute. “Oh never mind. I can’t say for certain, and you’d say I was out of my mind. Maybe I am – thinking such things. But…”

A glimmering light was rippling up the stairwell towards us. I recognized the silvery, warm aura of a patronus. But this one was one I’d never seen before. It was long and lean, running low to the ground so that it almost looked like a streamer flowing up the stairs. It took me a moment to discern where the sinuous body ended and the head and the tail began. When I did I thought at first that it looked rather like a weasel, and thought bizarrely of Ron Weasley. But it was too large for that, it was more like an otter; a sleek, svelte English river otter. As it reached Sherlock it stopped, and rose up on his hind legs, webbed forepaws folded before it, with its face, practically an extension of it’s lean body, looking up to him. It spoke in the sweet voice of Hermione Granger.

“Riddle is coming, Mr. Holmes. Nagini is with him. He’s checked the Gaunt house, and he’s heading for the cave. He’ll be on his way here very soon.”

The silver otter faded away, leaving Sherlock and I alone again. He gazed at the place where it had disappeared with a decidedly doleful expression.

“I wonder if she’ll ever forgive herself for …”

He didn’t finish. He turned away from where it had disappeared, and held the basin with one hand, while pulling Harry’s marvellous map out of his jacket pocket with the other. “The ‘charms’ teacher is on the fifth floor.” he announced. “But there’s no one on the sixth and we’re the only people on the seventh … or between the sixth and seventh, technically, since we’re on the staircase. Another of the professors is in the top of one of the towers off that way, but I understand she doesn’t leave it very often. … Someone called … the ‘Bloody Baron’ is in the astronomy tower off that way, but he seems to be pacing back and forth. You probably won’t have to worry about him. Snape’s still in his office in the tower down the hall of course, but he’ll be there for a while yet. John, I need you to stay here.”

“Here?”

“Well not right here, obviously. This is the clear route up from the main entry. No, stay clear of right here. The last thing you want to do is run into Riddle all by yourself while we’re all down in the lower levels. It would do no one any kind of good at all. But I need you on this floor. Stay off the main routes, and stay out of the Room of Requirement.”

“And what am I to do?”

“You’re to be on call. When you’re needed, I dare say it’ll be obvious enough. Stay within the distance a raised voice can carry from the room. That shouldn’t be too hard considering all those little side passages nearby.” He hesitated. “Unless … unless you would be willing to take this to Harry yourself?”

I stopped, looking down at the shimmering pensieve. It glowed eerily in Sherlock’s hands. He looked up and stared me in the face.

“No, no, never mind, John. You needn’t answer that.”

No. If … if it has to be done. … But Sherlock … do you really see any hope for Harry?”

Sherlock looked at me with a peculiar mixture of amusement and disappointment.

“Even if I did, to show it might destroy it.”

“Then I can’t do it.”

“No. I guess you can’t. … Well, John,” he had become strangely brisk and chipper, “I shall, I hope, see you later.”

He shoved the map out of sight and continued down the stairs at a great pace. Just before he went out of sight he paused, looking back up. Then he, like the otter, disappeared.

I now draw swiftly to the end of this narrative, but as I do so, there is much that I cannot say. I was not there at the supreme moment of revelation when Harry Potter learned the doom which had been hanging over him since infancy. I do not know what words Sherlock Holmes found to impart to him that terrible knowledge, or how he explained to him the role played by the hated Professor Snape, or whether he said nothing and let the memory speak first. I do not know in what manner Harry received the knowledge, whether he accepted it with instant understanding, or was struck with disbelief. Knowing Harry, I should suspect the former. But I was not there. And I did not see the dispute that then arose between the detective and the wizard. The first I knew of it was when I turned a narrow corner, and there, as if it had been waiting for me, stood Harry’s silver hart; tall, majestic, and utterly beautiful. It spoke in Harry’s youthful tones, and addressed me.

“Dr. Watson, Mr. Holmes is frozen in the broom-cupboard on the second floor, just down the hall from the bathroom. He should be able to get out by himself in a minute. But I thought that somebody ought to know where he is.”

It turned and cantered away.

“No. Wait … Harry.” I called, starting to follow it. But before it could reach the open doorway at the end of the hall, it flickered away and went out – like a candle that had been extinguished.

I saw why I had been stationed here. Sherlock had intended to accompany Harry on that last lonely journey to the Room of Requirement, ensuring at least one other combatant in that all important encounter. But Harry had prevented him. I knew him too well to suspect him of anything but the very kindest of motives towards my friend. But the group of us, all five, should have ambushed Riddle together. Perhaps Harry did not believe that Ron and Hermione would let him do what he was about to do. Clearly he did not think that the muggle detective should accompany him on such a mission. And so now Harry was going, alone, to face Riddle – as Sherlock had never intended that he should. I was here as Sherlock’s back-up. My place was now by Harry’s side.

Before the light of his patronus had been snuffed out, I was running, swiftly as I could, straight for the Room of Requirement. The main corridor on the seventh floor corridor was empty. There was no sound save the troll tapestry flapping in the wind from the casements. The door to the room was open. I hurried along the corridor, my heart in my mouth. Then a voice, a high, cruel voice, raised in mirthless triumph, cried out from beyond the door. I recognized the incantation that it spoke; it echoed through the wide halls.

“Avada Kedavra!”

And then utter silence.

For a moment I stood, in realization of what had just happened; then I ran on, though the high doors and into the room of chaos.

Sick at heart, I jogged up and down the aisles of junk. The thingamajigs I had noticed before whizzed over my head. Their humming and the pounding of my feet and heart seemed to be the only sounds in the world – until I heard the unmistakable crack of someone teleporting. My hand clenched convulsively on the handle of Gryffindor’s sword.

And then I saw what looked at first like a bunch of black robes thrown down in a heap on the worn and dusty floor.

Harry Potter lay on his back, his limbs thrown awry and his glasses half slipped off. There was no weapon in his hands. There was no mark upon his person. If I had seen one, I might have hoped. The killing curse – the mark-less spell which had killed poor Amelia Bones, and Sirius Black, and Harry’s own parents, and so many countless others had now taken him too. Sherlock’s wild hopes, whatever they had been, had been in error. He had sent our poor young friend to his death, as he had so feared to do. ‘The Boy Who Lived’ lay silent on the ground. He had come unarmed, unresisting, to meet the bloody hunter who had pursued him from infancy, and died – to ensure that others could live. From his face, he could have been asleep.

Tears blurred my eyes. They would fall, though I tried to blink them back. The mute appeal of the murdered youth on the ground struck into my heart in shafts of grief, and guilt, and fury.

And the monster had fled! I turned in anger. Where was the man who’d struck him down?! My view was blocked on either hand by the rows and ridges of worthless junk, but I had no doubt that it was he whom I had heard teleporting. That he could have found a way to teleport in this place did not surprise me at all. Failed, failed on both counts. Harry Potter lay dead, and Thomas Riddle had eluded us. I had been too slow. I should have been there with Harry, not after him.

With a curse, I bellowed for the monster to appear. But there was no answering voice or sound and I did not expect it. Riddle had escaped us for now. But not for long. There was only the one horcrux left him now. We would hunt him down if he fled to the ends of the earth! Thomas Riddle, born to end a thousand lives. How many more, now? How many?

“Would that the monster had not fled!” I cried aloud.

I turned back to Harry, still lying as he fell. I would compose the body, he should not lie thus, and search the room, just to be certain, before going and making sure Sherlock was out of the cupboard and telling him of my failure. We would then go and reveal to Hermione and Ron what had happened, and if their wrath allowed us, we could the four of us go and continue the hunt … for however long it took. But before I had touched the boy, there was a pattering of feet.

For a moment I thought the diminutive, large-eared, wrinkled, little brown person who peered curiously around the cardboard box was Harry’s ‘Creature’. But a second glance assured me that this was an entirely separate individual; an individual eccentrically dressed in striped shorts, red suspenders, a blue bolero, several knitted caps, and one striped sock, ugly in the almost-cute way that a toad is, with big, round, sensitive eyes. He took one look, and a strange, strangled sound escaped him. Then with a horrible wail of anguish he launched himself upon the body.

“Harry Potter, Sir!” he cried. “Harry Potter! … Harry Potter should not … back! … not when he-who-must-not-be-named …” It was hard to follow the broken wails. “… freed Dobby! … defeated …” Whatever else it was the brownie said, it was lost in incoherent sobbing.

I stood there for a minute, appalled and and further grieved by this torrent of misery. And then I turned sorrowfully away to commence my search of the room, leaving Harry to his bereaved little friend. As I did so, I caught a sudden movement out of the corner of my eye, a furtive, silent movement.

From of a pile of old umbrellas, beer bottles, and coal hods, there rose the enormous, gleaming, triangular head of a massive snake. It was not nearly so large as the basilisk which Harry had slain, but it was by far the largest living specimen of its kind which I had ever seen. It’s long forked tongue slipped out between its fangs and there was a soft sound like a heating pot. It rose higher, bringing more of its great length into view. It was coiling, coiling for the spring.

I could have quickly reached for the gun on my hip. But the sword was in my hand. That great stretch of sinuous body presented a better target to a blade than to a bullet. As the great snake lashed forward I leapt to meet it. The sword of Gryffindor clove the head from the servant of Slytherin.

Blood spattered me across the face, and I staggered backward from a blow to the chest. The mighty coils were thrashing madly in the narrow aisle, as the muscles and nerves of the dead serpent beat out their remaining energy. Stacks went flying. The sword was wrenched out of my hand. The brownie squealed. I was outright knocked from my feet and only narrowly avoid falling on the dropped sword. As the violent convulsions gave way to mere shuddering I scrambled to my feet, bruised, abraded, and panting; wet with blood.

Dust filled the air. The stacks which made up the sides of the aisles had been smashed and knocked about. A great coil of the body lay over Harry. The brownie was sitting up some ways off where it had been hurled by the snake’s death throes. It was shaking its tear and blood stained face slowly from side to side as though trying to be sure which way was up. I thought I’d never seen anything more terribly pathetic in my life.

I bent down and dragged the snake off Harry. You could not tell now, that he had fallen by the instantaneous, mark-less weapon of the sorcerer. It looked as though he had been cut down in a battle and trampled underfoot. His glasses lay broken on the ground beside him. I picked them up and reached to wipe some of Nagini’s blood from his face.

A clattering startled me and I started to a standing position. There, not ten feet away from me, standing on the other side of the umbrellas, stood the sorcerer, the devil-man, the thorn long twisting in Britain’s side – Lord Voldemort. I cannot describe to you that face. Mere exposition of its pallor, its deformity, could never give its true effect. It will haunt my dreams for life. What is more horrifying than a thing which used to be human?

A smile played on thin, pale lips. Red eyes were narrowed thoughtfully. It seemed to be laughing softly to itself. Between long, sharp nails, it languidly twirled a old and gnarled wand.

“Avada Ke…”

Bang!

For a moment it hung there in mid-air, the mark of my bullet scarlet on its white forehead. I did not wait to see it fall; there was a sudden noise, and feeling of movement at my feet. I looked down.

Into the startled face of Harry Potter.

I suppose there must have been a crash as the body of Thomas Riddle fell to the ground among the coal hods and beer bottles. I did not hear it. I was staring in wonder and delight and blessed relief at the bruised and bloody but very much alive young man who was trying to gently disentangle himself from the frantic embraces of the devoted brownie, who had – with another great cry of “Harry Potter!” – hurled himself about his neck, still sobbing hysterically.

“Dobby! Ow! … er, Dobby, you’re strangling me.”

“Dobby thought Harry Potter was dead, Sir! He thought that he-who-must-not-be-named had killed him, Sir! But Dobby should have known! Harry Potter is too great and too good to be killed by him!”

“Er, no, that’s not what …”

“And now Harry Potter and his friends have destroyed him!”

It was some moments before the ecstasy of little Dobby could be contained to the point where Harry could get a full sentence in edgewise. When he was finally able to, he recalled Dobby and I – both quite distracted with delight – to the necessity of investigating and making sure Riddle was really dead.

He was very dead. A grim figure the old murderer made amid the dust and blood, his distorted face gazed upward at the vaulted ceiling with a look of mild surprise. I did not know why, but it seemed from the marks on the filthy floor that when Harry had fallen Riddle had as well, and had been lying unconscious and out of view the whole time. Though still hideous, with animation and the power of breath gone, gone too was the fearfulness of the figure. Now that it made no claim to be a living man, it held no more terror than a gruesome and repulsive mannequin – a toy to frighten children on Halloween. So ended Lord Voldemort.

Dobby squealed with glee and jumped in the air, hopping and dancing about. His hats were all lost. And his bolero was ripped. But a greater picture of comical merriment could not be imagined.

“Harry,” I asked, “how can it be that you are still alive?”

Harry turned to me. He was a dreadful mess; bloody and dusty and he looked rather odd to me without his glasses. But he was strangely radiant.

“You know about the enchantment my mother cast?” he asked.

“Yes, but …” I stumbled, “how can that … I thought that Riddle had destroyed Lily’s enchantment?”

“No – he meant to. Well, he meant to steal it really. But he didn’t really understand how that magic worked. … I’m not sure how to explain it to a muggle …”

“No, really, Harry, try me.”

“It’ll take some time to explain.” said Harry. “And we need to let everybody know what’s happened. But…”

Suddenly I remembered Sherlock Holmes, lying paralysed in the dark broom-cupboard, not knowing what was happening, unable to find out, unable to help, unable to call for help, unable to take any action whatsoever, unable even to drum his fingers in anxiety. Just waiting, waiting.

“And we’ve got to get Sherlock out of the cupboard.”

“Oh. You’re right, he must still be frozen.” said Harry. “I hadn’t counted on that. I’ll have to find my wand first. I dropped it after I sent you the patronus, and I’ll have to open the door with magic, since I locked the keys inside.”

“So, you locked the door to keep others out?” I said as we turned away. “Not to keep Sherlock in?”

“Yeah, I didn’t want Filch, the caretaker, happening across him.”

“But if it can still be magically unlocked …”

“Filch can’t do magic. He’d have to go and get somebody else to open it for him, and I didn’t expect Sherlock would be frozen long enough for that. I’d planned for him to have unfrozen by now and gone for Ron and Hermione.”

“Where are Ron and Hermione?”

“Probably still back in the bathroom. … Well, by now they’ve probably started looking for us. They’re more likely to look down there first. When Sherlock and I didn’t come back they probably though we’d just run into some kind of trouble right around there.”

“Sherlock was going to come with you wasn’t he?”

“Yes, he was.”

Harry suddenly stopped; his eyes wide.

“He left you up here on purpose so you could take over for him if I prevented him from coming, didn’t he?”

“I think so – though he didn’t tell me that in so many words. I thought we were all going to ambush Riddle together. He toyed with the idea of sending me down to talk to you instead …”

“Oh…” said Harry. “I thought he was only being … That’s why he was so insistent!”

And the boy took off at a run.

Suddenly, the cathedral space was rent by a terrible screech. It was a woman’s voice. It started low and almost guttural, and went up high, wavering horribly, but not diminishing. There was hatred, and grief, and unappeasable fury in that cry – ringing on and on until the walls reverberated with the dreadful sound.

Harry looked back over his shoulder at me.

“It’s Bellatrix Lestrange.”

Somehow, she knew where we were. Things started blowing up. Entire columns went flying. We made it to the door – only narrowly avoiding a rusty pot-bellied stove that came flying out after us – and tore down the corridor. A blast of green light flashed past us and I spun around; there was no cover here, not for us, but not for her either. For a fraction of a second, as I pulled the trigger, I saw a glimpse of a ravening mad-woman, eyes blazing, nostrils flaring, chaotic black ringlets streaming, lips pulled back snarling, before a big dark mass crashed into her. There was a great resonant humming.

A rotten old grand piano, painted garishly in a sort of hot purple and newly adorned with a bullet-hole, was sitting upside down on the corridor floor, coasters spinning. Dobby trotted out of the Room of Requirement.

“Did it hit her, Harry Potter?” he asked.

“It fell on her, Dobby.” said Harry. “I think you’ve killed her.”

Dobby started in shock

“Dobby didn’t mean to kill!” he cried. “He only meant to maim! She was trying to hurt Harry Potter!”

Her skull had been crushed by the blow. In spite of the cruel and barbarous deeds for which the woman had been renowned, Dobby seemed horrified that he’d actually killed her.

“I wonder what she was doing in Hogwarts.” said Harry. “She wasn’t here when we came. Dobby, we need to tell the Order that Riddle’s dead but there may be other Death Eaters showing up. Can you go down to the girl’s bathroom on the second floor and see if Ron and Hermione are there? Tell them that he’s dead, and ask them to send for the Order?”

“Yes, Harry Potter Sir!”

The brownie spun round and disappeared with a crack. It had been he whom I had heard teleporting. With this information came a cold, sinking feeling, like a bad memory does when you suddenly recall it. For a moment I was engaged in trying to remember what was so terrible. … As the icy chill started biting into my flesh, I remembered the stone path through the tangled thickets.

“Harry.”

He stood up. His eyes widened in horror, fixed on something which I could not see.

Run.” he said.

Together we tore down the corridor; formless terror behind. We had come in sight of the stairwell when Harry abruptly stopped. I knew from the look on his face that we were surrounded.

The sunlight was blotted out. My ears were filled with the cries of men long gone. I could see nothing at which to shoot. In frantic desperation I swung the sword of Gryffindor fruitlessly in the empty air with arms scarcely able still to wield it. I knew that in moments they would be able to no longer. The thoughts and sensations I had been trying to hold back, to keep at bay, for many hours, were bursting their dam, coursing through my mind and body like poison, numbing my limbs, darkening my eyes, paralysing my mind with horror.

