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



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Chapter IV ~ The Story of Severus Snape


When I awoke the room was filled with daylight. I took in the dreary, magnificent, dusty room, slowly comprehending that the strange events of the night before had not been a bizarre dream after all. Then I saw that the chair beside the empty fireplace was empty. A glance around the room revealed Ron and Miss Granger still sleeping amongst the blankets and cushions on the floor. But both Sherlock Holmes and Harry Potter were gone.

I left the parlour in search of them, out into the dusty corridors. The house looked different in the daylight, still lonely, ugly, and forsaken, but there was less menace in it. It had become just an ill-kept, ugly old London house.

I was not searching long. I had only left the parlour behind me moments before when I heard Sherlock’s voice, and turned to see him striding towards me. There was a brisk cheeriness in his manner and I deduced that he had been spending his time profitably.

“Good Morning, John.” he said.

“Do you know where Harry is?” I asked.

“He’s upstairs in his godfather’s room, poring over an old letter his mother wrote.”

“Been exploring the house this morning?”

“Oh, yes.” he said, looking oh so pleased with himself. Then, as if he had a secret just too delightful not to share with somebody he turned to me and said:

“Severus Snape never defected to Riddle.”

“Severus Snape? The professor who murdered the headmaster?”

“The same.” replied Sherlock.

“How do you figure that? Was it not he who murdered Dumbledore after all?”

“Oh, no. He killed him. That much seems to be indisputable.”

“Then, how do you get to the conclusion that the man who murdered an important counter-Riddle figure …”

“Ah, not an important counter-Riddle figure, say rather, chief in the resistance against him.”

“All right. So how do you get to the conclusion that the man who murdered the chief of the resistance against Riddle, and has now openly aligned himself with Riddle, isn’t actually working for Riddle?”

“My suspicions were first aroused when we entered the house. I was rather appalled, as you may have noticed, by the young people’s suggestion that those preposterous booby-traps downstairs would keep anyone out of the house, especially a seasoned murderer well-used to the tricks and illusions of the British Wizarding world. Yet we encountered no traps, and the house was quite clearly abandoned. Miss Granger tells me that this house is under an illusion, which only people who have been shown by the illusion’s ‘secret keeper’ can see through. Snape is obviously not the secret keeper. So it is true he cannot tell the other Death Eaters how to get in. But I can see nothing to stop he himself, should he desire entry. Nor would anything prevent him from leading them in as if they were inanimate objects … as the three in fact did with us last night.”

“That’s why you wanted my pistol.”

“I thought it as well that the one conscious person should have the weapon. Still, this was a mere precaution. Since no attempt had been made to set a trap for Harry, and no one was stationed here to wait for him, and no one had tried to enter for all those hours to check in on the place, it did not seem to me likely that an attempt was going to be made. This has indeed proved to be the case – fortunately, since one gun would not likely be a match for an entire war party.

“As soon as the sun was up, I set out to discover who has been here recently. To bring you up to speed, in case you had wondered why they would bother to try and set up defences against Snape in a house which generally stands empty – until recently, it hasn’t been empty. You may recall a reference or two last night to ‘The Order’. This appears to be an organization devoted to defence against Riddle. They used this place as a base for a number of years. Harry has avoided speaking directly of this Order, so I have been left picking up hints to flesh out their occasional references. But it seems clear that Snape was a member and they abandoned this place two months ago when he appeared to turn traitor.

“Unfortunately, I did not take the time to look for recent visitors before we all came in last night. The entrance hall was fairly hopeless. But since we had all come straight up to the parlour, it was simple enough to see where any other traces broke off from our path. One person besides us seems to have been here recently, probably within the week. A tall man, with large feet, and large hands too, I should think. He came in and went straight upstairs. His advancing and returning tracks were side by side and sometimes superimposed, so I tracked him back down at the same time as I tracked him up. They led me to the old bedroom of Harry’s late godfather. Once in the room, things became rather more confused, but it is clear that the tall unknown searched the room, chiefly Sirius’s papers. … That letter from his mother that Harry’s reading, from Lily Evans Potter – it’s only one page, the first. The rest is missing.”

“Surely the other page was just lost, she’s been dead for sixteen years.”

“So I should think too, if it wasn’t for the photograph.”

“What photograph?”

“The photograph that accompanied the letter; a picture of the one-year old Harry playing with the toy that Lily was thanking Sirius for. Half of it is missing as well. It has been torn in two – recently. Deliberately. And very carefully. It was neither an accident nor malice, it was a purposeful separation of something that the intruder wanted to keep, from something that he didn’t. The half I found, thrown heedlessly on the floor, had Harry and his father James in it. Whoever came up there took the other half, which clearly contained something he thought important. Now, from the contents of the letter I know that the Potters were at the time in hiding from Riddle – who was actively hunting them. And hence, they had few visitors. Lily mentions the names of their recent visitors; Bathilda Bagshot, an elderly neighbour, and one ‘Wormy’, who I learned from Harry was a school friend who shortly thereafter betrayed their hiding place to Riddle. So the number of people who could have been in that photograph is very limited. I think it safe to say that the intruder was not likely to have taken a picture of their cat or an inanimate object. That leaves the neighbour, the traitor, and Lily. ‘Wormy’, better known as Pettigrew, and Ms. Bagshot are still alive. Ms. Bagshot is a well-known Wizarding historian, and her photographs and writings would not be difficult to come by. Pettigrew is one of the Death Eaters. Why would the intruder come up here to search for memoranda of him? If they were a Death Eater, they would probably be working with him already. And if they were not, why would they want anything to do with him? So that leaves us just Lily Potter. And it would in any case match the tone of the remainder of the photograph. It was picture of a child playing with his parents. The intruder tore Harry and James out of Lily’s picture. This is significant. If he had merely wanted the picture of Lily, there would be no great reason for him to tear her husband and child out of the picture. But he did. So he not only wanted the picture of Lily, he vehemently didn’t want the picture of her family.

“So. A man broke into a house to get a picture of a woman. There is an attachment there. The woman has been dead for sixteen years. A strong attachment. He tore away the image of the man she chose and the child that came of their union. Rivalry, bitter rivalry. The second page of a letter she wrote is also missing. She has, by the by, quite remarkable handwriting. I should judge Lily Evans Potter likely to have been a woman of an exceptional nature. Under the circumstances, the fact that half of the letter is also gone seems unlikely to be a coincidence. The first page was doubtless left for the same reason that the photograph was torn in two; it was filled with her husband and child – they seem to have been a happy family. What is on the last page of a letter? A signature. And considering the tone of the letter, a very warm farewell; ‘Love, Lily’. He took it, just as he did her photograph. The man who broke in here once had a romantic passion for Lily Potter, and, all these years after her death, he still does.

“So who was he? This tall man with large hands and feet, who can get into this house, knows this house well enough to know exactly where he was going, and broke in to search for memorabilia of Lily Potter? Most likely, due both to his entrance and his knowledge of the house, he is an Order member. Now, Harry Potter, who was so very reluctant to let us in on the secret of Riddle’s safeguards last night, practically leaped at the opportunity to tell someone of the multifarious villainies of his most hated professor, and gladly answered my questions about it. He was up rather early, and so I have spent the last several hours hearing a very heated and fortunately detailed account of all the known doings of Professor Severus Snape.

“Physically, Snape matches our unknown intruder, and since he was an Order member he can get in. He has been here many times with the other Order members without taking the photograph before, so presumably he didn’t want anyone to see him go up to Sirius’ room or ask him what he was doing there. He had and has a passion for Lily, but he doesn’t want anyone to find out about it. It is a secret passion. Since Harry was avoiding telling me very much about this Order or its members, it is impossible to completely rule out it being some other Order member who sneaked into headquarters recently. But there is enough evidence in favour of it being Snape (who, by the way, is the exact same age as James and Lily would have been, and knew them both as children) that we’ll take it as a working hypothesis. Now, that Severus Snape, in all probability, harbours a secret passion for Lily Potter in itself proves nothing. But it does at least suggest that the man who murdered her, Riddle, might not be well advised to trust him completely.”

“If it was Snape who broke in here.” I said. “Is this whole theory based on the man’s shoe size?”

“And his height, and the cut of the robes he normally wears, and the shape of his hands, and I’m not finished yet. That is just the circumstantial evidence I found in this house. Harry told me a great deal more than what he looks like.”

“He told you more about the murder?”

“Precisely.”

“And you agree that he did kill Dumbledore?”

“Yes, that much is cut and dried fact. Harry was there, and he saw the whole matter.”

“Harry was there? It seems that Harry is always there. And if he was there, then why wasn’t he murdered too?”

“There you have hit upon the precise point that Harry does not see! … Although, during the murder itself Harry was both wearing his invisibility cloak and paralysed. But listen. Maybe you can see an excuse for Snape’s behaviour other than the one which seems obvious to me.

“Severus Snape has been acting as a spy not just since Riddle’s regeneration three years ago, but also before his first downfall. The question has never in fact been whether or not Snape is a spy – but which party he was actually spying for. If Riddle had ever thought Snape was not completely loyal to him, he would have killed him. But Dumbledore also trusted Snape’s loyalty. He defended him to Harry again and again. Offered explanations on Snape’s behalf. It was Dumbledore who kept Snape out of prison after Riddle’s first downfall.”

“They thought that he had been a double agent?”

“Not precisely. He really had been a Death Eater for a while, on his own admission. The question was whether his supposed repentance and subsequent undercover work against Riddle were legitimate or not. It was on Dumbledore’s word that he was acquitted.”

“Dumbledore let a Death Eater teach children?”

“That shows you how complete his confidence in Snape’s reformation was. When Riddle came back, he sent Snape to him; thereby re-starting the old double spying situation, which lasted until this June. If he’d had any doubt of Snape’s inclinations, he would not have exposed him to that temptation. And if he’d had any doubt of his total reliability, he would not have willingly opened that avenue for him. Now, throughout the whole of last year Harry had been concerned that one of the students – Draco Malfoy, the son of Lucius who was given the diary – had been given some kind of assignment by Riddle within the school. He was further convinced that Snape knew about this mission, and was trying to help Draco with it. He had spoken to Dumbledore of his concerns, but Dumbledore – not particularly helpfully – just told him that everything was under control and he shouldn’t worry about it.

“The night that Dumbledore was murdered, he and Harry had been out of the school, this was the night they found Regulus’ locket in that cave. They returned, with Dumbledore badly hurt, to find the Death Eater’s calling card in the air over the school. They were on one of the tower-tops, and Dumbledore had just sent Harry to go and fetch Snape, when Draco came onto the top. Draco is a seventeen year old boy. Rather than casually disarming him, and telling him to behave himself, Dumbledore took the time to paralyse Harry instead. This allowed Draco the time to disarm Dumbledore. So, Draco was left on the roof, with a frozen and invisible Harry, and an injured and unarmed Dumbledore, and he revealed that he was under orders from Riddle to kill Dumbledore. But he did not in fact kill anyone. He hemmed and hawed and didn’t act, until a group of adult Death Eaters joined them. The Death Eaters then proceeded to argue about whether they could kill Dumbledore, or whether Draco had to. None of them noticed Harry. Last of all, Snape came up. The Death Eaters received him as one of them, with casual questions as to how to proceed with Draco being so nervous. Without saying a word, Snape shot Dumbledore. Then he shooed everybody off the tower, saying it was time to retreat. Thus far, it looks as if Dumbledore had just been wrong all those years. But – Harry followed the retreating Death Eaters.”

“Alone?”

