Chapter 1: Chapter 1
He hurt. Every molecule of his being hurt. His brain was slow. Too slow. Trying to catch up to the last place it had been when everything was still normal. When they’d turned down a ride from Lestrade in favor of grabbing a cab and getting home sooner. When he’d been hurrying down Rosary Gardens toward Fulham Road, cold hands burrowed deep in his pockets, collar turned up, hunched forward against the cold, John at his side.
John, who was crumpled in a heap on the curb ten feet away, half illuminated by a feeble streetlamp
He struggled up to his hands and knees, feeling queasy and dizzy, biting back the urge to vomit. His skin was on fire, burning from the inside out. His joints throbbed.
He sucked in a breath, steeled himself. Scooted, rolled, army-crawled across the alley toward John. Every inch was unimaginable pain, liquid death. He was crawling through broken glass, suffering slivers of bamboo pushed deep beneath each fingernail.
Don’t be dead. Don’t be dead. Please don’t be dead.
The ground was electrified. Or the air. It was a freak accident, or a booby trap. It was the only explanation, short of something extraterrestrial or a secret experimental weapon. They’d been hit with an electric arc, a bone-burning shock. Flashes of light in green and white and red that came from nowhere and everywhere.
And John – John had jumped in front of him, had shouted something at their attacker. Had hurled the light back at him.
Had shouted at him in Latin.
Nothing made sense. Nothing.
He heard John’s laboured breathing , pulled himself even closer, struggled to sit. He held up his mobile, his hand shaking so badly he could barely press the single key needed to activate the flashlight app.
Blood. John’s shoulder was slashed, blood oozing out, soaking shirt and jumper. His eyes were closed, fingers twitching.
Not good. Fuck. Not good at all.
Sherlock reached for John’s wrist, shaky fingers closing around it, searching for a pulse. It was there, weak but true.
John’s hand was closed in a fist, closed around something – a stick. A length of wood. Sherlock frowned at it but didn’t release John’s hand as he turned his head toward the street.
“Help! We need help!”
He’d hoped to raise someone in one of the homes or businesses lining the street. But something huge and noisy and fucking purple appeared out of nowhere. Sherlock’s collapsed backward, rolling over John, eyes locked on the thing
Baskerville. Drugs. Hallucinogens. He closed his eyes – opened them. The only thing real was the solid and still warm weight of John’s body.
That thing – that purple monstrosity – was a bus. It settled in place, sinking marginally with the loud hiss of easing hydraulics.
“You blokes need help?”
An oddly-dressed man –in Victorian velvet clashing horribly with the purple bus behind him, looked suspiciously at Sherlock.
Steam punk? Cosplaying? No no no. Fucking hallucination.
“You do this to him?”
Sherlock shook his head. He couldn’t get words out. His arms were trembling now, his hands twitching. Nerve damage, his brain supplied.
“Attacked,” he managed at last as the man bent down and stared into John’s face. “Hospital.”
“Whatcha got, Sam?” someone called out from inside the bus.
“Two for Mungo’s!” shouted Sam. He was shining something – a torch? – into the alleyway they’d been crossing. “Wait – looks like a Muggle baiter in the alley – he’s down.”
“They ain’t Muggles.”
“They’re dressed like Muggles. One of them posh.”
There was a scuffle of noise and someone was bending over Sherlock, prying his arm off John’s wrist. He was vaguely aware that John was being carried away. The torch was on him now, and he tried to roll away from the light. “You see the bus? What color is it?”
Sherlock’s vision was swimming. “Purple,” he managed. A sharp cry escaped him when he was pulled up to a sitting position.
“Careful, Frank. He’s been Crucio’d. Get ‘im on board.”
An agonising minute later, he was lowered onto a bed beside John.
It was the most ridiculous sequence of events, the most horrid of hallucinations. Not real, he mentally chanted as the bus jerked forward, gaining speed more quickly than any vehicle should, then shuddering violently. He felt weightless for a moment, then jerked against John as the bus shuddered again and stopped. He wrapped his arms around John’s comforting weight, the only real thing in this world of madness.
“Two from Rosary Gardens, dressed as Muggles, downed by a baiter. One cut, one Crucio’d.”
Two real things. Rosary Gardens was real.
Sherlock watched in detached disbelief as two medics boarded the bus and approached them. Their scrubs were garishly green.
The hallucination turned itself on its head as one of them brandished a stick and his hold on John slipped away. He watched helplessly as John floated up off the bed.
Alien abduction? Fuck. Think! Something in the air? Gas? Chemicals? Dream?
The feeling of floating was ethereal. He resolutely kept his eyes open.
No light from above. No movement upward toward a waiting ship. No government vehicles. No Mycroft.
Doors opened. Bright light from inside, a buzz of activity. More robed medics.
“John? Where are you taking John?”
He half-heard the replies. Human voices. British accents. Trauma. Blood loss. Family?
He was settled on a narrow bed. He lost track of John. Lost track of time. Refused to drink from the glass vial pressed against his mouth. Found himself drinking and swallowing even though his brain said no, even though he knew it was a bad idea. Vaguely wondered how they’d manipulated his mind. Found it fascinating, in a detached way,
Pain was beginning to subside.
Wondered if he could get out of bed unnoticed, find John, get in bed with him, hold him, an anchor to lost reality. Or if this was reality, bear it, suffer it, enjoy it with him.
“One more, sir, for the pain.” Another vial – large test tube. He looked up into warm brown eyes. Human woman. No data. Query returned no results. Impossible.
“What was the first one, then?” he managed, pushing back the mind-numbing shock of synapses not completing, deductions not made.
“Anti-Cruciatus. It may take a few hours to repair all the nerve damage – you had several sustained hits, sir. The pain will increase as the potion works. You’ll want this one – really.”
His hands were folded across his stomach. He stared at them, struggling with what was missing. No IV.
Nerve damage can’t be repaired in a few hours.
He rolled to his side with difficulty.
She smiled. Good sign. “Mr. Watson? Oh, he’ll be fine. Give him a bit for the blood replenishing potion to work then he’ll be in here, I’m sure.” She laughed. “He’s causing a bit of an uproar – keeps insisting we transfer you to St. Bart’s.” She shook her head and patted his knee. “Muggle hospital. Now swallow.”
Relief was immediate. Fuck morphine – this – this elixir was like magic. Tingling rush from gut to extremities. Arms and legs heavy and weak but nearly pain-free. Flesh no longer burning, skin no longer on fire. Mind clearer. He watched the – nurse? Yes, nurse. Nearing thirty. Married. Hides her smoking habit. Pregnant – first child.
“Are you feeling well enough to give a statement to the Aurors?” she asked. He didn’t protest as she eased him onto his back again and worked two pillows under his head and shoulders.
Aurors? He ticked the unfamiliar word away with the others. Muggle. Potion. Cruciatus.
He focused on the part he did understand. Statement. “Lestrade. Call Lestrade.”
She shook her head fondly. “We don’t get to choose who the Ministry sends, dear. Now, that was a class four pain potion. It will make you a bit woozy for an hour or two.”