“John,” I heard Harry say in a frighteningly breathless voice as we stumbled down the corridor, “that’s not gonna work. Try to think of something good … something to be glad about … something happy.”

Glad. And for a moment, the small part of my mind which was still my own laughed in sudden realization of the true absurdity of the things going on in my head. Happy? I saw, even if only for a moment, that the despair was truly a fraud. It did not come from within; from the state of my own heart. Even less did it come from without; from the actual state of the world. It reflected no realities whatsoever. It was sheer illusion. Give in to it? Now? Now at the very moment when it had been in reality defeated? We had won. Harry was here, alive beside me; I had not killed him, nor contributed to his death. The blood of the innocent was unspilt. And the murderer, the necromancer, was gone, him and his devices of sorcery – gone like a twisted dream. I owe Harry Potter much thanks for that advice. It gave me strength and sanity to hold out just a little longer, not surrendering to the unspeakable black despair. But oh, how fragile a thing is objective knowledge in the human mind. The most perfect truth, known with utter certitude, can be so easily swamped by unreasoned waves of groundless emotion.

My knees hit the ice cold floor. I did know where Harry was. I was alone in the dark.

It looked at first like a tiny, glowing ball, bouncing merrily along the ground towards me through the dark haze. The shadows did not flee and disappear, but they seemed to recede away from it. I knew immediately that it was a patronus; smaller than any I had yet seen  It could be nothing else. It bounded right up to us, an indistinct little bundle of shimmering light, bringing warmth and little glimmers of sweet rationality with it. It sailed over my head, and a ray of sunshine seemed to fall.  It bounced to the right, and it bounced to the left, and it skittered round about us, a little gleam of silver in the black.

Then my attention was diverted, for Harry was struggling to his knees. He lifted his dark, unruly head and opened his vivid green eyes. From his upraised hand, light burst forth.

It blazed, and it shone; bright silvery radiance, surrounding us both, washing the chill from the air and the blackness from our minds. The shadows fled before it. As it grew and surged after, I caught glimpse, an ethereal hint, of hooved legs, and a majestic antlered head.

The bouncy-ball turned to follow the hart, and as it did I saw it clearly for the first time, the rounded prickly body, the tiny legs, the pointed little snout. It was a hedgehog.

As the warm, yellow daylight returned to the corridor, Harry and I got back to our feet

“Whose patronus was that?” I asked.

“For a moment, I thought it was yours.” said Harry.

“I’m a muggle!”

“Yeah, so it can’t be that.”

“Is Ron’s patronus a hedgehog?”

“No, it’s a terrier.”

“Well, who has a hedgehog patronus?”

“I dunno.” said Harry. “… Maybe … Snape?”

Somehow I had difficulty imagining the grim, sardonic professor casting that patronus. I could have sworn that it was not he. There had been something indefinably familiar about it.

“Well never mind for now.” he continued. “I’ve got to go tell Sherlock we haven’t … ”

A woman’s voice cut him off.

“John? … John!

“Mary?”

I turned in surprise.

She wielded a wand in her right hand. Sweeping robes of palest blue were gathered at her waist with a girdle of silver. Her face was shadowed by a wide brimmed, pointed hat of of soft grey. But it was unquestionably my Mary. She was rushing toward me, alarm in her face.

“John, you’re not hurt?!” she cried.

I have mentioned that Harry looked as though a battle had passed over him, and I can hardly have looked far better. We were both plastered in slime from the Chamber of Secrets, drenched in blood from the python, and covered in dust from the Room of Requirement. And I was missing most of my buttons.

“No, no. It’s not my blood,” I said, “or most of it’s not. I’m fine, everything’s fine. In fact, it’s wonderful, Mary. Mary! However do you come to be here?! I thought I left you safe in London!”

There was a crack as Dobby reappeared. Mary was distracted for a moment, but then turned back to me.

“Mycroft Holmes didn’t quite trust the five of you to send help quick enough. The strike-team is on its way. I set off the flare as soon as I saw those awful things! John, we have to…”

“Wait … the dementors? You actually saw the dementors?”

“Mm-hm.”

“I mean … you can see them?”

I glanced down at the slender hand on my shoulder, and the twig-like tool clasped firmly in the strong little fingers.

“Harry!”

Harry.”

Ron and Hermione’s cries of greeting to their friend fell upon my ears, but I didn’t turn to see them.

Mary, why didn’t you tell me?!

“What?”

“Where’d you get that?”

“This? Sherlock gave it to me!”

“Sherlock gave you a wand?!”

“Yes, well, I don’t think he meant me to keep it. I think he probably nicked it from somebody.”

“But, the patronus was yours? You sent us the patronus?”

“I didn’t know Harry was with you.”

“But … you’re a wizard, Mary?”

She stopped; her jaw dropped. In a small voice, she said:

“So that’s what they are.”

There was a sudden thundering of feet, not like the quiet pattering of Dobby or the thumping of Ron and Hermione. Thinking that we were discovered, I spun round and reached for my handgun. But I had no need to draw it, for it was the flame-headed Weasley Twins who dashed round the corner. And following behind them was their kindly father, and Remus Lupin with his wife, and many others who we had left behind in London that morning, members of the Order of the Phoenix and younger people from Dumbledore’s Army. The strike-team had come. They must have landed on the astronomy tower, and come down expecting to find battle. Finding us there, with no enemies in sight, they stopped in surprise. The trio rushed to them, explaining in three tongues what had happened. I turned back to Mary again.

“He knew!” I exclaimed, laughing. “He knew that my wife was a wizard and he didn’t bother to tell me!”

“Well, he didn’t tell me about it either, so don’t feel picked on, dear.” she said. “I really should have realized it myself, I suppose.”

But we both knew why Sherlock Holmes had not told either of us. He knew Mary’s indefatigable curiosity. The past year had been a very dangerous time for a muggle-born wizard to become curious about the British Wizarding world.

A hundred things were resolving themselves. Of course neither of us had recognized the link between Mary and the wizards. The bright paraphernalia of their culture, the curious vocabulary of their dialect, the remarkable technology of their secret world, had all camouflaged it. What had all that to do with Mary’s quiet, penetrating intuition, her wonderful way with small creatures, and the healing in her fingers. I suspected now that her abilities had gone farther than she had ever openly shared with me. I suddenly realized that she had, without the paintbrush, been casting patronuses ever since I had known her. No wonder her first attempt with a wand had been so beautiful. She’d always known how.

“John,” she said, cutting into my train of thought, “we’ve got to go. Sherlock’s in some kind of trouble.”

“What?! How do you know?”

“I heard him. I heard as soon as I set foot in the castle, but I had to find you first. Why isn’t he with the rest of you?”

“Because Harry locked him in a broom cupboard, trying to protect him from himself! Harry!”

Oh.” said Mary. “I see.”

Harry was stuck in the middle of the Order, explaining something.

“Oh, never mind. We’ll find him. Let’s go.” I grabbed Mary’s hand and ran past the Order for the stairs, my mind filled with images of what could be happening to Sherlock Holmes. “You shouldn’t have come to me. I was only dealing with dementors. You should have just sent the patronus and gone to help Sherlock.”

“No, no, no, I think I know what’s wrong with him now.” Mary said, her voice quite calm.

“What? What was he calling, Mary?!”

“Not was. I hear him now.”

I stopped for a second at the top of the stairs. But I heard nothing. She was listening to a soundless cry.

“John dear, lock Sherlock Holmes in a cupboard while something like this is being decided right above his head and what do you expect…”

A cold and demanding voice interrupted her.

“Watson! What is the meaning of this?”

Standing rather unsteadily in the middle of the corridor, arms akimbo and face set in a scowl, was the Headmaster.

Lupin looked up. As his eyes fell on the grim figure, something happened to his pleasant, reasonable face; it became nearly unrecognisable, wild and raging, wolfish almost in it’s ferocity. With a cry of rage, he seized his wand.

“Wait, hold it!”

“Remus, no!”

I and Harry had called out together, both jumping in front of the scowling headmaster. It is difficult to say whether the Order members or the headmaster himself looked more shocked at Harry’s behaviour. Somehow he (and I with him) had found himself in the extraordinary position of defending Severus Snape.

“Harry, whatever has come over you?” exclaimed Lupin in surprise.

“Uh, he’s with us.” said Harry.

“He iz dee murderer of Dumbledore!” cried Bill Weasley’s platinum haired wife.

It a moment for Harry to make himself heard over the roars of fury from the strike-team. These people were the nearest things Snape had to even allies, and they were all clamouring for his blood.

“Snape’s been acting on Dumbledore’s orders all along!” cried Harry. “Even that night on the tower.”

“Harry, you said yourself…”

“I was wrong! I was talking about it with Duh-er … I was wrong. … Dobby, show the Order what happened in the room of requirement. I’ll explain about it later.  Right now, there’s something I have to do.”

And Harry turned and ran. Mary and I were right with him. Ron and Hermione appeared out of the crowd and came along.  A glance back showed Snape to hesitate, then follow after us, the Weasley Twins shadowing closely behind.

Led by Harry, we came down to the second floor very swiftly, taking several oddly placed shortcuts which I would never have guessed were there. The corridor was empty and bare; there was no sound of man behind the closed door that Harry led us to. He unlocked it with a silent spell, and it swung open on its hinges. Light flooded into the shadowy recess.

There, leaning rigidly against the wall amongst the mops and the brooms, was what looked to be a perfect waxwork image of Sherlock Holmes. His hands were held out before him, in an expressive, dearly familiar gesture of explanation and exhortation. His lips were slightly open, as if a word had just left them, or was just about to. His grey eyes were open wide, and intent in their fixation on the opposite wall. His head was bent slightly foreword. It was by far the most lifelike image I had ever seen of a man. … But if I had not known better, I would have thought that it was only an image.

Finite Incantantum.”

It all changed instantly. There was a slipping, and a stomping, and a grasping of Harry’s outstretched arm, and Sherlock Holmes, animate and expressive as ever, was standing there, looking over the eight of us, taking in with quick, discerning glances the state of the company crowded round the door.

“Ah.” he said. “So we’ve won then.”

Chapter 17 ~ A Retrospection ~>

The final chapter A Retrospection is available now.   If you know somebody else who might like it, feel free to share it!  I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Seventh Safeguard [XV]



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Chapter XV ~ The Headmaster


We took the broomsticks back up the long shaft and back again into the light of day. The map showed no one near, and Harry had not yet received any sign that Riddle had heard. This was slightly disquieting, but the last Harry had seen, Riddle was overseas. We realized it might be some time before the news got to him.

We had now only to wait. The children decided that we might as well stay as we were, since no one would have any reason to come anywhere near this part of the castle at the moment.

But Sherlock Holmes clearly had no intention of waiting anywhere. Indeed his manner suddenly became quite brisk and animated as he informed Harry that there were one or two points he should like to clear up, and that he thought he could do so best by a brief investigation of a few things in the castle. No, he did not need any of the children to accompany him, but he would appreciate the loan of the map, since they were not likely to need it in here. It was a testament to the enormous confidence which they had come to have in my friend that they did not even state objections to this. Hermione thought it well to go over a few of the dangers again, but no one attempted to forbid or dissuade him. As he and I were leaving the room, Sherlock turned suddenly.

“If we are not back by the time Riddle has set out for Hogwarts, contact me.”

The children glanced around at each other, and Harry hesitantly nodded.

“No really. I mean it, Harry. I’ve made you a number of promises over the course of this venture. I have done, and will do, my utmost to fulfil them. Now I’m asking one of you. When you hear from Riddle, I need to know.”

“Is it really so important, Mr. Holmes?” asked Harry. “I mean, no offence meant, and I’m sure you can understand …”

“Of course I do. And none taken. I can appreciate your concern. But it is very important. Do you promise?”

With some reluctance, Harry did.

Once out in the corridors again, and quite alone, I ventured the question of ‘where’ myself.

“We’re going to call upon upon the headmaster.” said Sherlock without breaking stride.

I stopped in surprise; then ran to catch up.

“Sherlock! We’re burglars! We can’t just go walking into the headmaster’s office!”

“Did you bring the duct-tape?”

“Yes.”

“Well, no worries then.”

“Look, Sherlock, I know think there’s more going on with Severus Snape than everybody else realizes. But you’ve told me yourself, he’s a dangerous man!”

“Oh, I quite agree, very dangerous. But then I am too. And I have duct-tape.”

“You are joking, right?”

“Just part of the way.”

“Well, joking none of the way – why are we doing this? If this is about Harry, how will it help him?”

Sherlock turned around.

“Dumbledore must have left information with someone. He, understandably, did not leave it with Harry. So who would he have left it with? As far as I can tell, Kingsley Shacklebolt does not know. Lupin obviously has no clue. In fact, none of those Order members whom we have met seem to be in the slightest aware of any danger that area.

“Several things stood out to me in Harry’s portrayal of Dumbledore’s behaviour the night he was murdered. One, that after completely and absolutely trusting a man for years – defending him to Harry that very night – Dumbledore would quite suddenly, and with no evidence that I can discern, take the man’s treachery so for granted that rather than expecting him to aid him, he pleaded with him for his life. And note: I don’t gather that Dumbledore was generally the pleading type. Two, that when confronted by a murderous teenager he did not even attempt to defend himself. Three, he froze his companion, a reasonably competent Wizarding fighter, who could have helped to prevent the tragedy. There is also Professor Snape’s own peculiar behaviour, but we’ve already gone over that.”

“Yes, we have.”

“Harry assumes that when Dumbledore said ‘please’ to Snape, he meant ‘please don’t kill me’. But Dumbledore did not actually say that. He said just ‘please’. We do not know what it was that he was asking. Harry’s assumption, though superficially obvious, seems to me to be highly unlikely. It would be uncharacteristic of Dumbledore as his history has been portrayed to me, and more importantly, it would be unnecessary. Dumbledore had no good reason to believe that he needed to so plead. It would therefore be reasonable to postulate that he might have been asking something else entirely, in which case he would have been referring back to a previous request, command, or conversation, and trusting Snape to know what it was that he was asking of him.

“The second two are closely intertwined. Harry seems to assume that Dumbledore lost to Draco Malfoy because he was too busy freezing Harry so as to protect him. This is nonsense. There was no one on the roof at that point besides Draco. Harry could, I am sure, have held his own against the other boy quite handily. Dumbledore could very easily have removed Draco from the equation entirely. Then both of them would have been ready to defend themselves against the others who came up. Freezing Harry did in fact protect him, true. But it was not the only thing which could have done so, nor the most effective if the object had been merely that. What it did do, was prevent Harry from interfering.”

“Prevent Harry from keeping the Death Eaters from murdering him – Dumbledore?”

“Yes. … Now, this faith Dumbledore had in Severus Snape – if we temporarily remove the fact that Snape killed him from the equation – seems to have been entirely justified. Snape, however unpleasant a person with however dark a background, did in fact come through for Dumbledore in all the cases that we can see. This last case could be the exception to the rule, true. But do we in fact have any evidence that it was? Dumbledore’s behaviour does not suggest it. He let himself be disarmed and surrounded. He made sure that his fellow fighter could not interfere. And then he asked Snape to do something, something he knew that Snape did not want to do. Something he wasn’t sure that Snape was willing to do, so unsure that he not only asked, but pleaded with him to do it. And Snape killed him. What if, John, what if, rather than spurning his commander’s plea, Snape was in fact obeying him?”

“You think he was saying … ‘Severus, please shoot me.’”

“On the surface a preposterous theory. But let us apply it to these unmanageable facts, and see if it doesn’t make any sense out of them. If Dumbledore planned on being killed by Snape that night, self-defence would not need to enter the question. He would merely need to prolong the interview with Draco until Snape himself could get there. This is exactly what he did. If being murdered was his plan, then not only would he need to hide Harry to prevent him from sharing the same fate, he would need to restrain him, to prevent him from kindly but unhelpfully trying to effect a rescue. If he had commanded a loyal follower to kill him, that follower might very well be reluctant to do so for a weighty plethora of reasons. He might be so reluctant that Dumbledore would be afraid that he was going to back out last minute. The situation would of course prevent a reiteration of the actual reasons, and Dumbledore might fall back on merely imploring him.

“Dumbledore seems to have known of Draco’s plot to murder him – but as far as Harry could tell he did nothing about it. There is reason to believe that Dumbledore was terminally ill – it is at least certain that he was a centenarian with a wound that was refusing to heal. There is no reason to believe that he doubted Snape’s loyalty, or that he had reason to doubt Snape’s loyalty. It is also true that Dumbledore, knowing as he did the state of both the Wizarding government and the Death Eater movement, must have seen the likelihood of this exact state of affairs coming to pass. Dumbledore was the leader of the Order of the Phoenix, but he was also the headmaster of this school. If Riddle came to power, Hogwarts would be under Riddle’s control. Dumbledore was – in great probability – already dying, or at least not far from death. Dead, he would not be able to continue his hunt for the horcruxes, or influence the conditions in his school. He bequeathed the horcrux hunt to Harry. And the school … The trio are enraged, they cannot believe the injustice of the successor whom Riddle has chosen for their beloved headmaster. But they are wrong.

“Dumbledore chose the successor. He chose a man whom he trusted deeply, who has proved his ability to co-exist with the Death Eaters for long periods of time, who can be counted on to coldly choose between greater and lesser evils when no good choice is available, who has long had a foot in both Hogwarts and the Death Eater camp, and who, in spite of his reputedly unpleasant disposition, has demonstrated dedication to protecting the students of Hogwarts from actual harm. And he had this man murder him in front of witnesses from both sides. … Morally questionable, no doubt, but really quite brilliant.”

“Kind of hard on his chosen successor.”

“Yes, it is. But you see how it all falls into place. Severus Snape’s actions that night were not contradictory at all, merely deceptive.”