“Yes. When Dumbledore died, he unfroze. He ran out into the grounds after a group of full grown enemy fighters by himself. It appears he was in a rage which over-rode his desire for self-preservation. He ran out, and he caught up with them.”

“And he wasn’t captured?”

“No.”

“And none of the teachers or even any of the other children followed him out and helped him?”

“No they didn’t.”

“So, you’re saying that this group of gangsters had this kid who Riddle’s been after for seventeen years right in their hands and didn’t even try to kill or capture him?”

“See! You see. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to Harry though! He caught up with them, and attacked Snape. … And Snape blocked him.”

Blocked him?”

“Blocked him; while criticizing the lack of skill in the blows. Eventually he wound up knocking Harry down. When one of the other Death Eaters tried to torture Harry … Snape stopped them. He told them that Harry ‘belonged to the dark lord’, and that they should leave him.”

“Wait a minute – Riddle’s been trying to kill Harry since he was an infant – right?”

“Yes. He has. That it should have been Riddle’s idea for a whole group of his fighters to have had the boy in their hands and let him go, not only not kill him – but not capture him either … and even object to him being injured … is not credible. But if those were not Riddle’s orders, then Dumbledore’s killer turned right around and protected Harry Potter – the great symbolic enemy of Riddle. So, why should Riddle’s servant, who has, remember, just killed the man who has supported and trusted him for years, take a risk like that for Harry? It wasn’t personal affection for this particular student. He can’t stand Harry. Even Dumbledore admitted that Snape has an unreasoned and unreasonable hatred of him (as did our recent visitor). But he protected him anyway. Doesn’t that strike of duty?”

I had to admit that it rather did.

“And if we look back at certain previous incidents, we see a similar theme. Snape saved Harry’s life in his first year of school.”

“Did he?”

“Yes. Harry, whatever may be lacking in his ability to put two and two together, seems to have always been a vigilant and concerned boy. In his first year at Hogwarts, he became convinced that one of the teachers was trying to steal a valuable device Dumbledore was keeping hidden in Hogwarts and use it to help Riddle regenerate, and was trying to murder him, Harry, while they were at it. He was later proved to have been correct. But he was wrong in thinking it to be Snape. It was another teacher. Snape turned out to have been working to prevent this other teacher from stealing anything or killing anyone. It seems, since Harry would certainly have denied it if he possibly could have, that this was proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

“But Riddle hadn’t regenerated yet, so Snape was acting alone, and so from this incident by itself one could just say that he was just working within a different paradigm at that point, one in which it only made sense uphold the law. Though why he should go to greater effort than the other teachers to uphold the law, which he did, without actually caring about the matter itself, would still be in question. But in any case, the incident is not on its own. Last night, Harry didn’t go into much detail on what exactly happened the night that his godfather Sirius died. This morning he did. He partially blames Snape for Sirius’ death. Shortly before the incident Snape had been taunting Sirius, with whom he seems to have had an old feud, about how useless he was. Harry feels that the taunts may have encouraged Sirius to take undue risks. But far more important – You remember that Sirius was killed by Bellatrix Lestrange when he came with a team to rescue Harry and some friends from the Death Eaters?”

“Of course.”

“But last night Harry didn’t explain how ‘the Order’ knew where he was, or even how they knew he was in trouble. I only got it out of him this morning by listening to a whole lot of ranting mixed in with it. But, despite the vituperations with which it was surrounded, the fact remains. Snape alerted them. … Snape realized that Harry and his closest friends were missing at dinner. He remembered a commotion that Harry had made earlier in the day which suggested to him where they might have gone. And he sent a message to London that he suspected that Harry Potter had been lured to an important Wizarding research facility and was probably under attack there. The Order went in, took the Death Eaters by surprise, beat them soundly, rescued Harry, and took several Death Eaters captive, including Lucius Malfoy. … If Snape was in fact spying for Riddle at that point, he was doing a very bad job.”

“Well, obviously, if he sent out the Order against Death Eaters when the Death Eaters were outnumbered and not expecting it … he can hardly have been really working for Riddle at the time.”

“Obviously. It simply won’t work. It was Snape who thwarted whatever Riddle’s plans were that day. So far as I have been able to discern, he was the only person even in a position to do so. It would have been very easy for him to just ignore the issue and feign ignorance – no one would have ever been the wiser. In which case, his supposed master would have gotten whatever it was he was looking for at the facility (Harry wasn’t very clear on what this was) and Harry himself – the symbol of the resistance – would have been taken or killed. From the point of view that Snape was really working for Riddle, his actual actions makes no sense at all. Even individually, each of these incidents make a very strong case. Unified, they seem indisputable.”

“Then why did he murder Dumbledore?”

“I don’t know.” mused Sherlock. “He certainly isn’t a very nice person. Perhaps, finding himself stuck with all those Death Eaters on the tower, he decided that his own position as spy was more important to the anti-Riddle effort than Dumbledore’s life, and so, being quite unscrupulous, sacrificed him to strengthen his position.”

“Then why is Harry so much more important than Dumbledore? Strictly speaking, from a strategic standpoint, the experienced, far more knowledgeable leader of the Order looks more necessary to the war effort – yet he died and Harry didn’t.”

“Yes, well, I haven’t told you the supposed reason why Snape left Riddle in the first place.”

“Why?”

“Snape – while still genuinely a Death Eater – told Riddle about a prediction he had overheard some self-proclaimed ‘seer’ make. It predicted the coming of one ‘with the power to vanquish the dark lord’ or some such nonsense. Riddle, being the superstitious moron that he is, took this quite seriously and started hunting the boy who he believed it referred to – Harry.”

It took me a moment to digest this.

“Harry’s been hunted since infancy because of a fortune-teller?!”

“Yes.”

It seemed preposterous to me that, in this day and age, anyone could take such a thing seriously. That someone could be in real danger because of such a prediction struck me as so improbable as to be almost comedic … except for the fact that Sherlock was quite seriously attributing the death of a young couple and the kidnapping, torture, and repeated attempted murder of their son to it.

“Are they really that superstitious? Or is Riddle just mad?”

“Well, Riddle could very well be mad. … But unfortunately, yes, Wizarding society does seems to be very superstitious. … Anyhow, it was when Riddle decided to hunt down and wipe out the Potters that Snape went to Dumbledore. … Harry has told me, in bitter, grieving, enraged words, of how Dumbledore told him that Snape was filled with great and terrible remorse, that setting Riddle on the Potter’s trail was the greatest regret of his life, that it was the thing which caused him to turn away from Riddle. … Harry of course doesn’t believe a word of it.”

“But you do?”

Sherlock smiled. “Yes. I do.”

“You think that this Death Eater was secretly in love with Harry’s mother, and when he wound up getting her killed, he was so upset that he tried to turn his life around.”

“You could put it those terms. One thing though: he didn’t go to Dumbledore after she died – and that is an important point. He went when Riddle started hunting them. And we know that the Potters spent some time in hiding before Riddle found them. … Which makes it look rather as if Snape in fact alerted the Potters to the need to go into hiding. … Riddle found them only because Pettigrew betrayed their hiding place. Then of course there is the point I started from. He can get in here. The booby-traps downstairs are meant to dissuade him. But he can get in. He must know this to be a likely place for Harry to go. Too likely. It’s Harry’s house. He could have easily led a party of Death Eaters in here in the middle of the night. But did he? … Riddle is an idiot! … In defence of both Harry’s and Riddle’s belief in Snape’s allegiance however, he did appear with a group of Death Eaters in open battle a short while ago.”

“Did he kill anybody then?”

“No. But he sliced off Ron’s elder brother’s ear.”

“Well, I must say, Sherlock, whatever his true allegiance, Severus Snape does not exactly stand out as a model of kindness and decency.”

“No indeed. I dare say that none of us in this house – save Harry – would be quite safe around him; and Harry only if we are referring solely to matters of bodily safety. He’s famed for having a nasty temper and certainly has shown a great ability to use means that few ‘decent’ men could agree with.”

“And yet – besides his continual looking out for Harry Potter – can you find any results of his supposed spy work?”

“His continual looking out for Harry is significant. But my information is incomplete. I have never heard the secret councils of ‘the Order’. I know what he has done as regards Harry Potter. Can you reconcile that with the theory of him as a dedicated Death Eater?”

“No, I can’t explain that.”

“That much is certain then.” said Sherlock. “But you’d probably better not mention this to our young allies just yet. Their hatred (or at least Harry’s hatred) of him seems deeply entrenched enough that any attempt to defend him would not go over well. They’d either think we were out of our minds, or stop trusting us altogether.”

“Well, of course they hate him. That he was a mean professor would be reason in itself. But he’s also murdered a popular teacher and cut off a boy’s ear.”

“It is worth noting that it wasn’t his head. … Very worth noting. Doesn’t it occur to you John, that cutting off people’s ears is a very awkward and ineffective method of fighting?”

“Well, obviously, he wasn’t aiming for the ear.”

“Obviously. But imagine you’re one of the gangsters, pursuing Order members through the sky on a broomstick…”

“On a what?”

“…and you have in your hand a weapon capable of delivering lethal blasts. Why would you instead switch to a relatively awkward tool like a long distance energy beam slicing weapon? … And to slice a man’s ear off … that would be a vertical stroke …” He was now standing across the corridor from me, making slicing motions in the air with his hands – clearly chopping me to pieces with an imaginary energy sword. “Why a vertical stroke? Wouldn’t a horizontal stroke be more effective? I suppose one could cleave through the skull with such a blow. But the combined width of a man’s head, neck, and torso offer a much better target than the top of a head. You’d use a vertical blow to hit a horizontal target. I suppose we could theorize that Mr. Weasley was flying side-ways, or doing a barrel roll…” He stopped and lifted his arm, and looked at it critically for a minute. Then he smiled.

“So,” I said, “is your final thesis that Snape’s out to destroy Riddle? Or that he’s out to protect Lily’s son?”

Sherlock dropped his arm. “I don’t know. Imagining him as a sort of free-agent, betraying both sides wherever convenient, would cover the facts better than Harry’s own idea. … It is perhaps a possible theory (though the vertical blow is perhaps a strike against it) that he is willing to do whatever seems most politically advantageous to him at the moment (including fight for Riddle) besides killing Lily’s son. Such a position could be imagined. But it is not self-consistent. It could not be long maintained. And if he was so passionate about that woman that he will thwart his very dangerous supposed-boss’s will to protect her son even though he personally detests the boy, it hardly seems likely that he would be wiling to accept her murderer as his boss at all. No. Far more likely Dumbledore was in fact correct. …”

“But not that he could trust Snape.”

“Hmm. It does look that way. He clearly did think he could, sending Harry to fetch him…” Sherlock broke off suddenly. “He sent Harry to fetch Snape.”

This clearly opened up an intriguing train of thought, for Sherlock said nothing more for a while; he just stared into the distance with a concentrated, faraway look in his eyes, as if he too was on the fatal tower-top.

“What if …” he said after a while, “ what if he could? What if…? You know Dumbledore was badly injured? His hand was withered by the horcrux, and Harry tells me that it didn’t heal at all last year – and he was a very old man. And his last words. He didn’t upbraid, or exhort. Didn’t try to talk his way out of it …”

“What did he say?”

