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



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~ Chapter XII ~

What Riddle did 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. 
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Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Seventh Safeguard [X]



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~ Chapter X ~

Sherlock Holmes Presents his Plan


In far too short a time, Harry began to drop in altitude. I was amazed at how fast the city sprang up to meet us. For a few moments, as I began to pick out individual persons on the ground, I wondered if he could still slow down and pull out of the dive without slamming us to pieces. But I need not have worried. He knew what he was about, and though we seemed to swoop perilously close to the ground, he brought us safely to a level course over the rooftops.

The illusion which protected the Black house worked from above as well as from in front. But Harry found it, and landed on the roof. We climbed in through an upstairs window and took everyone by surprise by coming down the staircase, windblown and jubilant, somewhat earlier than they had expected us.

Mary and Shirley were there with Hermione, Sherlock, and the three Weasley boys. When I realized that we would be unable to return to Queen Anne Street until the end of the gang-war, I had intended to send them to Baker Street, feeling sure that the landlady, Mrs. Hudson, who was fond of Mary and doted on little Shirley, would be glad to let them stay in my old room for a short time. But Mary had been too quick to accept Harry’s offer of hospitality. Harry seemed to think that he had a duty by her, whether because she was the wife of a team member, or due to the fact that it was, in a round-about fashion, his acceptance of my help which had led to her getting into trouble. The current theory under which muggle-born wizards were being persecuted was that they were actually muggles who had somehow ‘stolen’ magical ability, and were therefore thieves and usurpers (never mind that they didn’t have any explanation whatsoever of how these villainous muggles went about this ‘stealing’ of a genetic trait). Harry thought, from Runcorn’s words, that they had picked Mary out as being an example of a muggle who had attempted this theft. He was sure that Ministry officials would be after her in force and thought his own refuge the safest place for her to hide.

I was not entirely pleased with Shirley being here. Mary and I might take this place in stride, and Sherlock Holmes might laugh at the notion of anything about it being remotely frightening, but Shirley was a very little girl yet. So I was pleased to see that she was all right with it. She had really taken to the Weasley twins. They seemed to have put everything in just the right light for her; she was looking at the matter as quite the adventure without being actually frightened.

Sherlock and Harry were all for immediately setting about the council, and we only took a few moments before leaving Mary, Shirley, and the twins upstairs and headed down for the kitchen. The instant we had all taken our seats around the old oak table, Sherlock began talking.

“The possibility of needing to actually seize control of an area with arms had occurred to me some time before our collaboration began. This is far from unheard of in the world of police-work. The pretensions of this particular gang are admittedly higher than that of the ordinary criminal organization, but the fact remains that they are still a gang … which has at this point seized control of a number of civilian institutions. Now, I asked my brother to have available a strike-team which could be called in – a special police unit with air-support. … Now, if I am not incorrect in my approximation of the bank’s security, it would technically be possible for us to get into the Lestrange’s vault if we were able to fully convince the bank that we were the Lestranges…”

“I have some polyjuice potion!” exclaimed Hermione, interrupting Sherlock.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“It turns you into someone else for a couple of hours.” she explained matter-of-factly.

Since I was by now fairly accustomed to hearing shocking claims of that sort, and since my own ridiculous transformation of earlier in the day was still very fresh in my consciousness, I just nodded complacently.

“That line of action theoretically might work.” said Sherlock, who seemed to know quite well what polyjuice potion was. “But it poses certain practical problems at the moment. We have no source of DNA from either of the Lestranges, nor are we likely to get any within the sort of time-frame I should like to accomplish this in. Moreover, there are numerous protections in place which, from the explanation of them that I was given, would stand a good chance of revealing the deception. Even if we got in, getting out might be problematical. Besides which, will they not ask for some further form of identification? George was required to hand over a key.”

“But you just said that the thing to do was to convince them that we were the Lestranges.” said Ron.

No. I said that if we were able to do so successfully, that method would work. It is not the method I would recommend, and I believe I have just explained why.”

“What method do you recommend?” asked Harry. “It sounds like you want to try to get the muggle strike team in. But it can’t be as simple as that, because you must know that they couldn’t do it.”

“Not by themselves, no.” said Sherlock with a smile, and I thought he was enjoying scandalizing the Wizarding teens. “I quite realize that this strike team on its own, however skilled and well-equipped, would be greatly at a disadvantage in a Wizarding establishment merely due to their ignorance of the technology. Hence the need to bring a team of wizards with whom they could work in conjunction.”

For a minute there was silence. Then Hermione tentatively said:

“You mean combining a team of muggle policemen and the Order of the Phoenix?”

I had never heard the full name of the mysterious ‘Order’ before. I don’t think Sherlock had either, but he gave no sign that the name was new to him.

“That is precisely what I mean, Hermione.”

“Oh, come on, that’s mental.” said Ron. “We can’t get a mixed army of muggles and wizards to take over the bank.”

“Why not?”

“Well, for starters there’s just the working together. How does that work? And then there’s the actually breaking in. There’ll be Death Eaters around for sure. And anyway, once we’ve taken the bank … well, it’ll be obvious something is going on and I reckon You-know-who will try to do something about it … He might even realize what we’ve taken the bank for!”

“Excellent, Ron!” exclaimed Sherlock. “Yes, it is quite possible that he will. I am expecting it. In fact, I am counting on it.”

WHAT!?” exclaimed all three children at once.

“Well really, my good young wizards, there’s no need to get so upset. And it is completely unnecessary for you to finger your wand beneath your robes, Ron. The only weapons I’m carrying at the moment are that wand and my riding crop, the one of which I cannot use, and the other of which is neither lethal nor ranged. My pistol is in my coat pocket on the back of the rocker and you know quite well you would not need your weapon whether I had it or no. If I wished to give your plans to Riddle I assure you that I could have done so without so much trouble, and I would hardly tell you that I was going to.”

“Yes, we know that.” said Harry, sounding a bit irritated and embarrassed. “No offence. But what can you mean by that?”

Sherlock leaned forward in his eagerness. “Don’t you see that if we do find the cup at the bank there will be only two left?”

“We’ll still have to destroy them all.”

“Yes. But where is the only other inanimate one?”

“At Hogwarts. Well we think it is anyway…”

“Almost certainly it is at Hogwarts. And what is also at Hogwarts? … Oh, come on, Harry. What else is at Hogwarts?”

“A lotta’ security.” supplied Ron.

Sherlock sighed. “And what else?”

“The sword of Gryffindor.” said Harry.

“I thought we were certain that wasn’t a horcrux.” said Sherlock

“Yeah. Of course it’s not. Just, Dumbledore left it to me in his will.”

Sherlock sat up straighter. “Really?”

“Yeah.”

“Why? It wouldn’t belong to him, would it? And why would he want you to have it?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t find out about it until after he died.”

“Say, Sherlock, do you mean the…”

Hsh.” Sherlock cut Ron off with a sound and a gesture without looking away from Harry. “Tell me about the sword of Gryffindor.”

“Well, it was Godric Gryffindor’s sword.”

“Yes, that much I gathered.”

Harry sighed thoughtfully. “I don’t know much about its history, if that’s what you mean, except for the fact that its very old. … It’s goblin made. I don’t know why he wanted me to have it.”

“I assume you do not have it because he did not in fact have a legal right to give it to you. Do I assume correctly?”

“Yes. The Ministry went over the will first, and they wouldn’t let me have it.”

“If it is a historical artefact, then it is likely publicly owned and so of course they would not. Dumbledore must have been aware of the fact. He must then have had some intention in putting it in his will other than that of transferring actual ownership of it to you …”

“Sherlock, do you mean the basilisk?” Ron interrupted.

“Yes. I meant the basilisk. Thank-you, Ron. Which means that at Hogwarts – supposing that we are correct in believing one horcrux to be in Gringotts and the other to be in Hogwarts, and supposing we don’t do something stupid and get caught – we can …”

“Destroy the horcruxes.” said Harry breathlessly.

“Precisely. So, we occupy the bank, we take the horcrux and we go straight to Hogwarts.”

Please tell me you don’t want to take Hogwarts too.” said Ron.

“No, I want to infiltrate it. Taking it would be highly counter-productive. I gather you three have had plenty of practice sneaking about the place.”

The three looked at each other. Ron’s and Harry’s looks were sheepishly guilty. Hermione’s on the other was highly dignified and a trifle reproving, as she had always behaved with the most perfect propriety. I knew for a fact that this was not entirely and completely true, if sneaking around the school counted as proper, since I had heard of a number of occasions when she had thought it the sensible thing to do just that. Doubtless she was thinking of some technically illegal escapades out of the grounds which I had heard that Harry had been known to do.

“I presume that you could get in if you tried hard enough?” said Sherlock after a moment.

“Yeah.” said Harry. “Probably.”

“And how would it be best to go about it?”

“Probably the Honeyduke passage. There’s a secret trapdoor in the basement of the sweetshop in the village of Hogsmeade. It leads right into the third floor corridor in Hogwarts.”

“Just how secret is it?” I asked.

“Very secret.” said Harry. “I have no idea who made it. But we know about it. Fred and George know about it. My dad and some of his friends knew about it and … oh. Wormtail must know about it.”

“Pettigrew? The man who betrayed your parents?” asked Sherlock.

“Yeah. Him.”

“Because your father knew about it and therefore so close a friend would also?”

“Well,” said Harry, fumbling with a funny brown pouch, “because it’s on the map they made together.” And he pulled out a yellowed, stained, and beat-up roll of paper, which he spread out on the table. It was blank.

“Written in some kind of invisible ink?” I asked.

Harry smiled, grinned really, and almost winked. He took out his wand and tapped the paper.

“I solemnly swear I am up to no good.”

Instantly, things began appearing on it, swirly swoopy lines at first, that looped playfully around the ragged page as if solely for the fun of it. But after a moment, they started forming into words.

Messrs Mooney, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs,

Purveyors of Magical Aids to Mischief Makers

Are Proud to Present

The Marauder’s Map.

A complicated diagram of a very large building had appeared below the words.

“Wormtail. Well there’s Pettigrew.” said Sherlock. “I presume Padfoot is your godfather?”

Harry nodded.

Sherlock glanced over at me.

“His godfather was a shape-shifter – turned into a large black dog.”

“Did he really?” I asked.

“Mm hm.” said Sherlock. “And, considering this afternoon, you shouldn’t find that too terribly difficult to believe.” He was smirking immoderately.

“And uh, Mooney and Prongs,” I said “– your father and a third friend?”

“Yeah. My dad’s Prongs.”

Sherlock leaned forward with a start of surprise.

“Is this working in live time?!”

“In what?” asked Ron.

“Is it current? Are these representative figures purely decorative, or are they showing what’s actually happening right now?”

I stared more closely at the paper, and immediately saw what he meant. The map was filled with small labelled dots – the labels read things like ‘Minerva McGonagall’ and ‘Alecto Carrow’. And they were moving around.

“That’s what’s really happening.” said Harry.

Sherlock seemed utterly absorbed in the map. He dropped into a chair, rested his head in his hands, and proceeded to pore over it as though he wished to memorize the whole thing.

Harry scowled suddenly.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Death Eaters in Hogwarts.” he said.

“Oh.” I said. “Are these all Death Eaters?”

“No. There’s Professor Flitwick, there. He’s the Charms teacher. I suppose they’ll let most of the teachers stay as long as they don’t openly oppose the new government. … But there’s Amycus Carrow.” A hoarse tone had come over Harry’s voice. “He was there when Dumbledore was murdered. … And there’s….” Harry broke off. A stifled cry rose in his throat. He snatched the map up from the table and thrust it furiously at Ron and Hermione, his voice torn with bitter sarcasm. “And we have a new headmaster! Of course! Wonderful choice! Why didn’t I see that coming?”

“Why indeed?” mused Sherlock quietly. But his comment was lost in the wrathful oaths of the children – they had some very creative swearwords – even Hermione.

“What? What is it?” I asked in some alarm.

“Severus Snape is in the headmaster’s study.” said Sherlock matter-of-factly. “He was of course the obvious choice for the post. He has been a teacher at Hogwarts for many years – the only teacher who Riddle has any reason to repose confidence in. He has a foot in both camps …”

“And he murdered Dumbledore!” cried Harry.

“From Riddle’s point of view, that’s hardly an argument against his appointment.”said Sherlock. “On the contrary, considering that he finally made so clean and distinct a break from the Order he is the clear … Well anyway. Even if the Death Eaters know about these passages through Pettigrew and plan on sealing them up, it’s only been a few days since they’ve had control of the school. The school year won’t start for several weeks yet. There’s a very good chance they’ll still be open. I see a number of passages marked here, so surely at least one of them should be. And, considering it’s the summer holiday, there should be significantly fewer people and less security than there will be in a few weeks. We’ll need to get to the shape-shifting room and the underground chamber; and if we do that we’ll be able to destroy the locket, the cup and the diadem. Meanwhile, back to my assertion that I want Riddle to realize that we are after horcruxes – if he realizes this, is he not likely to be afraid that we may have already destroyed some? Will he not want to check and make sure that they are all where he left them?”

Oh I do see!” exclaimed Hermione in excitement. “When he comes to check on the one from Hogwarts – probably alone, since he won’t want any of his Death Eaters to know about it – we’ll be there waiting for him.”

Exactly.”

“The snake…”

“I think it highly likely that she will be with him. Fortunately, it is likely to be a highly emotional experience for Riddle, and so there is a great probability we will be alerted to whether or not she will be there and can decide whether we should retreat and find her, or wait in ambush for them both.”

“That might really work.” said Hermione. “So long as we beat him to Hogwarts.”

“Oh there should be no difficulty about that.” said Sherlock. “There will be a block of time before he finds out what has happened. Then we do not know in what order he will check the others, or whether he will do so immediately or not. We may possibly be waiting for him for some time.”

“So, with this plan, we’d be having the muggle team attack the bank along with the Order of the Phoenix, and then leave?” said Harry hesitantly.

“No. I would have them remain on standby.” said Sherlock. “They may be needed.”

“How?”

“It depends on how both we and Riddle handle the confrontation at Hogwarts. He may bring Death Eaters with him … or have them follow behind him. He may summon them when he realizes what has happened. It would be well to have a force on hand, to call if the need arises. And also, if Riddle were to believe that all his horcruxes were destroyed, all of them, and he was vulnerable as you or I to death … might he not be quite compliant when faced with both the entire Order of the Phoenix and a pair of armed helicopters?”