“And you think that since Dumbledore divided his responsibilities between these two people, Harry and Snape, that he would have told whatever he knew about Harry’s problem to Snape? That is it? That is your plan? To go for help to the nastiest professor in Hogwarts in the hope that Dumbledore gave him some last minute ploy to save Harry?” My heart had begun to sink.

“It’s not a fool-proof plan, I grant you.” said Sherlock, a bit uncomfortably. “And if you have any additional ideas, I would be very glad of it indeed. But it is the case that of the Order members in whom one would expect Dumbledore to repose confidences Snape was perhaps the least likely to be killed during Harry’s hunt. The others would likely be fighting and scheming, and often on the run, with a great probability of being tracked down and murdered. Snape would be back at the school enjoying the favour of the new regime, as long as he continued playing his part cleverly – as he has done for years. If Dumbledore’s confidence in him was comparable to his confidence in most of the others then there would be no one safer to leave vital information with. … In any case, it would be criminal not to follow up such a lead. And as we are now nearing the headmaster’s office, and there are persons relatively nearby, it would be well to end this discussion.”

Sherlock had had the map open all this time; on its yellowed and crinkled surface I could see where the persons referred to were. We retreated out of the corridor into an empty classroom where the sun and air came in through curtainless casements and played upon the floor. Sherlock took what appeared to be a coil of peach twine and proceeded to thread under the door. In a few whispered words, he explained it was a Wizarding listening device which the twins had lent him. This would have appeared probable in any case, for once the majority of it was out in the corridor, he put the other end in his ear. That set up, he took from his pocket a small syringe. My alarm at the sight of this instrument in my friend’s hands must have shown on my face. He chuckled silently at me.

Relax, John.” he said, and held up a small bottle. “A simple solution of veritaserum and a sedative. Perfectly harmless. And definitely not intended for me.” He shuddered slightly as he began to fill the syringe.

“I see, so you don’t intend to just take Snape’s words to you as necessarily truthful.”

“It is just as well to be careful.”

“But mightn’t the combining of the two interfere in the working of the veritaserum?”

“As if I would mix two solutions and just expect them to work! Really, John.”

“On whom did you test it?”

“Remus Lupin.”

“That wasn’t very nice, Sherlock.”

“Why, I assure you, revenge never even entered the question. I too completely approve of his actions for the matter to ever appear in that light. No, it was simply that because of our previous interaction on the subject, he seemed the appropriate person to ask for assistance. He very obligingly assisted me in both preparing and testing the solution.”

The syringe full, he put a cap on the tip, and stowed it in his coat pocket. For several minutes we sat quietly in the empty classroom while Sherlock looked at the map and listened to the twins’ device. His lips were parted slightly, and there was an eager look on his face. One of his fingers was anxiously tapping his knee. Then quite suddenly he wound up the twine and put it away. He took out his pistol and asked for the duct-tape. He then proceeded to thoroughly duct-tape his left hand to the gun, round and round and round, leaving nothing except his trigger finger free.

“See? Nothing particularly mysterious. It just occurs to me that this might prove somewhat effective against a disarming spell. You have your gun at the ready?”

“Yes. But, you don’t sound as though you have any intention for us to use them.”

“Of course I don’t. We and he are allies. But whether we can get him to realize this or not is another question. Diplomatic procedures are sometimes more effective when both parties are armed. He certainly will be. Now, the coast is clear. Be on your toes.”

Against one of the corridor walls, there stood a gargoyle, taller than a man, and exhibiting even more than the usual repulsiveness of its kind. I thought to walk on, but Sherlock stopped, and said a word which I did not catch to the statue.

It moved.

I leaped backward, stifling a cry of alarm. But my fear was unwarranted. It had merely hopped aside to let us pass. A door had split open in the wall, and a spiral escalator rose up before us. At the top of this we found a more ordinary door, a solid, fully visible oaken barrier, with a proper hinge, a knob, and a knocker. Without stopping to knock, Sherlock turned the knob, and strode straight in.

I gathered a general impression of a large and well proportioned room, big windows looking out on the green of the grounds and the blue of the loch, walls lined with paintings – portraits mostly, and shelves stacked with trinkets and books, but my attention focused immediately on the man who looked up from the desk as we came in.

It was a sharp, hard face, stuck in a scowl that looked as though it had become ingrained. His eyes were black and cold. His hair was black and hung in lank locks below his chin. He was dressed mono-chromatically in ample black robes, unrelieved by any lighter collar or cravat. The impression was simultaneously menacing and morose. I did not wonder that students hated him; he would certainly have been an object of fear and dislike to most children even if there had been nothing in his actual behaviour to justify it, so unpleasant was the effect. As we came in, his expression, which I should have been inclined to describe as impatient and bitter, changed in a flash to one of shock, and then of anger. Sherlock had begun talking the instant the door was open, crisply, clearly, and very quickly.

“Good Morning, Professor. I am here on a matter of business, of some import … ”

I would have been totally unsurprised if Professor Snape had refused to listen to a word Sherlock said. I would have been unsurprised if he had immediately gone on the attack. I would not even have been surprised if he had instantly summoned some of his Death Eater colleagues. What he actually did do surprised me very much.

He leapt abruptly to his feet and indignantly and imperiously demanded:

“What the devil are you doing here, Holmes?!”

Sherlock clearly hadn’t expected this either.

“Oh.” he said. “We’ve met then?”

Professor Snape rolled his eyes with a gesture of what might have been disgust.

“You won’t be able to remember it.” he said tersely, moving aside some papers and picking up his wand.

“It wouldn’t have been on April the twenty-fourth, would it?” asked Sherlock pleasantly.

Snape looked up.

“ … No. … I believe it was on April the twenty-third.”

“Hmm. No, I think it must have been the twenty-fourth. But anyhow, that’s lucky. There need be no introductions between us.”

Snape had his wand in his hand now, and he turned to us in a sort of viciously business-like manner.

“You will tell me why you are here. You will tell me who else is with you. You will tell me how you got into the school. I will know if you are lying. And then you will leave immediately. If you are very quick indeed, you may get out with your lives. If you are careless, I shall not be able to intervene on your behalf, and will be saved the bother of tracking you down and obliviating you. And if I may offer you a piece of advice, Mr. Detective, you would be wise to stop sticking your nose into affairs which are none of your business and beyond your ability. I did not think that even your ill-judged curiosity would lead you into such depths of stupidity. I shall be very much surprised if this last ridiculous mistake of yours does not turn out to be a fatal one.”

Quite unabashed at being thus addressed, Sherlock continued with his statement.

“I am here to speak to you about the task which Dumbledore left you regarding Harry Potter and his secret mission, and a message that I believe you are intended to convey to him.”

Snape stared at Sherlock. His wand fell slowly to his side.

He sank back into his chair and silently regarded my friend for the space in which a child’s nursery rhyme could be recited. Finally, he said:

“How much do you know?”

“Rather a great deal.” said Sherlock. “I know that you have served Thomas Riddle but ill for many years. I know upon whose orders you really shot Dumbledore last June. I know you saved Harry Potter’s life that night in defiance of Riddle’s actual wishes. I know you avoided killing Order members when Harry was evacuated last month, and I suspect you even attempted to discreetly intervene on their behalf. I know you can still get into the Blacks’ old house, and I know that you did so, somewhat over a week ago. I know at least a part of why you were there. And I know you took away at least two small items…”

Snape started violently, and stared at Sherlock, it was hard to discern whether it was anger or fear in his face.

“I can describe them.” continued Sherlock. “But unless you require the assurance that I am telling the truth, I need not do so. I also know that it is no grave injustice that you are following Dumbledore as headmaster, but a very clever move on Dumbledore’s part. And I think it highly likely that Dumbledore gave you a certain very important piece of information, regarding either something to be done to Harry Potter, or something to be delivered to him, at some point before Riddle’s death. … Riddle dies today. Harry needs that information.”

Snape continued to sit there, staring at Sherlock as if he were some marvellous beast.

“Dumbledore clearly underestimated you, Holmes.” he said. “He thought he had put an end to your interference back in April.”

“Fortunately not. And, as a result, the war is almost won. If you do not speak or act today, this morning, you lose the chance to do so. Am I correct in saying that grave results will then ensue, Professor?”

After another pause, Snape said:

“I know who you are. Dumbledore used to keep current with the muggle news and had no difficulty recognizing you. I did not see anything particularly entrancing about running into an overly nosey muggle detective, but he was delighted, and it was with a rather absurd regret that he obliviated you. I now see that he did a horrendously insufficient job. … But who is this?” He jerked his head in my direction.

“Dr. John Watson. If Dumbledore introduced me to you, then you may have heard of him.”

“I believe he directly asked why some muggle healer wasn’t with you.”

“That would doubtless be John. Professor Snape, Dr. John Watson. John, Professor Severus Snape.”

“Good Morning, Professor.” I said, trying to sound coolly business-like, as though breaking into Wizarding offices was all in a day’s work for us.

“Hmph.” said Professor Snape. “So Potter has allowed the two of you to latch onto him. … Is he here?”

“He is. We are waiting for Riddle. We are expecting him and his python at any time now. By which point, I – or rather Harry – needs to know that information.”

“His python? … Why are you expecting Nagini?”

“Because we think it likely he will be exceedingly anxious not to lose sight of her.”

Snape stood up again and paced back and forth for a minute. After a moment he seemed to make a decision, and snatched up his wand from the desk. Sherlock’s gun hand instantly swung up.

“I’d be careful where I pointed that, Professor.” he said quietly. “Unfortunately our weapons have only one setting and I should hate to be forced to use it on you.”

Snape rolled his cold black eyes. There was a slight twitch of his wand and the pistol went flying. Sherlock Holmes flew with it. Perhaps just from the jolt, the gun went off and hit the ceiling. In the instant that Sherlock was in the air, Snape turned towards me. My gun was in my hand, but I didn’t fire. From the floor on the other side of the room, Sherlock called:

“Hold it!”

The pistol was again levelled at Snape.

“You cannot possibly incapacitate, obliviate, or other otherwise disable both us at the same time. I am sure that you are a sufficiently accomplished wizard to immolate the entire office should you so choose, but I know perfectly well that you’re not going to do so. If you wish further assurance of the legitimacy of our errand, I understand from Harry that you are highly skilled at some form of mind reading.”

Snape scoffed.

Mind reading is a muggle term. Potter has never progressed beyond the most meagre grasp of legilemancy. It’s not mind reading. The term gives no conception of the complex and subtle art of …”

“Terms, complexities, arts, and irritating students aside … You can read minds?”

“ … Yes.”

“Then, do so.”

“That was what I was doing.”

“Then you should have informed us of your intentions. Drawing a weapon is generally considered an offensive move.” Sherlock stood back up.

Snape turned towards him.

“That one is absolute plate glass.” he said, with a nod in my direction. “He couldn’t hide anything if he tried.”

“Mm.” said Sherlock. “I know.”

This made me slightly indignant, for I could keep a secret as well as the next man. But then I noticed that something odd was going on. Sherlock and Snape were staring at each other with a singular intentness, as if a line had snapped from eye to eye. Neither moved. Neither spoke. They just stood, locked in each others gaze.

I do not how long this lasted, but it stopped abruptly. Snape turned away. He suddenly seemed immensely absorbed by something on the desk. Which his back still to us, he said:

“I do not know how you know it … but you are correct.”

“Correct about what precisely?!”

“Potter carries a piece of the Dark Lord within himself … and the Dark Lord cannot be killed while Potter is alive.”

“And nothing can be done about it?! Nothing at all? Are you sure Dumbledore didn’t tell, or even suggest, something which could be attempted? Perhaps even something that has almost no chance of success. There has to be something!”

Snape faced him with a bitter sneer.

“You think everything can be fixed with the flick of a wand, Muggle?” he asked in a dangerous, low voice.

“Tell me what Dumbledore said!”

“I have.”

“And that is it? He gave you no task to perform, no commands on the matter?”

“None save to inform the boy when his task is almost complete.”

“Just that?”

“Just that.”

Sherlock seemed to fall back, away from the desk. The morning’s energy had gone out of his limbs, and he suddenly looked very very tired.

Snape stood, arms akimbo, glaring as if the whole thing was our fault. Then he said:

“And you, Muggle, I suppose you think you’re going to do it?”

Sherlock nodded dumbly.

Snape turned back to the desk. He opened one of the drawers with a jolt and took out a small bottle. Then he held his wand to his temple. My first, bizarre, thought was that he was siphoning cobwebs out of his hair. But it was not so; the substance, whatever it was, was more like liquid than like thread. He transferred it to the bottle, which he then capped. He held it out to Sherlock.

“And this is?” asked Sherlock.

“A memory.” said Snape. “It contains exactly what Dumbledore said to me.”

“Ah.” said Sherlock. “You don’t trust a muggle to deliver the message properly?”

“Nor Potter to listen unless it is Dumbledore who is speaking.” snapped Snape. “He never has listened!” He took a large stone bowl, cunningly engraved, from a shelf behind the desk, and shoved it at me. “I want this back.”

I took it mutely, with no idea what it was for.

Snape looked as though he was about to shoo us from the room, but he stopped with a tiresome roll of his eyes, and picked his wand back up.

“I suppose I ought to accompany you…”

“Oh, no. That’s not necessary.” said Sherlock. “We’re perfectly capable of navigating the castle, and can avoid the other wizards quite well.”

After regarding him for a minute with an unconvinced eye, Snape put his wand back down with a clatter.

“One other thing, Professor.” said Sherlock. “You wouldn’t happen to know anything about the present whereabouts of your erstwhile colleague, Miss Charity Burbage, would you?”

Charity Burbage, the young woman who disappearance we had been investigating the day we met the trio – this was the mysterious school up north where she had worked.

Snape dropped his eyes.

“She is dead.”

“Ah.” said Sherlock reflectively. “I feared as much.” He made as if to walk away. “We shall, in any case, see that she is avenged.”

“One moment, Holmes.” said Snape commandingly. From out of a cupboard, he drew a long, gleaming sword; there were red gems inlaid upon the pommel and the hand-guard.

“I don’t know why, but Potter is supposed to have this.” he said curtly, holding the hilt out to Sherlock.

Sherlock took it quietly, and looked at it. Sunlight flashed up and down the blade, and played off the strange pattern of delicate ripples in the steel. “Godric Gryffindor.” he read aloud, looking at an inscription near the hilt. Stepping away from Snape, he gave it a swing, and then another one, trying out the feel of the weapon. “Slayer of basilisks.” he said quietly. Then he tucked the sword, un-sheathed as it was, under his left arm (the one which held the duct-taped pistol), and looked back to Snape. “I believe that I probably do know.”

“Good.” said Snape resuming his seat. “Then take it and go.”

Sherlock turned away. I went to follow, but Sherlock abruptly spun around, the little syringe in his hand. The clear solution streamed out and splashed Snape in the eyes. He leapt to his feet, roaring and sputtering, but almost immediately sank back down, as if his body had suddenly become too heavy to hold its own weight. Sherlock bent over him, the little bottle of silver stuff in his hand.

“Are you there, Professor?” he asked

“Yes.” replied Snape, sounding half asleep.

“Then tell me again what is wrong with Harry.”

“A piece of the dark lord is attached to him, connecting their minds, and preventing the dark lord from being killed.”

“And Dumbledore told you that nothing could be done?”

“He said that Potter had to die. There is no way around that. It cannot be undone.”

Sherlock held up the bottle.

“Is the memory stored in this completely legitimate and precisely what actually happened?”

“Yes.”

Sherlock stood up.

“Excuse the indignity, Professor, but you’ll agree I had to do that.”

And without another word, he turned and strode from the room.

But I hesitated, a flutter of movement had caught my eye. On the desk, only half concealed under a piece of parchment which someone had knocked about, was an animate wizard’s photograph. In the corner that was visible to me, a pair of white hands were held out to someone outside the photograph, and lock of red hair (it was that which had caught my attention) was swinging.

Professor Snape’s eyes had drifted shut, and his breathing had become regular as the sedative took effect. I slipped the photograph out from under the parchment. Three of the sides were smooth, but the fourth was rough, as if it had been torn. It was an image of a very lovely young woman; there was a singular sweetness about her laughing face, and gracefulness in her movements as she held out her arms to the person who never quite entered the picture. But what chiefly transfixed me were her eyes. I knew them. Even in so small a photograph their particular vivid shade of green was unmistakable. They were Harry’s eyes. This was Lily; she whom all spoke highly of, who for her son had cast the spell which foiled even the Dark Lord, she whom Severus Snape, the Death Eater, had loved; for whose sake he had forsaken his ambitions and laboured long with difficulty and great danger to continue her mission and bring her murderer down, for whose sake he had watched over and protected the boy who bore that hated name ‘Potter’ – the boy whose death warrant he had just been forced to sign.

I glanced from the beautiful photograph to the face of the unconscious wizard. He was scarcely older than I was, and yet he was an old man; a sad and bitter old man, inky locks notwithstanding. Even in sleep, the hard lines the years had etched into his face did not smooth.

I set the photograph back down, and arranged the parchment so that it was fully concealed. And I too left the room.

Chapter 16 ~ Lord Voldemort ~>

This non-commercial, derivative work is an independent production by Charlotte Ann Kent and is not associated with The Doyle Estate, the BBC, Warner Bros, or J.K. Rowling. 
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Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Seventh Safeguard [XIV]



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~ Chapter XIV ~

The Locket, the Cup, and the Diadem


We were moving before the first subtle glimmers of dawn had appeared in the sky. I was weary after only a few hours sleep, but Sherlock Holmes seemed to have forgotten what exhaustion was. He was here, there, and everywhere as the last minute preparations went on. He was cheerful, as if the last few days of desperate grasping for answers had never happened. But I remembered his sombre warning of the night before, and it was with some inner trepidation that I bid farewell to my wife and daughter. Mary had spoken cheerfully of Harry. She insisted that she knew almost nothing – though she knew more than I had told her – would have rather asked than answered questions, and, of course, she had no solution. But the few words she spoke on the matter cheered me. She knew that he had a terrible infection of some kind, ‘cancerous’ she called it. But she did not seem to think his ‘cancer’ indissociable from him. She did not take for granted that he was doomed. Few and uncertain as her words were, they lent credence to Sherlock’s expectations of discovering a solution today. Mr. Pye’s letter, little more than a reiteration of what he’d said the day before with better credentials, was disappointing, but not a death knell. The sun had not yet risen over the towers of London when we threw open the doors, and the two helicopters, accompanied by several score wizards on broomsticks, glided out over the dark waters of the Thames.