He watched her leave the room. Squinted at her back. Not scrubs – more like an overly-long lab coat. Horrifyingly lime green. He glanced around the room. Muted light coming from nowhere. No tubes, machines, blood-pressure cuff, call button. No monitors. No electrical outlets or light fixtures. No window. Nothing attached to him. Nothing in him. Pleasant painting on the wall. Oil. Good – very good. Street scene. Old-fashioned store fronts.
He turned his head, stared at the ceiling, head swimming pleasantly.
Class four pain potion?
He filed it with the previous data in the realm of impossible and tried another self-assessment.
He was dressed. His Belstaff hung on a hook beside the door. He didn’t recall anyone removing it, or his shoes either, but they sat on the floor below the coat. He wiggled his toes. They moved reluctantly. Socks still on. His limbs were heavy, sluggish, but painfree. The dizziness was abating.
He took a full minute to sort, classify and store before trying to move again.
Secret government-controlled facility. Non-intrusive remedies to treat – what? Attacks from extraterrestrials? A criminal underground armed with lasers? Transportation by means of a giant purple bus with beds where seats should be?
His limbs would not cooperate when he tried to sit up, so he gave it up and ran through it all again.
They’d been walking – he and John – from the scene of an apparent homicide-suicide, walking up Rosary Gardens toward Fulham Road, where they’d grab a cab and get back to Baker Street and collapse in a heap in bed. It was cold and windy, and they’d been walking side by side, hands in pockets, collars turned up, heads tipped down against the wind.
They’d been crossing an alleyway when something had flashed, a streak of light in his peripheral vision, and John had grunted in pain, spun on his heel and charged forward into the alley, cursing.
John had shouted something. Something…in Latin?
Bad Latin. Expelliaramus?
Then – this memory was clear. “Get out of here, Sherlock! Go!”
More flashes before he could react. Something hit him, a crush of pain, unbearable agony. He barely remembered crumpling to the ground, hitting his head on the pavement. Another blast. Excruciating. Bone-melting pain. He recalled screaming. Wanting to die. Waiting to die. Then it stopped, the flashes and the screaming, but he was still writhing, arms jerking, and when he’d finally been able to roll over, John was down.
John had known. John had been surprised by the attack but he’d known – something. Had been familiar with the attacker, or his weapons.
Only one way to make the pieces connect. John was on the inside, part of whatever this was. This operation.
John was working for Mycroft.
Doing what? Protecting him? Spying on him?
Sharing his bed. Sitting on the edge of the bathtub while he shaved in the morning. Snogging him against the wall after a successful case.
John was pushing his way past a doctor? – nurse? – same green lab coat– in the doorway.
“Sherlock.” The look of relief on John’s face was genuine. “Are you all right?”
Sherlock stared at John’s injured arm. He remembered blood. A lot of blood. John adjusted it self-consciously when he noticed Sherlock’s stare. His jumper was torn and blood-stained but his arm wasn’t even bandaged. “It wasn’t as bad as it looked,” he said.
The feeling in the pit of his stomach was foreign. It felt like betrayal.
“You’re working for Mycroft,” Sherlock stated. His voice was calm. He hoped he’d managed to internalise this very surprising information. But it was more likely that the concoction he’d swallowed was responsible for his even temper.
“What?” John sat down beside the bed on a chair that was decidedly not there a moment before. “What are you talking about? I’m not….” John’s voice trailed off and he groaned, dropping his head into his hands. “No – Sherlock. No. I know what it looks like, but it’s not what you think.”
“Right. This isn’t an experimental medical facility with no obvious source of power and we weren’t brought here on a gigantic purple bus with beds instead of seats.”
John said nothing. Sherlock had expected something – denial at the very least. But John was staring at Sherlock, mouth agape.
“Who told you that?” he managed at last.
“Told me what?” Sherlock retorted, frowning at John.
“The bus. The Knight Bus.”
“Told me? No one. I saw it. Couldn’t exactly help it – it filled the entire street.”
“You saw the Knight Bus.” John annunciated each word, watching Sherlock closely.
“I was checking your pulse – and I called for help. The bus simply appeared. It seemed to grow out of the pavement.” He lifted a hand and held it in front of his face, studying it with interest. “A hallucination, of course. Buses are not purple. Buses do not have beds. Buses do not grow out of the pavement.”
“You summoned the Knight Bus. Sherlock – you summoned the Knight Bus.”
John seemed half frantic. He pushed back from the bed and hurried into the corridor. Sherlock heard him conversing with the nurse. When he came back, he nearly launched himself at Sherlock.
“They gave you potions. Potions!”
“Anti-Cruciatus and a class four pain potion,” Sherlock clarified. “Highly effective. I’ll have to persuade Mycroft to procure some of the pain remedy for me. It’s better than morphine.”
“You – you think I’m part of this – this thing. With Mycroft.” John collapsed back onto the chair. Sherlock idly noticed it was now an upholstered wingback. John was staring at him, the barest hint of a smile on his face. “Where did you go to school, Sherlock? Before Uni, I mean. Public school?”
Sherlock looked at the wall behind the bed. Questions about his past always made him vaguely uncomfortable.
“Somewhere in France, I’m told,” he answered. “Boarding school.”
“France,” repeated John. “You’re told? You don’t remember seven years of boarding school?”
Sherlock shrugged. He certainly didn’t want to discuss this with John – or anyone – and hardly saw how it could be relevant.
“You deleted it.” The look on John’s face was – well, remarkable. He stood, staring at Sherlock in wonder. Awe. The look was disconcerting. “Your parents, Mycroft. Sherlock – where did they go to school?” He was standing against the bed now, and his hand, his fingers, were on Sherlock’s face, grazing his jaw. “Sherlock. Come on. Think. This is important.”
“Mycroft attended the same school. Mummy went to a boarding school in Scotland. Father –” He paused, frowned. He knew this, didn’t he? There was something different about his father. “I don’t recall.”
“Healer Barnes!” John startled him as he spun on the spot and called out for the nurse.
A woman appeared at the door, dressed in the same atrocious clothing as all the others. “Mr. Watson – really. All this fuss….”
“Does the name Mycroft Holmes mean anything to you?” asked John. He’d turned away from Sherlock, but his hand had moved to Sherlock’s arm and rested there still.
“Mr. Holmes is the Ministry’s Magical-Muggle Liaison,” she said. “Is there a problem? Should I contact the Ministry?”
But John was laughing. No – crying? Shoulders shaking. Wiping away tears. He’d collapsed onto the chair again. Sherlock idly wondered if the chair could possibly get any larger and more comfortable. Alice in Wonderland, he thought. He closed his eyes as his fingers tingled. Eat me.
“Contact Mr. Holmes and tell him his brother is at St. Mungo’s with John Watson,” John instructed. He laughed. Only it wasn’t a laugh. The sound that escaped him was half maniacal, half disbelieving.
“His brother?” The healer’s eyes popped open wide and slid over to Sherlock. Sherlock could feel those eyes on him, though he determinedly ignored the woman’s presence.
“Sherlock. Look at me.”
John had his hand now.