“‘Severus … please.’ … According to Harry, they were spoken in a quiet, contained, but unmistakeably beseeching manner. … Harry thought that Dumbledore was pleading for his life, and it wrung his heart to hear it. But if Dumbledore had been certain that very day, that very hour, of Snape’s loyalty, and Snape had not yet made a move against him, why would he have thought that he needed to plead? Shouldn’t he have tried to put on a staged argument for the Death Eaters’ benefit? If cleverly acted by both he and Snape – and I gather that they are, or were, clever men – it might have both cemented Snape’s position as spy, and delayed the situation long enough for them to find an out or be rescued. But he didn’t. Just as he didn’t even bother trying to defend himself from a student. He gave Snape a direct either-or scenario. He obviously knew what that meant for a man in Snape’s position. It’s almost as if he wanted… What if … it’s Dumbledore who owes Snape the apology?”

Before he could elaborate further, there was a panicked sound of slamming doors and rushing feet and Ron and Miss Granger barrelled into the room.

“Where’s Harry?!”

“In Sirius’ room.” said Sherlock. “He found an old letter from his mother.”

The children rushed past us.

“They’re a little hyper about it.” I said.

“They should be.” remarked Sherlock casually. “Their friend is one of the most hunted people in the country at the moment. Dumbledore is dead, the Minister of Magic is dead, the Ministry of Magic answers to Riddle. What could please Riddle more, what could be a greater symbolic victory, than to finally kill ‘The Boy Who Lived’?”

“The what?” I asked.

“Surely you remember the rather sensational story that Harry passed over so briefly last night – How Riddle came to kill him and left half killed himself.”

“Yes, but that was his mother’s doing wasn’t it?”

“Her work yes; however she managed it. It doesn’t seem to have lasted, since Riddle apparently thinks he can kill Harry without injuring himself now. But it captures the imagination, doesn’t it, John? … The old murderer, bloody with a hundred callous butcheries, approaching the cradle – and the child lives while the butcher flees, broken. … It captured the Wizarding world’s imagination anyhow. Hence the name.”

“Did he tell you about it this morning?”

“The name? No. We mostly discussed Professor Snape. I heard it ages ago.”

“And you know it to be he because of his story.”

“Yes. It was quite evident from the first.”

“Sherlock,” I asked, “why, after being so hesitant to bring us here at all last night, were they suddenly so trusting as to set up camp for the night right next to us – in the same room?”

Sherlock seemed to think that this was very amusing.

“Did you actually try walking over there, John?”

“… No.”

“Well, I think you would have found it far more difficult to get over to that corner than appearance would suggest. The words they use may sound merely laughable to us, but their ‘magic’ can be very effective.”

Chapter 5 ~ Following the Threads ~>

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 [III]



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~Chapter III ~

Statement of the Case


“Voldemort should have died.” Harry Potter explained. “He murdered my mum and dad, and then tried to kill me. But my mother’s last enchantment protected me, and his curse rebounded and hit him instead. It should have killed him, but it didn’t. He disappeared for thirteen years, and a little over three years ago he regenerated.”

“What do you mean he ‘regenerated’? Don’t you just mean he returned?” asked Sherlock.

“No. He … regenerated. I was there. I saw it.” Marks of old horrors were written on the boy’s face as he said this, and with a sickened feeling, I wondered what place a boy of fourteen could have had there.

“What were you doing there?” asked Sherlock, and I knew from his tone that he was not insensible to this either.

It was Miss Granger who answered.

“He was captured.” she said. “Because of his failure to kill Harry, Harry became a symbol of resistance and Voldemort meant to begin his second bid for power with killing him in front of his followers. … But he was overconfident. Harry fought him and got away.”

“Ah.” said Sherlock. “That is why you expected to be targeted tonight.”

“He’s been hunting Harry for years.” said Hermione. “Our friend who escaped the ministry tonight sent us warning that they were coming.”

“I see. Please continue.”

“Wait.” I said. “So he, Voldemort, has sort of a – fake body?”

The three children looked as though they weren’t sure how to answer that question. It was Sherlock who answered me.

“Oh, it’s real.” he said. “Flesh and blood … DNA … But if it is unnaturally created, like cells designed and grown in labs, that would help to explain … a great deal.” He flashed his gaze back to Harry. “You are certain of this?”

“Completely.” said Harry.

“What state was he in before he made this artificially regenerated form?”

The answer that Harry gave consisted of anecdotes which did not seem to me to work out into a conclusive or even consistent explanation. Ghost or goblin, or ruined man – or all of them together? I couldn’t believe that Sherlock seemed to be swallowing it. But perhaps, I thought, he’s humouring Harry, or maybe he sees what’s really going on through Harry’s explanation, or he’s understanding what Harry is saying better than I and it matches so well with information he already knows that he’s willing to take it as a working – if improbable – hypothesis until he can find a better. I, in any case, was utterly confounded.

“So, it was these safeguards which enabled him to regenerate?” said Sherlock finally, apparently deciding that that was the really important point – the how of the matter was academic.

“Yes.” Harry replied definitively.

“Then if his exact location was known at this moment, and an aerial missile strike was called down which incinerated the entire vicinity … that would not get rid of him?”

“The equivalent of that’s already happened to him once.” said Harry. (Harry has never seen a missile strike, I thought.) “If it was so simple as that, we wouldn’t be having this war now. The horcruxes must be destroyed first.”

“I see.” said Sherlock. “Well, I’d prefer not to rule out the missile strike anyway, just yet. But – your objective is to hunt down and destroy all of these objects, so that when the legitimate wizarding forces confront Riddle, he is not invulnerable?”

“Exactly.” Harry nodded.

Sherlock nodded. “Very well. What do we know about these ‘horcruxes’? How many? What do they look like? What kind of places are they likely to be found in? Please be as specific as possible.”

“Dumbledore – Albus Dumbledore was the headmaster of Hogwarts, the Wizarding school – found out Voldemort was going for a seven part soul; six horcruxes, plus himself. We’ve already destroyed two.”

“Excellent. How and when?”

“I destroyed the first five years ago, when Lucius Malfoy – a Death Eater, one of Voldemort’s closest followers – used it to release Slytherin’s monster.”

“Details, please.”

“It was Tom Riddle’s diary.”

“Riddle’s father Thomas, or Riddle himself?”

“Riddle’s … a book, nothing written in it, but if you wrote in it, it wrote back to you. It, or the bit of Voldemort in it, possessed Ron’s little sister Ginny, and used her to open the chamber of secrets beneath Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry, in order to release the basilisk.”

“Basilisk? Isn’t that a kind of mythical snake?” I asked. “Killed with its glance?”

“Well this one was real.” said Harry. “Dumbledore’s phoenix helped me to kill it.”

“A phoenix helped you to kill a basilisk? … All right. Okay.”

“So the horcrux released the basilisk on your school?” asked Sherlock in clarification.

“That’s what Voldemort designed it to do.” Harry said.

“You destroyed it. How?”

“The basilisk left a poisoned fang in my arm – I stabbed the horcrux with it.”

“Basilisk venom destroys horcruxes?”

“Basilisk venom is one of the few things that actually does. Merely breaking the object doesn’t actually destroy the horcrux.”

“If the venom is so potent, then why didn’t it destroy you?”

“Fawkes.” said Harry. “The phoenix. His tears healed me.”

“How does that work?” asked Sherlock.

“Well,” I interjected, “as long as we’re talking about myths – Rapunzel’s tears could completely regrow whole eyes. … Uh, Harry, are you being quite serious?”

“Harry’s telling the truth.” declared Miss Granger. “He went down into the chamber of secrets, slew the basilisk with the sword of Gryffindor, destroyed the horcrux, and rescued Ron’s sister.” Harry had spoken with what almost seemed embarrassment. But Miss Granger’s voice had taken on a tone of admiring pride, and she held her head higher as she spoke. She then seemed to notice that Ron was giving her puppy-eyes, and added: “Ron was there too – it wasn’t his fault the roof caved in and Harry had to go on alone.”

“So.” said Sherlock. “The first was a diary. It was left with Riddle’s henchman Lucius Malfoy. It actively did pre-programmed things. And it was destroyed by basilisk venom?”

“Yes.”

“What happened to the basilisk?”

“Uh … it’s still down there, I guess … or its skeleton is.”

“Thank-you. Continue.”

“Dumbledore destroyed the second. It was the ring of the house of Gaunt.”

“That would be his mother’s family, correct?”

“Yes, the Gaunts were descended from Salazar Slytherin … a famous wizard and one of the four founders of Hogwarts School. Dumbledore found it in the ruins of the Gaunts’ cottage.”

“Ah.” said Sherlock. “How did he destroy this one?”

“I don’t know. … I should have asked him, but, I didn’t think of it until … ” Harry trailed off.

“He didn’t tell you?”

“No.”

“Well, that was thoughtless of him.”

A momentary flash of indignation crossed Harry’s face, as if he took this criticism of his late teacher ill. But he made no retort.

“So,” said Sherlock, “we have a diary, left with a follower, and a ring, hidden in his Wizarding family’s house?”

“Yes.” said Harry.

“Do we know anything about the rest?”

“Dumbledore thought he knew what three of the remaining were – he spent years trying to put together a picture – to trace Voldemort’s footsteps over the years – and he had a guess at the fourth. Riddle has a thing for important Wizarding artefacts, especially belonging to the four founders of Hogwarts. That’s Godric Gryffindor, Helga Hufflepuff, Rowena Ravenclaw, and Salazar Slytherin. So, Dumbledore said he thought the remaining horcruxes are the locket of Salazar Slytherin, the cup of Helga Hufflepuff, Voldemort’s snake Nagini, and something else probably belonging to Gryffindor or Ravenclaw.”

“His python is a horcux?”

“You know about Nagini?”

“I could hardly miss it, though I didn’t know its name until now. So the kind of objects which can be made into horcuxes is very broad? Both animate and inanimate – just about any type of substance? We have here paper, metal, and living flesh.”

“I guess.”

“Well, snakes are easy enough to kill. And it’s always going about with him, so finding that one shouldn’t be much too of a problem, we’ll have to find Riddle anyway. Any ideas on the other three?”

“Dumbledore actually found where Voldemort originally hid the locket.”

“It had been moved?”

“Yes. … Someone had been there before us.”

“Riddle shifting it? Or someone else trying to destroy it?”

“He left a note, for … Riddle, saying he planned on destroying it.”

“Perhaps he did, then.”

“Yes, we thought of that, but we’ll have to find it to be sure.”

“Do you happen to have that note?”

“Yes, I have.” said Harry. He pulled from his robes a small brown pouch which had been hanging around his neck and drew out a large golden locket.

Sherlock took it and turned it over and over in his hands; looking at the gold, the smooth unmarked surface, the finely worked chain. Finally he opened it – examining the hinge as he did so, took out the little square of paper within, and carefully unfolded it.

“Exceedingly high quality parchment.” he commented. “Either the thief was well-to-do to have this on hand or he chose expensive paper particularly for the purpose. Most likely the former, since it is not generally poor men who use golden lockets to send notes in. Obviously written during Riddle’s previous attempt to seize power.”

I got up and walked behind Sherlock’s chair to look over his shoulder. On thick, yellowed paper, written in small but bold printing, I read the following message:

To the Dark Lord,

I know I will be dead long before you read this

but I want you to know that it was I who discovered your secret.

I have stolen the real horcrux and intend to destroy it as soon as I can.

I face death in the hope that when you meet your match,

you will be mortal once more.

R.A.B”

“He expected to die?” I said. “Was he planning on committing suicide?”

“Perhaps, but he was clearly committing treason against a very hard master. He may have expected to be killed before Riddle checked his hiding place. … ‘I face death’, that doesn’t sound like he’s going to take his own life … but it also makes it sound more inevitable and immediate a threat than being eventually hunted down for treachery. But then there is the intending to destroy it ‘as soon as I can’ which sounds as though he’s going to be living for a while. … There are clearly a number of other factors here.”