The whole affair with about the bank was over in short order. Sherlock’s and my part in it was but little. We were neither Wizarding fighters, nor official police. I did not even see most of it. Sherlock and I were in the port helicopter, which was co-piloted by George Weasley. His twin was in the other. We rappelled down into the street with the rest. The only people in sight were the two Death Eater guards by the doors, who had fallen to the Order’s stunning spells the moment we came into view. In a few moments, through some combination of police explosives and Kingsley Shacklebolt’s know-how, the high bronze doors lay twisted upon the ground and we entered.

The goblins, or the few of them that were about when we entered, were surprisingly blasé when Kingsley declared the place claimed by the Order on account of the current administration being an illegal usurpation. Why should they care what the wizards were up to apparently? But they became a little more indignant when they realized that we intended to take something, just one thing, a stolen item, from their vaults. The majority of them put up quite a fuss and cry about it, but it was rather too late to stop us, and a handful of them, less concerned with honour perhaps, or more cognizant of the dangers of Riddle’s rule, agreed to cooperate.

I was not among the small team sent down to the caverns to fetch the cup from the Lestrange’s vault. I understand that there was a dragon down there; an actual, live, giant, winged reptile, whose exhalations really did combust upon contact with the air. Sherlock tells me it was in a rather in-humane situation, but I should have had a curiosity to see it if I had known. But I was left among the majority of the force.

They returned after a rather more lengthy trip than I had expected, bearing aloft the cup of Helga Hufflepuff. We left the Order and the team to fix the place up, evacuate the goblins (whether they liked it or not) to prevent them from undeservedly bearing the weight of Riddle’s wrath, and engineer the ‘escape’ of some of the captured Death Eaters who had seen what we had taken. And the five of us, Harry, Sherlock, Hermione, Ron, and myself, slipped out of the bank and teleported out of Diagon Alley onto a little hill-side in Northamptonshire just as the sun was rising.

Behind us broad fields stretched away, silver green into the distance, broken by darker patches of woods and hedgerows. The roofs of a tiny hamlet shone out of the fields, not a half a mile to the south-east. From the woods on either hand there rose a loud, merry cacophony of bird sounds. Dew drenched my shoes, and fell in big prism-like droplets from the long leaves of the grass. Before us rose a broad green stretch of rising land. A line of tall trees stood upon the summit, catching the early light. Beyond that was only blue.

Harry let go of Ron’s and my hands and unstrapped his firebolt from his back. How far I preferred flying to teleporting! The crushing, the blackness, the roaring in one’s ears, the claustrophobic sensation of being dragged through a tunnel, the soreness which often followed – that it was fast, nearly instantaneous, was all that could be said for the one. What could not be said for the other?! There was terror in it, true, and risk; leaving the solid earth so many fathoms behind. But I would choose it without question, make teleporting safe as you may.

We sped upwards, above the ground, but so close to the slope that the long grass still rippled about our ankles, swishing in the wind of our passing. The earth ended above us in a bright green line. Closer and closer came the sky. And then we were up over the top in the air, in the sea of endless blue. Looking back, the earth spread out beneath us, green and bright and more distant by the second. The little hill on which had just been standing was a thumb sized strip between little woodlands. The hamlet flashed its roofs behind us.

I shall never forget that journey, in the sun and the wind, behind Harry Potter on his firebolt, watching the counties drop away beneath us; the green patchwork of fields and hedges of Northamptonshire, the seemingly endless grey mass of Manchester, the high bronze fells and dark valleys of Yorkshire.

The sky over the isle was mostly clear. Some scatted clusters of cumulus clouds appeared in our path from time to time. Harry made no attempt to avoid them. He even rose in elevation once in order to sweep over the top of one towering wall of vapour. It would have made an entire mountain on the ground. So bright, so white, whiter than snow, blinding to look at and unreal to the mind. We see clouds, and our lives are deeply affected by them; we are rescued and we are ruined by that which the clouds bring. But the bright tufts of cotton fluff which race across the summer sky are often little more than images to our minds. We cannot touch them. We cannot approach them. We see them only, and while we may stop and marvel at their beauty and laugh at their form – and in more serious moments worry about what they are or not not bringing – how often are those clouds themselves truly real to us?

It wasn’t until Harry purposefully plunged into the side of a ridge that I fully appreciated that this mountain of water was in fact there, not just a beautiful, overly bright image. I touched a cloud. Cool, damp, twilight surrounded us and our faces were pelted by tiny water droplets. The day was becoming quite hot by that time and the sensation was delicious. Casting a glance over my shoulder, I saw the cloud, from this perspective like a very thick fog, rushing away from the path we had blasted through it, and Ron and Sherlock following us through the billowing tunnel. Hermione had gone around. As we came near to the outer edge of the cloud, it suddenly lit up all around us, bright white, gold light, as the vapour particles caught the rays of the sun. It was as if we were swimming in tangible light.

The importance of our mission, the sense that we were embarked upon a great adventure, lent its own spice to the beauty and wonder of the matter. Up there in the sun, it was hard to give much credence to the nightmare visions I had been entertaining recently. With Sherlock’s reassurance of his ‘last recourse’, I could well believe that no great tragedy awaited us in the northern mountains, and I found myself following his admonition – and not despairing at all. Instead I laughed with the Seventh Safeguard, and forgot, if only for an hour, that he was not only the boy that he seemed.

We landed on the banks of a little river which emptied into the Firth of Lorn, and from thence, immediately teleported to Hogwarts School.

I cannot tell you where it lies, save that it is in the north of the Isle. I can say that it is beautiful. And if I were ever to see that valley again, I should know it in an instant. But I can give you no directions thither.

We stood upon a grassy hillside where a number of small, shaggy, red cattle were grazing. Before us, down between the steep green sides of the surrounding highlands, lay a deep wooded valley and a loch. On the banks, I could see the tumbled grey form of a ruined fortress. The grey shapes of real mountains, far above these craggy highlands, rose up in the distance. It was the height of summer, and the highlands and the valley were green and the loch reflected the morning sun so brightly that I could scarcely look at it.

A short walk across the fields brought us to a little country lane, where we assumed our customary disguises. Sherlock was still no more pleased with the gold-tasselled purple hat than he had been the first time Hermione had presented it to him. A little farther down the valley, lay the little village of Hogsmeade.

My first impression was one of extraordinary charm and near idyllic beauty. The shops and houses on either side of the neatly cobbled road were well thatched, beautiful little buildings of antique design but of obviously recent care – care such as given to real houses, real workplaces, and shops, not museum relics. The light of the morning sun filled the street with gold. Green fields stretched right to the borders of the town. Gardens crowded around the buildings and spilled from the window sills. People in bright colours walked the streets. It was as if one had stumbled into another world in this narrow dale, some ancient magical remnant of a world that the rest of the country had left behind, or never quite known at all. That was my first impression.

The second was fear. The faces that passed us by were harried, and carried a hunted expression. A rather large number of the shops and houses, though clearly inhabited and loved till quite recently, had been abandoned, and now stood obviously empty. One of them had been burnt down. The sweetshop into which Ron and Hermione led us was the most marvellous specimen of its kind which I had ever seen. But the middle-aged lady who bustled out of the back had a sad and rather defensive look. A dark hand lay over the town.

By the expedient of causing a disturbance in the front of the shop, we were able to slip down into the basement unnoticed. Harry took some minutes in locating the cleverly concealed trapdoor in the floor, and we passed through it into a flight of stone steps leading down into the earth. These continued for perhaps rather more than the depth of a large house, then ended in an low, narrow tunnel, roughly hewn out of the ground.

Deep underground as we were, and constricted as our movements had to be, it was difficult to gauge just how far we travelled, but I am sure that it was well over a mile before we came to a slope of well laid stone. Up this we climbed, and out through a small opening at the top. This door had clearly been intended solely for the use of very young people. It was a bit of work for me to get through, and I lost a number of my buttons in the process. Once I did, I found myself in a long, high-ceilinged corridor lined with statues (it was through a little door in the back of one of these that we came) and lighted by two high mullioned windows, one at either end.

We were inside the fortress we had seen from the hillside; but it was not the ruin it had appeared. It was Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

As Sherlock had predicted, the place was very nearly empty, and the few people who were there were easily avoided by the use of Harry’s wonderful map. It was an interesting place, Hogwarts. It was odder by far than the old Black house, but there wasn’t anything sinister about it. It was odd with an almost charming eccentricity. Also unlike the Black house, it was beautiful, and its grandeur was not mouldering in decay. I might have found it an alarming place if I had been trying to navigate it alone, for not only were the pictures along the walls all animate, like that of Mistress Black, but staircases moved, and doors appeared only sporadically. But I wasn’t alone. I was with Harry, Ron, and Hermione, and they knew every corner.

The door to the Room of Requirement was one of the doors which was only visible sometimes. It apparently it would show up only when someone decided that they really wanted it to. One moment there seemed to be only an empty corridor; a large animate tapestry depicting a number of trolls (which were either fighting artistically or dancing violently, one couldn’t be sure) on one side, and a bare stone wall on the other. The next moment, a high and rather grand double door had grown out of the bare wall. This sight, which only a week ago would have thrown me into astonishment did not now even cause me to blink.

We passed inside, into a room of vast proportions. In size and shape it was more reminiscent of a cathedral than a storage area, but towering high to the ceiling were stacks and columns, veritable pillars, of miscellaneous objects. Dishes, tools, toys, weapons, clothes, cages, hairbrushes, stuffed animals, closed boxes, papers crumbled into dust, statues, items of furniture, musical instruments, empty bottles, full bottles, gadgets I could not possibly have put a name to or theorized a use for, and things which had long since ceased to have a recognizable form at all were piled in hectic disarray together. There were things whizzing about the ceiling; mechanical, not living, to judge by the noise.

We split up into a line, so as to go over the space more effectively, looking for a ancient diadem on the bewigged head of a crumbling bust, sitting on top of a stained cabinet. Ron found it. Some little time after we had parted among the aisles and piles, he called Harry over to inspect a find and we all came. Harry, Sherlock, and I came empty handed, but Hermione’s arms were filled with headdresses of every description – just in case.

After it had made the round of the children, Sherlock took the ancient headpiece in his gloved hands and inspected it very carefully.

“Highly tarnished silver.” he said, drawing a finger along the distinctly brown surface. “Rather of the Celtic fashion, but you can see the Roman influence as well. It has definitely been out in the weather for a significant period of time. Besides the effects of water there appears to be a remnant of root wrapped around the silver here and the crumbling substance in this gem clasp is most certainly flecks of broken tree-bark.”

“Showing that it was lying around outside somewhere for a long time and hidden in here relatively recently.” said Harry.

“Exactly.” said Sherlock. He held it up to his own head, but I noticed that he was very careful not to actually touch it to it. “If this was in fact designed specifically to fit Rowena, then it would appear that she had decidedly superior supra-orbital development – either that or she was an exceptionally large woman all around.”

“She was known for being the cleverest.” said Harry.

“I can well believe it. Is there any significance to sapphires in Hogwarts lore?”

There was no special significance to sapphires, but blue was one of Ravenclaw’s colours. Sherlock, Harry, and Hermione were all quite confident that this was the long lost diadem, and Ron and I were quite prepared to take their word for it. And so, bearing the diadem of Ravenclaw, the cup of Hufflepuff, and the locket of Slytherin, the five of us went down to the famed ‘chamber of secrets’.

The entrance to the chamber of secrets was located, oddly enough, in a girl’s bathroom. The hidden doorway was concealed in one of the fixtures. But the chamber had been built over a millennium ago. So either the chamber was designed to automatically modify itself to adapt to a changing building, or the wizard’s of the ninth century had had remarkably modern plumbing technology, or it had been secretly modified many times by descendants of the founder.

The chamber was opened by a password. And it was then that I saw for myself the phenomenon that Sherlock had spoken of. Harry opened the chamber. He stood there and he hissed at it. Under different conditions I would have been inclined to laugh at the bizarre display. But not now. He wasn’t making silly animal noises. He was speaking. Speaking a language that he’d never been taught. And the hidden door opened to him; a dank and ill smelling hole angling down into the dark.

Harry shouldn’t have been able to speak that language. It suddenly verbalized in my mind that Harry was not speaking at all. Riddle was. It was that bit of Thomas Riddle, who was standing beside me. And for the first time, though my liking for Harry did not at all decrease, and my pity for him and horror on his account increased, I was almost a little afraid of him.

He turned to us, gave us a reassuring smile which entirely failed to reassure me, and jumped down into the hole. He slid away and disappeared into the blackness. Sherlock followed unhesitatingly. I had never seen a doorway I found less inviting, but there was nothing but to follow them.

Instantly the light of the sun was cut off. I was on a enclosed and seemingly endless slide, going down into the depths below the castle. Just when I was starting to wonder if this was really a slide at all – instead of a bizarre gravitational loop which we were going to be trapped in forever – I slid out of the pipe and onto a wet stone floor. The soft glow of Harry’s wand and the sharp beam of Sherlock’s flash-light illuminated a rough stone tunnel. Stones had fallen from the roof, and I had a suspicion that it wouldn’t take much to make more follow.

We walked silently, flash-lights and wands out. At one point the tunnel had caved in so badly that we had to get down on our hands and knees and crawl through it.

The tunnel ended in a snake adorned door, which opened to Harry’s command, and we entered into a chamber, the like of which I had never seen before.

Pillars lined the room. There was light there, a very dim greenish light, but I couldn’t tell where it came from. At the far end of the chamber stood a stone colossus, robed and bearded, reaching up to the vaulted ceiling – an image of the long dead Salazar Slytherin. And on the floor at his feet lay a great coiled shape.

We approached it with a certain amount of caution, for even four years dead, with little left but the skeleton and rags of skin, the basilisk was a fearful thing, massive beyond belief. Most of it had rotted away in years since, but a foul odour hung heavily about it.

Harry hastily took the locket from about his neck.

“We’d better not try them all at once. I don’t know what they’ll do. The diary tried to kill Ginny and me.”

“Wasn’t the diary intended to be more interactive?” asked Sherlock.

“Yes, but I bet these won’t exactly go down without a fight either.” said Harry. And he broke off a basilisk fang.

They destroyed them, the three horcruxes, one after another, these outwardly beautiful objects of silver and gold – that held devils inside them. As Harry had expected, they screamed and they taunted and they threatened, they filled the chamber with horrors. But the three children ended them. And we five stood in the dark and filthy chamber in silence, victorious but overwhelmed. There was a very strange and indecipherable look on Sherlock’s face. Harry on the other hand, could be read like a book. He was silent in a mixture of disgust, exhaustion, and wonder. After a moment he spoke, and his voice was hushed with excitement.

“That’s the diary, the ring, the locket, the cup, and the diadem. Now there’s just the snake. And Tom Riddle himself. Mr Holmes! You were right! This will be over before the sun sets!”

And he raced out of the chamber, a basilisk fang in his hand, joyfully heedless of his trainers slipping on the slime.

Chapter 15 ~ The Headmaster ~>

This non-commercial, derivative work is an independent production by Charlotte Ann Kent and is not associated with The Doyle Estate, the BBC, Warner Bros, or J.K. Rowling. 
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Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Seventh Safeguard [XIII]



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Chapter XIII ~ Before the Plunge


Left alone in the dark foyer, I found that I could not stay there. The ‘haunted house ride’ aura which I had found it full of in my first visit, five nights before, was as nothing to the darkness which then filled it. Besides which I felt I could not bear my own company. Quickly, like a child who was afraid of the dark, I made my way to the room set aside for Mary, Shirley, and myself.

An oil lamp burned low on the bedside-stand, but they were quietly sleeping. From the book lying open on the covers (I recognized a collection of fairytales that Hermione carried about) it seemed that Mary fallen asleep while waiting for me. A sleeper’s smile rested on her face. She was, perhaps for the first time in days, sleeping peacefully. I hoped I would not wake her; I didn’t need to poison her contentment.

She was sleeping on her right side, and her left ear poked up above the locks of blond. Even in the dim light I could see the kink in the lobe where the umbilical cord had wrapped around her infant head – and nearly strangled the life out of her. So nearly dead. So nearly lost to the world. Taken from life before her life had begun. Mary, an infant, just turning into a creature of the light and air. Harry, a child, on the cusp of becoming a man.

Harry had a sweetheart too; Ron’s younger sister, Ginny Weasley. Too young to accompany the trio. So precious her kisses were forsworn. Not while he carried danger with him. Sweet sixteen.

I was to get no sleep that night. The terrible secret which Sherlock Holmes had revealed to me, and still more, the solution to it which he theorized was all but inevitable, kept me up all through the dark hours, while the clock in hallway below rang out the quarters in harsh clangorous notes. It was not primarily grief that I was feeling. I had – over the past week – become fond of the boy. But what I primarily felt was an overwhelming sense of wrongness. If Harry were to die, it would be a tragedy. That Harry had to die … there lay the sting. Sherlock’s insistence that hope had merely been rendered implausible and had not yet been truly ruled out struck more of desperation than of hope.