Harry shifted in his seat.

“Well, I suppose that bringing capturing Riddle alive might be kind of an ideal situation, if it succeeded. It would – on the very, very off chance that it worked – allow us to bring him to trial.”

“I am always in favour of bringing criminals to trial when possible.” agreed Sherlock.

“When possible, of course.  But, Mr. Holmes…” Harry paused for a moment, “why don’t you just tell us why you so badly don’t want to kill Riddle.”

Sherlock stopped. He looked around at the three teenagers eager, confused, and slightly frustrated countenances. He seemed to be weighing something in his mind, or preparing himself for something. ‘Now’ I thought, ‘now, he’s finally going to tell us what is wrong’.

But it was Hermione who spoke next.

“It’s always well to have a back-up plan!” she cried. “I don’t think that that is a very good one. But the more possible options we have, the better!”

“Yeah, but the muggles won’t be able to see to get into Diagon Alley or Hogwarts.” said Ron. “How can they fly something when they can’t see the place they’re aiming for. And electric things don’t work in Hogwarts – right Hermione?”

As Sherlock launched into how he intended to overcome these difficulties, Harry and I accidentally caught each other’s eyes, and sighed together in mutual irritation at our friends’ interruption. So Harry also knew that Sherlock was keeping a secret.

Sherlock still was explaining how the navigational difficulty could be very easily overcome by having wizards co-pilot, and why the aircraft would not actually have to enter the Hogwarts grounds to potentially be of great use, when there was the sound of a slamming door and raised voices.

Chapter 11 ~ The Man from the Order ~>

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 11 – The Man from the Order will be available on June 16th.  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!

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



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~ Chapter IX ~

The Bank and the Broomstick


Gringotts Bank was an imposing building. Its white dome rose high over the roofs of the shops and houses which surrounded it. Like some royal monument of oriental kings it looked, not a British bank. Even from underneath Harry’s invisibility cloak, I could see how brightly it glittered in the sunlight. Armed guards in outlandish uniforms stood at the doors, scanning everyone who came through for ‘magical concealment’. George Weasley, totally undisguised, and exactly what he pretended to be, was let through easily. The stooped and wrinkled old lady who tottered up to the bank on his arm, was let through also. The guards clearly thought that there was no sign of ‘magical concealment’ about her. And they were right. Thus the Death Eaters let a muggle detective walk right past them without a second thought. I, following some few steps behind him, was not scanned at all. It truly was a beautiful cloak.

If it was unlike an ordinary bank from the outside, it was even more so inside. Strange creatures ran it, creatures with strange sharp features, and long long fingers. And the building we saw above the ground was but a fraction of the actual size of the bank. The vaults were mainly in caverns, far underneath the earth. After George presented his key and asked to be shown to his vault, one of the strange little creatures – goblins, they called them, though the small and cunning looking persons bore little resemblance to the type of creature usually referred to by that name – led us down to tunnel opening. The conveyance on rails which answered to his whistle made me think of a coal cart from an old western film. When we had all got in and it started up, I changed my mind. It was far more like a roller coaster. We never actually went upside-down (a good thing, since there weren’t any seat belts) but it roared on at a crazy pace, going far into the earth where the air became cold. It a very short amount of time I had completely lost all sense of direction. Tracks branched off in all directions and the movement of the cart seemed almost erratic. When we finally stopped at the Weasley twin’s vault, a small padlocked chamber opening off of what what seemed to be a great natural cavern, I did not know whether we were right below the bank, or a mile away, and I had no notion how far below the surface we were.

The Weasley’s vault opened to George’s key, but from previous conversations about the bank, I knew that not all vaults could be unlocked by so simple a method. The roller coaster carriages answered only to the Gringotts goblins and were surrounded by only the goblins knew how many traps and pit-falls, which could at a moment’s notice be set off from the bank above. I thought it looked very much as though the only way to get into a vault other than your own was either to completely and utterly convince the bank that you were someone else, or else to control the entire bank and have the obedience of the goblins.

“So there. Pretty formidable, eh?” said George when we were back out on Charing Cross Road.

“To the burglar, yes.” replied Sherlock.

“Well that’s the plan, right?”

“Not quite.”

George looked positively intrigued. “What then?”

“You’ll find out later.”

Aw. Come on. Tell me!”

But putting off George’s requests, and thanking him for the help, Sherlock excused himself and in a very short time we were sitting with Mycroft Holmes in the Stranger’s room of the Diogenes Club in Pall Mall. I am not certain at what point my friend had decided to bring his elder brother into his confidence, but it was clear that Mycroft had been made to understand the gravity of Sherlock’s current investigations some time before I had. His unique position in the government of England made him a invaluable ally in such a case. I had my doubts as to whether Sherlock had really led him to understand the full strangeness of the matter, but he seemed well aware of the practical and pressing problem posed by the preposterous society that called itself the ‘Death Eaters’.

“Well, Sherlock, I suppose you’re here to see me about this Wizarding case? How goes the ‘magical’ investigation?”

“Quite well. There is hope that the tide may be turned very shortly.”

“I see. You have discovered the Death Eaters’ real base of operations?”

“I have yet to discover if they truly have such a thing, unless you count Dwight and Forth.”

“I don’t.”

“Neither do I.”

“But you need my help with something besides arresting and holding the occasional random gangster until the Wizarding government can once again take charge of their own prisoners?”

“Yes. Firstly I want two aircraft; helicopters with some passenger capacity. I’ll need crews for them, and also a few well-armed officers.”

“Is this to be a police raid? Or a battle, Sherlock?”

“Both. Depending on whose point of view it is. I call it a police raid. The majority of the Wizarding world would – at this point – call it civil-war. The current Wizarding regime would call it plain bank robbery. But from the British Government’s point of view … definitely a police raid. We have a civilian institution under the control of a criminal organisation. We are going to take it back.”

“I presume there is some important strategic reason for bothering about this particular institution, isn’t there?”

“Yes. We’re also going to seize a vitally important stolen object which we have reason to believe was stored there.”

“How vitally important?”

“Important enough that its retrieval would constitute a very large step towards the defeat of the gang.”

“How long ago was the ‘item’ stolen?”

“Ah … approximately forty-five years ago, or so … maybe forty.”

“And you come to me, instead of Scotland Yard, because of the wizards’ desire for secrecy, and perhaps because you need me to handle the legal end of it.”

“Exactly. … In the interests of diplomacy, the whole operation must be a top secret affair.”

“I see. Well, I suppose I could manage that. When do you need them?”

“On stand-by for the moment. I haven’t talked any of the wizards into this yet.”

“And will you be able to do so, do you think, Sherlock?”

“Of course!”

It was becoming dusky before Sherlock and I met up with the trio again. They were anxious to hear whether Sherlock was optimistic about breaking into the bank or not. In spite of the formidable nature of the objective, Sherlock was extremely optimistic, and informed them that he had a plan which could hardly fail to get them into the Lestranges’ vault. He did not at that particular moment happen to mention that this plan involved a pair of muggle aircraft. He did evince an interest in broomsticks, however, which took me by surprise. However, when he went on to inquire about apparition range, generalized broomstick kph, and to discuss the distance from London to Scotland, his line of thought became a little more clear. ‘Broomsticks’ turned out to be a kind of a Wizarding vehicle; small, quiet, fast, and often considered far preferable to apparition both for safety and comfort. Apparating north as far as we could in one jump, then going by broomstick until we were in apparition range of the school would be an extremely fast and nearly untraceable method of covering the ground.

Hermione didn’t have a broomstick. Ron did. Harry did too, a really first rate one. Unfortunately it had been lost a week before, dropped from a motorcycle somewhere in the township of Little Whinging when the Order had evacuated him. Sherlock immediately recommended that Harry go and find it; it might have been broken or stolen by now, but then it might not have. It would be one less broomstick we’d have to ask Kingsley Shacklebolt to procure for us. Sherlock asked me to accompany Harry.

The trio were not apparently certain why this was particularly important at the moment. They hadn’t even broken into the bank yet. But Harry was not in the slightest adverse to the journey. Indeed, in a spirit of light-heartedness irrelevant to his job which I had not seen much of in him before, he seemed eager to go. Sherlock, Hermione, and Ron would check out a couple more old Riddle crime -scenes that Hermione had researched and then meet us at the Black house for a council later in the evening. Before Harry and I left on this strange errand, Sherlock took me aside and quietly said:

“John, I would very much appreciate it if you would make an inquiry into a rather curious matter while you are out.”

“Shouldn’t I do it after I get Harry home?”

“No indeed; for it is Harry himself who I wish you to study.”

“Study Harry? … What do you mean?”

“I am sure you cannot have forgotten the strange fit which came upon him on the morning of the second.”

All my fears and dark imaginings of the night before, which had fallen to the side in the hurry and bustle of the day’s work and my anxiety over my own troubles, not to mention been made to seem almost silly by the pleasant, prosaic presence of the boy himself, rushed back into the forefront of my mind. But all I said was:

“No. Of course I haven’t.”

“Do you, as a medical man, have any theories on the matter?”

“Um, yes, well, rather a lot of theories. But … I’ve never quite seen anything like it. … Of course, it’s not uncommon for old wounds to act up and cause problems. … But not usually quite like that. Nerve damage is the most obvious diagnosis…”

“Causing that level of impairment?”

“It is rather like a seizure. But it isn’t one. If there was some level of constant pain, it might suggest that the trauma had triggered a malignancy at the wound site. But there doesn’t seem to be. I really can’t say based only on an observation of that one incident. He wouldn’t let me examine him, and deflected my questions about it. He didn’t seem to think it important.”

“Hermione did.”

“Yes, well, she did, didn’t she? … And then there was that thing that she said.”

“Which thing that she said?”

“Ah … she said something about a connection, didn’t she?”

“Hmm. So she did.” said Sherlock. “Well, perhaps Harry will be a little more open with you now. If you state things right. Listen to what he says, not what you think he must mean. Take the most insane and preposterous comments seriously. Be credulous.”

“And, uh, what is the point behind this?”

He looked at me as if this was the most insane question he’d ever heard from my lips.

“You’re a doctor! Harry Potter has a wound or an illness or a something. Try and figure out what the problem is.”

“You want me to try and diagnose him?”

“Yes.”

“So this broomstick trip is actually about finding the cause of Harry’s fits?”

“No. I want him to go and find his broomstick because I think we’re going to need it. But I would also like you to try to help him.”

“So, this isn’t about the case, it’s about Harry?”

“Of course it’s about the case. But if you could find a cure for the fits, or even just a good explanation for them … it might be very helpful to both the case and to Harry.”

On this cryptic note, he left me.

I was not sorry for an excuse to rent a car for the hour’s drive as opposed to apparating. It was no surprise to me that the majority of wizards preferred driving flying vehicles to being crushed and squeezed and banged in the turmoil of teleportation and then taking the dreadful chance of something going just a little wrong and not arriving at your destination in one whole piece. Ron’s less-than-perfect teleportation of the night before had not gone as badly as that, but I was still feeling the after-effects of it. This was the explanation I gave Harry when I suggested the car, and he agreed. He pointed out that no one would expect him to be in a muggle car anyway, so it was probably a good idea.

Thinking it better to volunteer information than to demand it, I took advantage of Harry’s hand happening to stray to the scar on his forehead to begin theorizing what could possibly cause such symptoms in so old a wound.

Harry at first tried to brush off the subject, not with suspicion, but as if it didn’t really matter and he’d rather not talk about it. But as I continued to ramble on, sounding, no doubt, hopelessly clueless to Wizarding ears, he seemed to take pity on the curiosity of the completely befuddled muggle healer and tried to explain it, at least a little bit, to me.

Sherlock had told me to be credulous. Credulous, therefore, I had resolved to be. It seemed to me, that after all the bizarrities I had been party to since I met Harry, a Wizarding explanation of his symptoms could hardly contain anything which could still defy belief.

I was mistaken. Harry denied that the pain had anything to do with bone shards or nerve damage or brain malfunction. It had to do, he assured me, with the fact that the failed curse connected him and Voldemort in some manner. And when Voldemort was very near, or when he became overwhelmed by some powerful emotion, Harry could feel it … feel the emotion, sometimes even see things, and know what Voldemort was knowing. And to be so connected to Voldemort was pain to him, great pain; no dull ache, no pinching nerve, no throbbing soreness – but a flaming brand applied to his brow. The morning that he had collapsed, he explained, Voldemort had discovered that Dolohov and Rowle, the two Death Eaters who had attacked the trio in the café, had not only failed to bring Harry back with them, they themselves had disappeared. Voldemort believed them to have deserted, and his wrath was terrible to behold.

Harry knew, for he had seen it. Seen it through Voldemort’s own eyes. Felt the rage. Looked upon the pitiful messenger who had delivered the news. Knew the thoughts that coursed through Voldemort’s brain. And the agony of that unnatural, abhorred contact with the mind of the old murderer was what had caused the strange ‘fit’ I had witnessed.

My first instinct was to think that I was being told a wild story. True, I had been turned into a hedgehog earlier in the day. But a telepathic connection between two people like that was surely preposterous.

But why would Harry lie about this? If he was ‘talking big’ it would be the first time I had ever heard him do so; and what an unpleasant oddity to attribute to oneself! And this lie, if it was a lie, did at least offer an explanation of things which I could not account for – Sherlock’s and Hermione’s behaviour as well as Harry’s own unusual symptoms. This then, was the ‘connection’; a connection not to the horcruxes, but directly to Voldemort himself. As I tried to reconcile this bizarre and repugnant new information with my rambling theorizings of the night before, I forgot my doubt of Harry’s story. There then was a connection in a very literal fashion, but how? Did Sherlock expect me to figure out how that worked? If this was a matter which could be listed under a medical heading at all, and I now had serious doubts of that, it was hardly a job for a general practitioner … a muggle general practitioner. And what did it mean to Sherlock, that he not only sympathized with Harry’s present uncomfortable state, but seemed in such great doubt of his future?

If Sherlock wanted me to listen to Harry’s diagnosis of himself and offer a substitute one to replace it, then I would have to disappoint him. I could think of nothing which would account for it. I had no sufficient explanation even for the observable physical sensations at this juncture, let alone an insight into the psychological/telepathic ones which Sherlock apparently expected me to believe. Research could of course be done, and it looked as though I would have to do it. Perhaps I could convince Harry to come for a proper medical examination. There were perhaps specialists I could consult.