“You say he was Riddle’s servant?” I said.

“Obviously. Follower anyway, ex-follower. The writing suggests a familiarity between them, and he clearly expects Riddle to recognize his initials as a matter of course. Can’t be a family member. Riddle didn’t have any near family left alive after the age of sixteen, besides perhaps an uncle – but local sources say he disappeared from muggle view at least at about the same time that the Riddles died. And his initials were M.G. Also the greeting. “The Dark Lord” That’s very formal, as if he is used to speaking up to him, like a henchman. I doubt that ordinary wizards are in the habit of referring to him by any such preposterous title as ‘the Dark Lord’.”

“No they’re not.” supplied Harry.

Sherlock nodded. “So this note was written by one of his followers, who turned against him and tried to help bring him down, apparently at the expense of his own life.”

“His?” said Miss Granger.

“This is a man’s writing, a young man’s, of a decisive and probably arrogant personality. Principled to some extent – he had the moral courage to change his allegiance when it was not clearly personally advantageous to him. Proud, since he wanted it known. But unwise, since it took actually working under Riddle to show him what bad news he was. Riddle is a charismatic person, is he not?”

“Yes, he is … very. It’s part of what makes him so dangerous.” said Harry.

“Well, this R.A.B.” I said. “You don’t know who he is?

“No.” said Harry.

“I’ve looked up all the well known witches and wizards with those initials.” Miss Granger said. “And I couldn’t find anything to connect them to Voldemort.”

“Well, he mightn’t be all that well known.” I suggested. “Shouldn’t we go through all the well-to-do B families in your society that we can find information on and see if any men in that age category had names beginning in R?”

“Yes.” said Sherlock. “It should have been the first step taken. And since we’re sitting in the Blacks’ parlour we can start with the Blacks. Your said your godfather’s name began with an S, so …”

“And Sirius was never a Death Eater!” said Harry, suddenly fierce.

“Were any of his family?” asked Sherlock, totally unphased. “Death Eater connections or the possibility of such connections, name beginning with R, would have been a young man about twenty years ago…”

Harry’s face fell.

“What is it?!” cried Ron and Miss Granger together.

“Regulus.” said Harry. “Sirius’ younger brother … Sirius told me he joined the Death Eaters when he was really young, got cold feet, and disappeared not long before Voldemort’s first downfall!”

“R.A.B!” screamed Miss Granger. “Regulus Black! What was his middle name, Harry?”

“I don’t know. But it fits!”

Sherlock was not impressed – they’d had that locket and note since June. But the three children were far too excited to bother about his pointed comments. They scurried about, checking out Regulus’s bedroom (where we learned his middle name was Arcturus) and other hiding places around the house. Sherlock and I helped in the search, but found nothing, or at least no lockets. Half an hour passed before Miss Granger had an epiphany and remembered a large golden locket engraved with an S which they had thrown out two years ago while trying to clean the place up a bit. The three were appalled by this news, but Sherlock didn’t seem to think that it was so very dreadful. He was making inquiries of them about Wizarding methods of garbage disposal when Harry had another thought.

I would have expected that upon discovering a non-human creature who possessed humanoid form and the power of speech, one’s first response would naturally be curious scepticism, and then, if sufficient evidence was presented to overcome this, delighted fascination. But the arrival of the creature which Harry called into the kitchen left little room for for either sensation.

It came quickly, I didn’t see from where; Harry called ‘Creature!’, there was a sharp crack, and when I turned around to see what had fallen, a strange creature was standing there. My instant response of mingled revulsion and pity at the sight of this hideous little mockery of the human form quickly increased to something very like horror. The contempt and hatred of Harry it expressed, even as it addressed him as ‘Master’ surprised and disturbed me. Harry had impressed me as being a quite decent young fellow; hardly likely to inspire such hatred in a subordinate. But then, he was not the sole object of its hatred. Room was left for Ron and Hermione Granger in its extreme displeasure; the titles of address it gave to them were the peculiar epithets ‘blood traitor’ and ‘mudblood’ – which I recognized as favourite catchwords of the screaming painting in the hall. It muttered them bitterly under its breath with vicious inflection and angry glares. Then it noticed Sherlock and I.

The paroxysm of fury and horror at the presence of ‘filthy muggles!’ in his ‘mistress’ house’ into which it erupted was of so violent a nature that Sherlock and I thought it politic to excuse ourselves from the room. This was to the evident relief of Harry, who was frantically trying to make him stop and apologize to us at the same time. Miss Granger, who looked at it with sadly sympathetic eyes, came with us, out into the hall on the other side of the kitchen door.

The gentle girl, to whose kind, upright nature the situation was utterly abhorrent, related to us that this creature (it appears it had no other name) had long been bound to the service of the house of Black, in a position which she considered no better than slavery. There was a firmness about her lip and an indignant flaring in her nostrils as she said this which were the first signs I had seen from her that she might be a very formidable person if prompted. When Sirius died the legal ownership of the house had passed to Harry, and so had ‘Creature’. Harry had not wanted him. He did not desire a servant, and to make matters worse, Creature had conspired with a Death Eater cousin in the affair which cost Sirius his life. But Dumbledore had bade Harry keep him, legally bound to obey his commands, for the time being at least; for Creature knew too many secrets. If he were permitted to go where he wanted and do as he wished, he would undoubtedly go at once to that cousin, one Bellatrix Lestrange, one of Riddle’s foremost lieutenants and Sirius’ killer, a full-blown psychopath whose brutal deeds were infamous in the Wizarding world, and offer her his service and his knowledge. For she was the nearest in the Blacks’ line. I saw now that it was not only dislike of the horrible house which made Harry hate his inheritance – he might well consider it a curse.

Once the ‘muggles’ and the ‘mudblood’ were out of his immediate presence (‘mudblood’, we learned, was a racist slur for a wizard whose parents were muggles) Creature was able to calm down enough to answer Harry’s questions about the locket.

I need not here go deeply into the sad story that the creature told. Sherlock, Miss Granger, and I heard almost all of it from just beyond the door. Before Creature was half finished, tears were streaming down Miss Granger’s face. Even Sherlock’s countenance had assumed a grimmer aspect. In that moment I conceived a loathing of Tom Riddle which knowledge of his merely expedient political violence had not produced, and which time has not effaced.

But I see no reason to take up space and darken my tale by repeating the poor little person’s story in full. Therefore, passing over some hideous anecdotes of wanton cruelty not strictly relevant to the investigation, let it suffice to say that many years ago Creature had gone with his beloved, long-dead Master Regulus as guide to the cave where the horcrux had been hidden. Regulus Arcturus Black had never come out again. He had succumbed to the horcrux’s defences, and died a terrible death before his servant’s eyes. But he managed to send Creature back home again, with the horcrux, and orders to destroy it. Creature had tried, tried and tried. But he been unable to do so. His master’s, his very dear master’s, last behest was unfulfilled. The locket had sat in the house for years. Creature had carefully guarded it. He had stolen it out of the trash when it was thrown away. He had kept it hidden in his own little cubbyhole until Sirius died. Then an associate of theirs, one Mundungus Fletcher, burgled the house. Among the plate-ware and trinkets he took was Regulus’ locket.

Creature finished and sat sobbing on the floor, sobbing as if his heart would break; hatred forgotten in grief. Miss Granger had broken down and rushed back into the kitchen. She would have embraced the wretched creature, but it rebuffed her, crying ‘what would his mistress say?’. Ron stood by, looking distinctly disturbed. Harry was kneeling on the floor beside Creature, his vivid green eyes wide. It was clear that the teens had never seen this side of their unpleasant acquaintance before. Harry’s question had broken into a locked up corner of his heart, and the nasty little bundle of spite had broken down into a weeping, grieving, almost childlike creature. Harry tried to ask of him how, after what Riddle had done to him and what Regulus had done to bring Riddle down, he could then connive with Riddle’s henchmen. I don’t know if Creature even registered or understood the question. It was, as Miss Granger pointed out, not of sides or wars that he thought, but of people. He had loved Regulus and Mistress Black with single-minded blindness, what should he do but accept their prideful world-view in its wretched entirety? Why should he not do as their cousin ‘Bella’ asked of him?

It was in a changed tone that Harry again addressed Creature, when the poor fellow had recovered himself sufficiently to hear anything. He asked him in a distinctly gentle voice if he could find Fletcher. ‘We’ said Harry ‘we need to finish Regulus’ mission’. Creature agreed without dispute and prepared to leave. But, apparently moved by some sudden impulse, Harry took out the golden locket which had held Regulus’ note and told Creature he thought Regulus would want him to have it.

Well, the calming down had to be done all over again. It was difficult to tell at first if this gift made Creature very happy or very sad, just that it made him very hysterical. But the care and almost reverence with which he stowed the little treasure away made me think it must have been at least partly positive emotion. A change had come over his attitude as well. It seemed that Harry had transformed himself in Creature’s eyes from being a base nobody – a ‘half-blood’ whom Mistress Black would despise – into an ally of Master Regulus. And it was astonishing how his viciousness had disappeared. He was downright respectful to both boys. He was tersely polite to Miss Granger. And he even consented to courteously ignore the existence of Sherlock and I. And, promising to bring back the thief, he left.

The affair left a nasty impression on my mind. It was not that I judged that the three children had done ill – I was not sure what else they could have done. But a terrible situation it was all the same. Miss Granger was right. However much he had loved some of his masters, Creature was a sentient being held very much in bondage. Sherlock seemed greatly annoyed by the whole affair, and he and Miss Granger spent a great deal of the time in which Creature was recovering off in the corridor, conversing earnestly and indignantly together. I had no doubt about what.

“Right.” said Harry when we finally reassembled in the parlour. “Two are dead. Mundungus Fletcher stole the one. The other is hanging around Voldemort. That leaves just two we don’t know.”

“You said that one was a cup and the other an artefact related to one of two founders of the school.” said Sherlock. “We know something then. Could you recognize this cup if you saw it?”

“Probably.”

“Good. And the other. Do you know if any artefact which fits that description is missing?”

“No. There’s only one relic of Gryffindor really. The sword of Gryffindor. And it’s perfectly safe.”

“Well, if it is most probably from either Ravenclaw or Gryffindor and cannot be from Gryffindor, shouldn’t we be looking at Ravenclaw? … What artefacts are there belonging to Ravenclaw?”

“We’re all from the house of Gryffindor.” said Miss Granger. “We wouldn’t know.”

“Would someone from the house of Ravenclaw know better?”

“I suppose so.” said Harry.

“Then we need to talk to someone from Ravenclaw. They don’t need to know why we’re looking for it. But we can’t discover which artefact it could be until we know which ones there are. Who from Ravenclaw would you be least worried about talking to right now?”

“Luna Lovegood.” said Harry instantly.

“Is she a teacher?”

“No, she’s a student. … But she’d know about artefacts, come to think about it. Her father is really into everything weird.”

I wondered what a person weird by Wizarding standards would be like.

“Where is she now?” asked Sherlock.

“At her house, not far from my place, in St. Ottery Catchpole.” said Ron.

“Do you know how to get to her house?”

“I’ve never been there. I just see her at school.”

“I’m sure we could find it though.” said Miss Granger.

“Good.” said Sherlock. “In that case we should call on the Lovegoods tomorrow. But once we know what it is we’ll still need to find out where it is. Now since we know where he left four out of the six, we should be able to make reasonable estimate of where the last two are. One with a trusted lieutenant. One in the ruins of the Gaunt family home. One he keeps with him. One in a cave … was there anything special about this cave that you know, Harry? Why might he have chosen it?”