“The bad Latin was enough, John. Don’t start butchering French too.”
John frowned, but then his face quickly relaxed into an amused grin.
“Ah – in the alley. Sorry about that.” His hand on Sherlock’s tightened.
“You deleted it, didn’t you?” he asked softly. “You fucking deleted magic.”
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
The mystery of Mycroft's ubiquitous umbrella is explained - though something is preventing him from speaking his mind, Sherlock gets a visit from a famous Auror, and John finds that doing magic after so long is like riding a bike.
Statements were given to the police. Therefore Aurors were police.
He’d made one futile attempt to sit up and follow John, then reminded himself to insist Mycroft bring him a supply of this incredible “class four pain potion.” Or perhaps class three or five, whichever was stronger. He closed his eyes and attempted, again, to sort everything out. He didn’t yet have enough data – was this a fantastic drug-induced hallucination or a mind-jarring trip into an underworld master-minded by the British government?
The one thing he was ready to discount was John’s explanation.
And that was the problem.
John he trusted. John he loved. John was his best friend – more than his best friend. His partner, by day and by night. If John could be part of this farce, if John’s friendship and love were feigned, unreal, the betrayal would be unassailable. He would have no option other than to delete even more years of his life.
He was unwilling to take this at face value. To believe that John was part of a world hidden from him, employed by his brother, for protection or surveillance.
You fucking deleted magic.
Magic. It was a world of impossibilities, purple buses and healing elixirs and lights without power and hospitals without machines, lasers that inflicted nerve damage and nearly cut off John’s arm.
“Beauxbatons, Sherlock. A school for magical education in France. Exclusive.” Was John crying? “Fuck, Sherlock. What the hell happened to you? How could you delete magic?”
No. John didn’t know. Hadn’t known. He’d been shocked, unbalanced, swinging rapidly from shock to joy then back to disbelief.
But John was pulled out of the room, and Sherlock was left alone, and now the door was opening again and there were voices in the corridor.
“Right here, Mr. Holmes. I’m sorry, sir. We didn’t have identification – he came in without his wand. We’d have called you immediately had we known, of course.”
Mycroft, looking exactly as Mycroft always looked, superior, unyielding, unrattled, walked silently over to Sherlock’s bed and stood staring at him. Sherlock closed his eyes.
“Well, well. Not exactly the wake-up call I was expecting, Sherlock.”
Sherlock opened his eyes. He stared at the ceiling.
“What is this place?” Sherlock asked. He sounded bored, disinterested. Anyone else might have thought he was just making conversation.
“This place – ” Mycroft sat at his bedside in a wooden chair that scraped against the floor as he settled in. “ – is St. Mungo’s. A hospital.”
“Patron saint and founder of the City of Glasgow,” Sherlock said, more to himself than to Mycroft. “So – we’re in Glasgow, then?”
“You’re in London, Sherlock.”
Sherlock couldn’t quite make his fingers do his bidding, so he steepled them mentally.
“Why am I here?”
“Rather obvious, considering this is a hospital. You were attacked. Injured.”
“Why am I here and not at St. Bart’s?” Sherlock’s eyes were squeezed shut. He hated this. Feeling vulnerable. Not knowing. Not understanding. Doubting John.
“St. Mungo’s is a hospital that treats m … the type of injuries you’ve sustained.”
“Magical injuries. Am I hallucinating?”
“No, not this time,” answered Mycroft, rather calmly.
No one spoke for a moment or two. Sherlock managed to press his index fingers together, giving him a clarity of thought that may have been more imagined than actual.
“Was there – or was there not – a large purple bus that appeared out of nowhere when I called for help?”
Sherlock’s head still felt exceedingly heavy –a pleasant kind of wobbly heavy – but he rolled it to the side again until he was staring at Mycroft. “John said I summoned it.”
“The Kn….” Mycroft nearly choked on the word. “That particular bus comes only when summoned.”
Mycroft pulled his chair in an inch or two. He looked serious – very serious. Sherlock disliked serious Mycroft as much as he disliked sarcastic Mycroft. No, not disliked. Detested. “Sherlock, there is a world you once knew – a world where all of this makes sense. You have inadvertently stumbled back into it. I thought this day might come, especially once John Watson came along, but never imagined it would happen like this, that you would be attacked. I have taken precautions, of course, but – ”
“A world I once knew?” Sherlock challenged. The brothers stared at one another, unblinking. “John was right, then.”
“You deleted it,” confirmed Mycroft. “Some years ago. When you were twenty years old. Mummy went along with it, as you were so - .” He frowned. “She thought you might find happiness – fulfillment – in the Muggle world, quite as she had, if you didn’t have the other to distract you.”
“Muggle. Someone born without … someone who cannot…” Sherlock found Mycroft’s uncharacteristic struggle with words both annoying and unsettling. “Father is a Muggle.”
“And Mummy is…not?”
“No. She is quite the opposite. But she’s been essentially living as a Muggle since she married Father.” Mycroft leaned in. “You knew this once, Sherlock. You grew up with it. You excelled….”
“And John?” he interrupted. Of course he excelled. He excelled at everything. Nearly everything. Everything that mattered.
Mycroft sighed. He pushed back from the bedside and tapped his fingers on his leg. “Yes, that did complicate things, didn’t it? He’s Muggle-born, like Mummy, and for reasons entirely his own, has separated himself from – the other world. When he moved in with you, I had him checked out, of course, by both Ministries, and discovered his little secret. He carries his w… w….” He made a gagging noise and looked displeased. “Weapon with him at all times, but until today, I don’t believe he’s ever used…it… in your presence, and perhaps not at all.”
The memory of John’s crumpled body, hand tight around the length of wood, returned. He bit back the feeling of despair, of helplessness. “The stick. What is it? A wand?”
Mycroft nodded. It was a sharp, inelegant jerk of the head.
Wand. Muggle. Potion. Cruciatus. Knight Bus. Magic. Auror. Beauxbatons. The words imprinted themselves on his brain, unfamiliar yet not. His mind was racing. Mycroft was suspect. He did not want to believe him. Did not trust him.
“Why? Why would I delete this?”
“It was too easy. Unscientific. You didn’t have to think, to stretch, to solve. It was a crutch you hated. You wished to excel on your own merits.”
Sherlock considered. There was truth in what Mycroft said, but it wasn’t enough. “And?”
Mycroft frowned. He looked uncomfortable.
“You were going mad, Sherlock. You weren’t able to reconcile the two worlds. I think you can gather what that means.”
The brothers stared at each other. Surprisingly, it was Sherlock who looked away first.
Sherlock didn’t know what magic could do yet. Not fully. He’d seen it take someone down with a shard of pure light. Make giant purple buses appear out of the air. Repair nerve damage with foul-tasting liquids.
“I deleted magic,” he repeated. “Is this why I have no memories of school?”
“You attended a special academy in France for seven years.” Mycroft trailed off, shook his head. “I knew this would be difficult. Have you ever tried to recover deleted knowledge?”
“I delete to make room, Mycroft, or because I don’t want to remember.”