When the grey light of a sunless dawn crept over the room, I gave up my attempts to doze, and arose for the day.

Sherlock was searching for a solution in the facts of the witchery itself; in the hope that those who knew how to do this terrible thing might also know how it could be undone, in the hope that an understanding of what exactly it was would give him an insight on how to get rid of it.

I knew nothing of magical theory, dark or light. And from the time that Ron and Hermione told me Harry’s tale, I had believed that the situation was too alien to my own field of study for my knowledge to be of much use in the matter. Yesterday, I had resolved to make some attempt to do such as I was able to in spite of my insufficiency. Today, the fact that I was ignorant no longer excused me. That I must act, that I must do all that was in my power, had become inescapable. And strangely, the very fact that the injury – if I may still call it that – was so much greater and more horrific than I had suspected, made it seem less likely that the causes would be elusive. Surely the internal causes of so terrible a condition, if they were such as could be discovered by a physical examination at all, would be blatant and unmistakable.

But there was still my own ignorance of Wizarding science. Perhaps the Order of the Phoenix had a doctor in its ranks. Perhaps, between the two of us, something could be done.

I was startled from my train of thought, and the rest of the house roused, by the ringing of the newly installed doorbell.

The foyer was filled with people. Lupin was there, but this time there was a young woman by his side; her bright pink hair and her youthful rounded cheeks providing a striking contrast to him, with his greying hair and face, and lean frame. More red-headed Weasleys were there. The Mr. and Mrs. of the family were a very pleasant middle-aged couple; the Mrs. was plump, the Mr. was balding, both were cheery and friendly as could be. Mr. Weasley in particular seemed absolutely delighted to be introduced to Sherlock, Mary, and I – the notion of a muggle detective and two muggle healers appeared to utterly fascinate him. Three more of their children accompanied them. They seemed to be a very large family. One was a full grown, stocky looking fellow with a grin reminiscent of the twins. Another was a tall young man with a face which would have been remarkably handsome if he had not been so badly scarred – it looked as though he had been mauled by an animal at some point. His wife had come too, an ethereal beauty floating along on a cloud of platinum tresses. The third, a lithe young lady, all flashing eyes and flaming hair, was clearly Harry’s Ginny, the youngest Weasley and the only girl in the family. Though too young to be a member of the Order, she had accompanied her family to London. Kingsley Shacklebolt was there. This sage and knowledgeable correspondent turned out to be a large and majestic black man, looking like one of the Three Kings out of the east in his rich resplendent robes and gold jewellery. And there were others who I had not met or heard of before. I noticed that Mundungus Fletcher was not among them.

Only a handful of them had heard the plan. Shacklebolt, current head of the Order, had summoned them here for a meeting in order to discuss it. Some of them, unlike Mr. Weasley, were decidedly disapproving of the presence of Sherlock, Mary, and I. There were whispers of spies and possible obliviations. But Harry would hear none of it, and defended us vigorously. I remembered the suspicion with which he had first listened to us. It was gone. And he seemed to be riding on a wave of exhilaration. His smile, aglow with focused excitement and open camaraderie, innocent and straightforward and unaware, cut into my heart. I felt stained with intended treachery, with ugliness in mind and as yet unshed blood on my hands.

Before the meeting, there was a minor uproar. Ginny, at sixteen years, was still considered a minor by the wizards, and her mother would not let her even be present at the meeting. Ginny thought this tremendously unfair, and said so very plainly. But Mrs. Weasley was unswervable on the matter. Ginny was left behind in the foyer with Mary to bemoan her non-inclusion (I had no doubt but that she would find Mary a very sympathetic companion) while everyone else went down to the kitchen.

Sherlock Holmes presented his plan to the Order of the Phoenix with a brisk practicality in which the extreme melancholy and half-hidden desperation of the night before was indiscernible. The point of precisely how capturing the cup of Helga Hufflepuff would help destroy Riddle was left vaguely relegated to it being ‘Dumbledore’s Orders, as Harry had insisted. But with the exception of that one important factor, he was extremely clear, and explained to them in great detail every point about the strike-team and the plan proposed.

Harry was eager to move on the plan without delay. We had met him in a paralysis of uncertainty. He had not known what to do with the information, how to proceed on a task that seemed just too big. He was a man of action; like me. And now, seeing a path clear before him, he wished to move now – tomorrow, as soon as the Order and the Strike-team could work out their co-operation.

Sherlock did not present any reasons against this. The Order was rather shocked, as Ron had expected, and not perhaps extremely pleased, by the notion of a joint strike team. But they took Harry’s word as if he was their head, even though he was not even officially a member yet. And the situation was such that they hesitated to turn down any strategy which might stand a chance. Mr. Shacklebolt expressed frustration at the proposed team’s ratio of wizards to muggles. So Fred and George suggested that the older members of ‘Dumbledore’s Army’ could be called upon. In spite of its imposing name, Dumbledore’s army turned out to be a school club, started for the extra study of practical fighting techniques in anticipation of Riddle’s rise to power.

It was decided that the Order would go now, guided by Sherlock, to meet with the muggle strike-team and prepare for the operation, which was tentatively planned for the very next day. The five of us would search a few more crime scenes, then we would all meet again in the afternoon, at a location yet to be decided.

Before we left the Black mansion, I managed to get a word with Remus Lupin about finding a trustworthy Wizarding doctor. He was very sympathetic, but did not seem to think that it was a very good idea. It was a scar. There was nothing to be done about it. I did not speak the exact nature of my concerns, but I was able to convey to him some of my urgency. He said that he would talk with some of the others, and if possible, bring someone to the meeting later on. I would have preferred it if someone could have been found immediately, I wished to start as soon as possible. But this did seem to be the best that could be arranged.

Whether because we had already gone through most of Sherlock and Hermione’s list or because Sherlock and Hermione had become so very certain of where the horcruxes were to be found that they had trimmed their list down to only the most important places, our search was not long that day. The last site we searched was a dreary old corner by an abandoned house where a Wizarding special forces agent, had been killed years before. We found nothing of course; all the crime-scene searching we had done had been completely useless. It was still several hours till we were supposed to meet the strike-team.

Sherlock retreated into the old falling down house, out of the weather. Here, further north than London, it was drizzling quite badly. The day was grey and mournful. The wind had blown itself out last night and though it seemed that it must have rained hard earlier, there now was nothing but a steady drip, drip from eaves and tree branches. The sky was dark. It could have been been nearly twilight, even though my watch said it was short of one o’clock. Nothing rustled or chirped in the dark thickets on either side of the path I had aimlessly meandered down; just the steady drip drip drip. There was such a lot of dead wood. Dead. Dark. Cold. So unseasonably cold. I pulled the zipper of my light summer jacket up at little higher, wishing I’d brought something heavier. The hopelessness of the whole situation was forcing itself upon my soul, the hideousness. And I couldn’t go back. Go back before I’d heard. I couldn’t get back what the world had been then. I couldn’t wipe it clean from the horror of those few little words. Now it was dark. All was dark. Nothing was bright and good any more, all soiled, twisted, darkened by this …

My knees gave way beneath me and I stumbled for a moment, catching myself with one hand on the damp stone path. There was mud between the stones. My breath steamed in the raw and bitter air. The little winding path in amongst the rhododendron thickets had taken on a strange quality. It was not merely dark and forbidding. Every branch, every dripping twig, the gleaming stones amongst the moss, seemed a terror. Unreasoned fright seized me. I turned round and started to run. But I didn’t know quite where I was running to. Horror of my destination crept over me, revulsion, terror – I couldn’t go that way. My steps faltered. Cries were rising in my mind, remembered cries and the groans of wounded men. The world was so cruel. The world was so dark. What did it matter if I saw the sun, when such things existed beneath it. Distantly, like something coming back from a dream, I heard gunfire and screams, saw a man falling from a ledge. I saw the face of a murdered woman. A weeping child, weeping and weeping and weeping. Some little corner of my mind, quiet, still sane, ridiculous in its tiny impotency against the enormity of the horror and despair which filled me, said ‘Stop it. Now. Get up and go back to the others.’ A flickering candle against a wave. I was powerless to obey it. No little stirring of my paralysed will could stir my frozen brain and swamped imagination, or fight off the billows of darkness which were overcoming me. Panic gripped me. I was drowning; drowning in the freezing darkness. Was I sinking away? ‘Good bye, John.’ No, that was long ago. If there had been air in my lungs I would have screamed. I couldn’t see, swirling blackness obscured my eyes.

Light. Piercing, blazing, flashing, blinding light. I recoiled as though from a blade. As a cold hand from hot water. But it was all around me. I breathed again, deep breaths of the warm, wet air. Did I say the air was cold? The air was warm. It was one of those sweet summer showers, gently seeping into the grateful, dry earth. Rain-drops pattered off leaves and splashed among the rocks. The smells of damp grass and yellow iris came through the rain.

I sat up. Harry’s silver hart, burning with radiance, stood above me like a sentinel guardian. The raindrops caught its light and fell like gleaming jewels all round us. Its limpid eyes were glowing with sympathy and concern.

And then it was gone. There was the sound of feet and Harry himself came running along the path, his wand still in his hand.

“John! Doctor? Are you all right?! How long were you there?”

“I … don’t quite know.”

He gave me his hand and helped me to my feet.

“That was quite a lot of dementors. I’m sorry, I should have warned you that there might be some around a place like this.”

“Dementors?”

“Yeah. They’re massing you know. Usually they either hang out alone, in lonely places, or else work in groups for the Ministry of Magic. But Riddle’s got them packing up and causing trouble.” We were by then walking back along the path to the house, as Harry went on about these invisible beings (invisible to me anyway) called dementors by whom I had apparently been under some kind of attack. He inquired several times if I was really all right, and asked if I had any chocolate about me. “… chocolate’s really good for recovery after dementor attacks.” he assured me.

I felt strangely weakened and was keenly, painfully aware of what it was that Sherlock and I were doing. The very concern in the remembered eyes of the hart seemed to reproach me. And he, poor fellow, was completely unaware that his companion had such notions in his head.

Suddenly, some of what he had been saying solidified in my mind.

Azkaban? … Did you just say they guard Azkaban – the Wizarding prison?”

“Yeah.” said Harry.

I stopped, aghast.

“Er, well,” he continued, “they were actively attacking you there, and they couldn’t exactly do that to the prisoners, but, yeah. … Dumbledore was always trying to get the Ministry to stop using them. But …”

Something had occurred to me.

“Harry, if we hadn’t heard her, what would have happened to Mary?”

For a minute he didn’t answer. Then he nodded.

“I’m afraid – yeah. She probably would have.”

The dementors might have been back, I had certainly grown cold enough.

“John,” said Harry, a little hastily, as if my face alarmed him, “John, it’s … People usually survive Azkaban. I’ve had friends who were sent there. They came out okay, er well, not great, but they recovered. And, at this rate, Mrs. Watson’s probably not going to get caught.”

“They sent children?” I said. “To a place surrounded by those …”

“No. One was the Hogwarts gamekeeper. And then there was … Sirius.”

I remembered the particular vehemence of Harry’s insistence that Sirius had never had anything to do with Riddle’s gang.

“Was he accused of being a Death Eater?”

Harry nodded, his jaw strangely shifted. It was evident that the subject was extremely painful to him.

“So it’s the high security prison?”

“… It’s the only prison.”

Suddenly, I went from cold to hot.

Everyone who’s sent to prison has to endure them?”

“Yes.” said Harry.

“Everyone? What about all those muggle-borns – what about the students?”

Harry did not immediately reply. He looked as sick with anger as I was.

“If nothing goes wrong, they’ll never get caught.” There was a quietly inexorable determination in the young man’s voice.

The sound of laughter broke incongruously upon our ears. Ron and Hermione were laughing on the decrepit porch, out of the rain; the pure-blood and the muggle-born, hand in hand.

“Maybe Hermione has some chocolate.” Harry said.

Off he went to them. I watched him run across the overgrown lawn to his friends. I checked my watch. It was still a long time until we were supposed to meet with the Order. I wasn’t going to wait any longer. I took the side door into the old house, to tell Sherlock of my plan.

There he sat, his long lean figure bent over the table, his sharp features illuminated by the single lamp as his keen eyes scanned the brown and crumbling pages of Hermione’s Secrets of the Darkest Art. Instantaneous, unreasoned revulsion and fear went through me; anger at the cruel book which had wrought such pain and destruction, horror at the sight of it in Sherlock’s hands. It would have caused me less repugnance if it had been a coiling adder – written by those who courted the infernal, revelled in the foul, murdered and distorted and … Something snapped.

“Sherlock Holmes, put the damn book down!”

He lifted his head from the page, and looked at me keenly for a minute.

“An admirable choice of words, John.” he said finally. “It is a damned book; indeed, it is the very damnedest book it has ever been my lot to peruse.”

I looked away in great vexation of spirit, not knowing how to answer his calm agreement. But before I could pick up the train of my thought again and approach the subject of a medical examination, he was speaking again.

“John, do you know why I’m bothering to work through this?”

“Yes, I do.”

“I take no pleasure in this hideous book. Its very lettering is vile. I’m trying to fix a problem I didn’t create! Do you think I want…”

“No! Of course I don’t, Sherlock! Of course I don’t!”

He turned feverishly back to the book, shuffling roughly through the cracking pages and talking fast.

“I’ve looked, and I’ve looked, and there is nothing, nothing, about living horcruxes. I can’t even discern whether horcrux specifically means the segment of soul, or whether it means the entire device, both segment and vessel. The pain resulting from the horcrux is specific to a certain area, but does it then follow that the segment is specifically located in the area thus affected? Is it located specifically enough for a physical removal? If, on the supposition the segment could be thus physically removed, would it even be possible to do so without causing lethal damage? Could it be detected as an object within the vessel – which could then be separated out? Or would the entire area have to be removed? Or are we working on a false hypothesis? Is the head pain merely symptomatic, and the causative segment diffused throughout the vessel? I’ve had blood and DNA tests done on him, and they checked out fairly normal. Or, normal in and of themselves …”

“You have? When was this?”

“Oh, the other day. He doesn’t know about it. I’ve had them evaluated by a number of different specialists.”

“What do you mean normal ‘in and of themselves’?”

“I mean they would seem normal … if it wasn’t for Riddle’s DNA. You know I managed to get a DNA sample in Amelia Bones’ house.”

“But Harry can’t have some of Riddle’s DNA. If the bit of Riddle was plainly there in Harry’s very genetic code, you wouldn’t still be asking where it was.”

“No. Harry doesn’t have any of Riddle’s DNA. It’s actually quite the opposite. Riddle has some of Harry’s.”

“What?!”

“Harry’s is normal, undamaged, completely unsurprising DNA. Riddle’s is decidedly abnormal. When they said it was artificially engineered, it explained much. It is a completely unnatural, indeed naturally impossible, phenomenon.”

“But what does this have to do with Harry’s DNA?”

“Well, Harry mentioned the other day that he was present at Riddle regeneration.”

“Yes.”

“But at the time he didn’t get too terribly graphic about what actually happened.”

“He, or Hermione, said that Riddle kidnapped him for political reasons … meaning to murder him in front of the gangsters.”

“And that was true, so far as it went, but it wasn’t the whole story – nor even the main point, I believe. … I don’t claim to understand how what he did worked. But Harry’s blood was used somehow in the regeneration process. Apparently Riddle needed someone’s blood, and thought that using Harry’s would get around the effect of the uh, ‘spell’ that Lily cast on him years before, by extending its protection to both of them … or something. Anyway, it worked. Obviously. Harry hasn’t had that protection from Riddle since.”

“Has that been actually proved?”

“Yes, it has. I understand Riddle went to some lengths to prove it … he tortured the boy, I’m afraid. … But that is entirely beside the point at the moment, because that isn’t the horcrux. It runs in the opposite direction. It’s not a element of Riddle in Harry. It’s a element of Harry in Riddle. So back to the element of Riddle…”

So that was Harry had been doing there. My mind flashed to some lonely little dingle, where the boy of fourteen, kidnapped, wounded, doubtless bound, in searing pain from the proximity of the sorcerer, watched as … fire, steaming cauldrons, goblin men, witches chanting foul incantations – vague and ghastly images swirled in my imagination. Through the nightmare sounds in my mind, I heard Sherlock continuing.

“ … Of what nature is this segment? We know that something of Riddle is inside Harry, but we don’t know exactly what. Wizarding theory says it is a fragment of soul. If,” and he lay great emphasis on the word, “if that is in fact an accurate way to describe it, then it is beyond my purview, and yours too.”

“But you do not believe that it is.”

“I admit that I have a certain very strong disinclination to accept such a theory.”

“On the other hand, a bit of … brain material transplanted into someone else’s mind would hardly cause the effects on Riddle that we see. I mean, we’re talking about unnatural prolongation of a mortal life. … Or perhaps not even really that … If that doesn’t fit into the category of …”

“You quite hold the supernatural theory, I see.”

“No, Sherlock, I’m just trying to understand what’s happening.”

“Well, so am I. And that’s why I don’t put the damn book down.”

“Well, you do that. I’m going to take him to the hospital. If he has a foreign object embedded in his skull, or wherever, which isn’t supernatural in character, I should be able to detect it. And if I can detect it, then maybe I can remove it.”

“The ability to detect it hardly guarantees the ability to effectively remove it, as many cancers prove. Still, use every device that modern science can suggest to discover if there is anything which can be removed. … Anything which could possibly be the causative agent. I have some notes …” he produced a wad of notepaper, thickly written in his bold, distinctive hand. “I’ve jotted down the facts which seem as though they might be of use to the medical investigator. I intended to get someone connected to the Order to accompany you and Harry when we met with them later today. But if you wish to go now, by all means, do so.”

“I did ask Remus Lupin to try and find a Wizarding doctor, to come and look at him.”