“There is a story about how he once, back when he lived in an orphanage – his mother died when he was born, you know, and his father had left when she was pregnant – he went on a holiday with the other orphans and took a bunch of younger kids off alone. Did something to them. No one knows what exactly happened, but they weren’t right afterwards. … Dumbledore thought that this was that cave.”

“I see.” said Sherlock. “One in a place important for its ancestral roots. One in a place where he hurt someone.”

“Yes.”

“One that related to his lineage. One that related to his abilities. Both pointing to his status as a formidable wizard.”

“Yes.”

Sherlock jumped up and began swiftly pacing the room.

“What other places might he consider important to his Wizarding status? How about the Wizarding school? Might he have considered that important?”

“Well, the school was where he went when he first learned that he was a wizard. Dumbledore thinks it meant more to him than any person ever has.”

“Hogwarts school then. Put that down as a highly probable place. It would relate both to his lineage and his ability, making it doubly important.”

“How could he hide it at Hogwarts?” said Miss Granger.

“Yeah, he’d have to get in for starters.” said Ron. “And he hasn’t been there since … when was You-know-who at Hogwarts last, Harry?”

“When he tried to get Dumbledore to hire him as the defence against the dark arts professor.”

“When was that?” asked Sherlock.

“Ah … before he openly started trying to take over – he wasn’t actually considered a criminal at that point, but after he’d started the Death Eaters.”

“He sought a teaching position?” said Sherlock. “On the eve of trying to take over the country?”

“Dumbledore doesn’t think he really wanted the job. He thinks that he just wanted to get in the school.”

Sherlock swung both fists in the air in a gesture of delight.

“Just wanted to get in! He hid a horcrux there that night, it’s almost a certainty!”

“Well … Dumbledore thought he was looking for something to turn into a horcrux.”

“Maybe he was. Could have done both. … Did he ever commit a serious crime in Hogwarts?”

“Yes, he murdered a muggle-born student, he set the basilisk on her in the girl’s bathroom. I think that was probably the murder he used to turn the diary into a horcrux.”

“Wait,” I said, “what do you mean?”

“Well … a horcux is a broken off piece of somebody’s soul, right?” said Harry uncomfortably.

“ … Okay?”

“In order to ruin your soul like that you’ve got do do really terrible things … like murdering people.”

I wasn’t sure what to say to that, so I said nothing.

“Was it his first murder?” asked Sherlock matter-of-factly.

Harry looked thoughtful.

“I don’t know. I think he murdered both her and his father and grandparents in his sixth year… but you won’t know about that …”

“Yes I do. … Impossible murder. The squire, his wife, and their grown son all dead. Found in their dinner clothes the next morning; not a mark on them. No cause of death ever determined. No one ever found guilty in their deaths. A small place like Little Hangleton doesn’t wear out stories like that in a mere fifty years. Especially with the house still standing empty …”

“He killed his father and grandparents?” I said, appalled by the total lack of filial respect, and the utter bloodthirstiness of such a massacre.

“Yes.” my friend replied. “At the tender age of sixteen.”

“Revenge for his abandonment?” I asked.

“Possibly in his father’s case. But the wanton slaying of his grandparents, who, judging by local reports, never even knew they had a grandchild, suggests that not only revenge, but racism was at work. Hatred of his own race. You will recall that the Wizarding connection was on his mother’s side.”

“Yes.” said Harry. “Dumbledore thinks he killed them to wipe out his muggle ancestry. …”

“Might not that too have been considered a momentous occasion? At least as much as the abuse of a pair of children? … I have already been over the Riddles’ house and its grounds fairly thoroughly, but I wasn’t looking for horcruxes at the time. The cup of Helga Hufflepuff, can you describe it?”

“I saw it in a … recorded memory that Dumbledore showed me. It’s made of gold, it’s got two handles, and there’s a badger engraved on it.”

Sherlock shook his head. “I saw nothing of that description. But that doesn’t rule out either horcrux being hidden there.

“We’ll check the Riddle house then.” said Harry. “After we know what the last one is.”

“The Riddles’ house and the bathroom at Hogwarts …” said Sherlock.

“Actually, I can’t think of any way to hide a horcrux in the bathroom.” said Harry. “I mean – if we manage to get into Hogwarts – we could look, but I doubt …”

“Then where in the school would it be? You must know the place. … He would have known the place too. … If you wanted to hide something in Hogwarts, Harry, where would you put it? Pretend for a moment that you have something to hide and only a few minutes to do it in. You don’t want to put it where anyone, especially a teacher, will stumble across it. You have to be able to get there and back quickly before anyone realizes you haven’t gone straight for the headmaster’s office. Now tell me, where have you put it?”

So quickly that I thought he must be telling us not where he would hide something, but where he had hidden something, Harry quipped out:

“The Room of Requirement. … It’s a shape-shifting room in Hogwarts. It changes shape based on what you need. One of the things it turns into is a great big storage room … A lot of people have hidden things in there over the centuries, it’s filled with all sorts of things. … Like an overstuffed attic.”

“Hide it among the tumbled secrets of school-children…” mused Sherlock. “Yes … a single important artefact in a room like that – isn’t a haystack the best place to hide a needle? … It would have been possible for him to get into that room during that evening?”

“Definitely … if he knew that it existed.”

“We’ll have to check both, of course. With Riddle in power it will require infiltration, but you know the place. And the Riddle house. That one is easy. It’s standing empty. We can just stop by and give it a run over. Any other suggestions? You’ll know his history far better than I do of course. Places where he worked, or lived, or killed somebody important …”

“He worked at Borgin & Burke’s – that’s a Wizarding shop that caters to the dark magic crowd – for a while after he left Hogwarts.” said Harry. “And he’s spent a lot of time in Albania over the course of his life.”

“Albania? Why Albania? And a country is too big to go on, we’d have to narrow that down a bit before we tried to search it.”

“I don’t know where, just Albania.”

“Well, if we run out of places to look in England, we’ll have to try tracing his footsteps in Albania. But let’s try England first. A shop sounds like a bad place to hide a horcrux. Too many people, and a brilliant way to get a trinket like a cup or a locket accidentally sold. But I suppose we can look. And there’s another thing. What about people? You said he left the diary with Lucius Malfoy? Who is Lucius Malfoy? Who else might be an equivalent to him? Who else among Riddle’s people might he be willing to entrust so important a device to?”

Harry sat there for a while without answering, arms crossed, shoulders slumped, staring into the carpet. Pain chased itself across his face as he thought. In asking him to judge among Tom Riddle’s followers, Sherlock was asking him to relive all his most painful memories. I considered all that had been said and implied this evening – both parents murdered, multiple murderous attempts on his own life, his godfather’s death at the hands of that cousin, the recent death of a clearly beloved teacher. … After what seemed a very long time indeed, Harry started listing names; odd names, that fell on my ear with the ring of a strange language. Two of the names stood out to me, not for peculiarity of syllable, but for the anger they roused in the young speaker; Bellatrix Lestrange and Severus Snape. Mrs. Lestrange was the cousin who had killed Sirius; she had struck him down in battle when he had come with ‘the Order’ to save Harry and some friends, who had been trapped by some of Riddle’s forces. The name Severus Snape was familiar, for the fake ghost downstairs had called the name. It was against him that the booby-traps had been intended. Snape had been a professor at Hogwarts. It was at his hands that Headmaster Dumbledore had died, not two months before. He was now openly serving Riddle. That the thought of him raised Harry’s indignation did not surprise me. Harry could not seem to help but stop and briefly lambaste Snape’s villainy and treachery before continuing his list.

Finally, Sherlock asked him if there was any incontrovertible way of telling if something was a horcrux or not. Harry knew of no foolproof test, but was able to say that both horcruxes which had been destroyed so far had put up some kind of a fight. The diary had set the basilisk on him – and seemed to think that it was going to duel him somehow. The ring had withered Dumbledore’s hand.

The night was growing old. Miss Granger was sitting bolt upright in a failing attempt to remain alert. Ron had long since slumped over on the sofa beside her. Even Harry, though still eager, was drooping. It was clear the children at least could do no more that night.

“You might as well get a few hours sleep, John.” Sherlock commented (though he himself showed no signs of weariness). “It’s too late to go home tonight.”

A very short while ago, I would have shrunk from the notion of sleeping in this place, but it seemed that weariness had done away with my fastidiousness, for when Miss Granger offered me one of their blankets I accepted without question, and scarcely noticed the children’s own preparations, or the sort of camp they set up with cushions and sleeping bags in a corner. As I was drifting off, Sherlock appeared at my shoulder and spoke to me in an undertone.

“John, can I have your gun?”

Sleepily handing it to him, I inquired: “Worried they’ll try to obliviate you in the middle of the night, eh?”

Chuckling, he stowed it away in his own coat. “That is the least of my reasons.”

I remember nothing more that night save a brief image of Sherlock Holmes, curled up in an armchair by the empty hearth, his old briar pipe in his hands, and his face illuminated by a flash of fire.

Next Chapter ~>


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 4 – The Story of Severus Snape will be available on April 28th.  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 [II]



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~ Chapter II ~

The Hidden Mansion in London’s Heart


It was in a strangely uncomfortable fashion that the young lady replied to my question; a pause, a nervous glance from my face to that of my friend, and a quiet: “Yes, they didn’t hit us.”

I wondered what it was that made her so nervous – surely she couldn’t suppose that she and her two friends were in any danger from Sherlock Holmes and I. But only I nodded in response, and started towards the waitress, who lay in an undignified heap by the door where she had fallen.

“She’s not hurt.” said the girl, whose voice was clear and precise, but gentle.

Having not the faintest idea what they had used to knock her out however, I bent down to examine her anyway. True to the girl’s word, she could have been sleeping.

Behind me, Sherlock was addressing her: “I appreciate your attempt to shield us, young lady.” he said. “But you should have realized that your shield would work both ways and John’s own ricocheting bullet would be more likely to do him long term injury than most ‘spells’ this unpleasant gentleman would be likely to cast.”

“Wait! But you’re a muggle!” exclaimed the red-head. “How do you …”

“Ah, you see, I have been devoting some attention to your secret society of late. Your invisible world is indeed difficult to see, but, truth be told, not quite invisible; any more than, you,” here he looked towards the invisible owner of the floating hand “my alert young fellow, are.”

The girl’s face suddenly changed, the nervousness was superseded by a look of excitement.

“You – you’re Mr. Sherlock Holmes, aren’t you?” she said. “I thought you looked like the photographs but I wasn’t sure!”

“You have the advantage of me, Ma’am. That is indeed my name, but I do not know yours.”

With a delighted smile she held out a slim white hand. “I’m Hermione Granger.” she said. “It’s such an honour to meet you, Sir. And you must be his friend Dr. Watson? I …”

Hermione,” said the red-head, looking confused and a bit worried, “what …”

“Hermione, who are they?” asked the invisible boy.

“Am I the only one who ever reads anything in the muggle news?” she asked in a tone of ancient disbelief.

“Yup.” said the red-head.

“I only read the muggle news to see if there’s something big going on when I can’t talk to wizards.” said the invisible one.

She sighed and rolled her eyes, and I seemed to glimpse years of such interchanges behind the gestures. “Mr. Sherlock Holmes is only the greatest criminal detective of our age!” she explained, a bit shortly. “He’s not a wizard but I would have thought you would at least have heard of him.”

“Well, how does he know about us?!” asked the red-head.