“You might, though. You’re different now – older.” He laughed, but it was a harsh sound, unpleasant. “Dare I say grown up a bit?” He cocked his head and stared at Sherlock as if he were an interesting specimen – anything but a beloved brother. “Things are different.”
“By ‘things’ you mean John?”
“Gentlemen? A word?”
Mycroft’s head swiveled toward the door and he hastily stood as a man entered the room. Mycroft’s behavior, his deference to this newcomer, was so out of character that it made Sherlock all the more interested.
Sherlock’s age, married, children – at least two, a dog and a cat. No, two cats. Confident. London – Surrey – from the accent. Scarlet – robes? Well-fitting. Worn boots, well-scuffed. Athletic. Exuded power, but quietly. Severely far-sighted. Distinctive green eyes behind corrective lenses made from a material Sherlock could not identify. Disquieting. Scar on his forehead, off-center, jagged.
“Mr. Potter. Thank you for coming.” Mycroft closed the door behind him. “My brother, Sherlock Holmes,” he said by way of introduction. “Sherlock, this is Harry Potter, Chief Investigator for the MLE.”
“Oh – of course. I’m sorry – Department of Magical Law Enforcement.” This from Potter.
Sherlock nodded. His hands remained folded on his stomach, both thumbs and index fingers pressed together now.
Mycroft spoke. “You’ve read the file on my brother?”
Potter nodded. “Deliberately Obliviated himself some years ago. His intent was to erase his knowledge of his own wizardry and of the magical world. He was successful, and has completely assimilated himself into the Muggle world.”
Sherlock filed that phrase away. Deliberately obliviated.
Mycroft smiled. “He’s assimilated himself, yes, though he’s far from a typical Muggle.”
“It’s a family trait,” Sherlock deadpanned.
Potter smiled at Sherlock. “I admit there were times I considered doing the same,” he said. The statement was honest, unapologetic. He, too, settled onto a chair that hadn’t been there when he entered the room, and turned toward Sherlock. “I’ve just had a chat with John Watson. He’s been a difficult patient – spent quite a bit of energy when he was brought in trying to get you the hell out of St. Mungo’s and transferred to St. Bart’s. It came as a bit of a surprise to him that the man he’s been living with for three years is a wizard.”
“Surprised me too,” Sherlock muttered.
Potter smiled. “I think you’ll have plenty to talk about when you get home.”
Home. Sherlock looked at Mycroft triumphantly, but Mycroft only had eyes for Potter. He looked – no. Was it even possible that Mycroft Holmes could look starstruck?
The questioning took no more than five minutes. The world’s only consulting detective hadn’t seen their assailant, couldn’t repeat the spells that had been used, and could only give a description of the colour of the light he’d seen and the effects of the spell that had hit him. Potter theorized that they hadn’t been deliberately targeted. That they’d simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time and had been mistaken for Muggles.
“Coincidence?” asked Sherlock.
Potter had been scribbling notes on an old-fashioned legal pad. He looked up at Sherlock, shook his head.
“I don’t believe in coincidence, Mr. Holmes,” he said. “But I’ve come to believe in fate. Perhaps – well, perhaps you’ve been away from magic long enough.”
“Or too long,” cut in Mycroft.
“Thank you,” Potter said as he stood. He pointed at his chair and twitched his hand. Sherlock saw that he had a wand holstered to his wrist, and the tip extended to the end of his fingers. The chair spun a few times then disappeared with a poof. “And welcome back to the Wizarding world, Mr. Holmes. You’ve stumbled back in at a good time. Despite what happened to you and John, things are quite a bit calmer than they were a while back. You might consider giving us another go.”
“Not if it means spending even more time with my brother.” Sherlock sounded petulant and didn’t care.
Potter laughed. “He’s just doing his job. The Muggle-Magical Liaison is probably the most difficult position in the Ministry.” He nodded at Mycroft then turned back to Sherlock. “Good luck with John,” he said. “It was nice seeing him again – I must say that was a pleasant surprise. I’m glad to know he’s happy.”
“He knows John,” Sherlock said when the Auror had closed the door behind him. “How does he know him?”
“They were in school together,” Mycroft confirmed. “John was a few years older, but yes, they knew each other. Friends of a sort, I suppose you’d say. Potter’s brother-in-law was one of John’s best friends at Hogwarts.”
“You know quite a bit about John’s past.”
“Of course I do. It’s my job, Sherlock. I won’t make excuses.”
“Yet John had no idea – none – about you.”
“As I’ve already said, John purposefully separated himself from our world, about the same time you did, in fact. Of course, he didn’t resort to such drastic measures” He paused, and Sherlock tried to ignore his penetrating gaze. Mycroft was so damn dramatic. “There was a war – a brutal, horrific war. Sherlock - John is not just a veteran of Afghanistan.”
Sherlock jerked his head around. Or tried to jerk it. It gave more of a lazy roll to the side. “Stop with the word games, Mycroft. Say what you mean.”
Mycroft scooted in a bit closer. He held up his ubiquitous umbrella, one hand on the handle, the other holding it near the middle. He pulled with a swift jerk, detaching the handle from the body of the umbrella and holding up a length of carved wood. He drew a smoky circle in the air with the tip, and a heavy book emerged from it. He plucked it from the air smoothly. “Ridiculous. I can’t talk about it with him but apparently I can do it in front of him,” he muttered to himself. He sighed, and continued.
“John’s family was targeted – his parents were tortured and killed. He saw the battle to the end, but walked away the next day and never returned. He does not discuss the war, his life before it, his education at .. boarding school, and does not see any of his old friends or colleagues.” He placed the book on the bed beside Sherlock. “This is a fairly accurate treatise of that war. You’ll want to read it.”
Sherlock knew John’s parents were dead. He’d never bothered to ask when they had died, or how. A vague, disquieting feeling grew in his gut. Guilt? The realization – quiet but sure – that one’s partner should know these things.
Sherlock, adept at ignoring emotions, tucked this new one away and stared at the umbrella handle. He ignored the book.
“Your…wand?” he asked, forcing himself to use the word. Ridiculous.
Mycroft snapped said wand back into the umbrella. “You’re wondering about yours?”
Of course he was wondering about his. Of course he wanted to make books appear out of thin air. He itched – absolutely itched - to grab Mycroft’s. Might have if his fingers would cooperate. “Not at all.”
“Liar.” Mycroft’s voice was almost fond. “Mummy has it, Sherlock. You didn’t trust it with me.”
“Smart of me,” said Sherlock.
Mycroft laughed. “She doesn’t trust me either. Never has told me where she keeps it. I imagine with hers, wherever that is.”
“Always wondered why you carried that umbrella all the bloody time.”
John was standing in the doorway, arms folded, staring hard at Mycroft.
“Dr. Watson.” Mycroft stood. “Well, I imagine you two have quite a bit to talk about. Contact my office when you need me.”
“Which office?” John took a step into the room.
“Surely you aren’t planning to Floo-call me, John,” said Mycroft.
“We’ll just shoot out one of the CCTV cameras outside our flat if we want your attention,” Sherlock said, managing to sound bored.