“If he has managed to engage one, I shall certainly send him on to the the hospital.”

“This is supposing of course, that I can get Harry to come.”

“Why not? He certainly doesn’t like having the connection. How could it hurt? And he likes you well enough. We are now waiting on the combined strike to team to be ready, and cannot proceed any farther with our plan until tomorrow morning at the very earliest. He has the time. Your personality engenders confidence. Go. Convince him. I’ll continue looking for a solution within the Wizarding world. … Surely, surely if Dumbledore knew – and he obviously did – then he must have had a plan either for Harry’s cure or his informing.”

“But he was killed.”

“Yes. Pity, that. Therefore he must have told someone else his plan.”

“Not necessarily, Sherlock. People don’t generally plan on being murdered.”

“Well, I think this one did. … Oh, and John, do pick up some duct-tape while you’re out.”

“Duct-tape?”

“Yes, duct-tape. Is that a problem?”

“No.”

“Well I think it might be a good idea to have some.”

“…We couldn’t just put the whole thing off for a short time?”

“The wheels are in motion. A great deal is at stake. Even if there weren’t, there’s only so many alternatives we can look into. I don’t think a few extra days would help us much at this point. And much evil can happen in that amount of time. Harry is intent upon moving as soon as possible. Shacklebolt is intent upon moving as soon as possible. Mycroft is intent upon moving as soon as possible. And I wouldn’t stop them if I could. … Unless, of course, you actually do find something. Then I’ll get this put off long enough for a proper operation, even if I have to tell the whole Order of the Phoenix everything.”

I left Sherlock alone with his volume – I now saw that there were a number of others beside him, doubtless procured from Hermione’s marvellous bag – and went back outside to look for Harry. He met me at the door with a bar of chocolate.

Harry was right. The chocolate did help. But the examination was as useless as could be imagined. For all that I could tell, Harry’s scar was just that, ordinary scar tissue on the skin of the forehead. Scans revealed no tumorous tissues or foreign objects in his head, or anywhere else for that matter. Brain imaging showed no unexplainable phenomena, no suspicious activity.

The Wizarding doctor did come. In the middle of the afternoon I got a call that a pair of suspicious characters were down in the lobby asking for me. It turned out to be the senior Mr. Weasley with a young wizard named Augustus Pye. He was an agreeable, open minded fellow, who seemed pleased rather than otherwise to be working with a muggle. The problem was he clearly didn’t have a clue about Harry’s injury. He, like every other wizard in the nation, knew about the famous lightning scar. But he had never heard of any complications surrounding it. And worse, he seemed to assume, from the immutability of the curse that had caused it, that nothing whatsoever could be done about the complications. He examined Harry, questioned him, and expressed sympathy at his condition, but he did not seem to comprehend the gravity of the matter. Finally, I took him aside, well out of Harry’s hearing, and explained to him that it was believed or feared (I did not say by whom) that Riddle had transferred a part of himself to Harry at the time of the scar’s formation.

I had been hoping that he would laugh at the notion, and give some Wizarding explanation which would explain Sherlock’s terrible theory completely away. But he didn’t. He took the theory very seriously indeed, as if it were entirely plausible notion under the circumstances. To my distress, he took as a given that if that were true, no action of ours could help him. Much more sober than he had come, Mr. Pye left, promising to consult those more specialized in that area of Wizarding science than himself, and get back to me before the morrow.

In the hospital, we kept on. I swore that Harry should not die due to some slight carelessness or lack of attention to detail on my part.

Twilit day had turned to dark-black evening when the door opened to admit Mary, blooming and bonny. There was a pearlescent gleam at her neck and wrists, and the salmon material she was clothed in fluttered about her elbows and her knees. Her wide blue eyes gleamed in the fluorescent lights as she tripped lightly over to kiss me.

Behind her followed a young woman, who, on second examination, turned out to be Lupin’s young wife, who I had met that morning. But her bright pink hair had been turned to a quiet shade of mousey grey, and her little button nose had grown, for all the world like Pinnochio.

“Hullo, Doctor.” she said. “Wotcher, Harry!”

“Come to say that Harry’s been out too long?” I asked her.

“Nope! We’ve come to keep him out later.” she said cheerfully. “Or at least that was Mr. Holmes’s idea.”

“What do you mean?”

Mary pulled several stubs of paper from her purse; concert tickets. I remembered Sherlock excitedly purchasing those over a month ago; three – for himself, for Mary, and for me. I had forgotten that it was tonight.

“Are those Sherlock’s tickets?” I asked.

“Yes.” said Mary. “He asked us to make sure they didn’t get wasted.”

“But, surely he’s going himself?”

It was true we were in the middle of a case. But Sherlock had a truly remarkable power of detachment. If he knew he could could do no more on a case for a period of time, he could, and often would, turn his mind completely to something else, whether it be music, or chemistry, or medieval pottery. Many an evening we had spent in concert halls, Sherlock Holmes floating happily off to music land, while I, of less flexible turn of mind, missed half of it because I was so emotionally and mentally caught up in an investigation. So I was surprised that he was not going. I remembered the great enthusiasm with which he had announced the event. He had said himself that we could not proceed farther on the case until tomorrow, and that there were limited avenues for horcrux investigation.

“He says he’s too busy.” said Mary. “But he insisted that I still go. He thought Harry might like to have the third seat.”

“Oh, no.” said Harry, looking at me and Mrs. Lupin. “I’ll apparate back to Grimmauld Place. You three can have the tickets.”

“Sorry, Harry.” said Mrs. Lupin. “But the Order sent me along specifically because of you. They weren’t too pleased about you being off by yourself for so long. Where you go, I go.”

“And I’m sure we can get a fourth seat.” said Mary.

“Well, I really can’t go anywhere at the moment, anyway.” I said. “Where is Shirley?”

“With Sherlock. He said he wasn’t doing anything dangerous tonight and could look after her just fine. Are you sure you can’t come?”

“Yes, I’m afraid I really couldn’t justify leaving right now.” I replied, thinking of the long evening’s work ahead of me.

She was clearly disappointed “You and Sherlock. … Are you all right, Love?”

“Yes. I am. Just fine.”

“He was attacked by dementors.” Harry supplied helpfully. “That would leave anyone a bit shaken.”

“What are dementors?” she asked.

“They’re terrible beings of the dark and decaying places.” said Harry. “He stumbled right into a whole bunch of them.”

“And they attacked him?”

“Yeah.”

“Yes, you should ask him to tell you about patronuses, Mary. Get him to show you. Find some out of the way place for a demonstration, Harry, I’d like her to see. … But you three had better go, or you’ll be late. Run along. Enjoy yourselves.”

She suddenly leaned over, and, very softly so that only I could hear, she asked: “John, is there anything I can help you with?”

“No, I just … Yes there is. Observe Harry.”

“Why, John, you have been working with him all day, haven’t you? How should be able to find out more …”

“I’d just like your instinctual opinion.”

“Do you want to prejudice my instincts by telling me some of your research, maybe?”

“No. I’d prefer to keep you unprejudiced.”

As they bid me goodbye, Mary with a kiss and Harry thanking me for the exam – nice of him, as I hadn’t managed to help him a whit, I tried not to think of how much I would have preferred to spend the evening out listening to classical violins with Mary and Sherlock.

Left alone to restudy the data, I plugged away, deep into the night. Long after the concert must have ended, there were more footsteps at my door, a firm, slow stride, and a toddling little patter. The door swung open and Shirley ran in, crying ‘Daddy!’ and climbed up on my lap, trying to tell me in childish syllables about all the crazy people she and Sherlock had been talking to. Sherlock followed. He stood quietly next to the desk while she babbled happily on, occasionally agreeing with something she said, and backing her up on just how ridiculous such-and-so’s hat had been. When she finally stopped for breath, he turned to me and said:

“Call it a night, John.”

I turned back to my desk.

“I … haven’t got anything.”

“I know. And neither have I.”

“Nothing?” I asked. “Sherlock, do you mean to say …”

“No I don’t. Not tonight, anyway. … My dear fellow, don’t despair yet – time enough for that later. And perhaps I shouldn’t say that I have nothing, for now I know at least who knows nothing, and that is, after all, something. We are not totally without recourse yet, and I will be very much surprised if tomorrow does not shed some light on the matter. Come now, you’ve done what you could. It won’t help anything if you aren’t alert tomorrow.”

“The operation is on schedule then?”

“Yes. We start in five hours. We should be in possession of the bank no later than six o’clock tomorrow morning, and to Hogwarts School before ten o’clock. … That is, if you still want to help in this outrageous affair?”

“Yes, of course I do.”

Sherlock paused.

“Shirley,” he said, “look.”

“What?” she said, looking around.

“There. Out the window. Do you see the helicopter? Just like the ones Mr. Beaumont showed us? Go and see.”

Shirley hopped down and ran to the window to watch the aircraft. Having thus distracted her, Sherlock turned back to me and spoke in a lower voice.

“John, I’m having serious misgivings about asking you to come tomorrow. I think you should know – Harry’s right. The chances are very poor that we’ll all survive the operation, even supposing we find a way to save him.”

“Is that supposed to make me let you and three teenagers go alone? And anyway, I thought you needed me there as back-up.”

“But in doing so I’m scarcely treating you any different from that treatment of Harry which you so deplore.”

“Surely that’s an exaggeration.”

“I’m afraid it really isn’t. Yes, it may matter a great deal to have someone there who I can absolutely depend upon. But, depending on certain variable factors, it may also prove irrelevant – and result in nothing but another pointless death.”

He glanced over to where Shirley was playing by the window.

“You could’ve dropped Shirley off at the Black place before you came.” I said. “You didn’t even need to come in person, you could’ve sent a text. You brought my daughter to this conversation on purpose didn’t you? Make me think twice about going to face down the big bad wizard, hmm?”

“Yes.” he admitted. “I did.”

“Well – if I get killed tomorrow, Uncle Sherlock’s going to have to help Mary look after her. … Shirley! Come on, Sweetie, time to go back to Harry’s house.”

But as it transpired, we did not return to the Black place that night. Sherlock lead us down by the river where the combined strike-team had set up a temporary base of operations. He had spent most of the afternoon and evening there, among the Order. And he knew those parts better than I knew my own neighbourhood. But I don’t believe that he would ever have found it again if Arthur Weasley hadn’t been outside waiting for us. There, under the corrugated roof of an empty warehouse, a large and motley company was assembled; muggles and wizards, men and women, sober adults and excited teenagers, piles of the the slim little aerial broomsticks and two large gunned helicopters.

Whatever their hesitancy about the plan might have been, it had now been cast aside. All was set. Kingsley Shacklebolt had altered it to the effect that only half of the strike-team would follow us up to the school in the north. He would remain behind with the other half in London, ready to take action here, ready to fly in to the assistance of the un-enchanted at the Ministry of Magic as soon as Riddle was gone and his spells were broken.

They waited only for the morrow.

Chapter 14 ~ The Locket, The Cup, and the Diadem ~>

This non-commercial, derivative work is an independent production by Charlotte Ann Kent and is not associated with The Doyle Estate, the BBC, Warner Bros, or J.K. Rowling. 
Chapter 14 – The Locket the Cup and the Diadem will be available on July 7th.  If you enjoyed this chapter, check back then, or follow the blog (the widget is in the sidebar at the top) to get a notification sent to your email.  If you know somebody else who might like it, feel free to share it!  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Seventh Safeguard [XII]



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Chapter XII ~ In Godric’s Hollow


The air was cold, cold, and my heart had turned to lead. This then, was the mysterious connection, this the dark secret, the shadow hanging over Harry Potter. Whole realms of darkness, as yet unrealized, moved on the borders of my conscious mind. The seventh safeguard. Not connected to them – one of them. Not a boy. A horcrux. A walking black-magic device, tying the sorcerer to the world. But still a boy, still a young, and wholesome, and sweet-natured boy. Just Harry.

“Surely … surely you can’t truly be serious.” My voice was small in the vast echoing space of the entry-way.

“Oh, I am.” replied Sherlock levelly. “Perfectly serious. My sense of humour may at times be bizarre, but I wouldn’t jest about such as this.”

“And you are certain?”

“Yes. Quite certain.”

“Sherlock … think what you are saying.

“I know perfectly well what I’m saying, thank-you!” said Sherlock, snapping suddenly. “I fancy I may understand exactly what it is that I am saying better than you do. But there cannot be the slightest uncertainty about the matter.”

“Can’t there?”

“No. … John, I wish to God there was room for uncertainty!”

I flashed a glance at him. Rarely had I heard him speak with such feeling, but his appearance was composed.

“His fits,” Sherlock continued after a moment, “can you tell me what’s wrong with him?”

“No. No, I can’t.”

He shook his head.

“I didn’t really expect that you could. … I’m afraid I can. … He has … a tumour … a graft … an externally introduced element planted within him. Another man. … Listen, John, if this theory we’re operating under has any truth at all, and I am entirely convinced that does, there is no way out of this.”

“Then tell me. Explain to me. I am all in darkness.”

“My dear fellow, I fear that anything I can say will but draw you farther in.” said Sherlock softly. He paused, and took a seat on the stairs before continuing.

“My suspicions were first aroused on the morning of the second. It is true that old wounds often cause problems – but not like that. It was unusual to say the least. And I thought that the presence of such unusual symptoms, combined with the fact the wound in question was clearly that which had been inflicted by Riddle, was disquieting. Then there was what Hermione said about a connection – a connection? The total effect upon my mind was ominous, and the suspicion was aroused … but not then as a serious theory. The possibility of such a situation, and the horrific consequences which would result, had occurred to me the night before and I feared to let the swift juxtaposition of the introduction of an idea with an unusual incident cause me to see correlation in mere coincidence.

“So I determined to seek the real explanation of Harry’s symptoms. … I didn’t waste all those hours spent rambling over the Devon countryside looking for the Lovegoods’ place. Hermione Granger is a charmingly intelligent conversationalist, and was very communicative on the occasion. It was not at all difficult to probe her knowledge of the matter. … Rather than quickly rendering my theory ridiculous and extraneous, as I had expected, everything she said served only to reveal further suggestive material and decimate my assumption that there was some other obvious, overarching explanation.

“There isn’t. There is no plain and well established explanation of Harry’s symptoms. From what Hermione, and Harry himself, have told me, the only person ever to offer the slightest comment by way of attempted explanation was that headmaster, Dumbledore. And he seemed to consider it an adequate explanation to say that the curse which had failed to kill Harry had somehow forged a connection between Harry and Riddle. But that is the phenomenon itself! Not an explanation of it. Obviously, there is a telepathic connection! … I presume you do understand the connection I am referring to?”

“Harry explained it to me this evening.”

“Yes. And displayed it too, finding out that Riddle had noticed that his henchmen are disappearing – I bet ‘Yaxley’ was captured at your place. I mentioned to Mycroft that you’d left because you expected unwelcome visitors, he must have had an ambush set. … This connection allows Harry, or rather forces on him, direct telepathic contact with Riddle. I presume you have no knowledge of any similar case in the history of medicine.”

“Of course I don’t!”

“Nor, apparently, have the wizards. Harry’s condition is totally unique even among them. Everyone is content to say merely that it results from confrontation with Riddle, and since no one has ever been in a comparable situation, it is no wonder that the affects of it are inexplicable. … And the affects are not limited to the connection and scar. Harry currently possesses abilities which he should not.”

“What?”

“Yes. If possible, I found this one harder to believe than the telepathic connection. He can communicate with certain reptiles – specifically, snakes.”

“And you believe it?!”

“Besides Harry’s own statement, Hermione, Ron, Fred, and George have all attested to the fact.”

“They call themselves wizards! They believe they are using magic!”

“So far, from everything I’ve seen, the wizards are generally quite correct about matters of fact, even when the theories they explain them with are utterly reprehensible. But Hermione was raised as a muggle until the age of eleven, with similar sensibilities to us, besides being a young lady of good sense with a fondness for clearly stated objective facts. And she bore direct witness to Harry making snakes listen to him, and respond to his wishes.”

“Harry, the snake whisperer.”

“But what is really interesting, is not the mere fact of being able to make animals do what he wants. All sorts of methods for that have been developed by humans over the millennia. It is the explanation which Dumbledore gave the twelve-year-old Harry for it. … He said that when Riddle gave him that scar, he also put something of himself inside Harry.”

“No. That literally? Dumbledore really said that?”

“He did. Harry probably didn’t know much, if anything, about horcruxes at the time, so it’s no wonder he didn’t realize what that meant then. And now it’s old knowledge, which he clearly hasn’t thought to re-evaluate in light of the new – even when he told it to me.

“So let us look at this situation, keeping in mind several requirements and definitions. A horcrux has to be made immediately following a murder. Making a horcrux consists of putting an undefined piece of the crafter inside the chosen vessel. The purpose is that the crafter cannot die while the piece in the vessel remains safe.

“Riddle considered the infant Harry to be a threat. He seems to have been under the impression that if anyone ever took him down, it would be Harry. The fates had decreed it or some such nonsense. Therefore, in order to fulfil the terms of the fates – he is a pathetically superstitious moron – he decides that he had better kill this ultimate threat immediately. Get the matter over with. So – he marches into the Potter’s house, cuts down young Lily and James Potter in their own home, tries and fails to kill his supposed nemesis, and instead places a piece of himself inside Harry, before fleeing, injured to what should have been death.

“This much the responsible, knowledgeable, adult wizards have said as acknowledged fact. … If we count Albus Dumbledore as a responsible, knowledgeable, adult wizard. And that narrative in itself sounds like an account of a horcrux being made. Wizards do not generally go about putting ‘pieces of themselves’ inside things. So far as Hermione and I can ascertain, making horcruxes is the only situation in which this is done. Then, on top of the matter, we know this connection allows Riddle to enter and seize control of him in what seems to be the same fashion that he sometimes enters and controls Nagini the python. And that unusual control seems, from what Harry said, to be a chief factor in Dumbledore’s diagnosis of her as a horcrux.”