But there simply were no cases like Harry’s case.

In a strange contrast, while I drove along with turmoil and horror in my mind – to have one’s mind, one’s consciousness linked so intimately with a creature like that! at the mercy of his diabolic passions, subject to torment at his mere mood – Harry, the subject of these horrors, told his tale with an incongruous blandness, the chief emotion evident being only that of minor uncomfortableness, or even embarrassment, then dropped the matter and turned to the subject of broomsticks, as cheerful as I had ever seen him. It transpired that broomstick flying was a sport in which he took great joy. His face lit up and his voice filled with animation as he tried to introduce me to the basics of broomstick design and care, and explain to me the simplicity of flying them, and describe to me the sensation of soaring off over the castle and the tree tops. He then went off on a number of anecdotes. I am afraid I took in rather little of it.

It was the deep twilight of a midsummer’s night by the time Harry, with a map on his lap, decided that we were probably in the general area where his broomstick had fallen. I parked the car along a quiet stretch of houses, and Harry and I walked along to an abandoned looking grassy plot mostly out of sight.

Harry stood perfectly still for a moment, his eyes closed, his wand in his hand. Then, so suddenly and so loudly that it startled me, he yelled:

Accio firebolt!”

The breeze whispered in the leaves and a car hummed in the next street over. A cricket chirped in the grass. Then, with a whoosh in the dark, something sailed through the air into Harry’s open hand.

Appropriately to the name, it looked very much like a broom; rather sturdier and more finely crafted than your common kitchen broom, though now showing signs of wear, but still quite recognizably a broom. Harry was turning it over in his hands, and examining it eagerly and intently. When he had inspected it from top to bottom, he climbed astride it as a small child would a hobby-horse. For a moment he looked rather comical standing there, gripping the handle. Then he suddenly kicked off from the ground and was gone like shot.

Turning swiftly, to follow him with my eyes as I could not do with my legs, I saw him rising far over the little suburban houses. He swooped around the plot, his robes flying out behind him, making him look like some enormous bird. He circled round a large tree that stood by the side of the plot and darted in and out of the boughs. He swooped over the roof over the nearest house. He climbed so high I thought I was going to lose sight of him before dropping like a stone to within a mere storey’s length off the ground. He did a few more loop-de-loops for good measure, and then glided back to the ground.

When he came to a complete stop he looked joyously over to me.

“Hey, John, do you want to try it?”

I very much did. I had watched his flight with both admiration and envy. But I had my doubts.

“I thought Wizarding vehicles didn’t work for muggles.”

“Oh no, I meant: would you like a ride? This is a firebolt, one of the best broomsticks out there. Sirius got it for me. It’ll carry us both fine.”

And it did. I climbed on behind him, gripping the broom with my knees the way he instructed me and holding onto him. I felt strangely like a small child being allowed to ride a horse behind a grown-up. Then we left the ground. It was as if we had jumped, but we didn’t stop going up. We went up and up and up, whooshing through the air, leaving the grassy plot, the big tree, the houses all far behind. We were soaring. We were sailing. The wind was in my hair; sweet summer air, high above the smells of the town, rushing past me. This was flying. Flying like an eagle or an owl. There was no sound of a motor, only of the wind. I could not even guess how fast we were going by now, and I wondered that the force of air did not hurl us both from the broom. It was doubtless my imagination that the waxing gibbous moon seemed so much bigger than usual, and so bright.

“Hold on tight!” Harry yelled over the roaring of the wind, and down like a bullet we shot, leaving our stomachs behind. Like a giant jigsaw puzzle below us, the town grew larger and larger. Then Harry swooped up and we were sailing again. I was laughing and so was Harry. And the wind out-laughed us both. We were laughing still when we finally skimmed over the roof-tops, swooped to the ground, and tumbled off the broom onto the grassy plot again.

We sat on the grass for a few minutes, and recovered our breaths. The rumblings and bangings and street-lights of the town seemed unusually small and trivial in contrast to that great expanse of air above us. I was more keenly and delightfully aware of the breadth and depth of the sky than I had ever been before in my life.

By and by though, it occurred to both of us that we were expected back at the Black house, and I prepared to go back to the car.

“It’s a pity you have to return the car.” said Harry. “We could fly back to London. It would be quicker and a lot more fun.”

This was a suggestion which I could not bring myself to turn down. The choice between driving slowly along the city roads and freeways, stuck behind lorries, with the smell of upholstery, and the glare of street-lights … and racing through the night sky with the wind and the stars … there was not the shadow of a comparison. There was a branch of the car rental company in Little Whinging. Thither we drove in haste, and dropped off the rental vehicle.

Then back to the sky! The townships dropped away behind us, like electricity poles on the road. I could see London. I fancied I could see the sea. But these were all so far below, patterned tiles of light and mirror-like expanse. It was the arch of the sky that we chiefly saw. But for the sweet wind, we might have been flying out among the stars themselves.

Chapter 10 ~Sherlock Holmes Presents His Plan ~>

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 10 – Sherlock Holmes Presents his Plan will be available on June 9th.  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!

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



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~ Chapter VIII ~

Diagon Alley and Queen Anne Street


Mary woke me very late in the morning.

“Sherlock’s at the door, John. What should I tell him?”

“Unh? Oh. Tell him I’ll be right there.”

Mary must have coaxed Sherlock to come in, for when I came into the kitchen I found him at the table with her and little Shirley. He was even persuaded to accept her offer of breakfast. I thought he looked more haggard than when I saw him last. I had myself been getting most irregular and fitful sleep over the past couple of days, but the hollowness of my friend’s eyes spoke of wakefulness that taxed even his iron constitution, and troubles mere sleep couldn’t remedy. It looked as though the experimenting of the night before had not been very satisfactory. If it had, then he would be filled with the thrill of discovery, and would probably have forgotten he was tired.

“How late were you out last night?” I asked.

“Quarter after six or so.” said Sherlock.

Mary shook her head.

“In the morning?”

“Well, it wasn’t in the evening.”

“Did you get any sleep?” I asked.

“I believe so.”

Mary and I exchanged a glance.

“Any luck?” I thought that an innocuous enough question to get an idea of what had happened without giving away secrets.

“No.” said Sherlock, looking listlessly at his scrambled eggs. “We found nothing very helpful.”

I thought about what that meant. Sherlock Holmes had spent at least five hours in a laboratory with a little gold trinket, looking for some way to destroy it. A little gold trinket! He had at his disposal all number of destructive substances and equipment. Even if nothing had been sufficient to destroy it, surely something would have had a great enough effect upon it to be very helpful in figuring out what would destroy it. And yet he had found ‘nothing very helpful’?

I put down my fork with a clatter.

“How can that possibly be?!”

“There are still a few things which might work. But it seems more practical at this point to just use the same method as before.”

“So,” said Mary after a minute of searching our faces, “where are you two off to here?”

Sherlock turned and looked her in the face.

“Trust me, you don’t want in. Not this time.”

“Yes I do.”

“Believe her, she does.”

“No. Believe me. But if we live through it I’ll make sure you’re allowed to hear at least a part of the story.”

I rolled my eyes. “Sherlock.” I turned to Mary. “We’re fine. He was just … up too late last night.”

“Or morning rather.” she agreed.

“Mm.” said Sherlock. “Is it really nicer to pretend there’s no danger, John?”

“Well there’s always danger of some sort.”

“Yes. There is. But don’t worry, Mrs. Watson. I’m sure everything will be fine. … Is that what you wanted me to say, John? Because it won’t all be fine, you know?”

“What has gotten into you this morning?”

He dropped his eyes. “Well – we’d better be going! Thank-you for breakfast, Mary.”

It was a fine bright hot day, a little hazy, as hot days often are.

“Where are we off to, then?” I asked when we had gone a ways.

“Charing Cross. … Taxi!”

Since we could not discuss these matters in the hearing of a cabbie, this effectually put an end to any further discussion of the case until we got out, a few blocks from the Leaky Cauldron.

“Going to scout-out the bank today then?”

“Yes. You and I are going to accompany one of the Weasley twins in there on a routine deposit. And they’ve finally got ahold of Travers’ old address. It’s just off Diagon Alley, on a side street, not far from the bank. I don’t believe that Travers was ever given a horcrux, but Riddle did commit a politically relevant murder there. So we’re going to take a quick run through. We can fit in a few other places, then the bank. Harry has offered to lend you his invisibility cloak before we go in there – no point in having more people visible than necessary.”

I thought of that invisibility cloak, the silvery, watery, mist-like ripples which disappeared when draped across an object. The silken texture and the airy lightness. It was a precious item, beautiful and amazing and inexpressibly useful. I was both thrilled and a bit uneasy at the notion of being lent something so wonderful and irreplaceable.

Wonderful and irreplaceable …

“Sherlock … your research last night. It didn’t throw any light on … on what’s wrong with Harry, did it?”

He shook his head. “No. It didn’t really throw light on anything at all.”

“Really, tell me how that works. It’s a little piece of hollow gold.”

“No, it’s a great deal more than that.” said Sherlock.

“Well, just looking at it from a non-wizard perspective, you should have been able to cause very serious damage to it in the lab last night.”

“I could not dent it. I could not scratch it. I could not soften it. Something has been done to it, taking it beyond the durability that our science can readily explain. Now of course, just because I was unable to harm it last night, it does not mean that that no technology known to us could destroy it. I should be willing to wager very heavily against it surviving a nuclear explosion. … But just supposing that that didn’t work, the surface radioactivity would make experimenting on it rather more inconvenient. We might as well stick to the basilisk venom method. I’ve done a bit of research on basilisks through Hermione and it appears that the venom retains its potency for a very long period after death. So, it’s available, not unduly dangerous, and we know it actually works.”

“So, you think that it is really just a different technology?”

“Oh no, obviously not. At first I wasn’t certain whether it was just that their technology had been designed to only function for persons carrying a particular genetic trait, or whether that genetic trait actually allowed them to interact with their environment in an extraordinary way. But I have long been quite confident that it is the latter. They possess extra-normal abilities without their wands. The wands are only a tool. Like a paintbrush. The best artist can only do so much with finger-paint. Though I’m inclined to suspect that an overdependence on those tools has hampered their ability to work without them. Like most people’s night vision and sense of smell. They don’t cultivate it. What I don’t have any way of knowing precisely is how this genetic trait works, and whether it is a mutation, developing in different groups of ordinary humans, or whether it is the occasional expression of a distinct race, once separate, now somewhat mixed into the general population. … But perhaps you were asking whether or not Riddle actually is some sort of necromancer.”

His tone had suddenly become caustic and dreadfully sarcastic. I was nettled, but before I had decided whether to back-track or be angry with him, Sherlock had stopped, and was looking back.

“John, wait here.”

“Why? What’s wrong?”

“Just wait for me.”

He swept briskly back around the corner. I saw him draw a page out of his notebook as he went.

He was back almost instantly.

“What was that about?”

He shrugged. “Could be nothing.”

“It’s never nothing.” I said.

The five teens were waiting for us a block away from the invisible pub. Fred and George were undisguised. They had no need to hide; pure-blood wizards, successful business owners … the only strike against them was that they were flagrant ‘blood traitors’. Ron and Hermione were both disguised as they had been before. Harry Potter could not be seen at all. I wasn’t sure where precisely he was until he spoke. I tried to greet him cheerfully, and not let the horrors on which I been theorizing spill over into my speech and manner.

As we went in the Travers’ rusty front gate, I noticed Sherlock’s eyes on the ground. He gestured to us to stay back and walked ahead, stooping low. He walked down the short path, up the steps, and to the door. He opened it.

“Wait.” said George. “You shouldn’t go in by yourself. Who knows what’s in there.

“Someone’s been here.” said Sherlock. “Within the last day or two.”

“What was he doing?” asked Harry.

“I’m not sure. … But he didn’t dally and look around. One man, carrying a heavy case or bag in his left hand. Reasonably long stride, but not broad in the shoulders – he walked up the steps without spoiling that spider-web. … Are there still any discernible marks on the road?” He scampered back past us to the road. “Hmph. Traffic has wiped it all out. Unless … Ah, no. Nothing to be learned there.” He hurried back up to the door. “Go ahead and come, but don’t run ahead of me.”

Slowly, we followed him in out of the sunshine, into the dark foyer. He pulled out a flashlight.

“What is the Wizarding equivalent of repair-men?” he asked.

“What?” said Fred.

“I mean, when a wizard wants a large repair job done might he hire a professional to assist? And what sort of tools might such a professional take? Would he use only his wand, or might he take more specific tools?”

“Oh. Well we’ve never hired a professional to do repairs around our place, but a place like this? Probably. And sure, they’d carry other tools.”

“In that case, I think it likely that Travers is planning on moving back in soon. A repairman has been here very recently.”

“In that case we’d better finish this quick.” said Harry. “The less time we spend here, the better. Why don’t we split up?”

“Very well.” said Sherlock. “One of the twins can come with me, and the other with John. Just remember we’re looking for either a jewelled headpiece or a golden goblet. I’ll take the basement, the garden, and outbuildings. The three of you can take the ground and first floor. Fred and John can take the second floor and the attic. And we can all meet up in the lane behind the house.”

It did look as if someone had been here recently and cleared some stuff away. Fred and I were looking for some time, through old bureaus and chests and perusing through bookshelves. Fred knew not why we needed the goblet and the diadem, just that we were looking for them or information on them.

We had searched our section pretty well, and were thinking of calling it good enough and heading for the alley. The last room at the end of the hall on the second floor had turned out to be almost completely bare, though more fallen apart than most rooms. Fred had stopped for a moment to look at the ceiling, where the plaster had fallen completely off, exposing the framing above, when the sounds of feet which had been going on for some time began sounding more distinctly in my ear. They were up to the same floor as us. I didn’t even have time to wonder why the trio was coming up, for in the same instant that I realized that the feet were upstairs, I realized that they did not belong to the trio.

Fred.” I said in an urgent whisper. “That’s not any of us.”

I stayed absolutely still, looking at the closed door into the corridor and listening with all my might; wondering if the footsteps might not stay away. Alas no. They were coming straight down the corridor towards us – at least four sets of heavy, booted feet. I heard Fred stepping forward. He was right behind me. Still in a whisper, I said:

“They’re coming he…”

A deafening bang sounded right in my ears. Something hit me, hard, in the small of the back. I started falling, over and over and over. My ears were filled with noises which I could not really hear. And lights were in my eyes but I could not really see. The evidence of my senses and sensations was beyond my ability to form into meaning, as I fell. In my utter confusion, I heard a small voice in my mind remarking calmly: He just shot me. This is dying.