“You’re such a child, Sherlock.” He nodded at John. “I’m sure I’ll be seeing you sooner than I’d like.”
And with that, Mycroft turned, disappearing with a sharp and rather irritated crack.
Sherlock stared through the space Mycroft had occupied. Mycroft had vanished. Well then. And while his brain told him this newest feat was as impossible as everything else, from purple buses to magic potions, he simply frowned and met John’s eyes. John looked – he had no idea how John looked. He’d never, ever, seen that particular look on John’s face before. Could one look both crushed and jubilant at the same time?
Sherlock struggled to sit, and found that his limbs were finally beginning to cooperate. The only thing he wanted right now – the only thing – was to be back at 221B, to return to a reality he understood.
“You can do that?” he asked, nodding to the empty spot where Mycroft had just stood.
John met his eyes, then nodded. “Yeah. I can do that. Haven’t in a while.”
“With me?” Sherlock met his eyes.
Another sharp nod. “It’s not exactly pleasant.”
Sherlock shrugged. “What do I do?”
John held his ground. “You’re sure?”
“What do I do?” repeated Sherlock, irritably.
John held out his hand. “Take my arm and hold tight.”
Sherlock had managed to work himself into a seated position on the side of the hospital bed, and he stood now, checking his balance on feet still partially numb. He eyed the book on the bed and pocketed it, then walked slowly but determinedly toward the door and gathered up his shoes and coat. He considered putting on his shoes, but knew he’d never be able to balance on one foot for the process, so he clutched them in his left hand. His fingers twitched a bit with the effort of holding them.
Finally, he approached John.
“I imagine there are a myriad of social rules about zapping in and out of rooms,” he said as he took John’s proffered arm.
“And hospitals,” said John, looking toward the door. He lowered his voice. “They’re rather rigid here about the check-out process.”
“Which we’re going to ignore.” He filed away the fact that John was familiar with this hospital’s check-out procedures. “My brother’s some sort of Ministry big-wig. Let him deal with it.”
“Home, then?” asked John.
“Home,” said Sherlock.
John stepped inward toward him, and Sherlock sucked in a breath as the world seemed to drop out from beneath his feet just as he was sucked mercilessly through a straw. A few decidedly unpleasant seconds later, he found himself in the sitting room of 221B, stomach in his feet, head pounding and extremities once again tingling.
“Home,” muttered John, clearly on edge. “That was – unexpected. I can’t believe your brother is just as annoying in the magical world.” He dropped into his chair. “That goddamn brolly.”
Sherlock nodded vaguely, then went directly to their bedroom, and closed the door behind him.
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
Back at 221B, Sherlock gets his first lessons in magic.
The pillow smelled of John, familiar and comforting, and Sherlock couldn’t help but think of how well he thought he knew John, his contrasts and incongruencies, his soft heart and trigger finger.
How he didn’t really know John at all.
And it wasn’t just this … this magic. It made him laugh, really. Mycroft brandishing an umbrella. The ridiculous get-up of the medical staff and its law enforcement officers. Bodies floating in the air instead of being carried on gurneys. Mycroft disappearing from the hospital room.
Magic – magic which defied the laws of physics, defied every scientific principle that governed the universe he knew.
There must be an explanation.
But there wasn’t. Had there been an explanation, he would have found it well before he was twenty. He knew himself now, could not imagine himself any different as a teenager. What had Mycroft said?
You were going mad, Sherlock. You weren’t able to reconcile the two worlds.
He rubbed his eyes, wistfully realising, understanding with heart and soul, why he had left it all behind.
He sat up on the edge of the bed and stared at the closed door with its brass handle, at his favorite dressing gown on the hook on the back, at John’s beside it, worn and threadbare and comfortable. Those dressing gowns told a story by their very proximity to each other. Sherlock and John shared more than a flat, more than a passion for adventure. The road to this shared bed, this shared life, had been a long one with too many detours, too many false starts.
If he wanted a question mark on the end of the name, he failed. He was demanding John’s presence, not requesting it.
He heard footsteps approaching. Slowly. They stopped in front of the door and Sherlock counted slowly to four before the handle turned.
John pushed the door open but didn’t cross the threshold.
He’d taken off the bloody jumper and torn shirt and stood there, hands at his side, in trousers and vest. He looked every bit the John he knew, his best friend, his lover. He didn’t look at all as different as he felt.
“This is awkward,” Sherlock stated as the silence stretched on.
“Tell me about it,” replied John. He took a step inside the room. “Sherlock....”
“I need to see. To understand.” Sherlock waved his hand distractedly, indicating everything and nothing at all. “What I … gave up.”
Another pause. Silence stretched from fingertip to parted lips.
“Do something, John.” Sherlock did not understand the ache in his gut. “Show me.”
“Right. All right.” John gave him that smile. Resigned. Placating. Anxious to make it right again, even if it came at his own expense.
Sherlock watched as John slowly extracted a length of wood from his pocket. A length of wood, dowel shaped but irregular, like an interesting stick that kept its natural contours but polished, worked. The wood was, in fact, far longer than the pocket itself. John held the wood – the wand - wand - and stared at it, blew out a breath, then jerked his head in a quick nod and looked over at Sherlock. “All right then,” he began. Another breath, released quickly through parted lips. He was nervous. But not-not just about Sherlock’s presence. Something else. “The wand’s only the conduit. The magic’s inside the witch or wizard. Part of your being.” He made a swishing motion with the wand, said “Lumos,” and the end of the wand lit up. John drew his hand out from the wand tip and the light glowed brighter. He waved the wand and Sherlock’s eyes tracked the glowing tip. It was impossible to tell what was actually glowing – the wand itself, or the air around it.
The light extinguished. Sherlock blinked. Narrowed his eyes. Frowned.
Data. He needed more data.
“What else can you do?” he asked.
“You’ll like this one,” answered John. He pointed the wand at the desk.
Sherlock heard an audible click. John walked over and pulled the drawer open. The drawer that held his gun, always kept under lock and key.
Sherlock stared from the drawer to John’s face.
“What else?” he asked, voice not much louder than a whisper.
But John shook his head. “Spells,” he started. He stared at his wand, not looking at Sherlock. Deliberately not looking at Sherlock. “We learn the words – the incantations – and the wand motions in school. Most children get their wands when they’re eleven, just before heading off to magical boarding school. There are all sorts of restrictions on underage magic.” He walked toward Sherlock and sat on the bed beside him.
“A wand is a combination of wand wood and magical core,” he continued. “Wand lore says that different combinations suit different witches and wizards, different types of magic. Mine’s made of cedar, eleven inches. The magical core is dragon heartstring.”
He surprised Sherlock then by pressing the wand into his hands. The wand was oddly warm and heavy, foreign yet familiar. He had no conscious thing to compare it to, but he gripped it as John had, wondering if perhaps – perhaps – all he had deleted could return with a simple swish.
But he didn’t make that move.
He ran his thumb over the worn wood. Cedar. One of the soft woods. It had an interesting grain. What appeared to be a flaw in the wood was really a streak of lighter-coloured wood running vertically up the shaft. He rolled the wand, studying it. It felt at once like a weapon to wield and a warm hand to hold.