“I would suppose,” she said with some asperity, “that it probably has something to do with the fact he’s a great criminal detective now when there’s so many …” She broke off.

“I have been looking into this little noticed segment of our island’s population since the unfortunate murder of Ms. Amelia Bones.” said Sherlock. “ And I know something of your organization and customs. For instance, I am aware that your next intended step is to cover your tracks by erasing the recent memories of myself and Dr. Watson. I don’t recommend you that try that, Miss Granger.”

I now saw that this was what had made her uncomfortable; she had been trying to figure out how to go about erasing our memories. I could see from her reaction to Sherlock’s comment that she had not expected him to know this, and was further embarrassed by his knowledge.

“Why not?” she asked finally.

“Firstly, it would be ineffective. You could not remove my knowledge of your people through mere destruction of my short term memory. You would have to go much farther back, which would not only be disastrous for my overall mind, but, on account of my profession, would also seriously compromise the outcome of several trials now headed for the courtroom. Your behaviour would suggest that you are too conscientious a young lady to effect such a compromise. Secondly, we are armed. And not about to let you just take our memories.” (Actually, only I was armed, and the nudge he gave me suggested that he thought my current demeanour insufficiently formidable.) “Thirdly, I’ve already contacted my brother in the muggle government on the situation. He is naturally discreet, and under my management the information about this evening’s events can be kept under control. But if I suddenly forget all about the matter you have just opened not a loophole, but a floodgate of investigation into your secret society. Fourthly, I believe that we desire the same goal at the moment, and our mutual cooperation would be greatly advantageous to both parties.”

The invisible boy took off his hood. I must have been unconsciously expecting a fantastic figure to be hidden beneath the remarkable garment, for I was surprised to see the face of a very ordinary looking boy emerge; light freckled skin, dark messy hair, features that had not lost their childishness yet, big vivid green eyes partially obscured with a pair of large, round glasses – the only remarkable thing about his appearance was a jagged scar, cutting straight down the centre of his forehead. He looked at Sherlock Holmes and me with open suspicion. I was too absorbed in wondering what terrible misfortune had given him that mark to feel much annoyance.

“What goal?” he asked.

“The destruction of the terrorist organization within the ranks of your secret society and the removal from power of its murderous leader, Mr. Riddle.” replied my friend.

At these words, the three children were flung into a something of a flurry. They wound up scampering off to the far side of the room for a whispered consultation of some kind. I noticed that they still kept their eyes on us, and did not put their weapons down.

In spite of these not entirely friendly precautions, Sherlock seemed extremely pleased by the proceedings, and he chuckled and rubbed his hands with together great satisfaction.

“Sherlock, what exactly are we doing?” I asked.

“This is it, John! This is precisely what I needed. I’ve been trying to figure this society’s workings primarily from the outside. But these children, they are inside! … By the way, a word of warning – their choices of words are extremely odd.”

“Yes, I noticed. They really call themselves wizards?”

“Yes, but don’t allow that to make you think that the matter isn’t a very serious one indeed.”

“But are you sure you can trust them? They wanted to knock us out and take our memories. And what if they actually are with Riddle? Aren’t you taking quite a chance?”

“They’re not with Riddle. And of course they wanted to knock us out and take our memories, that’s what wizards do when muggles stumble into their secrets. And of course I’m taking a chance. It’s too excellent a one to pass up! … You don’t have to stay though, if you’d rather not. They’d obviously want to erase your memory of the evening before you leave.” He hesitated. “It seems to be a perfectly safe procedure, medically speaking, assuming you don’t mind someone stealing things out of your head …”

“No, of course I’m not leaving.”

He smiled. “I knew you weren’t. … If you are coming, I wouldn’t count on getting home tonight. Better let Mary know. In the interests of diplomacy, make no mention of the wizards at the moment. Just tell her that the Bones and Burbage cases have turned out to be linked, and we’re following a scent while it’s still warm.”

As I had been accustomed to being away overnight from time to time while working with Sherlock Holmes on his cases, this would not come as a great surprise to my wife; though I knew she would be after a more thorough explanation when I got back. She was on a late shift that night and by the time I had gotten through to her at work, the trio had returned.

From their manner, it looked as though Miss Granger had just won an argument. She said that they couldn’t discuss the matter here and asked Mr. Holmes if he could return with them to a hiding place where they could speak freely, to which Sherlock readily agreed. And she asked me if I was going to accompany them. The two boys required further persuasion (or rather brow beating) from the her before assenting to even the temporary accompaniment of a second ‘muggle’. But between Sherlock’s insistence that he would require my help, and Miss Granger’s insistence that they could not afford to pass up his, they agreed, if reluctantly. I more than half suspected it was only to avoid staying here any longer. It occurred to me that in spite of their apparent acquiescence, memory wipes had not been ruled out yet.

They set things in order before we left. Their unassuming little ‘wands’ were more than weapons. They were also tools of the most extraordinary nature. I watched in amazement as the shattered glass flew back up into the empty panes, sealing back together without a seam, and as the cracked tables smoothed back over, the Formica melding till it looked as though it had never been broken. Having followed Sherlock Holmes in his cases for many years, I was no stranger to the remarkable, even to the marvellous. Yet I could scarcely bring myself to credit the evidence of my eyes. And I thought to myself that whatever technology the children were using to accomplish this, it was greatly under utilized. When, in but a few minutes, the café stood as it had been before any of us entered, save for the sleeping waitress and the slumped over gangsters, I found myself greatly wishing that I knew how to do this.

The two gangsters were propped back up in their booth, the waitress set in a chair in the back, and all three were subjected to the memory wipe which Sherlock and I had so far avoided. Sherlock had offered to ask Mycroft to have the gangsters arrested on charge of assault and hold them secretly until the matter of Riddle was handled. The three children refused this, apparently thinking that handing ‘wizards’ over to ‘muggles’ was letting the secret get out too far. Sherlock did not argue the matter, but I saw him texting away while the memory wipe was being done, and I suspected that someone was going to show up soon anyway. After the children had finished with them Sherlock went over and quietly pocketed their weapons.

Less than a quarter of an hour had passed since the fight when the five of us slipped out through the café’s back door and went hurrying along the dark streets. Had it been just Sherlock and I, we would have taken a cab, but for all five of us to travel by cab we would have had to split up. And none of us wanted to do this (I do believe that every one of us had a different set of reasons). Had it just been the three children, they would have teleported, but it appeared that they were uncertain about teleporting with passengers. I wasn’t sorry for that, since I felt that I should like to know a bit more about this ‘apparating’, as they called it, before I tried it out.

On foot the journey took some time, but it was not yet midnight when Miss Granger turned to us and said that she thought it would be better if our eyes were closed, and asked us to finish the journey being led by them. I rather feared a trap of some kind, in spite of the difficulty I felt in ascribing any kind of ill motives to the earnest, innocent looking young lady. But Sherlock seemed to have no such worries; he immediately took the hand she held out to him and shut his eyes. So I took the red-head’s hand, and was led forward in the dark.

We crossed an empty road, and from the sound and the movement of the air, entered an open square. Whether because of the lateness of the night, or the little-frequented nature of the place, I could discern no sound or vibration suggesting that there was anyone else nearby. We crossed a strip of lawn, went up a paved walk and climbed a short flight of steps. I heard the rattle of a lock and the creaking of a large, heavy door, and I smelled the cold, musty air drifting from the recess beyond. I now felt even more disinclined to comply with this arrangement, and hesitated on the threshold when the boy would have gone in. But hearing Sherlock’s voice ahead of me, already inside the cold cavernous place beyond the door (strangely hushed it seemed), I followed them inside.

At a soft word from Miss Granger, I opened my eyes and found myself in a dark hallway. The scents of dust and mildew filled my nostrils. The heavy door slammed closed behind me, and I felt as if a trap had just sprung closed. A row of lamps spluttered into wavering light along the wall, revealing more of the dreary hall before us, and giving the place, it seemed to me, an even more unpleasant, repelling aspect than the cavern-like darkness of before had.

By the time we found ourselves upstairs in a dreary, ancient parlour, covered with dust, and smelling of untold years of quiet decay, my view of the situation had shifted from criminal investigation to haunted house ride. Even if it hadn’t been for the booby-traps that were sprung upon us as we went down the hallway (screaming pictures, creepy recorded voices, and a remarkable fake ghost) my initial reaction would still have increased instead of being dissipated as we proceeded into the house. Stagnant air, rotting tapestries, dark doorways that I felt no inclination to pass. A sense of dead grandeur hung over it all. It must once have been impressive. I could not imagine that it ever could have been beautiful. One felt that the darkness was not the ordinary darkness that comes to all houses at night, but a more solid, permanent thing – like the darkness far underground. We learned that this ancient mansion was in fact legally owned by the dark-haired boy, who had recently inherited it from his godfather, one Sirius Black. A glance at his face as he said this intimated that he liked the place – if possible – even less than I did. But the three children thought it possible that we would not be pursued here. Sherlock knit his brows and looked unconvinced. I gathered that the booby-traps downstairs had entirely failed to impress him.

“Now, Mr. Holmes” said Miss Granger as we settled onto the dusty sofas and armchairs, “you’ve been investigating some of Voldemort’s recent crimes?”

“That I can remember, I have never heard the name ‘Voldemort’ before. ‘Flight from death’? Odd name. But if by ‘Voldemort’ you mean the leader of the terrorist group, the son of Thomas Riddle, and the man who murdered Amelia Bones, then yes, I have been.”

“Then you understand it’s not simply a matter of him being a simple murderer you could just arrest?”

“From my knowledge of the situation, he could be described as crime-boss, terrorist-organizer, gangster, race-supremacist, warlord, mad-scientist, and would-be-dictator. I know he has a large organization of fighters, a range of technologies which I am unfamiliar with, acts mostly under the radar, and has – tonight – carried out an act of open warfare, possibly a coup of sorts, here in London. If the matter could be dealt with as simply as telling Scotland Yard to arrest him and laying out my evidence before a jury, then the whole matter would have been dealt with long ago. I have spent months trying to put the puzzle pieces of your hidden world together, the innocent ones as well as the criminal ones. And I do not know where he currently is, where his base of operations is, how best to apprehend him, what would remain of his dangerous organization with him gone, or whether imprisonment in the custody of the ordinary British police would be anything like sufficient to stop him. I am missing many puzzle pieces yet.” And he looked keenly at her over the tips of his fingers.

“Well,” she said, “we don’t know all of those things either. And handing him over to the Muggle police would be a dreadful idea! He must be handled by wizards…”

“From what I understand of his capabilities, I must agree with you.”

“And yes,” she continued, “I suppose it was a coup. His forces attacked the ministry of magic just an hour ago.”

“And defeated the government forces.”

“They did.” She was looking at the floor.

“Riddle’s gang is in definite possession of the government headquarters then?” asked Sherlock.

“Yes, we have a friend who only just got out alive. The minister of magic was killed and the ministry itself is fallen.”

Sherlock nodded thoughtfully. “To what extent do you expect this will cripple the legitimate law-enforcement arm of your society?”

The three children looked at each other.

Sherlock leaned forward. “The battle in London cannot have wiped out the entirety of your government’s organization. What elements are left? To whom does the responsibility of apprehending the criminal fall?”

“Well,” said Hermione, “remember, we’re not talking about an ordinary Muggle style arrest.”

“I use the term ‘apprehend’ in a broad fashion.”