I landed, surprisingly lightly, on a cupped, springy surface. There was the dropping away feeling of being suddenly pulled up into the air, and I found myself in a dark place – a dark, swinging hammock, high on both sides, almost coming together at the top. I realized that, though I had seemed to be falling for a long long time, all this had happened in little more than the blink of an eye. My senses were coming back. I was not dead. I was alive and lying on my back in the right hand pocket of Fred Weasley’s robe.

This, though of course a great relief, was in itself a rather alarming fact. True, I was alive, in no pain, and seemed to be unwounded, but under the ordinary course of events I shouldn’t be in Fred’s pocket. And even more disconcerting, in spite of my returning senses, I could not recognize the feeling of my own body. Something was very very wrong. I tentatively moved my right hand.

My cry of alarm turned into a high pitched squeal as it left my throat, frightening me almost as much as had the furry, be-clawed little paw which had inspired it. Realizations thundered close upon each others heels. I had paws, not hands, and sharp claws on my fingers. My face now stretched forward in a pointy little snout. All four of my limbs were stubby, with altered joints. My body was shortened, stubby like my limbs. My clothes seemed to be gone, and I was covered all over in strange, stiff, pointy bristles. Long whiskers, furry ears, and that pointy nose were bombarding me with all sorts of information that I wasn’t accustomed to getting and wasn’t translating into meaning. I had unconsciously rolled myself up into a tiny little ball, and was trying not to hyperventilate. I heard voices, a great many voices, and the top of the pocket was darkened as something else entered. A hand. It had to be a hand, but a hand almost as large as I was. It slipped underneath me (I must have poked it rather badly) and lifted me back up out of the pocket.

“I often take him with me to work.” I heard Fred’s voice say, somewhere far above my head. “He’s an excitable little fellow.” He lowered me to the ground and tipped me onto the dusty floor. “But I can’t think…”

“I don’t care about the hedgehog!” said a second voice. “What are you doing here?!”

“Working!” cried Fred, in a high-pitched voice which suggested to me that he was playing up the frightened thing on purpose. “I’m working! Aren’t I supposed to be? This is the Travers’s isn’t it?!”

I had gotten my bearings back. I knew well enough now what had happened. Just before the strangers had walked into the room, Fred had somehow transformed me into a hedgehog and slipped me into the roomy pocket of his purple robe. Now he was trying to convince them he was here on business, related to the repairman who’d come the day before.

Dust rose up all around me and I started to sneeze. My eyesight seemed dimmer than I was used to, and all the people high above my head seemed less distinct than I would have expected. The many pairs of large and heavy boots all around me seemed far more immediate and worrisome. My main thought was to move out of the way of careless feet. But from Fred’s words, I was supposed to be a pet he commonly took with him, who should therefore be taking this all in stride. I should act casual. But I wasn’t exactly sure what hedgehog casual was supposed to look like. I wasn’t even sure how to use my legs. Carefully, hoping that nobody was watching me (and they probably weren’t, they were too busy arguing with Fred) I took a few tottering steps forward on my stubby legs, then a few more, whereupon I grew confident enough to attempt a meandering gait away from the group of people. A cry and a flash startled me and I spun around, looking up. A horrifying sight met my eyes.

Fred was hanging in mid-air, dangling by one ankle. His wand seemed to be gone. His hands were occupied with keeping his fallen robes from his face.

“All right, what are you doing here, Weasley?!”

“Nothing! … Ow!”

I couldn’t see quite what had happened, but it seemed that the foremost man had thrown something at Fred.

“What are you doing here! Tell me or I’ll give you something to yelp about! If I decide to send you off to Azkaban for breaking into my house I can do it. Or if I decide that you never leave this house, I can do that too! Why are you here!”

I saw now the full extent of what Fred had done. A rush of gratitude filled my heart along with the terror for the young man hanging above me. By transforming me into a hedgehog, he had not only avoided the extremely suspicious problem of being discovered in company with a very obvious muggle, he had removed me almost completely from Travers’ notice or suspicion. What was a stupid little animal to be worthy of a second thought or glance? Now, by setting me down instead of returning me to his pocket, he had set me free of the situation entirely. Since they had seen me, and dismissed me as irrelevant, chances were they would never look my direction again. No shot intended for him would hit me. Nothing would stop me from meandering right out and joining the others in the lane.

But him … him they could do with as they pleased, and I could do nothing, nothing to stop them. I had brought a handgun in the hip-pocket of my trousers. But now I had not trousers, nor hip-pocket, nor handgun. I could as little hope to defeat a tower of steel with my fists, when in my ordinary state, as to do any harm to these wizards if I were to fly at them now. I could not even raise my voice in the young man’s defence. What would be the squealing of a hedgehog in the dust to such as these?

I could but hope that they would be convinced by Fred’s story. Since they had identified him he had dropped the repairman spiel, and was falling back on his actual profession; joke shop owner. Surely it was perfectly natural for the local joke shop owner to want to run through this old place before Mr. Brocklemore came and fixed it up, removing all the ‘wards’ and ‘jinxes’ and whatnot. It really sounded legitimate … it may very well have actually been legitimate. But the foremost man, who seemed to be Mr. Travers himself, was unappeased.

“A likely story!”

“Actually, it kind of is.” said one of his companions. “Have you ever been in their shop?”

“No, and I wouldn’t either, a bunch of wretched blood traitors like the Weasleys!”

“At least they’re pure-bloods, which sadly few of the nation’s wizards can claim.”

“That’s not good enough! I’ve a good mind to rid the Wizarding world of you right here and now! What do you have to say to that?!”

“Just one thing – I’ve always been very fascinated by the world of the African Masai … Yow!”

“Travers, didn’t you say that you would meet Crabbe in the Leaky Cauldron at one-thirty?”

There was a pause.

“Yes, I did.” Travers raised his wand again.

I bit my tongue to keep myself from crying out in terror and fury and started forward, but it transpired that Travers did not in fact have actually lethal intentions.

Fred hit the ground head first and crumpled. For a terrible moment I was afraid that the shock had broken his neck. But as I ran over to him he moved and sat up.

“Think yourself lucky that you’re getting out of this with your life, Weasley! And if I find you snooping around my place EVER again, I think I just WILL be stopping by your little shop! … Now get out of here!”

Fred scrambled to his feet, snatching up both me and his wand as he did so. The scene disappeared as I was tucked back into his pocket, but they seemed to have thrown something or other at him as he left the room. I felt him rush down the stairs and out of the house. He did not stop until he had gone out of the front gate and a little ways down the road. Then he stopped, breathing hard and leaning against the wall on the side of the road. The top of the pocket was pulled open and I saw his face above me.

“You all right in there?” he asked, in the small voice people often use with their pets. It may be imagined that I was in no position to resent this. He had, almost certainly, just saved my life. And for all either of us knew, we were still being watched or followed. I tried to answer yes to his question, thinking that if I perhaps tried hard enough, knowing a little more than I had about the current state of my throat and lips, I might perhaps be able to make some semblance of the word. But no. All that came out was a sort of huffing noise. Fred seemed to understand anyway.

“I think you better say in there for the moment, okay? … Good. We’ll fix you up here shortly.”

Because he had gone out the front of the house and down the road, there was a somewhat longer walk to get to the lane in which we were supposed to meet. The walk seemed longer than it should have been even under those circumstances however, and I wondered if Fred was taking a circuitous route on purpose.

“Where is John?”

The voice of Sherlock Holmes, speaking from some yards off, alerted me to the fact that we had reached the rendezvous point. Fred seemed to have stopped.

Where is John?” Sherlock repeated.

“He’s here.” said Fred in a would-be conciliatory, but slightly mischievous voice. I wondered if he was trying to find a way to turn this into a joke. But the tone of Sherlock’s reply was not one to encourage prolongation of a jest.

“The road is dusty here. Footsteps show quite distinctly. If he had walked round that corner, I would know it. He has not! Where is he?”

Fred’s hand slipped into the pocket with me.

“No, really. He is here.”

I was pulled out into the light again. Across a broad chasm of air there stood the monumental figure of my friend. His blue robes fell down to a dizzying depth, and in spite of the intervening space I had to look far up to see his giant face, high high above me. For the briefest of moments he looked down at me with puzzlement in his face. Then his eyes became very wide.

“John?”

The best answer I was able give him was a sort of squeak with two notes. I trust he knew they stood for the two syllables of his name.

He flashed his gaze from me to Fred.

“Ahhhh, don’t worry.” said Fred, starting to lower me towards the ground. “I can put him back.”

He set me on the dusty cobblestones and stood up.

“What on earth happened?” I heard Ron’s voice say.

“We uh, ran into a bit of trouble. Hedgehogs aren’t as politically vulnerable as muggles.”

“That’s John Watson?” said Hermione in a tone of astonishment. “Fred, that’s a really remarkable bit of transfiguration!”

“I’ve been able to do this kind of thing since I was seven years old! … Er, well, not usually on humans, but, uh this sort of thing. … Now, Mr. Holmes, Dr. Watson is fine. This’ll just take a minute. He’ll be as good as …”

A scream echoed off the distant walls. It’s very sound turned my blood to ice. Looking up in my terror I saw the faces of Ron and Hermione. Their faces had fallen and tensed at the sound. They knew only that it was the cry of a woman in pain – doubtless one of the many poor souls suffering under Death Eater rule. Their manner suggested indignant acquiescence, passive sorrow for some unknown unfortunate. They did not know that voice, that voice …. But I did.

It was my Mary.

I was never conscious of turning around or deciding to try out these silly short legs again. The next thing I knew I was skittering over the cobblestones towards the sound faster than I would have thought those limbs could be capable of.

“Doctor! Stop! Come back!” screamed Fred.

“John, wait! I heard her.” called Sherlock.

I turned around to see the others catching up with me.

“What’s going on?” asked the invisible Harry.

“That was Mrs. Watson screaming.” said Sherlock. “She must have followed us.”

I heard a rush of youthful feet. Above me, Sherlock stooped – it was like the mountain bending down – and scooped me up in his enormous hands. Then he too began to run. I wish I could have seen the seven of us flying down the lane; the identical Weasley twins racing neck and neck ahead, Sherlock Holmes in his tall lavender hat and long blue robes sprinting behind them, holding little prickly me out before him in both hands, and the younger trio running behind, one bearded, one bespectacled, one invisible, trying to consult as they sped on. These latter details I found out afterwards. All I could see at the time was the back of the twins heads as they ran.

We left the little lane and ran out into the main course of Diagon Alley. The twins had already disappeared into the crowd of people gathered in the street. Among the myriads of fantastically dressed people, I could not see she for whom I sought. Sherlock, whose eyes were looking out over the crowd from a difference of several feet from mine, seemed better able to tell than I and began forcing his way through the crowd, his large hands cupped around me. I heard her voice again now; speech, not screaming, indignant, breathless speech.

“No! I deny the charge! Insofar as I understand it I deny it! I was looking for some friends and I didn’t even know what this place was!”

“Liar!”

We broke through the crowd. An open circle had formed, a circle that muttered in some places and jeered in others. In its centre I saw dark robes and tall figures, all gigantic and indistinct. Sherlock halted at the edge of the crowd, doubtless to take stock of the situation. Then I saw her, looking to my eyes little more than a splotch of coral pink and denim blue against the sooty blacks.

“Your kind are the bane of Britain’s Wizarding world!” a deep and loud voice cried. “Fouling the pure blood of our noble race. Here at last we have a prime example of the infiltration your kind have been practising upon us!”

“I walked down a street!…”

“Caught in the very act of breaking into our shops and homes to steal the power which is not yours!” continued the voice, threat and scorn in every syllable. “A muggle, a common dirty muggle, still wearing the uncouth garb of your kind and stinking of your common hovel, trespassing upon the ancient places of the wizards. How glad the Ministry of Magic will be to have caught one red-hand…”

“Oi!”

Sherlock was jostled as someone pushed passed him into the circle. It was Ron.

“That there’s my Aunt!” he cried.

“What?!” said somebody.

“My Aunt Mary! I was going to meet her back at the Leaky Cauldron! What’re you doing to her!?”

“If she’s your Aunt, where is her wand?!”

“She hasn’t got one, you numbskull! If my squib uncle wants to marry a muggle that’s his business isn’t it?!”

“A squib uncle and a muggle aunt! What kind of filth are you?!”

I’m a pure-blood and I’ll thank you to let go of her!”

“Oh no. She’s been caught trying to steal a wand! We’re going to take her to the Ministry.” said yet another voice.

“Steal a wand? What the bloody hell would she even want a wand for? And you were just pointing out how she hasn’t got one. You weren’t trying to find a wand, were you, Aunt Mary?”

“No!” I heard her say. “I certainly wasn’t. The thought never occurred to me, I assure you. I was looking for the lot of you.”

“Yeah. So there. Lay off, you.”

“Do you know who I am?!” said the first speaker, stepping forwards toward Ron. Everyone looked enormous to me now. And Ron was a tall young fellow. But the man seemed to tower over him, a great black colossus. There was a very tiny sound, like an almost inaudible groan, but Ron didn’t budge. Instead he said:

“Nope. And I don’t care either. Last I heard, it wasn’t illegal to be a muggle.”

“But it’s illegal for muggles to usurp the rights of wizards! I’m Albert Runcorn from the Ministry of Magic, and I’ll be taking your wretched aunt back there for questioning.”

Ron moved and I thought he’d drawn his wand. Sherlock quickly transferred me to the crook of his left arm. I heard a low, soft voice beside us.

“Don’t, the gun will identify you and make things worse.”

Hermione stepped out into the circle too.

“Oh please!” she said, in a very appealing and apologetic tone. “Let’s not fight over this. I suppose it was a mistake for us to bring her around, but we won’t do it again! And you’ve hurt her! You didn’t need to hurt her!”

“She burnt out the eyes of several ministry officials! Besides which she had the temerity to punch Senior Under-secretary Umbridge in the face!”

You attacked me.” said Mary indignantly.

“Yes, you just frightened her. Now do let her go, Mr. Runcorn!” said Hermione.

“Bloody hell, man.” said Ron, sounding a little bit strained. “Are you gonna let her go, or are we gonna have to make you?”