Flawed beauty. Hidden strength.
For like John, this wand’s surprise was its fierce core.
He glanced at John.
“Dragon?” he asked. With a concerted effort, he pressed the wand back into John’s hands and shook his head.
“Yeah.” John dropped his head into his hands and took several deep breaths, releasing each one slowly. Then he straightened his back and adjusted his position on the bed, turning to face Sherlock. “Look, Sherlock. I couldn’t explain magic to you if I had a hundred years. It just is – along with a lot of other impossible things like dragons and post owls and merpeople. I know what it was for me, and I know why I gave it up. But I can’t know what it was for you, or what it was that made you delete it. I hate to have to say it, but I think Mycroft has to be your go-to on this one.”
Sherlock pulled his feet up onto the bed and rested his chin on his knees. He felt off-balance, like a stranger in his own skin. He itched, positively itched, to take the wand again. Instead, he stared out the window.
Had magic been like a drug to him? Irresistible? Mind-blowing? Mind-numbing?
“Who attacked us?” he asked, still staring out the window. The night was quiet, moonless. He wondered how much time had passed since the attack. Hours, likely. He tried to ignore the returning ache in his skin and bones, shifted uncomfortably.
He could feel John tense beside him. “New faction of bad guys,” he replied, disgust evident in his voice. “Apparently, they’re called Muggle baiters. Wizards who hate Muggles and make a game of random attacks, torturing them, sometimes killing them.”
“And this attack – this spell.” He rolled his shoulders, extended his hands and clenched his fingers. “The Cruciatus?”
“Oh, Christ, Sherlock. It’s not something you’ll forget easily, will you?” He rolled his shoulder then, and Sherlock frowned, remembering Afghanistan. “The Cruciatus spell is used to inflict torturous pain. Prolonged exposure can cause senility. It’s one of the three Unforgivables. Whoever did this will get automatic prison time.”
“If they catch him.”
“They have him,” John said quietly.
Sherlock glanced at him, puzzled. “When I was questioned, I was given no indication they’d caught our attacker.”
John shrugged. “I’m sure he was just hoping you’d confirm what I told him.”
John had said the spell could cause senility. Perhaps he was exposed too long and this entire wretched night existed only in his own damaged mind.
Damaged. The thought was terrifying.
“It sounds like the criminals in your world are a lot like criminals anywhere. Attacking the weak, preying on people who are different.”
“Just because I remember it and you don’t doesn’t make it more my world than yours.”
Sherlock frowned. John had a point.
“What are the other two?”
“Other two?” John’s thumb was rubbing the base of the wand.
“I believe you called them ‘unforgivables.’”
“Ah. The killing curse and the Imperius – forcing your will on someone. Making them do something they don’t want to do.”
Sherlock considered that. “Mind control,” he said, more to himself than to John.
“It’s most often used to force someone to commit a crime for you,” John said. “It’s not pleasant to experience – believe me.” Sherlock watched him as he leaned forward and placed his wand on the bedside table. Was he imagining that John seemed relucatnat to release it? “Harry Potter can throw it. Resist the Imperius, I mean. Not many can. He’s also the only wizard known to have ever survived the Killing curse.”
“The Auror,” Sherlock said, the image of the scarlet-robed man coming to mind. He pronounced the strange word carefully, as he remembered Mycroft voicing it. His eyes drifted over to the night table where the length of wood rested, handle atop the bedside clock. There was so much he didn’t know, so many questions tumbling about in his brain, so much disconnected data. He felt curiously detached, in a drug-induced cloud. He looked at John a long moment. “Mycroft treated him differently. Deferentially.”
John shook his head, smiling. “There’s a story there, of course. I hope you don’t mind waiting a bit to hear it.”
Sherlock shrugged. “Mycroft said there was a war.”
John tensed. There was no way Sherlock could miss it.
“It’s why you left. Part of the reason, anyway.”
“You know, this hasn’t all sunk in yet. Mycroft.” John dropped back onto the bed and pulled a pillow under his head. “Damnit, Sherlock. I’ve accepted that I have no secrets in the Muggle world when it comes to Mycroft and the bloody British government. But this – guh. He’s part of both Ministries. I always thought he was less important than he seemed. I was wrong.”
“He’s self-important. He’s a prick, an….”
“I know, Sherlock. I know. It’s just – surprising. Utterly, ridiculously and overwhelmingly surprising. Unbelievable. That you’re a wizard. That Mycroft’s a wizard. That Mycroft works for both bloody Ministries. That he knows everything there is to know about me and never bothered to tell either of us.”
“Difficult as this may be to believe, and loath as I am to suggest it, I believe he was honouring my wishes,” Sherlock said. He sorted through memories filed away but not forgotten. “He had nothing to do with you coming to me, moving in here with me. That was – chance. Perhaps not coincidence. He discovered your past immediately – given how quickly he abducted you. Tested you.”
“I know.” John pulled at Sherlock’s hand until Sherlock relented and fell back on the bed beside him. They rested there together, staring at the ceiling, “What are you going to do now?”
“Visit my mother,” Sherlock answered. He attempted a smile. “May I ask you a question?”
John chuckled. “You’ve never asked permission before.” He squeezed Sherlock’s hand. John’s hand felt normal. There was no indication anything mysterious, dormant, lurked beyond that familiar touch.
“Do you always carry your wand?”
“Only when we’re out together,” John answered. He rolled to his side and rested his hand on Sherlock’s cheek. Sherlock turned his head into his touch, kissed John’s palm. “Just never had a reason to use it before today.”
“Today was the first time since…?”
“1998,” repeated Sherlock. Synapses fired, clicked, connected, nearly shorted out. “You carry the wand with the sole intent of using it to protect me should an instance arise where magic is used against us – against me. Unlikely as that is. Was.”
“And?” A smile danced across John’s face. He was unashamed of their love. Unapologetic of his devotion.
Sherlock pushed himself up on an elbow, looked down at John. Studied him. John, accustomed to the scrutiny, allowed it, but reached up, brushed a lock of hair behind his ear. “You didn’t do this…before.”
“No, I didn’t, did I?” John had that look on his face. The one that said he had it all inside, his reasons, his motivations, and he’d explain, he’d tell Sherlock, if Sherlock asked the right question.
“I need to know, John. This is – important.”
John studied his face. Sherlock felt a bit like an ant under a magnifying glass. Wondered – briefly – if John was having a peek into his mind palace.
“When you came back…when the dust settled after your return, after Mary…when we ended up – here.” He waved a hand to indicate the room, the bed. “That’s when I decided I needed it. That I couldn’t leave it to chance, not anymore. Because all the possibilities weren’t covered, and I didn’t think I could survive losing you and knowing I might have been able to do something about it. To prevent it. So I sent for it.”
“You sent for it,” repeated Sherlock, digesting that. “You’d given it to someone for safe-keeping.”
“Yeah. Someone I trusted. I thought at the time I was done with magic, but I left a window cracked open. Took me more than a decade to reach through it, but it was the right choice, at the right time.”