“Wait … Voldemort can … control Harry?”

“Yes, he can. But fortunately for Harry, doing so causes pain similar to but even greater than that of the ordinary activated connection, only it is mutual. Apparently they are mentally incompatible or something. Riddle has only tried it once. … It’s all there, John. Other horcruxes have been identified by an expert on only a fraction of Harry’s symptoms. The horcrux theory explains all the phenomena. Nothing else can even begin. Nothing else will work. It all fits. I can barely believe that Harry himself has not realized it. Hermione, she is intelligent, and far more knowledgeable than even most wizards, but she would shrink from such a realization if the merest notion ever came within reach of her thoughts. She could not think to connect her friend to the dreaded devices in that dark dark book. Dumbledore must have known. He clearly did know. He was the one that thought to put it down to horcruxes that Riddle survived. He the one who found most of the information, did so much of the work. He that knew and said that Harry had been infected by Riddle, that Riddle could use the connection. He told Harry! He knew. Back when Harry was a small child he knew. Yet he sets Harry the task of destroying Riddle, who cannot be destroyed until the horcruxes are all destroyed, and that includes Harry!”

“How do we do it?” I asked the question hastily, as businesslike as I could be. “How do we get rid of the horcrux that’s in him?”

Sherlock fixed me with a strange look; pitying and defensive at the same time.

“John,” he said, “according to everything that I can find – in order to destroy a horcrux, you have to destroy the horcrux.”

“No. … No, there has to be another way. That can’t be the only way, Sherlock!

“Well you wouldn’t know! You haven’t been studying them! You thought we had enough to go on as it was!”

He fell silent, seeming to regret his outburst.

“I have searched, John. And I am still searching. Going to Godric’s Hollow this evening was really a wild shot – the three of us paid a visit to the Potter’s old house there while you and Harry were in Surrey. … And you heard what Remus Lupin said this evening – and he is clearly no simpleton. Yet even he does not think that anything can be done to help Harry. Some things are irreparable. … As of yet, the only other another even theorized method I have come across is beyond even the imagination to bring to pass.”

“What is it?”

‘Secrets of the Darkest Art’ warns that if the crafter of the horcrux truly repents his crime, it can negatively effect his horcruxes. Supposedly it would have some kind of a healing effect on the crafter, putting him back together, or something, thereby messing with the function of the horcruxes. And this, presumably, would release the vessel. The book’s author doesn’t get into that side of it. And he doesn’t recommend the process – considered the realization of one’s crimes far too painful a thing to be borne and the chance of escaping total damnation too small a prize to bother for. So, if you could get Riddle to, instead of killing Harry, become terribly sorry for what he has done to him and genuinely repent having done so, then there is a possibility that Harry could be released. … Do you see any likelihood of that happening?”

I had to own that I did not.

“So, there you have it.” said Sherlock. “You see our problem, John.”

“Sherlock, what are we going to do?”

Harry has already decided what’s going to be done.”

Harry thinks we can have the horcruxes destroyed in little more than a day!”

“And Harry is right.” Sherlock turned a stubborn, almost challenging face to me.

“Sherlock … you can’t mean what it sounds like you mean.”

“Well what does it sound like I mean?!”

“Something you cannot mean, so you must mean something else!”

“John, do you really think, for one moment, that this little piece of information would prevent Harry from carrying out his mission?”

My silence spoke for me. The wind of an oncoming storm front whistled through the cracks in the house, moaning and wailing. Sherlock mumbled something about the rain not actually hitting London. The lone gas lamp was sputtering.

“Sherlock … Sherlock, please tell me you’re having me on.”

“No. I’m not. You know that I’m not.”

I did know.

“There has to be some other way.”

“Find it and I am your debtor.”

“So you’re just going to tell him. Knowing what he’ll do.”

Sherlock said nothing.

“You’ll tell that boy, that excellent boy, that he himself what he’s been hunting. … Tell him that that dratted headmaster set him on his own track. Tell him that he’s a foul black-magic device invaded and corrupted since his infancy!”

“And what would you have me do!? … Let him go up against the criminal without knowing? … Let him risk the lives of his friends in a battle I know can’t be won? What if Hermione dies in the encounter with Riddle, and it’s only later when Riddle re-appears again that Harry realizes he led her to her death for no purpose?! Harry is determined to save Britain from Riddle. Whether he knows or not he will go up against him. The difference is that if he knows he may go against him and actually accomplish something! Yes! I’m going to tell him. Yes, I’m going to tell him everything. Knowing what he’ll do I can’t possibly not tell him. I am not yet without some hope that ‘everything’ may include a solution to the problem. But, whether or not, I shall, I must, present him with all the facts which I know – all of them. He can do with them as he chooses. I shall try to arrange for there to be some options available. He won’t take any of the other options of course. And he’s right.”

“I thought you didn’t approve of suicide! Now, that client of yours last year – I could see. Really. I could. Wrong anyway, perhaps. And you probably did the right thing in dissuading her. But if it was wrong for her then Harry …”

“Oh, John. You know the difference between suicide and making a sacrifice in battle! You’re talking about two entirely different things!”

“There’s a difference between ordering men who volunteered to risk their lives, and telling a kid flat out that they have to die because their life is worth less than a criminal’s death.”

“It’s not Riddle’s death, John. … There is a reign of terror in Britain at the moment, it’s hidden and it’s small scale yet, but it is there. Even Kingsley Shacklebolt and I working together could not reckon up to you the deaths that would have been prevented if this monster had been killed earlier. And now he is the ruling power behind this secret nation.  It isn’t just the wizards who openly oppose him that are on the line at this point. It isn’t just the wizards with no Wizarding parents, who are being incarcerated or executed. Or all the ordinary civilians who are winding up murdered because they just happened to get in the way of a newly bold and unconstrained gangster. It isn’t just the ordinary English children who have been told that they are going to be joining the Wizarding world this year and will do so in a prison cell and possibly worse if this isn’t cut short before they try to show up on the first day of school. … Did you quite get that last one, John?

“England is in imminent peril of being conquered from inside by a cult. A cult which believes that the ordinary Englishman is a vile creature which deserves to be murdered and enslaved.  It isn’t just the living that are in danger, it’s those that are yet unborn. If the Death Eaters stick to their strengths of secrecy and deception, there is a very real danger of such complete terrorist infiltration of our power structures that England as we know it will cease to exist. We and our descendants will be subject to what is for all practical purposes a hostile foreign power. … And after England is gone, who knows how far the web might grow.

“John, I don’t know whether the Death Eaters will succeed or not, but there is going be chaos and bloodshed as long as they are allowed to continue the attempt. And yes, all those lives are more important. Please don’t bother getting indignant. I know perfectly well you understand the applicable concept. I’ve known you too long and faced too much with you not to know how much you yourself are capable of. The only difficulty is that it’s somebody else’s self-sacrifice in question. And to make matters worse, a school-age somebody else.”

“The ‘only difficulty’? Sherlock, you’re talking about us sacrificing him. That’s not the same concept! It’s the inverse, the cursed inverse. It’s all the difference in the world.”

“You’re right! That would be a different matter altogether. But that’s not what’s going on here. I meant what I said. The same concept … only from his point of view.”

“And what is it from ours?”

“From ours, it is merely allowing him the dignity to choose it, not preventing him from doing what a man has a duty and a right to do. You’re looking at him as a child, John. And…”

“He is a child.”

“But he is also a man! A very young man, but a man, and a soldier, whether we like it or not, and you have to take that into account. He is a man whose countrymen are being slaughtered and imprisoned and made to live in fear. A man who has set out to save them, more than half expecting already that he will not live to see the end of the matter. If I do not tell him, I shall not necessarily be saving his life. But I shall surely be dooming his mission. Shall I forbid a man to die for his country?”

No, of course we could not. Put in such terms, only one answer was possible. But it seemed to me a deceptive simplification of the truly monstrous thing Sherlock was suggesting, and I resented the matter being couched in the terms of an irrefutable rhetorical question.

But the question was not rhetorical. Sherlock stopped and looked to me; he really desired an answer.

I had none to give him.

Death I had often seen, in many foul and grisly forms; wanton atrocities, tragic accidents, fiendish vengeances, battlefields. Yet it seemed to me then, as I stood in that bleak and darkened foyer, listening to the distant ticking of a clock, the breaths of my companion, the crying of the wind, and my own heat beating, that I had never been faced by so insupportable a situation. Here we stood, two grown men, members of a company in the house of a fellow, planning the death of an innocent youth, a boy who did not yet have hair growing on his chin, our comrade and our host. My whole being revolted from the situation. Yet I could not deny what Sherlock had said. I did not speak. And, for a long time, we stood in silence.

By and by Sherlock muttered something which I could not catch. I turned to him. In the pale light from the window – the gas lamp had long since gone out – he looked even more haggard than he had the previous morning.

“The villain.” Sherlock repeated. “John, I have on a number of occasions decried the blandness, the banality, the obviousness, of Riddle’s crimes. But this is a masterpiece of villainy. For if he were to triumph, it would merely be another ignominy, another desecration, heaped upon his supposed nemesis … but if he were to be defeated it would be guaranteed revenge. … He made sure that he cannot be destroyed, without claiming One. More. Victim.”

“So why have you told me?” I asked. “You wouldn’t tell me before. You didn’t want to tell anyone.”

“No I don’t want to tell anyone. … I guess I was hoping … hoping I could prove myself wrong.”

“Well, that is a first.”

“I thought that, maybe, even if I was right, there might be some other way out. … And technically I have not investigated every avenue open to me, so …”

“But why are you telling me? Why tonight?”

“Because … someone has to know.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that this information is too important to keep in only one place. … The time is approaching. Harry wants to move now – quite rightly, I may add. And it is essential that he knows before he tries to go and fight Riddle. … If by some misfortune I am unable to be there myself …”

“… You expect me to do it.”

“Yes. I do.”

“You expect me to…”

“Yes, and you will. Because you daren’t let him try without knowing any more than I. Because you have too much respect for him not to let him know. And too much concern for the lives being lost to jeopardize the operation.”

“So we’re just going to keep it secret, then spring it on him last minute?”

“Oh. So now the problem is that we’re keeping it a secret. I thought it was that we were ever going to tell him at all.”

“Sherlock, can’t you hear what we’re doing? We’re plotting his death!”

“No! We’re not! We’re doing no such thing. We are plotting Thomas Marvolo Riddle’s death. It would be far preferable if Riddle could be properly arrested and brought to trial.  But he’s made that nearly impossible, and since this is war, war of his making, I believe we are justified in acting like it’s war, and shooting the terrorist in plain battle. I have been trying to weave plots around Harry Potter – plots to save him. They have so far come to nothing. I am informing you of the possibility that they will fail completely. … But perhaps you’re right. If you think we shouldn’t discuss this behind his back, then go up and tell him now. Go. He might still be awake with all the excitement. You’re such a bad liar that you’re very persuasive when you’re telling the truth. He will of course believe you. Wonder how he never saw it before…”

“Oh, would you stop being sarcastic.”

I’m not. If you think it would be kinder, better, to be above board and completely open with him, then by all means please go and tell him.”

I didn’t move.

Sherlock sighed.

“He’ll have as much margin for choice last minute as he would have now. … I’m putting off telling him myself because I do not think it would be of any help to him, in any way, to know sooner, and as soon as he does know, his life is over. The short remainder will be just taking the necessary steps before he dies. He won’t be living. He will be dying. The moment I tell him is the beginning of his death. And I would not have his death stretched out over days. … So I won’t tell him one moment sooner than I have to, not one moment. … If I finally do have to tell him. … I’m sorry, John. And I don’t intend to leave that to task to you – if it has to be done in the end. … You just have to be able to carry on the message should I fail.”

“… Fail to be there to cause his death? Or fail to find a way to save him?”

But Sherlock had gone.

Chapter 13 ~ Before the Plunge ~>

This non-commercial, derivative work is an independent production by Charlotte Ann Kent and is not associated with The Doyle Estate, the BBC, Warner Bros, or J.K. Rowling. 
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Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Seventh Safeguard [XI]



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~ Chapter XI ~

The Man from the Order


At these alarming sounds from upstairs, Harry snatched up his wand and flew from his chair. The rest of us followed; Sherlock making sure to run over and grab his pistol.

Up in the foyer, we found the twins standing upon the doormat with a lean, tired looking man in a dark cloak. As we came in, one of the twins cheerfully called out:

It’s okay, Harry. We’ve checked him.”

The three rushed eagerly forward to greet the visitor who they evidently knew quite well. As he turned to meet them his eyes fell upon Sherlock and I, then flashed up to the landing above, where Mary must have been standing. For a moment he stared in shock.

Harry,” he said quietly, “Who are these people?”

Ahhh … they’re sort of … allies. Who have been helping us … fight Voldemort.” said Harry awkwardly. “Um, this is Mr. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson, that’s Dr. Watson’s wife Mary up there. She’s here to hide from the Ministry officials who’re after her …” He turned to Sherlock and I. “This is Remus Lupin. He’s a member of the Order and was a professor at Hogwarts for a while.”

Hello, Mr. Lupin.” said Sherlock, at his most affable, extending a hand to the rather disturbed looking wizard. “I am sorry to see that you had such difficulty getting here. Did you manage to lose your pursuer, or were you forced to more extreme measures?

Ah … No, I managed to lose him.” said Mr. Lupin, taking Sherlock’s hand rather reluctantly, as if he wasn’t sure how to avoid doing so.

Wait, lose who?” asked Ron.

I would have been here earlier, but I had to lose a Death Eater who was trailing me. … Harry, can I talk with you a minute?”

Yeah.” said Harry, and followed him out of the room. For a minute the rest of us were all silent. Then the twins burst out laughing. They seemed to think the matter immensely entertaining.

Sherlock too seemed cheerful, and was chuckling to himself in his quiet way. I myself thought that this had complicated matters.

Well, Mr. Lupin didn’t look any too pleased to find out that Harry had been trusting Order secrets to strangers.” I said. “Harry didn’t seem too keen about your combined strike-team idea, and I suppose he’ll harder to convince now.”

Sherlock shook his head.

No. I think precisely the opposite. Remus Lupin has shown up just in time. He isn’t just displeased, he’s angry. And he’s already put Harry on the defensive. Harry will defend his own actions by defending their outcome. That is, by defending what has been accomplished. And by the time that he and Mr. Lupin have argued the matter out, Harry will have argued himself into stubborn agreement with me.” Thus saying, he lit his pipe, stretched out his legs, and settled down to wait for Harry to argue himself into reason.

We were waiting for some time. Harry and Mr. Lupin talked and talked, and a couple of times we heard raised voices. Sherlock smoked silently. The twins played with Shirley, and chatted with Mary. But I became rather impatient. The delightfulness and busyness of the evening had not effaced the problem of Harry’s wound from my mind. I wished to be doing something, and chafed under the inaction.

When the door finally opened and they came out, Harry was looking decidedly cheerful and confident. Lupin still looked wary, but no longer appalled. I saw now that he was a younger man than I had supposed at first; he could not be past his middle years yet. The prematurely greying hair and the haggard, tired face were deceptive. When he spoke, his voice was serious and it brooked no argument; but there was no hostility in his tone, merely caution.

Mr. Holmes, I would like to talk with you for a minute.” Lupin looked from Sherlock to me. “With both of you, actually.”

Of course.” said Sherlock agreeably.

Lupin turned and walked out of the foyer. We followed. He did not take us to the little side room just off the foyer where he had argued with Harry, but into a room I had never gone, a long narrow room lined with cupboards. There, he turned around and faced us.

You have told Harry that you can help him defeat Voldemort within … a few days?”

Sherlock did not immediately answer Lupin; he stood there, his head bowed in thought.

If he has said so, I shall not contradict him.” he said finally. “I did not give a specific time estimate for the plan and that approximation is his, not mine. But it does seem to me to be a perfectly attainable time estimate, should the plan succeed at all. It isn’t an infallible plan. We may succeed in doing nothing except eliciting further violence against muggles, which would of course be disastrous. But if it works, then yes, that estimate is quite reasonable.”

And you think it will work?”

I think there is a very good chance it shall do so.”

Mr. Holmes, I’m sure you can see how this is a very delicate and important matter?”

Of course.”

And you must also see how very necessary it is that we be sure we do not misplace trust.”

Extremely necessary. I quite agree.”

And if you are really telling the truth about this …” Lupin stooped and drew a small brown bottle out of one of the cupboards.

There was a low intake of breath beside me and I turned to see Sherlock tighten his jaw. But momentary appearance of dismay was gone so quickly that I almost though it had been some trick of the dim light.

“… Then I presume you would not mind a test?” Lupin continued, holding up the bottle. “This is veritaserum, which renders the drinker incapable of not telling the truth. Harry has been trusting you for days. If things are as they seem, then he has made a good, if strange, decision. But as an adult wizard, an Order member, his ex-defence against the dark arts professor, and his friend, I would like to be a little more certain that things are as they seem.”

Very reasonable of you.” said Sherlock, his brisk tone unaltered. “I applaud your caution.”

Will you drink it?”

Under one condition.”

I’d rather not give conditions.”

Hear it before you refuse, my good fellow. It is merely that you don’t ask me any question which Harry has refused to answer. A part of our initial agreement was that I would not reveal certain things to anyone – And I am afraid that includes even members of the Order of the Phoenix.”

After a moment’s thought, Lupin agreed to this.

Then certainly I shall drink it.” said Sherlock.

Lupin took the wand which he had been holding in his hand, and I saw something glimmering in the dimly lit corridor. A moment later I realized I was looking at flowing glass. Unlike in traditional glass-blowing, I couldn’t see where the glass was coming from and the finished vessel was cool, solid enough for him to take it directly out of the air and hold it in his hand.