Runcorn laughed. “Make me? Two stupid young blood-traitors make us hand over a prisoner?”

“No.” said Sherlock, stepping out into the circle. “Three.” He had in his hand not a pistol, but a wand.

“Let’s not make this that hard though. People have been bringing muggle relatives to Diagon Alley without incident for years. You might as well give them some time to transition. I did advise her against coming for this very reason, Mr. Runcorn, but do not feel any obligation to prove me right about the stupidity of the current bureaucracy.”

Runcorn stood up a little taller and straighter.

“All right, the three of you have five seconds to drop your wands and surrender. One. Two…”

Stupefy!

There was brilliant flash of red light, and Albert Runcorn toppled like a felled tree.

I knew the spell must have been cast by Harry Potter from a high ledge beside the road. But the cluster of ministry officials didn’t seem to. For a moment they stared at us across the motionless figure in the dust.

Vwoom! Bang! There was roar and something big and fiery and rather reminiscent of a Chinese dragon flew past us and dive-bombed the crowd of Ministry officials. There was instant chaos. People were screaming. People were running. There seemed to be explosions going off. Ron and Hermione seemed to have actually started fighting those officials who were not already running. The wind had suddenly picked up. The noises of the crowd were odd. Some were definitely frightened, but unless my ears deceived me, others were cheering. Something big and electric blue whizzed or rolled past me through the air, and then blew up surprisingly close – the explosions were some kind of fireworks. I had lost track of Mary. She seemed to have disappeared. She probably had. So I forgot about my eyes, and listened.

If, as a hedgehog, my eyes were dimmer than they had been, my ears were keener. Sounds bombarded them from every side. I could hear the explosions, and the shrieks, and the whoops, and the sounds of feet, and Hermione’s voice casting spells, and Sherlock’s heart beating inches away from me, and his neck creaking as he craned it around; he too must have missed the moment when she was chameleonized and snatched away. And lower, and more distant, I heard a muffled sound – a woman’s voice, a hand over a mouth, the frantic strugglings of a restrained but undefeated creature.

With a spring I was out of Sherlock’s arm and landing roughly upon the cobblestones. I ran as fast as I could manage, dashing between giant boots with only the memory of a sound to guide me, hoping that Sherlock would get it and come along. He did. Of course he did. As he came after me, he must have seen what the press of people had blocked before. Mere transparency wasn’t enough to hide something from him. He dashed overhead and disappeared into the storm.

With the relief of knowing that Sherlock had located her and was pursuing, I suddenly awakened to the difficulty of my own position. Robe hems swirled overhead. Boots crashed on every side. The sounds bombarded me like physical blows. Chaos reigned. I lost every plan except that of avoiding being stepped on. The crowd was thinner than it had been, as if a portion of them had thought it sensible to retreat, but I wasn’t sure whether the remainder were quarrelling, running away very incompetently, or dancing happily about enjoying the spectacle of the Ministry officials being attacked by the fireworks. Someone side-swiped me and I went tumbling painfully along the ground. Far away, I heard Harry’s high, boyish voice:

“Accio hedgehog!”

I was swept from my feet. I was flying; zooming above the heads of the crowd without understanding or control. I caught a glimpse of Sherlock, his loaded riding crop raised high over his head, heavy handle foremost. And then I felt the silken folds of the invisibility cloak envelop me. I was staring through a thick pane of glass into an enormous, brilliant green eye.

“Dr. Watson?”

I nodded vigorously.

“We’re getting out of here.” There was a rather confused moment where Harry seemed to be invisibly rushing and wriggling through the crowd. “Sherlock!”

“No! I’ve got to find John! He was right–”

“Here!” And I was shoved from Harry’s hands to Sherlock’s. Fireworks were still going off.

Somehow or other the whole group seemed to have collected, and we rushed back through the Leaky Cauldron and out onto Charing Cross Road. The commonplace sounds of a busy London street filled my ears, the smells of car exhaust, sun-warmed asphalt, and fast-food filled my nose. I couldn’t see Mary but Ron seemed to have something by the hand. We turned off the street into an alley. Ron tapped the person whose hand he had been holding on the head, and Mary appeared. She was flushed, with anger or exertion, but stood straight and seemed in perfect possession of herself. A great ugly purple welt ran down her face.

“Where’s John?” she said urgently. “I saw you with a group of people and thought he…”

Sherlock raised me up towards her.

“… Sherlock, you have got to be kidding me.”

“No.” said Sherlock. “Look at him.”

She looked back at me.

“Oh. my. goodness. John, are you … Who did this to him!?”

“Ah. That would be me.” I heard Fred say.

You? Why? He can be cured?!”

“Yes! Yes, he can. I was going to, but I was kind of, uh, distracted. … You probably ought to set him down first. There now. Now, Mrs. Watson, there’s virtually no risk. This’ll just take a second.”

“Fred,” I heard Hermione say, “do you want me to…”

“No I got it.”

Roaring filled my ears and my mind. This time I knew vaguely what was to happen, but I was still caught in bewilderment. I have no words to adequately describe what happened. What I experienced was so far removed from every other experience that I have ever felt that even if there were words to describe it, I would not know to connect them to it. The best I can do is to say that it was slightly like being caught in a mighty stream of water, surging, speeding, carrying you on, will you or nil you, at incredible speeds. There was no actual pain. But the sensation of being hurled, completely in defiance of your own will, was terrifying. A minute later I was standing, panting, on two legs, and the world was beginning to take its normal shape again. Sherlock was on one side of me, Mary on the other. They seemed to think that I might not be able to stand properly and were supporting me and asking me if I was all right.

“Yes, yes, I’m fine. Mary, that looks terrible!”

“Is that when you cried out?” asked Sherlock.

“Ah, no. That was something else. There was quite a number of them, you know. … Thanks, guys.” she said.

“You should’ve listened to me.” said Sherlock reprovingly, as I examined the mark running down her face. “I wouldn’t have said that if I didn’t mean it.”

“That was what you were doing then,” I said, remembering that morning when Sherlock had stopped and walked back, “you were giving her a warning note.”

“Exactly.” said Sherlock.

“So I thought I’d just be very careful and avoid trouble.” said Mary. “What is this? An occupied country?”

“Yes.” replied Sherlock. “That’s exactly what it is. You had no business …”

“I had every business. My husband had gotten involved in something dangerous and troubling which he couldn’t tell me about because of a promise. Of course I decided to find out myself.”

“Of course.”

“Well, I have to say, I wish you hadn’t.” I interrupted. “I don’t know how they made this, it is truly dreadful.”

“Oh, let me help.” said Hermione. “It was a fairly simple hex.”

“And, in Mrs. Watson’s defence,” George chimed in cheerfully, “she did give Mr. Crabbe one of the swellest black eyes I’ve ever seen! And that silly official said you hit Umbridge too?! She must have run off. I didn’t see her.”

“I hit several people, I don’t know their names.”

“Woo hoo!” exclaimed Fred, hi-fiving her and George at the same.

“Was it you two who set off those fireworks?” she asked.

“Yep!” said Fred. “Designed, crafted, let off, and directed by yours trulies.”

“Well they were fantastic.”

The twins bowed.

“They did look amazing, I wish I could have seen them better.” I mentioned.

“We’ll sell you some!” offered George.

“You know technically,” said Fred, assuming a very pretentious ‘proper’ voice, “I don’t think we’re supposed to sell magic fireworks to muggles.”

They laughed.

“I wonder if those other guys have figured out the counter-curse for that burning spray of yours yet.” Fred mused happily.

“Water.” supplied Mary.

“Ooooh.” said the twins together. “They’ll never think of that!”

Hermione’s salve worked wonders. If it were not for the marvels I had already been privy to, I should scarcely have been willing to credit the testimony of my senses, as before my eyes Mary’s wound shrunk, smoothed, and half sealed over.

“Hermione, I want to know more about this stuff.” I said.

“Ah … Maybe later. Do you have any other injuries, Mrs. Watson?”

“Not really, just bruising. They did take my bag.”

For a moment, these words flowed past my ears as just words, then their meaning hit me.

“Mary, your bag with your wallet and letters and everything in it?!”

“Yes … Oh!” She let out a gasp as she too realized the implications of this. “Shirley!”

Even with the short delay necessary to explain teleportation to Mary, less than a minute had passed before I was rushing up to my own door. Pat Wilkins, a sweet-natured, pudgy girl of fifteen, nearly took to flight with the child in her arms at the sight of the bizarre crowd rushing into the kitchen before she realized that it wasn’t a mob of mad burglars. She was dismissed with her fee and the admonition to come nowhere near our place for the immediate future. Just for good measure (to make sure that random visitors didn’t run into trouble) Hermione worked up a warning sign and put it on the front door. Sherlock hurried over to the desk, taking the Ron and Harry with him, and busied himself and them doing something with our papers and computer – laying a false trail I guessed. I dropped in on the neighbours and warned them that our place might be burgled by some very dangerous people. Mary snatched up a few things. In under ten minutes we were all gone from the building. Until such a time as the rule of law would be restored in the English Wizarding society, my wife, my daughter, and I could not go home again.

Chapter 9 ~ The Bank and the Broomstick ~>

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 9 ~ The Bank and the Broomstick will be available on June 2nd.  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!

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


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Chapter VII ~ The Darkness Thickens


In spite of hesitancy that had possessed him on the evening of the second of August, Mr. Sherlock Holmes had plunged into the task of tracking down Thomas Riddle’s safeguards with an energy which I usually associated with moments of crisis. But then, perhaps no case so critical had ever been put into his hands. I knew, for I had seen, that he had been hired by several heads of state on businesses of ‘international importance’. He had exposed the continent’s largest crime-ring and dismantled its command structure. But never before, to my knowledge, had he attempted to reverse a military coup.

The urgency of the matter impressed me ever more deeply the further we got into it; the spate of murders, political and recreational (terrible phrase), the danger to life and liberty being faced by those wizards who (like Hermione Granger) were born of muggle parents, the fact that Wizarding interference in muggle affairs was a very real possibility if they stuck to their strengths of secrecy and mind-control, and the revolting situation that a portion of what should have been free England was under a tyranny, were all very immediate dangers. Every day mattered. Every day might be paid in blood.

Up till now Sherlock had been balancing his Wizarding investigations with his consulting work. Now everything but the Wizarding case was dropped. The rest could be picked up later. He had asked Hermione to investigate Riddle’s history, but they did it together. The two of them poured over recent criminal histories – both Wizarding and muggle, and historical accounts of Wizarding events and sites, anything which Riddle, in his twisted, prideful view of the world, might have considered momentous.

Fred and George Weasley had gotten all but one of the ex-addresses of the Death Eaters which Sherlock had asked for through their father by the evening of the third of August – that of the Lestranges’ house, which was currently unoccupied, and those of the Averys’ and the Dolohovs’, which had relatives living in them. They brought back a lengthy response to Hermione from Mr. Shacklebolt at the same time. This letter pleased Sherlock immensely, for it was wonderfully detailed. No impressions and half remembered notions. Lots of good hard facts with dates and addresses, presented with a thorough understanding of context. He seemed to recognize some of the cases, and I guessed that a few wild theories of his had just been vindicated.

The shop that the trio suspected, Borgin & Burke’s, was searched through, twice. The first time in daylight under the guise of being ordinary customers doing some very in-depth window shopping. The second after closing time, which was even more in-depth. The ancient Lestrange mansion was scoured over. We visited several odd, out-of-the-way corners which Sherlock and Hermione thought had thought sufficiently important to merit investigation. We found nothing; no horcruxes, and no indications suggesting anywhere else they might be. The idea that the Lestranges had hidden one in Gringotts had grown on the children. And in view of the immense respect that the wizards had for Gringotts, Sherlock seemed to be relaxing his ‘too obvious’ views a bit.

And Sherlock still – there was little enough time, I don’t know how he managed it – was going through that terrible book Hermione had lent him at an alarming rate. He seemed to be carrying it around with him so that if he had a moment he would pull it out and read. My initial response of strong distaste towards the volume had increased into a kind of fear, though I don’t suppose I had a clear reason. I happened to be standing right behind him once when he opened it. It was handwritten like a medieval manuscript; it may have actually been one. I wondered that the crumbling pages could still survive being turned. The hand was a hard one. The black lines were like assaults upon the paper. Somehow the very illumination of the capitals seemed an obscenity. I caught no full sentence in my brief glimpse, but I caught words.

A few days before I would have said that there was no such thing as witchcraft. When I met the three youths, I treated their strange vocabulary as merely an extremely odd way of referring to what was clearly just a strange form of technology; peculiar certainly, but quite innocent. And regarding the three, I still felt the same. The fact that they clearly believed themselves to posses innate abilities of some kind as well complicated the matter somewhat. But that inclusion in their secret society might be based on carrying a particular genetic trait, and that their technology might take advantage of that trait in some manner, was not unthinkable. All their illusions, teleportation, blasting rods, invisibility cloaks, and remarkable capabilities in matters of forming, shaping, and fixing matter seemed morally harmless. I could not see that the things which they were doing were in any way intrinsically evil; certainly not any way in which they could be connected to the demonic. It was a different technology – not too different in many ways from what I could see on the science-fiction channel.

But when it came to Riddle, I felt differently. Felt, true, not thought. But somehow I could not label him merely, as Sherlock had done, ‘mad-scientist’. I could not look upon ‘Secrets of the Darkest Art’ – that hideous volume which gentle Hermione held in such utter abhorrence and which my friend was so voraciously studying – and think only that the science in it was being put to vile uses. It was not only more sinister, but a different kind of sinister. Strange that a contemporary terrorist and small-time dictator should have inspired such notions, but Riddle did. Strange that I, who have always considered myself to be a pragmatic, level-headed person, should have entertained them. But whatever the reality of the situation was, and though I shrank from putting it into words even to myself, Riddle had become, in my mind, a sorcerer, and ‘Secrets of the Darkest Art’ a book of – in the old, dark sense of the word – witchcraft. And I wanted Sherlock to get rid of it. I didn’t directly say that, but I did ask him if it was really necessary to read it. Didn’t we know enough to go on? “Ignorance does not know itself, John.” he replied. “If I am overlooking a vital piece of information, I will overlook the the fact that I am overlooking it.” And he didn’t put the book down.