“I don’t know how to live with this,” Sherlock said. He dropped his head, spoke into the comforting warmth of John’s shoulder.
“I suppose you could delete it again,” John said after a moment, hand rubbing the back of Sherlock’s neck, pushing up into the soft curls.
“I’m not sure I want to,” said Sherlock.
“You need to talk with your mum, with Mycroft.” John’s voice was soft, but resolute. He shifted beneath him, moved to reposition Sherlock’s head. Sherlock raised his hand, settled it over John’s scarred shoulder.
“So - Afghanistan?” he asked.
“Yeah.” John shifted again. “I prefer wounds that leave scars. Visible reminders.”
His arm tightened around Sherlock’s back, and his mouth moved along his jaw. He laughed, a throaty sound, disbelieving.
“My God, Sherlock. You’re a wizard.”
Lips moved against his cheekbone, to the base of his ear. Sherlock turned his head and stared into John’s eyes.
“Ex-wizard, apparently. Does it change things?”
Between us. With us.
“No,” John said. He pressed a kiss to the corner of Sherlock’s mouth and Sherlock turned into it, yielding willingly as John rolled onto him, deepening the kiss. “Yes. God, yes, Sherlock. It changes everything.” He laughed again, but the sound was lighter, more joyful. “Wizards are rare, Sherlock. Forty or fifty or so born in this country every year. But ex-wizards - former wizards – there can’t be more than a handful in the UK.”
“And yet here we are.”
John pushed himself up, grinning.
Sherlock actually laughed. John kissed him again, then rolled to the side, snuggling against him, one arm stretched across Sherlock’s middle. “You’d better sleep. You’re going to be feeling that curse in the morning when that pain potion wears off.”
Sherlock didn’t think he could possibly sleep, but he did, and when he woke in the morning, John was fast asleep beside him, his Belstaff was laid out over the dressing chair, and the wand, which had been resting on the bedside table, was nowhere to be seen.
Chapter 4: Chapter 4
Mycroft pops in for tea and Sherlock does some reading.
To take a week to think, to research, before going to visit his mother.
“I can’t tell you why, I’ve already said,” insisted Mycroft after they talked around the thing but never about the thing.
“He’s made a vow of some sort,” John said. It was that next morning, just after breakfast. Mycroft had wasted little time in getting over there, rudely popping right into the middle of the sitting room instead of knocking on the door.
“You can’t do this,” Sherlock had raged. “Knock! Use the door! The rules haven’t changed, Mycroft! I may delete the whole thing again! If people were popping into my bedroom or library all the time, it’s no wonder I deleted it!”
Mycroft had largely ignored him, had mentioned something about the flue, and had made tea. Tea that decidedly did not come from their kitchen but appeared on an ornate lazy Susan twirling above the coffee table with a full selection of high-end biscuits.
“Vow?” Sherlock shot back to John now.
“A wizarding vow. Or he’s under Fidelius – a protective charm. To keep things secret. Really, Sherlock. As much as I can’t believe I’m saying this about Mycroft, you’re going to have to ease up on him. If he’s under Fidelius, he can’t tell you – or anyone. And if it’s the Unbreakable Vow, he could die if he does.”
Mycroft raised a single eyebrow and sipped his tea.
Sherlock glared. He was beginning to dislike magical Mycroft even more than supercilious Muggle Mycroft.
He was also beginning to like the word Muggle.
John kept talking as he worked at the laptop. “My guess is that you made him make the Unbreakable Vow with you – before you self-Obliviated.” He looked up and smiled – giving him the kind of warm smile that was for Sherlock and Sherlock alone. He hated that Mycroft was there to share it. “Sorry – deleted.” He glanced over at Mycroft. Sherlock had a strong suspicion that John was enjoying this, enjoying being on a more equal playing field with Mycroft Holmes. “Probably promised that he’d never tell you anything about magic or the magical world unless you asked him directly. Am I right?”
Mycroft rolled his eyes. Supercilious and magical. Horrible combination. Perhaps Mycroft was the reason he gave up this intriguing, fascinating….
“There are probably a host of other limitations – I imagine an Unbreakable Vow designed by Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes might have several pages of restrictions and caveats. You probably had to hire a Wizarding barrister to execute it.”
Sherlock was enjoying watching Mycroft’s face contort, but more than that, was enjoying John’s level of self-assurance.
“The trick, Sherlock, is to ask him the right questions,” suggested John. “Simple ones to start out – to test the limits of the Vow.”
“You do realise that this is completely illogical?” This morning he had asked about John’s wand, somewhat reluctantly, and John has quietly opened the bottom dresser drawer to show him its hiding place. With reliable evidence that the previous day had not been a drug or injury-induced hallucination, Sherlock had decided to continue with a temporary suspension of disbelief and gather as much new data as possible.
And was already finding it trying.
“Mycroft, is John right? Did you do this unbreakable vow thing with me?” asked Sherlock.
“An Unbreakable Vow, Sherlock. Not a thing. A serious ritual, a commitment. And yes.”
Sherlock gave John a side-long look. John looked amused. “Good start. Go on.”
Sherlock took a surprising direction with his questions.
“Was deleting this part of my life my idea? Did I have help? Did you help?”
Mycroft looked properly affronted and John quickly closed his laptop, shaking his head.
“Sherlock – he’s under no obligation to stay here and listen to this, or to help you. Questions – not accusations. And one at a time.”
“Fine.” Sherlock curled his feet into the chair where he lay elegantly sprawled. “Did I do this to myself, Mycroft?”
“Did you try to talk me out of it?”
“Of course I did. It was dangerous. It could have gone horribly wrong. The rest of us – Mummy, Father and I – would have to alter our behavior around you for the rest of our lives.”
“But you helped me.” A statement, not a question.
Mycroft remained silent. The brothers stared at each other until Mycroft gave a jerky nod.
“You didn’t help me do it. But you were there.”
“I fail to see how this line of questioning….”
“Was this the first time that I…deleted?” He’d been doing it so long – could do it almost effortlessly now. He didn’t remember how it had all started, or even why.
“You…practiced. Smaller things.”
“Sherlock, when is your birthday?”
“No idea. John reminds me.”
Mycroft gave a tight-lipped smile.
“You were unable to tell John when he first asked. John texted me to find out.”
“I deleted my birthday? That seems rather self-sacrificing. Not like me at all.”
“You were experimenting.”
“Ah.” That Sherlock could understand.
“When are you going to see Mummy?”
Sherlock crossed his legs and dropped his head back so that his neck was stretched over the arm of the chair. From this angle, he could see John at the kitchen table, upside down, busily typing away again.
“I’m considering. Have you told her yet?”
He counted to three – slowly – before Mycroft answered.
“No. Should I?”
“No. I’d prefer to surprise her. Does she know about John?”
John’s fingers paused on the keyboard. As Sherlock watched, he turned his head and stared at Mycroft.
“Go on and admit it, Mycroft. She knows.” Sherlock watched John’s fingers resume their movement on the keyboard.
“She knows.” Mycroft stood. “Do let me know once you’ve spoken with her, Sherlock. There are matters to discuss once you’ve made your decision.”