Aguamenti.” he said, and like a tiny hose nozzle, the tip of his wand shot out a narrow stream of water into the glass.

Where does the water come from?” asked Sherlock. “And please don’t say ‘magic’.”

Okay.” said Lupin, unstoppering the bottle. “I won’t say that it’s magic.”

Sherlock sighed audibly.

A single drop of veritaserum wavered on the lip of the bottle, and dropped invisibly into the water. Lupin held it out to Sherlock and Sherlock unhesitatingly reached to take it.

Hang on a minute.” I said. “What is in there?”

Water and veritaserum.” said Lupin.

Yes, but what is veritaserum? I mean, I’d like to know a little bit more before he drinks it.”

I can’t tell you the ingredient list … I’m no potioneer. But it’s considered perfectly safe for human consumption. It renders the drinker incapable of lying or refusing to answer, and wears off after a while, depending of the strength of the dose. This is a light dose and should wear off in under a quarter of an hour.”

Side effects?”

None that I know of, at least none lasting beyond the quarter hour.”

I’m sure it’s fine, John.” said Sherlock, and took the glass from Lupin.

He set the empty glass down very slowly on a dusty side table. He blinked. The dismay was unmistakable this time; there was a sudden jolt of fear in his eyes. He darted me a glance that was almost like a cry for help. But though I started forward I had no idea what he wanted me to do. Then he looked back to Lupin, remained standing straight, and gave no overt signs of being in trouble. But the business-like manner with which he had been conducting the matter was gone. And he wasn’t dreamy either. He looked something like a sleepwalker. It was so unlike any manner I had ever seen him in, even when drugged, that it made me very uncomfortable.

Okay,” said Lupin, “who are you?”

Sherlock Holmes, the consulting detective.” he replied, quietly and unemphatically.

You are a muggle?”

Yes.” said Sherlock in a flat drone. “Or at any rate, I can’t make a wand do anything and I can’t see the Leaky Cauldron. I have tried of course, just to be certain.” There was a kind of rambling, undirected feel to his speech. I didn’t like it.

Who are you working for?”

I’m self-employed. My clients hire me for individual cases. No one has specifically hired me in the Riddle case. I’m acting without a client, unless Harry Potter counts as one. Probably not. He’s not paying me and our collaboration was my idea, not his. I had quite a job to convince him. Thank goodness for Hermione.”

Why were you so anxious that the collaboration should take place?”

Because it was obvious that he knew a great deal more than I did about the matter and information was precisely what I needed.”

Needed to what?”

To get rid of Thomas Marvolo Riddle. I’ve been trying to trace him for many months. But just trying to figure out a little bit about the Wizarding world was difficult enough. Clearly I needed to be working with someone who knew the Wizarding world. And Harry definitely needed to be working with someone who had a clue. So all around I thought it was a most excellent arrangement and it has worked pretty well thus far.”

Harry said you were alerted to our existence by the murder of Amelia Bones?”

I was. Ordinary murderers don’t teleport. It’s been almost twelve months since I became aware of Riddle’s existence and by extension that of the whole Wizarding underworld.”

And in all that time, you’ve never been caught?”

I have been caught on several occasions. Seemingly by fairly decent wizarding citizens and officials, however, not by murderous thugs looking for kicks. I was investigating what seemed likely to be major public places of the Wizarding World in my attempt to get far enough into it to see what was going on with Riddle, and the Death Eaters were still outlaws at that point, so it is perhaps not extremely surprising that I didn’t run into any.”

You were captured on several occasions, yet you somehow managed to escape obliviation every time?”

I did not escape.”

I looked at Sherlock in surprise and alarm. His voice was still toneless, and his eyes were strangely empty, but his face was contorted as if he was in pain.

No, they took it,” he said, “they stole from me, stole things that I knew, that were mine.  Once I knew it.  And now it’s gone.  Hermione didn’t, she listened to me. But the others, all the others, they took it, took my mind – cut it, pasted it, forced it into what shape pleased them….”

Sherlock had not spoken of his memory-wipes since mentioning them so briefly the night we joined the trio; his manner then had flippant, almost jocular. But I realized now that I should have known better than to believe it.

Well,” said Lupin, faltering, he could not but realize Sherlock’s distress, “… if you were obliviated, how is it your investigations continued?”

They took away what was in my mind then. I don’t know what I did. I can only imagine I managed to conceal from them how far back my knowledge went. I lost days. Hours. They’re gone. I can’t find them. But nobody stole or mutilated the start of my investigations, and so I was able to continue. I started writing where I was going and why before I left the flat. I sent myself email updates on my phone with a special code attached so I’d be sure it was me who sent them, and I took pictures and videos. I have notes and letters and photographs which I know I wrote and took, but the writing of which is gone forever. I lost a phone that way one time – and a longer period of time than the others. That wizard must have been more thorough than most. I expect he was, in spite of things, a decent enough fellow – the phone was gone with the days he stole, but he paid me handsomely for it. There was a significant sum in my wallet which I am certain had not been there before. I took a gamble on Hermione, a big gamble. I went all the way back and I staked everything on her ethics and reasonableness. I openly told her how far back my knowledge went, hoping that the very length of time would now be for her an actual barrier. My gamble paid off, better than I could have hoped. And thanks to her, the end of the case is in sight.”

The case?” asked Lupin.

Yes, the case.” droned Sherlock.

Your goal in ‘the case’ is to get rid of Lord Voldemort as a criminal threat?”

Yes. But who calls him ‘Lord Voldemort’? I’m not about to humour him by using his silly anagram. He’s no more a ‘lord’ than I am. And ‘Lord Flight-from-Death’ would sound moronic in any case.”

You are really trying to work with Harry?”

Yes. As much as possible.”

What does that mean?”

It means that he sometimes does stupid things and I don’t go along if I think it’s stupid.”

Who specifically are you working to benefit?”

The whole British population of course.”

Does that mean muggles or wizards?”

I wasn’t differentiating.”

Have you revealed to anyone the secrets which Harry has revealed to you?”

Yes. I have told divers details to my brother, now and again. Harry knows this, and he is annoyed at me, but it’s for his own good. Mycroft can be very useful. John’s wife followed he and I right into the thick of things, but I’d told her not to – twice. So that wasn’t really my doing. And Harry knows all about that, he’s offered to let her and little Shirley stay until the Watsons can return home. They can’t right now since the Ministry of Magic has their address and have marked Mary as a poster-girl villain for their wand-thief propaganda. I was talking about the case to a friend of mine, last night at the lab, while Harry was asleep. But I was purposefully vague on the details and gave away no actual secrets. And she kindly didn’t attempt to pry – she has discretion, and good sense, and completely understands my not infrequent need for secrecy. I haven’t told any of the secrets from Dumbledore to anyone.”

Lupin nodded; he was starting to look convinced. Sherlock was inexpressive.

You really are just trying to help Harry with his mission and rid the Island of a terrible criminal then?”

Yes.”

You have no sympathies with Voldemort?”

None in the world. He’s not even especially clever about his crimes; boring, obvious mad-scientist.”

Now, I know I agreed to not ask you to tell me everything … but have you told Harry everything? Are you hiding anything from him?”

For the first time, there was almost a flicker of hesitation in Sherlock’s unsettlingly blank eyes. But a word slipped out of his mouth nevertheless.

Yes.”

Lupin’s calm face grew suddenly hard, and his reasonable voice took on a sharp edge as he demanded:

Why?”

It isn’t necessary yet.”

What do you mean it ‘isn’t necessary’? You’re going to hide some relevant information until you deem it ‘necessary’ that Harry actually know?”

Yes.”

Why?”

This time I was certain that Sherlock answered totally against his will; it was difficult to catch the thickly muttered words.

I’d rather he lived these last few days. I don’t want to end it before it really has to be over. It’ll do him no good to know now. I’ll make sure he knows when he has to but he doesn’t, not yet.”

How can he make the right choices if he doesn’t have all the information?”

He can make this choice last minute. That’s part of why I need the Order. To allow him the margin of choice. But he’s already made the choice, really. And he won’t change. And he’s right.”

What choice?”

Look!” I interrupted, finally breaking down and trying to do something about the wordless panic which my friend seemed to be helplessly caught in. “Mr. Lupin, I believe that this is the secret problem which I’ve been trying to get him to tell me for days. He has refused to tell me on the grounds that it shouldn’t be told yet. I’ve worked with him for many years and I have a good deal of respect for his judgement in such matters. He’s probably right to wait. And in any case, I think you’re crossing the bounds you agreed upon.”

No. I agreed not to ask him anything that Harry already refused to answer. If this is a secret that you won’t tell Harry, it can hardly be a secret that Harry won’t tell me. If Harry’s in danger – danger beyond the obvious – I have to know what it is.”

I’m guessing that in order to tell you this, he’d have to also tell you what he’s agreed not to say.”

Lupin turned back to Sherlock, who was just standing there stupidly with a strained look on his immobile face.

Does this relate directly to the secret mission?”

Yes.”

Lupin sighed and bit his lip. He stood there for a few moments, doubtless weighing all the things Sherlock had said before, and trying to see whether he could trust Sherlock on this point by what he’d said about other things. Before he could speak again, there was commotion from the foyer. Lupin immediately walked out of the room back towards the foyer. I followed.

No! I’m fine, Fred. Leave me alone a minute!” Harry, wincing and stumbling, his hand clapped to his forehead, was trying to make his way out of the foyer, away from everyone.

Harry! What’s the matter?” asked Lupin, running forward.

Nothing. Just, my scar hurts.”

Lupin’s face twisted, and I saw that this phenomenon was not new to him. Taking a deep breath and speaking in a voice of forced calm, he said:

Yes, it’s bound to hurt a lot now, Harry. Guys, leave him alone.”

I didn’t know if Harry had heard him, his eyes had scrinched shut and he’d crouched down to the ground with his head in his hands. I stepped towards him.

Dr. Watson, stop. Leave him alone.” said Lupin, laying his hand on my arm. “I know you’re a healer. But there’s nothing you can do for him right now.”

Nothing?” I asked. “How can there be nothing we can do for him?”

There just isn’t.” said Lupin. “We don’t really understand very well what’s wrong with him either.”

It seemed to me extraordinary and terrible that the young man should be in such distress and we, his friends, stand by and make no move to help him.

The floorboards creaked behind me and turned to see that Sherlock had followed us into the foyer. His eyes, though still somewhat clouded, were fixed on Harry. The vacancy was much less.

Harry looked up, breathing hard. He fixed Sherlock with a rather accusing expression.

You’ve been having your brother arrest Death Eaters after all, haven’t you?”

Yes.” said Sherlock. “I expected he would use the information I’ve been giving him to do so. And, no, I am not sorry.”

Well you shouldn’t’ve.” said Harry, starting to get to his feet. “I didn’t turn down your offer because it wouldn’t be playing fair but because it’s too dangerous. Somebody named Yaxley has disappeared now and Riddle’s furious. They’ll get away, and the muggle guards will be hurt. Or worse, Riddle will figure out where they are being kept and lead a force to take them and then … Sherlock? What’s the matter? You look …”

It’s just veritaserum, Harry.” said Lupin. “It should be mostly worn off already.”

You used…”

I didn’t ask him about your mission.”

Lupin turned around and addressed Sherlock in an undertone. I, who stood right next to them, heard what he said.

Is it about that scar and the connection with Voldemort?”

Sherlock nodded.

You’re afraid it’s going to put him at risk in Voldemort’s destruction.”

Yes.” said Sherlock quietly. “In some fashion or another.”

Lupin sighed. “You could possibly be right, Mr. Holmes.”

Sherlock looked from Harry to Lupin with a swiftness and purpose which assured me that he was coming back to himself.

Is he? Do you know? Is there anything that can be done about it?”

No I don’t know. And I’m afraid that nothing can. I don’t know what will happen to Harry when Voldemort is killed. … Perhaps it will heal him, not hurt him.”

Sherlock looked as though he was going to say something, but stopped, shaking his head.

Lupin turned to Harry and spoke in a normal voice. “All right, Harry. If you’re sure you need to break into Gringotts, I’ll take that message to Kingsley and try and convince the Order. If you’re sure about it, they probably will. Things are going badly right now and any plan will be welcome. Is there any other information I should take with me?”

I dunno. Sherlock? Did you have anything more specific that you wanted to show us?”

Yes.” said Sherlock. “About the strike-team and the bank. If you come back down to the kitchen we could discuss them in greater depth.”

What about us?!” cried George.

Yeah, if Remus can join in, why not us?!” agreed Fred.

I cannot imagine why not.” said Sherlock. “Harry? I assume you will involve them in this operation anyway.”

Harry of course welcomed them, and all the Weasleys, wizards, et cetera headed on downstairs. I accompanied Mary and Shirley back to the parlour, Shirley in my arms, for the halls were black and ugly and now Fred and George were not there to turn it into a jest. Mary followed me out into the corridor when I left.

John, our young host, how did he get that wound upon his brow?”

I hesitated a moment, but Mary was now aware of the secrets of the Wizarding world, their hidden places and mystery tools, and this was not a tactical secret, revealed in confidence. It was common knowledge. So in a few, brief, inadequate words, I told her the story that all the Wizarding world knew, of how the murderer tracked down the young family, and slew the father of the household, and of how the young mother had cast herself in front of the cradle, and – somehow – cast upon her son a shield, and how the deadly blow had rebounded off the boy’s brow and almost slain his attacker.

Mary heard this story in perfect seriousness, when it was done, she asked but one question.

Does the shield remain?”

No. I don’t think so.”

Why not?”

I don’t know. … We don’t know how it worked in the first place.”

Mary looked very thoughtful, but didn’t respond, and retired back into the parlour.

As I was traversing the ground floor corridor, walking slowly, deep in thought, my feet making little noise on the ancient carpet, I was surprised to hear voices, not in the kitchen but in the downstairs corridor.

Well, that certainly is one of the possible options.” Sherlock was saying.

Sherlock.” said Harry, clearly frustrated. “Just, tell me plainly – do you really think anything else anything else is really and truly going to rid the world of Riddle?”

I hesitated on the top of the stairs. Sherlock’s voice floated gloomily up to me.

No. … Most probably not.”

Then … what’s the point in messing about with these other ideas? I know that we probably won’t all survive the encounter – I don’t really see how we can. But if we can rid the world of him … well … we’ve got a duty, haven’t we?”

Yes. We do. I quite agree. … Just so long as you are fully aware …” Sherlock broke off.

You really do agree with me then?” said Harry. “I mean, after all your … whatever you call it, we actually are agreed?”

Yes.” said Sherlock. “Harry, we are so very agreed.”

And in my mind’s ear, I heard my friend’s voice out of the past; the crisp, cold syllables as clear to my ears as if they had been spoken only yesterday.

If I were assured of the former outcome, I would, in the interests of the public, cheerfully accept the latter.”

The former was the destruction of Professor Moriarty, the criminal mastermind. The latter was Sherlock’s own destruction. Years had passed since Sherlock had spoken those words. He had not had to pay so high a price for his victory. But, violently contrastive as Sherlock and Harry doubtless were, foolish and frustrating as Sherlock found Harry’s methods and odd and outrageous as Harry found Sherlock’s, in this they were alike, akin.

Ah, you know, Sherlock,” said Harry, “you and John don’t really need to be there … As in, that’d be kind of silly. I really appreciate all the help you’ve given us, and if you can get us to the point we’ve talked about, that’d be just great. But …”

Oh, don’t be ridiculous, Harry.” said Sherlock, switching into a flippant vein. “Anyway, you should just try to tell John Watson that he doesn’t need to be present at the scene of action. Never works. … Does it, John?”

I finished coming down the stairs. Harry looked up in surprise; he clearly had not heard me.

Well, it hardly seems fair.” he said. “Not to be rude, but, the two of you are muggles.”

And the three of you are children.” countered Sherlock.

Harry was still protesting that seventeen-year-olds did not qualify as children when we got back to the kitchen.

It did not take Sherlock very long to go over the details about the proposed strike-team and explain the theorized plan of attack. Hermione ‘magically’ copied some of Sherlock’s papers for Lupin to take back with him. Fred and George clamorously volunteered for the job of co-piloting the helicopters. But both Harry and Sherlock thought it best to leave specific arrangements of that sort to be decided by the head of the Order and the commander of the strike-team.

Mr. Lupin hurried off as soon as possible, promising to bring the plan to Kingsley Shacklebolt immediately and to get back to us on the matter by morning. Before he left, he warned Harry to expect more guests, as a great many more Order members would probably show up here before long.

The five teens were very merry. They bid Lupin goodbye with gusto; and after he left and they were tramping on up to the parlour, they were all laughing and jesting. The war might have been won. But as they turned up onto the landing, I saw Harry’s hand stray again to his scarred forehead; another spasm of pain passing over his face.

You see it? Don’t you?” asked Sherlock quietly.

I turned sharply.

No.” But I wondered as I said it if I was really being honest.

Harry is wrong. Riddle didn’t make six safeguards.”

I didn’t say anything. I just waited for Sherlock to finish – hoping that I misunderstood him.

No.” said Sherlock. “He made seven. … Harry Potter is the seventh safeguard.”

Chapter 12 ~ What Riddle did in Godric’s Hollow ~>

This non-commercial, derivative work is an independent production by Charlotte Ann Kent and is not associated with The Doyle Estate, the BBC, Warner Bros, or J.K. Rowling. 
Chapter 12 – What Riddle did in Godric’s Hollow will be available on June 23rd.  If you enjoyed this chapter, check back then, or follow the blog (the widget is in the sidebar at the top) to get a notification sent to your email.  If you know somebody else who might like it, feel free to share it!  I’d love to hear your thoughts.