And he still didn’t say what it was that had him worried about Harry Potter. Since his admission to me that he had some secret knowledge, not another word on the subject had crossed his lips. Several times I had thought that he was going to tell me. But then his mouth would close, his eyes would drop to the ground, and he would turn away. He would then either shut-up entirely, or begin talking very fast on an unrelated subject. From a confidence built of long experience, I trusted my friend to reveal this information at the right time, or to forever conceal it if it was better off concealed. But it bothered me. It bothered me greatly.

I myself had been alarmed by the severity of the pain in Harry’s old wound. It had clearly been a bad injury and was an unusual case. I had asked Ron and Hermione about the scar on his brow.

“Gee, I keep forgetting you’re a muggle and don’t know stuff like that.” Ron said. “I knew about that scar ever since I was little. That’s where You-know-who’s curse hit him.”

I received from them a rather more lengthy and dramatic version of the tale of Harry’s infant encounter with Riddle. His father James had died fighting valiantly, albeit fruitlessly. His mother’s protective spell had been cast as she flung herself into the path of a ‘curse’ meant for Harry. The second curse had hit him, and according to all the rules, Harry should have died. Every single person hit by that curse had died instantly, every single one – except for Harry. Whatever it was that Lily had done, as she sacrificed her life for her son’s, overrode the ordinary rules. The shot glanced off the infant’s forehead leaving only that jagged red line behind. Apparently it had never been a real wound. It was even, in the ordinary sense, not a scar at all. It was a mark, the same on the day it was inflicted as it was sixteen years later. They called it the lightning scar.

Since the injury had been inflicted by a mechanism of which I was completely ignorant, causing symptoms which I had never seen before, I was hardly in a position to say anything particularly helpful on the subject. When Harry said that there wasn’t anything to worry about, he was in a better position than I to say. But I didn’t really believe him anyway. If nothing else, episodes of incapacitating pain such as I had witnessed were not only a problem in view of the personal suffering involved, but in view of the dangers of becoming suddenly incapacitated. If such a fit came over him while operating a motor vehicle, for instance, the results could be catastrophic. Moreover, pain is nature’s warning signal; a sign of something dreadfully wrong.

I also knew that he was in very great danger of being taken by Death Eaters, or Wizarding government officials, or even just unscrupulous wizards hoping to earn a reward. ‘Undesirable Number One’ were the words on the wanted posters. I knew a very small mistake on his part could result in capture and an ugly death.

Yet neither of these real and pressing dangers to the boy seemed as though they could be what caused Sherlock Holmes to behave as he did. He had guessed at the danger Harry was facing before he’d ever seen his face. A chronic health problem, however unpleasant in itself, would certainly be considered of secondary importance at such a critical moment. And both of these were common knowledge.

I thought it strange that in this case – where he was being unwontedly liberal with information – I was disturbed in a way that I had never previously been about that which he was keeping hidden. For I never had seen Sherlock so open in his plans and his theories as he was now. He was of a very secretive nature, with a somewhat intemperate delight in the dramatic. It was his habit to never reveal his whole plan or everything that he knew or guessed to anyone, not even to me, until the denouement of a case. But in this instance he was not acting as a private detective, hired to get to the bottom of the matter on his own by his own methods. Rather, he had been reluctantly accepted into a group that was already acting upon the problem. The situation by its nature forced him to to act with them, telling them clearly what he knew and openly explaining his plans in full detail. It was strange to me, and a source of some entertainment, to see him sit about a kitchen table with the three teenagers, propounding his theories and strategies in such unmysterious entirety.

A total of three different expeditions were made to the house of Dolores Umbridge, the woman who’d taken the locket from Fletcher; four if you count the fact that Fred and George Weasley went and checked it out themselves just to make sure that it was indeed the correct address before they passed it on to us. While Hermione and Ron were in Diagon Alley, checking on the hidden camera (which revealed that Bellatrix Lestrange had been in and out of Gringotts bank not once but thrice since the coup), Sherlock, Harry, and I went on a reconnaissance mission. Then, later on in the day, the five of us went ahead and searched it.

There did not seem to be any alarm systems, and none of the neighbours were in a position to see our entry, so we got into the house safely without being seen or setting off any alarms at one o’clock in the afternoon, which left us plenty of time to examine the house at our leisure before Ms. Umbridge would return. But after several hours of fruitless search, we were forced to come to the conclusion that the big gold locket engraved with an S was not to be found at her home. We knew that it might well be on her person; it would be no strange thing for a woman to wear a necklace to work. But the nasty thought that it might have passed on to someone else occurred to us.

We returned that night. We waited in the garden while some late-night guests meandered away. Finally, some time after the last light had turned out and the house had clearly retired, Harry, Hermione, and Sherlock entered the house a second time, while Ron and I stayed in the garden to give the alarm should anyone show up. The plan was for them to quietly locate the locket, create a replica of it so Ms. Umbridge wouldn’t realize it was gone (Hermione was very good at that sort of thing), and then leave without anybody ever realizing we’d been there. But either they triggered a night alarm of some kind, or Ms. Umbridge was still awake and listening. We heard cries and bangings from the upper floor. A moment later there was a noise rather like firecrackers, and from my vantage point among the pink peonies, off to the left of the porch, I saw a group of cloaked figures rush up the front walk.

“Six at the front door!” I hissed at Ron, who stood opposite the bedroom window.

The front door slammed with a bang. My orders had been merely to alert, and not to fight, but now that it was too late to do anything I felt as if I should have hindered their entrance in some way. I bolted round the side of the house to join Ron, who had just signalled the three upstairs.

Sherlock Holmes appeared at the window. For a moment I was confused, then I realized that he was tearing out the screen. For a moment the window was empty again. I thought I heard Sherlock’s voice, lifted momentarily with impatience. Then Harry jumped over the sill, and was in the air. I saw the glitter of gold swinging from his fist. Then he was gone; teleported. Sherlock appeared again. He made a sweeping motion with his hand. The meaning was clear; ‘Go’.

Ron grabbed my hand, but made no move to run or teleport. He stood stock still, staring up at the window. His hand was cold and sweaty in spite of the warmth of the night. I could not hear the sound of feet, but I knew the cloaked figures must be upstairs by now. I could see Sherlock, near the window. From his posture I thought his gun was drawn and trained on the door. Hermione was still invisible in the depths of the room. For several terrible seconds we waited, staring up at the window.

Sherlock vaulted over the sill and plummeted towards the hollyhocks.

I heard Ron hastily whisper something, but if it was an incantation to slow Sherlock’s fall, I scarcely think there could have been time for it to have an effect. Fortunately, the window was but one story off the ground and it was ornamental grasses and soft earth below, besides which, Sherlock was somewhat skilled in matters of jumping. Hermione followed immediately behind him. They leapt to their feet in the garden. The bedroom above filled with a burst of red light and much crashing as the door came down. I saw them reach for each others’ hands.

“Come on.” said Ron, and twisted away from me. Just before the strange blackness of teleportation slammed down over I heard not one, but two cracks, almost simultaneously. There should have been only one, for Sherlock could not teleport himself. But I had no time to wonder at it, for we were being crushed, and twisted, and suffocated in the lightless limbo. It seemed worse than it had before. I felt as though I was being torn in two. Then, just when I thought I must break, we were out.

Strangely it was still dark and suffocating. There seemed to be a whole crowd of people squished onto the one top step. Ron and I would have been unsteady on our feet in any case. And the step just couldn’t fit that many people. And so, predictably, we all lost our balance and tumbled down onto the side-walk, where we lay in a tangled pile of limbs and groans, and I vowed to myself that never ever again would I consent to teleport with Ronald Weasley.

Sherlock was already back on his feet, and I expected to hear him snap at Ron and me for not having gone when he told us to. (And I for one was perfectly prepared to agree with him.) But he did not. Instead, in a voice of mildly veiled sarcasm, he said:

“Good evening. Are you looking for something in particular? Or are you just sightseeing?”

I looked up. We had fallen outside the ‘enchantment’ boundary. Sherlock Holmes stood over us, his tall, spare form drawn up to its full height and his hand grasping something half out of his jacket pocket. Two men stood in the road-way, staring. The garish light of the street lamps turned the folds of their cloaks to orange, and painted their faces, marred in every lineament with scorn and vicious passions, a ghastly, inhuman hue. Evidently they had been taken by surprise by the suddenness and indignity of our entry out of thin air; otherwise they would have acted more quickly. Even as I saw them, their hands moved for the wands on their belts.

Sherlock’s hand swung upwards in response. I struggled hastily to reach the pocket where I’d stowed my weapon.

“Expelliarmus!”

The men stumbled, clutching fruitlessly after weapons which had flown from their grasps. In the moment they looked away from him, Sherlock leaped forwards and caught the one on the side of the head with the butt of his pistol. The other fell, apparently due to a number of spells cast by the teens.

Harry walked out of the blue, their wands in his left hand.

“What happened?” he asked.

“We all tried to apparate onto the step at the same time.” explained Hermione.

“What happened, up there?” I asked. “With Ms. Umbridge?”

“We had to stun her.” said Hermione. “She’ll be okay.” (Ron snorted and mumbled something about ‘sick’ under his breath.) “She won’t remember any of it tomorrow, and I got the replica done, so no one should know why we were there.” She looked down at the unconscious men on the pavement.

“Are they Death Eaters?” I asked.

“Well, they were hanging out watching the house and were going to attack us, so yeah, probably.” said Ron.

Sherlock bent down and pulled aside the right sleeve of one of the men.

“Ah, Sherlock, it would be on the left.” Hermione said.

So he pulled aside the left sleeve. On the man’s forearm was a large, ugly red scar. When I looked closer, I saw that it was a brand. An image of a skull and a snake had been burned into his skin.

“That’s the dark mark.” said Harry. “They are Death Eaters.”

“Oh! What are we going to do with them?” said Hermione.

“Well, first things first.” said Ron, and pulled something out of his pocket.

One of the street lights went out.

I thought nothing of it; street lamps sometimes did, especially in run-down neighbourhoods like this.

Then a second went out. A third.

I immediately jumped to what I still think was the very reasonable conclusion that the disappearing lights heralded the approach of some unknown menace.

“What is doing that?!” I cried, drawing my weapon.

“Oh! Sorry, that was me.” said Ron, holding up the item he’d taken from his pocket. It looked like a small cigarette lighter. He clicked it. Light suddenly whooshed out of it and flew back into the street lamp; he clicked it again and the light disappeared.

“Well stop clicking it on and off.” said Harry. “That sort of defeats the purpose.”

“Oh. Right.” Click. Click. Click. We were left in darkness.

Lumos.” A pale light glowed at the tip of Harry’s wand. “We’ll have to just obliviate them like we did Rowle and Dolohov.”

“My offer does still stand.” pointed out Sherlock.

“Yes, I know.” said Harry. “But putting them in muggle custody is just asking for trouble.”

“Then can I have those?” Sherlock indicated their wands, which were still clutched in Harry’s left hand.

Harry handed them to him.

“What do want with them?”

“This.”

And with a sudden movement, his knuckles turning white in the effort, he snapped them both in two.

“I’m not giving them back their weapons. Now, Harry, why did you go back?”

“Oh, that’s what that noise was.” said Ron.

“To make sure you all got away, of course!” said Harry.

“You shouldn’t have done so unless we failed to appear within a reasonable time period. You were supposed to get the item safely away from there.”

“I did! I didn’t bring it back with me.”

“Where is it now, then?”

When went back through the boundary, Creature was standing silhouetted against the lighted doorway, the locket hanging from his fist.

That it was indeed the right locket was in no doubt. Harry recognized it, and so did Creature. That it was still a horcrux, safeguarding Riddle’s life, that it had not yet been destroyed, was easily ascertainable. Even I, holding the large, cold, golden ellipse in my hand, could tell that something was not quite normal about it, not quite right. And the more knowledgeable Hermione was quite certain of the fact.

Sherlock Holmes then inadvertently gained the shock and ire of the three by quite innocently asking them whether they could do the ‘avada kedavra curse’. He knew only that it had been named in the book that Hermione had given him as something which would sometimes destroy horcruxes. But it turned out to be a forbidden spell among most decent wizards. It was a favourite weapon of the Death Eaters – the killing curse. It had left that mark on Harry’s forehead. It was the curse which had struck down Amelia Bones – that deadly weapon which killed but left no trace, and left the police all in confusion.

Neither Sherlock nor I quite understood how the potential to be lethal made a weapon unusable. We were, after all, hunting these things down with the intention of killing a man. Whatever there was about it which made it more evil than a gun I did not learn. But the children would not hear of it being used. And, what made the point moot in this situation, they couldn’t do it.

Then, clearly not content with merely shocking them, Sherlock also asked them to lend him the horcrux for the night. He wanted to see what muggle technology could tell us about it, and asked Harry if he could take it down to the lab, promising to bring it back by morning. Harry was extremely hesitant to agree to this. There was a brief flash where Harry’s initial suspicion of Sherlock, and Sherlock’s initial irritation with Harry – both surprisingly dormant for the past two days – seemed in danger of seriously flaring up again.

But the moment passed. Perhaps Harry remembered it was in part due to Sherlock that he had the locket in his hand at that moment anyway. Perhaps he felt ashamed of showing such open distrust of a companion who he had been given no reason to doubt and much reason to have confidence in. But he wiped the look off his face and turned to Sherlock with a great deal of reasonableness.

“All right. I suppose … what you said earlier about two heads and two technologies … it does make sense to see what muggle technology makes of a horcrux. I’ll come with you.”

Something about this speech seemed to strike Sherlock. It seemed to carry some meaning for him beyond what Harry obviously meant. But when he finally spoke it was merely to say, in perfect equanimity, that the proposed arrangement would suit him quite well.

He and Harry left, taking the locket and the invisibility cloak with them, and leaving a warning that they might not be back for some time. Ron and Hermione, though very happy, were yawning so much they were having a hard time seeing, and bade me good night almost immediately.

I followed their example, for the last several days had been long ones, and I was as weary as they. Like them, I was exhilarated by our capture of the horcrux. But the secret Sherlock was keeping concealed damped it somewhat. From his pause, I was certain that what Harry had said touched in some way upon it. But how could it? They were talking about horcruxes. And that couldn’t relate to a secret about Harry – could it?