“We’re talking another battle, Mr. Holmes.” she said, her white face very earnest. “I don’t know what our forces look like at the moment; I don’t think anyone knows that tonight. Voldemort will have placed many of the important survivors under … a form of enchantment. I don’t know who and what’s left free. But we can’t try to attack him yet anyway. He has … protections, of a sort. You wouldn’t understand. And before we can directly engage him we must …”

“Hermione!” exclaimed the dark-haired boy. He was looking at her in apparent shock.

Without appearing to have noticed, my friend continued the girl’s sentence.

“Before we engage him we must remove these ‘protections’.”

“Yes.” she said.

Sherlock nodded, as though he understood her quite well.

“Do you mean ‘we’ as a generalization or as a specific?” he asked in businesslike tones.

She looked uncertainly towards her friends.

“Ah.” said Sherlock. “You do mean we. … A bit young to be taking on the leader of an opposing force by yourselves, aren’t you?”

The dark-haired boy, glanced side-ways at my friend and spoke in an under-tone to the girl.

“Hermione, how much are you planning on telling him? You’ve already gone too far! We can’t tell him about …”

“Why?” said Sherlock. “You are seeking a way to stop Riddle. So am I. I can be of assistance to you.”

The dark-haired boy went on: “Hermione, I promised Dumbledore I wouldn’t tell anyone but you and Ron. We can’t just tell some muggle because you’ve read about him in the papers! Better we muddle on by ourselves than let word get out to Voldemort.” He turned squarely to face Sherlock. “I’m sorry, Mr. Holmes. But I don’t think I can tell you.”

And I could see that he really was sorry. He seemed to think he was resisting a temptation. But it was infuriating, to have a mere boy say he knew a way to destroy the crime-lord, but was neither sure how to go about it nor would accept help.

“I appreciate the offer,” he continued, “but I really can’t accept. And, no offence, but we’re going to have to obliviate you. It won’t hurt.”

“Oh, I’ve been obliviated.” said Sherlock casually. “But – Dumbledore gave a teenager information on how to destroy a terrorist leader and forbade him to tell any adults?”

“We’re all of age!” said the red-head (who was apparently Ron). “I’ve been seventeen for months!”

“But you’re still young … few … uncertain. People are dying; both Muggles and Wizards. We’ve just been discussing how this has gone beyond mere criminal activity into actual warfare. You understand the situation perfectly well. You ran into hiding this very evening to avoid being captured by the enemy forces in control of the ministry. If you have information which will help bring Riddle to justice, you have to act now. If you aren’t sure how to proceed then you are duty bound to get assistance. … Let me assist. If it is the secrecy of your community that worries you – I’m not interested in a big exposure. I’m interested in stopping the murders, stopping the terrorism, and restoring order both in your nation and in mine. Your secret nation may be your business. But when it starts breaking English laws and attacking ordinary English citizens, it becomes my business. And about secrets getting to Riddle’s ear – I can keep them better you have yourself. If you weren’t going to accept my help in your secret mission against Riddle, Mr. Potter, you should never have told me that you had one. But you have been telling me this whole time.”

For a minute there was quiet. Then Miss Granger spoke.

“Harry, Dumbledore didn’t foresee this! He wanted you to keep the number of people small so the secret wouldn’t get out! This is just two more. People come from all over Europe to ask Mr. Holmes’s assistance! If you want only three then you’d do better to obliviate me, and take him instead!”

Harry seemed to be teetering. He leaned over and whispered something in her ear.

“Is his name written on his clothing?” I asked Sherlock quietly.

“Inside of his collar. H.J. Potter. I saw it when he bent over and put his head in his hands. He must have worn those robes at school.”

“Well, not one hundred percent!” exclaimed Miss Granger, responding to whatever Harry had been saying. “But I can’t imagine any good reason why not!” Then, with a sigh, she whispered something back. There was a long moment while Harry thought her words over.

“All right.” he finally said.

“Wait,” said Ron, “we’re letting a muggle in?”

“Two muggles.” said Sherlock, looking at me. “Anything that you can say to me, you can say also to Dr. Watson. You still have no objection to being involved in so outrageous and out-of-order an affair as a civil war among the nation’s wizards, have you, John?”

“No.” I said, greatly intrigued. “And of course I would keep secret anything revealed in confidence. Although, I’m not sure I can be of much help in an affair of that sort.”

“I assure you, you can be.” said Sherlock. “Yes, two muggles.”

To my surprise, Harry J. Potter made no objection to this. He nodded, took a breath, and despite the doubt that still haunted his eyes, he took the plunge.

“We don’t really have a plan. But before Voldemort can be fought there’s … things that must be done. If we, or any other wizards, try to take him, we have to assume that it’s a fight to the death. The team sent to ‘arrest’ him is either going to kill him or be killed by him. And that can’t happen right now. I mean … him being killed can’t.”

“What things must be done?” asked Sherlock.

“It’s difficult to explain to a Muggle …”

“Well,” I interjected, “remember he has been researching you for nearly a year.”

“What must be done?” Sherlock repeated.

“Before the first time he tried to seize power, he set up some … sort of safeguards … to prevent him being killed.”

“What do you mean safeguards?”

“Powerful magic objects …” said Harry slowly. To my surprise, Sherlock made no comment on the boy’s use of vocabulary. He half caught my eye with a subtly amused expression, as if he found their terminology entertaining and was inviting me to join the joke, but had no intention of challenging the terminology of these ‘wizards’. He was clearly more interested what to do about it than what they called it.

“Dark magic.” Harry continued. “They’re called horcruxes. He broke off pieces of his soul and attached them to certain objects” (Sherlock’s brows contracted) “protected with powerful spells. When he should have been killed, sixteen years ago, he wasn’t. He came back.”

“Came back?”

“He sort of … regenerated.”

“Regenerated?” I said. “Like Doctor Who?”

Everyone in the room (including Sherlock) looked questioningly at me.

“Doctor who?” asked Ron.

“Ah, no one. No one. Go on.”

Chapter 3 ~ Statement of the Case ~>

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 3 – Statement of the Case will be available on April 21st.  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 [I]



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Chapter I ~ The Strange Case of Amelia Bones


I had never known my friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, to be as totally preoccupied with anything so deeply and for such a long time since the death of the late Professor Moriarty as he was over the course of the year preceding this narrative. And never, in all the years I had known him, had he been as recalcitrant in answering questions.

For some months, I had thought it was just the strange case of Ms. Bones which had absorbed him so thoroughly. Ms. Amelia Bones, a quiet middle aged lady living alone in London, had been found dead in her home. All the doors and windows had been locked from the inside and there was no evidence of a break-in, yet there were clear marks of a desperate struggle. Sherlock had originally scoffed at the sensational nature of the reports, and lost no time getting on the case himself. He told the police that the people they were looking for were four in number, dressed in long cloaks, three men and a woman, that the woman was unusually tall, with long dark hair, long nails, and a somewhat hysterical personality, and that the actual murder had been done by one of the men – who had small feet with long toes, was thin, even taller than the woman, and who had stood in the middle of the room talking for some time after the initial struggle, before he actually killed his victim. When asked by the police how these persons got into the locked room, and then back out again without unlocking the doors, breaking the windows, or leaving their tracks anywhere except the room of the murder, Mr. Holmes fixed the officer with a strange look and replied simply: “They teleported.”

After this he was always busy. I was not surprised, for I knew he could not be satisfied until he had gotten to the bottom of the mystery. I did not for one second believe that he really meant that they had teleported, supposing this to be merely sarcasm. He several times took great interest in cases which seemed simple enough to everyone else. He would be absent from London for days at a time, and neglect to volunteer information about where he had been. When asked he would be, as it seemed to me at the time, deliberately evasive. He also, and this to me seemed the strangest thing of all, took up studies of a new and most unusual kind. I could not find the common point in his research; everything from highly technical works on the most up-to-date and abstract micro-physics, to paranormal theories I would have expected him to give a mile’s berth. When I asked if I could help, he assured me that he would be certain to call on me if there was anything I could do … but he still didn’t say what he was up to.

All through this of course, he kept on with his normal work, handling at least as many, perhaps more, cases that year than usual.

It was on the first of August that I finally heard something of the theory which had preoccupied my friend so entirely for so many months. We had just returned from Cornwall, upon an investigation into the disappearance of a young lady by the name of Charity Burbage. She had not, it appeared, been seen for several weeks by the time Sherlock Holmes was called to the case, and there had been little that even he could ascertain from her house by that time. There was no sign of a break in; she might have just left it for the afternoon. She was reported by the neighbours to be a friendly and outgoing woman who spent most of the year up north, where she apparently worked as a teacher. But no one could provide any concrete details on her work or her colleagues. We went back to London that night, as I thought, little the wiser about the young lady’s fate. Sherlock was quiet on the train; I guessed that this time even he was stumped. Rather than returning straight to our homes, he to Baker Street and I to St. Anne Street, we stopped in a small café for a late supper.

The room was empty and rather dingy, and my companion was still wrapped in a taciturn reverie, so I busied myself with the evening paper whilst we ate (or rather I, for he ordered only a coffee). There was a television playing in the corner. My companion’s back was to it, and he showed no signs of being aware of it, or of anything in the café. It took me by surprise, therefore, when the introspective thinker suddenly awoke; his face had become intent and he swung quickly around to look over his shoulder. A news report was playing and it was clearly this which had caught his ear.

“… but by the time the firemen and rescue personnel arrived on the scene, there was no sign of the reported conflagration. A second witness claims to have heard cries at about the time of the initial report, which he said could have been coming from near the corner of Dwight and Forth Streets, but he admits that he might have been mistaken. It remains unclear whether the whole affair was an elaborate joke, if something did indeed happen at the corner, or if someone made a genuine mistake. Meanwhile, at Windsor …”

Sherlock drew his phone from the pocket of his blazer as he turned away. From the suppressed excitement of his face, and the urgency of his movements, it was clear that this story meant a great deal more to him than it did to me.

“You think the incident has some bearing on a case?” I asked, attempting to discern the cause of his reaction.

“Yes indeed it does, if I am not gravely mistaken. A rather great bearing. I was expecting something of the sort.”

“Expecting pranksters?”

“It wasn’t a prank.” he replied, apparently carrying on two conversations at once, for he was texting quite hastily. “I’m sure there really was a fire, or something very closely resembling one. It had just been put out before the rescue team got there.”

“By whom?”

“Probably by the people who started it.”

“You expected arson?” I said in surprise. “Shouldn’t you then have warned the police?”

“Why, my dear fellow, you do me an injustice. … I did not in fact inform Scotland Yard, but Mycroft knew full well to watch out for disturbances and suspicious sightings in that area.” He chuckled; his brother’s position in the governement gave him significantly better powers of observation than the police had easy access to. “I rather fancied Scotland Yard might be a bit out of their depth.”

“Well …” I said, looking in surprise at Sherlock, whose expression had immediately lapsed back from the brief chuckle into that of serious concentration, “apparently, so was Mycroft.”

“That report had almost nothing. All we know is that something happened there at nine o’clock this evening.”

These strange assertions did little to enlighten me.

“Sherlock … this doesn’t have anything to do with the Amelia Bones case, does it?”

“You are quite on the mark this evening, John.” “It has everything to do with Amelia Bones. … Mycroft knows almost as little as we do. The alarm of fire was given by one of the agents he had stationed there and the other is missing.”

Mycroft stationed agents at the corners of Dwight and Forth Streets?!” I said in shock. “What were you expecting to happen? Your brother doesn’t post agents over suspected arson.”

“It wasn’t arson.” he said. “It was a battle. … Gang warfare, John.”

“Gang? The gang that killed Ms. Bones, you mean?”

“Exactly. In fact I have reason to believe that it was her murderer who led this attack.”

Thrilled at finally getting a hint of what he’d been up to all this time, I pursued the thread.

“Who was the murderer?”

“A dangerous and highly unusual man. Tall, thin, long-fingered, cruel, arrogant, fond of the sound of his own voice, violently racist towards ordinary Englishmen, the owner of an extremely large and remarkably well trained python, possessing a great amount of resources, an extraordinary variety of odd technology, and who appears to be the leader of a murderous organization which is very well hidden but spread throughout all of Britain.”

“He’s the … leader of a gang?”

“Yes.”

“What do you mean he’s racist towards ordinary Englishmen? Do you mean class hatred?”

“No.” he fixed me with an odd look. “I mean people like you and me, John.”

My confusion must have shown on my face, for he continued wryly:

“Yes, that does happen. It unfortunately happens more often than you’d think. This gang leader is only one such.”

“Who is he?”

“His name you mean?”

“Mm-hm.”

“Well, of this I cannot be sure … but I have a theory. I believe, or rather to be fair, I think it highly likely, his name is Riddle.”

“Just Riddle? Is that some sort of …”

“No no, nothing of the kind. But I have reason to believe that he was the son of a country squire named Thomas Riddle, which would make his surname Riddle.”

“Well, that doesn’t sound so very far from ordinary. What exactly do you mean by …” I broke off as his gaze suddenly flashed to the door. A pair of teenagers had just come in together, a girl and a boy. Besides the slightly odd fact that the girl was wearing a lovely lavender party dress while the boy was in worn jeans and a rumpled orange sweatshirt, I could see nothing about them to warrant interest. But I could see that Sherlock, though pretending to play with his phone, was really watching them very closely. They took a booth near the door, and sat there, looking a bit uncomfortable. They were speaking to each other, but in whispers I could not pick up.

“What is it?” I asked my companion.

“They’re fugitives.” he said beneath his breath, still playing with the phone.

“How do you make that out?”

“Look at them. They’ve just come from a formal event. Look at her clothes and hair. But they left in a hurry. He was wearing dress clothes too, but changed out of them quickly. He pulled on the clothes he’s wearing now fast and carelessly. But he’s still wearing his dress shoes. They were at the event together then, but he changed. Why? Not for practicality’s sake. If that had been the case she’d have taken off those heels. Perhaps because his clothes would stand out more than hers. … Long robes, for instance.” He gave me a look, as if wondering whether I got something. Then I remembered he had described Ms. Bones’ assailants as wearing long cloaks or robes. “They are clearly nervous, perhaps they expect to be followed. The young lady keeps looking over her shoulder at the door. So, they left a party in a great hurry, were worried they would stand out, fear attack … and don’t know what to do next. You can see from their manner that they are uncertain.”

“Maybe it’s just a bad date?”

“No. That wouldn’t explain him changing his outfit. And hers is too formal for that. And they aren’t nervous about each other. Look at the way she’s leaning across the table towards him, it’s almost conspiratorial, they’re very used to each other. They can’t be out of school yet, or at least he can’t. But they aren’t related, at least not closely. … First of all there’s their appearance, absolutely no family resemblance. Then there’s their clothes. Her things appear new. Not his.”

“Well, hers are formal wear.”

“Yes, but he’s still wearing his formal shoes. Did you notice the soles? Almost worn through. A boy that age doesn’t usually fit a pair of dress shoes long enough to wear them through. They’re hand-me-downs then, or second-hand. Her family has to be at least solidly middle-class. His is short on money. These school children are not close relatives then, but still very familiar. School friends then. And what might we deduce about their companion?”

Companion?” I asked, trying to keep my voice down in my surprise. “Sherlock, there’s only two of them.”

“Yes. I wouldn’t expect you to notice him. But this isn’t the first time this year I’ve happened across difficult to see things. Did you notice the way they walked in? She came first, and he followed some space behind her, pausing just momentarily, but leaving a good space between them. She sat down right away in the left hand side, but he waited before taking the opposite seat; looking not at her but at the seat. It shifted, just slightly, before he sat down. There is a third person sitting next to him on the right hand bench.”

“But how …”

“The manipulation of light waves to bend around an object rather than bouncing off it has been theorized. Of course, none of our scientists have yet managed to make such an object, but this group has done enough strange things that we have not that I find it not in the slightest difficult to conceive that they have done this also. Especially since the proof sits in front of me.”

“Well then,” I said, with raised eyebrows, “what can be deduced about him … or her?”

Him, I think, though I shalln’t insist on this point. Judging by the shifting of the bench, I’d say he’s slightly lighter than his red-headed friend (how tall it is impossible to say). Unlikely to be a full grown man then, although he could be a small one. Possibly he could be a woman. But more likely another teenager. And look at their manner to him. They aren’t directly addressing him, and he hasn’t ordered a drink. … They are pretending there’s only two of them, but they keep giving off subtle cues showing that the third person is very much a part of their little group. When she bends across the table, it isn’t directly towards the red-head. Their posture takes him into account. They probably don’t even realize it. They don’t look directly at the corner seat much, but they keep glancing towards it, not nervously, but conversationally, and at least in her case, rather sympathetically. Whoever is sitting there is clearly not only an ally, but as familiar as they are to each other, they neither avoid him, nor defer to him, he is solidly one of them. … In all likelihood a third school friend. A little knot of three.

“But it is only he who is invisible. It’s probably a small piece of equipment, worn like a cloak or a poncho. Since they are obviously keen on not being seen, they would clearly all be wearing them if they had them, but they are not, so they only have one. And he gets it. Why?”

“Because … it’s him, or her, that’s actually in danger?”

“A sound conclusion. For some reason, the third person is either in more danger, or is more likely to be noticed, or both.” continued Sherlock. “He gets the invisibility cloak.”

Invisibility cloak.” I said with half a laugh shaking my head. “Sherlock, you have a point, but that sounds so …”

“So what?”

“…. Silly.”

“No, not at all. In theory it’s really rather simple, you merely…”

“No, I don’t need a science lecture. … I’ll take your word for it. … Now, why are they on the run? Something to do with that … battle you mentioned?”

“The two incidents are too close for them to be coincidental. There’s something going on there at the corner of Dwight and Forth, related to this secret minority or gang. I’ve been keeping a close eye on it, and have very good reason to believe that it is something of a centre of operations.”

“What have you seen?”

“It’s more what I haven’t.” he said. “I don’t normally wake up on Northumberland street with no idea how I got there, but with a clear memory of having intended to search Dwight and Forth that morning.”

“You think that someone messed with your mind?”

“I’m sure that they did.”

“And you’ve no idea what happened that day?”

“Oh, I have a very good idea.” He smiled grimly. “But I have absolutely no ‘memory’ of the hours between ten and one. … Clearly …”

“I see. … And, is this the only time this has happened?”

He shook his head. “No, something similar has happened on at least two other occasions since I got on the case – possibly three.”

“So, you obviously found something …”

“And they took it back. Yes.” he snapped. “But I’m quite certain about Dwight and Forth. They didn’t see me every time – I was quite right in telling Hopkins about the long robes and cloaks, by the way.” His momentary irritation had faded. “So, a battle happens at a central base of operations, almost immediately thereafter, three school children run away in the middle of a formal party, try to blend in among normal people, aren’t sure where to go or what to do now, expect attack, and bother to make one of their number invisible.”

“Their side lost the battle.” I said, but this time I wasn’t asking.

“I think they must have. And for some reason these three children expected immediate recrimination. Why? They’re just teenagers. It’s difficult to see why they would be special targets.”

“But what is really under the cloak?”

“Yes, I think that has to be it. He is on the run, and they have accompanied their friend. So, the third person is someone of importance to this secret war, on the side which has just lost a battle, and unless I’m gravely mistaken, against the side which is responsible for Ms. Bones murder and Miss Burbage’s abduction.”

“Wait. Miss Burbage was abducted? You didn’t say that before. How do you know that, there was nothing in her house to …”

“She was abducted.” he said, as if there could be no mistake about the matter. “I’m afraid it is highly unlikely that she is still alive. And even if she were, it would be impossible for the police to effect a rescue at this stage. But this teen …” He broke off, his eyes flashed to the door, where two big, ill-tempered looking men in road-work uniforms had just come in. They stomped to a table behind us, near the teens, out of my sight. Sherlock, though he kept his face mostly in the direction of his phone, clearly found something either interesting or alarming about them (probably both, I thought to myself).

“Humph.” he observed. “Didn’t even bother to scuff up their boots. John, I did recommend you bring your handgun today … ”

“Yes, I have it.”

“You might want want to have it where you can reach it quickly. There might be an exchange of unpleasantries.”

“They aren’t workmen?”

“Goodness no. Look at their hands. … No, don’t look, you’ll attract attention. And see, they aren’t here for coffee or sandwiches.” The waitress was walking off towards the back looking miffed.

“Should we uh … say something? Maybe?” I suggested.

“Oh no.” my friend replied. “We shall watch the situation develop. … Besides, I rather fancy our invisible young friend has read the signs too.” He leaned back a little in his seat and pressed the tips of his fingers together, surveying the ‘developing situation’. In response to his warning, I had taken my pistol off safety, and had it in my hand. I could not see the two men from my position, and so waited uncomfortably in the knowledge that a fight between grown men and mere children was brewing behind my back. Then suddenly, Sherlock leapt to his feet with a cry of warning … and chaos broke loose.

The scene that followed was of such a singular nature, and was so outré a sight, that I hesitate to describe it. My first thought was that there had been an explosion, for in the moment it took me to jump up and turn round, there was a succession of loud noises of an unfamiliar nature, accompanied by much crashing and flashes of light. But the scene which met my eyes was one of near comedic nonsensicalism. From what Sherlock had told me, I should have expected it, but nevertheless, the sight of a hand and wrist hovering in mid-air all by themselves took me by surprise. And so too did their weapons. For a fraction of a second I thought that they had none, and wondered why they were grasping small drumsticks, before I realized that those were their weapons.

With a shout, I sent a bullet into the table beside the not-workmen to get their attention before any of them had time to fire again. For a moment the two teens and the remaining man (the other had slumped over on the bench) stopped and looked at us with what seemed to be astonishment. The bodiless hand paused in mid-air.

“I don’t know what your problem is.” I said. “But you don’t have to go around smashing up shops and zapping passer-bys! Put the drumsticks down!”

“I recommend that you don’t make him fire again.” Sherlock said coolly. “The first was a warning shot. The second won’t be. And I’ve never seen him miss.”

There was a moment’s pause in which the astonishment on all three of the faces was replaced by an ugly sneer on the not-workman’s face and horror on the girl’s face. Then the not-workman began to laugh, a nasty laugh which chilled my stomach.

Certain that this was the prelude to something not at all friendly, I began to threaten.

“Point that drumstick at me,” I blustered, “and …”

And then he pointed it at me. Then, as far as I could make out, everyone – besides Sherlock and the unconscious not-workman – fired at once.

For a moment I could make no sense of it. My own bullet whizzed right back past me and took out a light-panel. The not-workman fell backwards with a horrible shriek, in spite of the fact that my bullet couldn’t possibly have hit him. There was more flashing, a window broke, and the waitress slid to the ground.

Then all was quiet, and Sherlock Holmes, the two teens, the bodiless hand, and I stood there amidst the wreckage of the café.

“Well. … That. Was. Interesting.” said Sherlock.

I turned to the teenagers: “You all right, kids?”

Chapter 2 – The Hidden Mansion in London’s Heart ~>


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 3 – Statement of the Case will be available on April 21st. 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!