My inclination to instantly discount anything which would associate that youth and these abominable contraptions – which even if they were not, as the children said, made by black magic were at least stained with blood and crafted with evil intentions – was not the result of evidence, but of instinctual horror, and as such I knew it was not justified as an argument. And thinking about Sherlock’s behaviour, it did seem to me that he was making some sort of an association between them. I thought of the strange way he had looked at Harry just now, while they were discussing the horcrux. I thought, ominously, of how he had at the start of our hunt asked Harry to be very careful in deciding to hunt horcruxes, of how he had asked him to choose between the hunt and his very life, to choose as if the choice was real. Could it be? Could some strange fate really tie Harry’s life to the outcome of this bizarre gang-war?

But the thing was absurd. What connection could exist between them? And with this question, I remembered Hermione’s exhortation to Harry about ‘closing’ a ‘connection’. What connection? What if she had been speaking not metaphorically of mental coping techniques but of some literal connection? Had Sherlock discovered it? Or rather, what lay behind it, for he clearly seemed to believe that he knew something that no one else did, certainly that Harry did not know.

That was of course, the merest of accidental association of words. What had a ‘connection’ to do with a wound? A physical injury it was. Harry had collapsed in excruciating pain. I remembered the rigid agony of his muscles, the clenchings of his hands, and the graspings at his scarred brow. Whatever was wrong with him (and surely the initial injury must have been more severe than Ron painted it to cause such after-effects so many years later) it was a purely medical matter. It could not be that which caused my friend such disquiet.

But nevertheless, this ‘connection’ grew large in my imagination and weighed upon my heart; some unspeakable darkness which connected a big-hearted, conscientious, dutiful young man to the vile devices of a black-hearted murderer.

I took a cab, and in a short while was sitting at my own table, with a late night cup of tea in my hands. Mary sat across from me, wrapped in her dressing gown. It was two-thirty in morning, but my hours had been very irregular since Sherlock and I joined up with Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Mary had awoken at my return … I wondered if she had really been sleeping at all. She did not look it. I reflected on the fact that this situation must be wearing on her. She was well used to there being details of Sherlock’s cases which I could not, in honour and decency, reveal to her. But she was quite unused to me being absent at all hours for days on end, with no explanation given as to my whereabouts or occupation. No reproachful word had passed her lips on that score. And though she frequently questioned me, as though to see how far the ban of secrecy went, she never urged me to break my word to the unknown allies. But she would have been more than woman, or much much less, to maintain complete composure under these circumstances and not suffer greatly from anxiety and curiosity. And I for my part was sorry that I could share nothing of our doings and adventures with her, for my sake as well as her own. I would have greatly liked to hear what she might have to say on the matter. Her quick intuition might possibly see what lay behind Sherlock’s behaviour; perhaps not set my fears at rest, but, like Sherlock himself, shed a light on what was so dark to me. But I kept my word, and more than the table intervened between us.

“I wish I knew what holds you so silent and melancholy, John.” she said, echoing my inmost thoughts. “Is the case going badly?”

“No.” I said, reflecting on the locket which was doubtless undergoing some theoretically destructive procedure that very moment. “I think it’s going very well.”

“But?” she said.

“Well … Sherlock never actually tells me everything that’s going on.”

“Of course he doesn’t, dear. He is Sherlock. Since when is that news? … And since when has it really bothered you?”

I shrugged.

“You’ve been curious about his secret researches for months now. Curious – but not disturbed. If it was merely that Sherlock was being Sherlock and keeping secrets, then you wouldn’t be worried about it one bit. What’s different?”

I sighed. “Well … I’ve never before got the idea that he was keeping a secret, not because he was still trying to form a theory, not because discretion required it, not because he was being dramatic, but because …” I broke off.

“ … Because he’s frightened?” asked Mary quietly.

I looked up in surprise. “What? No. No, no no. More like … deeply concerned.”

“Well that doesn’t sound so unreasonable, or even unusual. He deals in serious matters. It’s more than that.”

“Yes, he’s disturbed. He is disturbed.”

“And you’ve no idea by what? … You can’t tell me?”

“No. I can’t. … I don’t really know myself anyway. But, Mary …” She was the best nurse I had ever known. My medical degree was higher than hers. My knowledge may have been greater. But her instinct was almost always right. And none other had a touch like hers.

But I could not think of how to state the problem without infringing upon the secrets. And I recalled that Harry’s scar was said to be famous among the wizards. Mere mention of his scar might be enough to identify him, and that we were working with him was one of the things we had to keep secret. I could say nothing.

She reached across the table, and laid her hand on mine. Warmth seemed to seep from it through my limbs and mind. Under her sweet gaze – there was such clear and sparkling radiance in the blue depths of her eyes – the turmoil of my imagination calmed somewhat.

“Go to sleep, John. You’ll want to be back at work on this tomorrow. Sleep.”

Chapter 8 ~ Diagon Alley and Queen Anne Street ~>

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 8 – Diagon Alley and Queen Anne Street will be available on May 26th.  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!

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



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Chapter VI ~ Embarkation


It was a surprisingly merry party that was gathered that evening in the large basement kitchen of the old Black mansion. Perhaps it was because it had never had the pretensions of grandeur that the upstairs had, perhaps because it had been more lived in more recently than the rest, but that room seemed a far more human place than the rest of the house. The worn stone flagging and plain wood furnishings were far preferable to the mouldering tapestries and dusty carpets above. And this evening at least the kitchen rang with laughter. Fred and George Weasley seemed to carry a party about with them and would have been heartily welcomed by the three younger teens even if they had not been the bearers of excellent tidings. The knowledge of who had the locket had thrown the trio into a kind of elation. Even Creature was decidedly perky, with a sort of grim cheeriness. I think that he was as pleased as Harry was about this development. Harry may have been thinking about saving the Wizarding World, and Creature only about finishing the work of Master Regulus, but they seemed quite equal in enthusiasm.

Semi-keeping to their plan of secrecy, the trio didn’t tell Fred and George why they needed the locket, and Fred and George didn’t ask. But they were full of plans as to how to go about getting it. Throughout the evening meal all sorts of strategies for infiltrating the Ministry of Magic were postulated. And every possibly applicable fact that the five of them knew about it was bandied about and tossed back and forth. I kept waiting to hear why they needed to infiltrate an occupied government building in order to get the locket … but their reasoning never came out.

Sherlock Holmes was strangely quiet. He ordinarily would have been a very active member of the discussion. Indeed, considering the type of strategies being suggested, he would ordinarily have been the scathing opponent of every person in the room. But tonight, in spite of Fred and George’s attempts to draw him out, he wasn’t. He was watching, very attentively; watching Harry. I, who knew him far better than the teens, saw that he looked at Miss Granger and the three Weasley boys with mere passing glances, chiefly so as not avoid them or seem to stare. But Harry – Harry was scrutinized. The intonation of his words, the directions of his glances, the motions of his hands, the twitches of his mouth, the creasing of his scarred brow … were being studied, compared perhaps. Sherlock was looking for something in the boy’s voice or in his face. And I looked for either success or disappointment in Sherlock’s features. But I saw neither, just suspense; the unresolved expression of uncertainty.

Meanwhile, I listened with amazement, and some alarm, to these further descriptions of the Wizarding world that were coming out in their conversation. They, especially Fred and George, went to some effort to make sure that everything was explained, and ‘the muggle healer’ was not left behind in complete confusion. Those two were almost impossible not to like. And a good thing it was too. For they had a delight in joking – especially practical – which left Sherlock’s own bouts of impishness seeming infrequent and quite tame. A running number of jokes and a few tricks went on through supper. I was not the chief victim but I did get something of a shock when what I mistook for my goblet suddenly writhed in my hand like a snake before falling to the table in the character of a wand. Fred took it back with a wink, and replaced it with the real goblet.

I looked at the cup with suspicion and picked it up carefully. As I did so I said:

“Maybe I’m missing something here, but why do we need to infiltrate the Ministry at all? Why not see if she’s willing to sell it? Buying something back from a thief is a bit irritating, but it might be the easiest and safest way to go about it. Do we know where she lives?”

“No.” said Miss Granger.

“But I bet we could find out!” said George.

“Yeah, but we’re not going to buy it from that old toad!” exclaimed Fred.

“Well, whether that works or not … I don’t see why we need to bother about the Ministry at all. A piece of jewellery – if she isn’t currently wearing it it’ll be at her home, not in her office. Won’t it? … Sherlock?”

He looked up.

“What do you think?” I asked.

“Oh.” said he, as if this were a change of subject. “We should try her house obviously. But I don’t recommend that we try to buy it. That would draw too much attention to it, and beg the question of how we even knew she had it. Mr. Weasley and Mr. Weasley, if you could find out Ms. Umbridge’s address…?”

They looked to Harry.

“Yeah.” said Harry. “I’d appreciate it. But try and not let anybody …”

“Yep. Will do, Harry.”

Eventually they left, with promises to call back the moment they found the location of the old witch’s house. The front door slammed.

“Is it really necessary to destroy the safeguards?”

We all looked at Sherlock in surprise. Harry looked actually alarmed.

“Mr. Holmes, we already told you it’s impossible to actually get rid of him until we do! We absolutely have to.”

“And if we try anyway, we’re just setting a time bomb!” said Miss Granger. “Who knows where and how he’ll re-emerge next time.”

“Yes, yes. I didn’t mean that. I meant, maybe we’re operating under an unnecessary restriction. I know you have insisted that a confrontation with Riddle is highly unlikely to end in him being taken alive, and I agree that no ordinary prison could be expected to contain him. But by treating these difficulties as insurmountable, we may be cutting off the simplest, the quickest, and the surest method of handling the situation. Riddle being alive is not the real problem. Riddle being free to pursue world domination is the problem. If he were to be captured, and locked away with extreme precautions, using Wizarding as well as Muggle technology to keep him in place, with his entire organisation dismantled, the problem would be solved.”

“No it wouldn’t.” said Miss Granger. “Disarming a wizard like Voldemort would not get rid of’ his power. And if any of the Death Eaters survived, and knew that Voldemort …”

“Hey!” interrupted Ron. “Do we have to say the name?”

She sighed. “Ronald, fear of a name…”

“Yeah, I know, but…”

“Actually, I agree with Ron.” said Sherlock.

“You … You do?” said Miss Granger.

“Yes. His name is Thomas Riddle. Isn’t it?”

“Yes, Tom Marvolo Riddle.”

“And ‘Lord Voldemort’ is a self given title, is it not?”

“Yes.”

“Well then.” said Sherlock, as if this settled the matter. “‘Riddle’ is a perfectly serviceable name.”

“Mr. Holmes is right.” said Harry. “Dumbledore did the same.”

“Did he?” asked Sherlock.

“Well, he usually referred to him as Voldemort, since most people actually don’t know his name was Riddle. But when he spoke to him, he called him Tom.”

“Well, then.” said Miss Granger. “If any of the Death Eaters survived, and knew that Riddle had survived, they would be after him right away. He can summon them at any time you know, through the brands on their arms.”

“Can they contact him in the same manner?”

“Yes.”

“Interesting.”

“But, Mr. Holmes, if a team goes against Voldemort without even the option of using lethal force, not only is their task made horribly unlikely to succeed, but if on the small, small chance that it does – the battle’s not over … merely postponed. And that’s not what we set out to do. I thought that was clear.”

“You were indeed perfectly clear, Miss Granger. I was not confused as to the goal, merely doubting the wisdom of it.”

Why?” asked Harry.

Sherlock paused.

“I’m not convinced that destroying all the horcruxes is a very … efficient way of fighting this war. … Time is of value. People might die who otherwise might not …”

“More will die down the road!” exclaimed Harry. “And anyway, I don’t see what time has to do with it. Nothing could end this quicker than Riddle’s death. It’s not like this is a muggle revolution or something. A lot of how he has the Ministry under his control is with mind control spells. When he dies those will end. And without him, the Death Eaters will fall to pieces. He’s not just ‘the leader’ of this movement. He is the movement. While he lives, it lives.”

Sherlock nodded slowly.

“You are completely resolved on this point then?”

“Yes.”

“You will consider no options other than that of fulfilling the mission that Dumbledore gave you to the letter and completely destroying Tom Riddle’s safeguards?”

“No. Absolutely not.”

“Even if it turns out to be more difficult than you expected. Even if it costs lives that shouldn’t be lost. Even if it costs your life, Harry. Would you still choose Riddle’s death over his capture? Answer me honestly, as if the choice were before you now. I want to help you. But I have to know what helping you actually means. I want to destroy Riddle. But I need to be certain of how we are going about it. This is an ugly business, a much uglier business than I had at first supposed. There would be little point in destroying any of the horcruxes if we do not plan to destroy them all. And it would certainly be a waste of time to change plans half-way though. But it would be the height of foolishness to not realize how very very dark this may get. So answer my question quite seriously, Harry, I need to know. … Would you still choose Riddle’s death over his capture?”

Yes.” said Harry, who seemed indignant that there could be any doubt on this matter. “Of course I would. You act like I’ve never thought this through, that I don’t know what I’m getting into. Well I do. I know how this may end. And I’ve got to kill Vol– Tom Riddle!”

Sherlock looked away, for a minute he seemed lost in thought; staring over his tightly folded hands into the empty fireplace with a dark and furrowed brow. Then he spoke again, and his attitude had changed. His unusual manner towards Harry remained the same, but the quiet almost brooding thinker of dinner was gone. He was again the man of action.

“If that is indeed our plan then we cannot afford to waste a moment of time.” he said. “We cannot proceed any further in getting the locket until we have Ms. Umbridge’s address. As soon as we have it we must send a reconnaissance mission. But until then our attention must be turned to the fifth safeguard – for the time being, let us assume that the sixth is in the Room of Requirement in Hogwarts. I cannot see any place to hide the fifth quite as obvious as that or the Gaunt house. It may well be hidden in some obscure place such as that cave. Miss Granger?”

“Yes?”

“I believe you are our most knowledgeable Wizarding historian and not averse to research. We know that Riddle has hidden a horcrux in a place where he committed foul deeds. He may well have done so again. We need to know a great deal more about Riddle’s individual crimes. To search the site of every serious crime he committed would no doubt be an infeasibly immense and unnecessary task, but knowing what crimes he has committed, where he committed them, and against whom, may very well reveal as obvious a place which we would never otherwise consider. Everything that you do know on this subject, compile. What you do not know, find out. You may officially be in hiding but surely there are still ways of doing research. I doubt libraries will be so very greatly restricted. And there are of course still knowledgeable people whom you can trust.”

“Yes, of course. A complete record of his crimes is probably impossible to work up. But I’ll see what I can do.”

“Good. I would also like to consider the possibility of important historical Wizarding sites, especially if there are any connected with his family.”

Or just connected to the house of Slytherin.” added Harry.

“Yes. And in the meanwhile, I think we should consider who he may have hidden it with.”

“I can’t think of anybody I didn’t mention last night.” said Harry.

“You gave me a list.” said Sherlock, drawing from his pocket a scrap of notepaper. “I would like to go back over that list and refine it a bit.”

“Well,” said Harry, with the attitude of facing an unpleasant task, “all right then. Go back over it. I’ll answer any questions I can.”

Sherlock laid the paper down on the table. “I think we can rule out any Death Eaters who have joined the ranks only this time around. Even if he had to re-hide a horcrux upon his return, he would likely choose an older ally.” He pushed the paper across the table to Harry. “Are there any here who have joined only recently?”

“I don’t know about Rowle and the Carrows. But the others are all old Death Eaters.”

“Before we go on, is there anyone you would add to that list?”

“No, I can’t think of anyone.”

Sherlock pulled the paper back, marking it as he spoke again.

“We need to compare these to Lucius Malfoy. You are rather well acquainted with him I gather. You must have witnessed Riddle’s reunion with the Death Eaters three years ago, since it would have happened between the time of your capture and your escape, and you spoke as though you were present at the scene of action the whole time.”

“I was, and yes, I saw it.” replied Harry.

I need not here record everything that was said that evening. Sherlock questioned Harry minutely on everything which related to the Death Eaters as individuals. Every tangled recollection that the boy could bring to mind was gone over. What Riddle had said to them that terrible night he had regenerated. What they had said and done during the fight in research facility of the Ministry of Magic. Bits of trials Harry had seen records of. Musings of Dumbledore.

The name that came to the forefront was Lestrange. Not specifically because of Harry’s intense (though understandable) hatred for Bellatrix, his godfather’s killer. But because she and her husband fitted all the qualifications which we could come up with very well indeed. The Lestrange family had been a part of the Death Eater movement since it was little more than a school club. Bellatrix was the most verbally supportive and admiring of all of Riddle’s followers whom Harry had heard speak; obsessive infatuation might be a better way of describing it. She and her husband were among the Death Eaters who had gone to prison for the duration of Riddle’s absence. Harry remembered that Riddle had specifically mentioned them in his speech upon returning – they alone among the many who were imprisoned. He had spoken of honouring them in some fashion. Among those who were actually present that night he had singled out Malfoy … as if he of all people should have proved truer. Therefore Sherlock argued that Malfoy’s peer in Riddle’s mind was not among that company. And of the others, the Lestranges were held in highest regard. Therefore, at the top of the new list Sherlock was working up, went the Lestranges.

Where the Lestranges (or any other Death Eaters for that matter) might keep so important an item was also delved into. Since the Lestranges had not occupied their house for sixteen years, it seemed unlikely that it would be there. So Sherlock asked the obvious question – In the British Wizarding world, in what fashion is it considered safest to store a highly valuable item?

The unequivocal answer? Gringotts, the Wizards’ Bank … or Hogwarts School.

“And those are the places we need to break into.” sighed Ron, with a gesture of resignation. “All right, are we going to have to break into every bloody Death Eater vault, or just the Lestranges’?”

“We may not need to break into Gringotts at all.” said Sherlock. “It is an obvious hiding place, true. It is too obvious. Even assuming that the cup is being held by one of the Death Eaters – which, while highly plausible, we do not know for certain – they might well decide against putting it in the bank on that very account. And even if they neglected this important point, I presume that a wanted criminal could not just stroll into the bank and make a deposit in their account.”

“Of course not.” said Miss Granger.

“Then surely it could only be put in either long ago, before the depositor was known to be a Death Eater, or very recently since Riddle’s take-over of the Ministry.”

“He made the cup at least into a horcrux long ago.” said Harry.

“Yes. But if he chose to entrust it to a new keeper recently – which he might do for a number of reasons, such as the death of the first keeper – then the first chance for the new keeper to have deposited it in the bank is today.”

A rather sinking look fell over the faces of the trio.

“I hadn’t thought about multiple hiding places.” said Harry.

“I doubt we’ll have to deal with many of them.” said Sherlock. “The notion that one may have been re-hidden was suggested to me by the fact that we ruled out all late Death Eaters, simply by virtue of their being dead. But what if one of them had indeed been entrusted with a horcux? Riddle would most probably find another keeper or hiding place. I find it rather curious that when you spoke of him speaking of honouring the Lestranges, you implied that he spoke of doing them an honour in the future tense. Is this in fact how Riddle himself said it?”

“Yes, I think so.”

“Considering Riddle’s level of self-esteem, and the other indicators which place the Lestranges so high on the candidate list, this is highly suggestive. I very much wonder, Harry, if he may not have been cryptically announcing his intention to trust them with … that piece of his soul.”

I gave Sherlock an astounded look. I don’t think he noticed.

Harry gave Sherlock an astounded look.

“I didn’t think you’d bought that explanation, Mr. Holmes.” he said, displaying greater perception than I had expected of him.

Sherlock’s face was unreadable.

“I haven’t the faintest idea how it works.” he said. “Those were your words. I should very much like to know how it really works. It would be most useful. As it is, I have to go on whatever information is available. Those are simply the terms you used. At present I have no better.”

“Oh!” said Miss Granger, and dove for her little beaded hand-bag. “I should have thought of it before. I’ve already read everything it has to say on the subject of course. But you may get things out of it that I didn’t, and anyway …” She pulled out an ancient leather-bound tome, which was considerably larger than the bag itself. A rather apologetic look came over her face as she took it in both hands. “It was at Hogwarts, in Dumbledore’s study. I took it after I learned we had to go hunting horcruxes, and I wanted to know anything about them which might be useful. … I think it may be where Riddle learned how to … make them.” She looked at it with something like disgust to the point of fear, and gingerly handed it over to Sherlock.

He took it carefully; it looked as if it was going to fall apart at any moment. ‘Secrets of the Darkest Art’ was emblazoned across the front in peeling letters.

“It’s awful, I mean, that book.” she said, seeming at something of a loss for words to convey its true dreadfulness. “Full of all the very worst …” she shuddered. Ron patted her hand.

“I see.” said Sherlock, who was starting to leaf through it, quite probably meaning the words literally. I suddenly found that I wanted few things so little as to have to touch that book.

“Yes. Thank-you, Miss Granger. I shall look through this very carefully.”

“Well, about the Lestranges” said Harry, “you think that they might have gotten the cup just recently?”

“I am inclined to think it a probable possibility that Mr. and Mrs. Lestrange were given the cup to look after shortly following their escape from Azkaban Prison. The question regards the bank is, whether they would transfer the cup to it from whatever hiding place it has been in until now, and if yes, when?”

“Knowing Bellatrix,” said Harry, “she would. And she’d do it the first possible moment. If Riddle gave something to her to look after, it would probably reach a point of near obsession. And Riddle might actually direct her to put it in there himself. He never had a Gringott’s vault himself, and might really want to have some kind of ownership of one.”

“So you consider Gringott’s a place that would attract him on its own merits, apart from being an extremely likely place for a wizard to store a valuable item?”

“Yeah, I kind of do.” said Harry. “It’s an aspect of the Wizarding world he’s never had access to.”

Sherlock leaned back in his chair and casually remarked in the direction of the ceiling that:

“Under a rock in some random valley of the Grampian Mountains would make much more sense.”

“Is there any way we can keep an eye on the bank to see if either of the Lestranges goes in?” I asked.

“We could try to post someone on it.” said Ron. “But that’d be pretty difficult.”

“I was thinking more along the lines of a hidden security camera.”

“I know what a camera is, but …”

“No, that might work.” said Miss Granger. “The problem is, electronic devices tend to have a hard time working when there’s too much magic around. They won’t function at all in Hogwarts.”

“Is Gringotts perhaps easier than Hogwarts?” I asked. “Perhaps we could find some way to shield it.”

“Maybe. I’ve never tried to use muggle technology in Diagon Alley.” she said.

“Diagon Alley is the street the bank’s on?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I’ve got a phone, here.” I said, taking it out. “It turns on, but it won’t actually make a call. How much more difficult would Diagon Alley be than this place?”

“I don’t know.”

“Oh, between the two of us I should think that we could make it work, Miss Granger.” said Sherlock. “Keeping an eye on the bank is a good idea. And I should like to get a look at Borgin & Burke’s. The bank – in spite of its rather suspicious obviousness – would still be a better hiding place than a shop, but it would be as well to check both. A reconnaissance trip before attempting burglary is always a good idea. It is only ten twenty, a rather ideal time since people will still be up, but it is fully dark. None of you need rest before we go out? … John, Mary knows you may be out late tonight?”

The entrance to Diagon Alley turned out to be – like so many Wizarding things – invisible to certain eyes. I certainly could see nothing in between the book shop and the music shop which the trio pointed out on Charing Cross Road. Yet they could, and told me that there was in fact a whole inn between them, ‘The Leaky Cauldron’.

“I wonder what it’s like now.” mused Ron gloomily. “With the Death Eaters in charge of the Ministry and all.”

“Shops have been closing and people going missing for years now.” said Harry. “I suppose it will just be more of the same, just worse.”

“Do you know the official Wizarding news line?” asked Sherlock.

“Unfortunately not.” said Miss Granger. “Which could be bad. Let’s just, try not to have to say anything to anyone.”

“What is there to keep us from apparating into it, instead of going through the inn? Does it have shielding like the Black house does?”

“I don’t think so. If it does I’ve never come across a mention of it anywhere. But the sound would draw attention to us. … I mean, I’m sure most of the buildings have shielding. We’d do better to just go in ordinarily.”

Ordinary did not seem to describe it to me. Not a one of us was to just walk in. Miss Granger and Ron disguised themselves somewhat, glasses and fakes beards, et cetera. Harry had his beautiful invisibility cloak. When not being worn, it looked as though he was carrying a silent, starlit rivulet over his arm. But when he swung it over his shoulders, it disappeared, and he with it. Miss Granger suggested that it would be best if I got under it with him (she said she could do a ‘disillusionment charm’ on me, but that would only chameleonize me – not nearly so good as becoming invisible) and a piece of the night flapped back to reveal a glimpse of a red T-shirt and a smiling face. The cloak was silken to the touch, fluid, and light almost as a mist. It was quite roomy. Once underneath it, I could could see through it very clearly, much more clearly than through most light fabrics.

Sherlock, Miss Granger thought, would be all right. He was well able to act a part, and knew enough to know what he was acting. But she did insist on an alteration in his clothing. The basic and ordinary attire of a shirt and trousers was not common Wizarding garb. Such clothes were sometimes worn by children, but almost never by adults unless they were trying to pass as muggles. A dark blue linen robe belonging to Ron (drawn from her amazing bag) was added to Sherlock’s costume. She also insisted that he wear a hat. Grown-up wizards almost always wore hats when they were out and about. When she pulled it out of her amazing hand-bag I laughed. Sherlock did not. It was nothing that he would ever have chosen to wear himself – tall, conical, brimmed, and of pale purple. But he could hardly argue with her on matters of Wizarding fashion, she and Ron both wore hats of a similar make, so he reluctantly consented to wear the thing – gold tassels and all.

Thus hidden and apparelled, we left the alleyway and walked to the Leaky Cauldron. As we approached it, Miss Granger turned around and told Sherlock: “Don’t do that, Mr. Holmes. You’re going to hurt yourself. You can’t see it.” And indeed the faces of extreme concentration he had been making in an effort to overcome the illusion did look rather painful. We had to close our eyes and follow the trio in, as with the Black house.

Diagon Alley was the main avenue of an ancient, hidden corner of the city. Not a hundred yards from where the lorries and electric lights of Charing Cross Road roared over concrete and glittered out of the high buildings, gaslights and torches shone on a broad cobbled street, empty save for a few pedestrians in garb which could have almost been medieval. Smaller side streets branched off from it. It seemed to me that to hide so large an area from general notice (we have satellites in orbit!) they must have been using some form of spacial distortion, or manipulation.

It seemed a terribly depressing sort of place to me. It was too dark to see much, but an aura of gloom and fear hung over it. The streets were almost completely empty, but the few people we saw hurried along as if they feared someone was after them. A great many of the shops seemed abandoned; some were smashed up. The effect on me was merely depressing. I gathered that it was a good deal worse for the trio. For they had loved this place. It wasn’t just a gangster we were fighting, nor even a plain terrorist. It was a conquering dictator. A reign of terror had been set up in England, and here, in the very heart of London, people were entrapped by it.

If Sherlock Holmes had got his way, we would that night have not only bugged the bank and scouted-out the shop we intended to burgle, but would have also gone and investigated the houses of the Lestranges, the Dolohovs, the Traverses, and the Averys, which he hoped would be currently unoccupied, for any information which might suggest that they had been the keeper of a horcrux. Unfortunately for that plan, the Wizarding world did not seem to have such a thing as as an internet white pages site, and the trio had no idea where these houses might be, whether they were in London, Dover, or the far reaches of Hebrides. Therefore, besides sending a message to the twins to ask Mr. Weasley Senior (who worked in a small capacity in the Ministry of Magic) about them and to send a note to one ‘Kingsley Shacklebolt’, who Miss Granger thought would know a great deal about Riddle’s crimes, there was nothing more that we could do that night.

Sherlock and I set off for home earlier than I expected, which after yesterday was welcome. Our paths lay together for a while. For a few minutes we walked mostly in silence. Then I broached the topic which was nagging me.

“You asked Harry’s permission tonight. … His permission to continue searching for and to destroy Riddle’s safeguards.”

Sherlock Holmes kept walking. I might not have said anything.

“You never ask permission for things like that. … You do for other things, ‘can I come in?’ ‘can I see this?’ … But never if you can …” I broke off, not even sure what word to use at this point.

After a minute, he replied.

“You mistake me, John. We are strategizing with them. It would not do for us to be at cross-purposes. I was verifying what strategy we are going to be acting on.”

“No you weren’t. This strategy was their idea. You knew this was what they wanted to do. But for some reason you thought you had to ask their – ask Harry’s – permission to continue. To continue no matter what happens.”

“Not no matter what happens.” said Sherlock a bit irritably, and clammed up for the rest of the journey.

Chapter 7 ~ The Darkness Thickens ~>

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 7 – The Darkness Thickens will be available on May 19th.  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!