Sherlock pointed at the door. “Do leave like a Muggle, Mycroft.”
“I’d like to know your decision too, John.” Mycroft turned, one hand on the doorknob. “I’m sure you, at least, understand that our surveillance will be affected by the level of…activity. Perhaps you can take some time to explain things to my brother. You might start with why you went directly from one war to another.”
“Can’t have been directly,” Sherlock said when the door closed behind Mycroft. “Directly to Uni, accelerated course of studies toward your medical degree, then to Afghanistan. What does he mean by the surveillance being affected?”
“Electronics and magic don’t work well together,” John replied, staring at the door and frowning. “You probably noticed the lack of electricity at St. Mungo’s.”
Probably?. Sherlock squeezed his eyes shut. This was all so…disconcerting. However, the possibility of the CCTV cameras being disabled by magic was certainly intriguing.
Sherlock unfolded himself from his chair and stood. He stared at the forgotten tea service for a moment, then bent and picked up a teacup. He studied it, then tapped it on the table. From all outward appearances, it was exactly as it seemed – a teacup made of fine china. He poured a bit of tea and tasted it. Perfectly ordinary tea. No, not ordinary. Good tea. Mycroft’s tea. He picked up the entire service and carried it to the table, then sat down across from John and continued his investigation by biting into a biscuit, then spitting it out.
John’s typing slowed until he gave up all pretense of working on his blog.
“Can you do this?” Sherlock asked John. He was studying the broken pieces of a saucer that he’d whacked on the table.
“Of course. I’m actually very good at breaking china,” John answered.
Sherlock gave him the look.
“Oh, you mean preparing tea? I’m good for a cuppa, but not an entire service. Probably could if I tried, but I doubt my china would match. I was never good at the showy stuff.”
“What were your strengths, then?” asked Sherlock, looking at John through the handle of a teacup.
He already knew, of course. He couldn’t imagine John wouldn’t have the same strengths then that he had now.
John took a moment to answer.
“Good aim,” he said at last.
He held Sherlock’s gaze, his face, Sherlock realised, carefully neutral.
“Fearless. Steady hand. Cool under pressure. Extremely loyal. Patient. And you sell yourself short, John. You always do.”
“I’m not fundamentally different now than I ever was. Magic didn’t make me me, Sherlock.”
“Mycroft has mentioned this war twice now.” Sherlock suddenly remembered the book Mycroft had given him at the hospital yesterday. He’d tucked it inside his pocket before John brought him home.
John looked down at his laptop, though his hands were flat on the table beside it and he didn’t even pretend to type. There was a hard look on his face. “War is war,” he said. “Magic or Muggle. No one really wins.”
Sherlock reached across the table and pushed down on the laptop screen, closing it.
“Mycroft gave me a book,” he said quietly. “But I’d rather you tell me about it.” Before I read it. Of course he’d read it anyway, no matter what John told him. He took one of John’s hands in his. It was not a characteristic move. He wasn’t given to initiating displays of affection like this, even in private. John’s grip on his hand tightened.
“Mycroft gave you a book about the war?” John asked, clearly surprised. He pursed his lips, looking down again as he tried to compose himself. Didn’t he know that Sherlock knew each and every one of his expressions as soon as it crossed his face? He looked up. “I didn’t know there were books about it,” he said, voice wavering.
“There are books about every war,” Sherlock said. He looked at their hands, still joined across the table. There was so much more to admire about John’s – compact, strong, calloused. He reluctantly released it and went to fetch the book. It was a heavy thing, with old-fashioned leather binding and gold imprint. He settled back in the chair, facing John, and slid the book across the table. John stared at it for half a minute before picking it up and opening it to the title page. An odd look passed over his face. He closed the book and slid it back to Sherlock.
“Go on and read it,” he said quietly. He was biting the inside of his lip. “The author is more than credible. It will be an honest history. Factual.”
Sherlock picked up the book and glanced from it to John. “Anything you need to tell me first?” he asked.
Sherlock watched John’s eyes slide over the book again.
“You’ve read Tolkein?” he asked, moistening his lips with his tongue. “Seen the films?”
“It’s a similar script,” John said. “But this one isn’t fantasy.”
Sherlock stood and, book in hand, made his way to the bedroom.
Sherlock stopped, hand on the door.
“That war made Afghanistan look easy,” John said. And while Sherlock watched, John opened his laptop and began to work. He didn’t look up at Sherlock again, but Sherlock knew it cost him a great deal not to.
Occasionally, he caught John staring at him as he read. John would sometimes open his mouth as if to ask a question, but would always close it, question unvoiced. Sherlock found the book to be a fascinating social treatise of the magical world, a world which apparently had a caste system, inherent prejudices, archaic social structures and a healthy collection of rebel rousers and misfits.
Not to mention werewolves, merpeople, giants, centaurs and house elves.
The concept of magic was intriguing, the reality impossible to reconcile. Yet he had seen it. Felt it. And those few experiences were the only magical reality he knew, despite the well-written and objective opus of Hermione Granger-Weasley.
But then – then there was Harry Potter.
He didn’t have to ask John if the Auror who had questioned him was the same Potter who featured so prominently in the book. He’d seen the scar, hadn’t he? And this fact – instead of anchoring the reality – somehow made it more vaporous, even more like a fairy tale.
He fell asleep on the sofa reading the final chapters of the book on Sunday evening. John had left hours ago to meet his sister for dinner. He was rarely gone this long with Harry, and Sherlock had texted him, uncharacteristically worried.
– All is well? -SH –
The mobile had remained silent for some time. Five minutes. Ten. He was about to text John again when it finally vibrated.
– I’m fine. Bringing Harry up to speed. –
Harry. Harry who had lost her parents too. Harry who might have been there. Might have been tortured.
He reminded himself that Mycroft had told him. John hadn’t. Not yet.
Sherlock had seen magic affect John. Had seen its pull, its allure, on John’s face, in his eyes. Has seen what it cost him to put the wand down. Had witnessed him hiding it in a drawer to keep the temptation at bay.
Had seen this even though the magical world had betrayed him. Had taken his parents. Had left him with wounds and scars that made his time in Afghanistan seem easy.
The book spoke of families like John’s. Families of Muggle-born witches and wizards, witches and wizards accused of stealing magic. Familes hunted down by Death Eaters, blood purists, tortured, left mad or dead.
And John had abandoned the world that had hurt him, and had promptly gone to war again.
It wasn’t logical. It wasn’t reconcilable.
He fell asleep waiting for John, trying to understand.
John woke him when he came home. He sat on the end of the sofa and began massaging Sherlock’s feet.
Something so simple shouldn’t feel so good, Sherlock thought as he stretched into John.
He’d thought that the first time John had kissed him, too.
He groaned and pressed his bare feet back into John’s stomach. “You’re home.”
“Yeah – sorry about that. Spent a bit more time with Harry than usual.”
Sherlock opened his eyes. The first thing that swam into focus was the book on the coffee table.
“How did she take it?”
John pressed a thumb into the arch of his foot and Sherlock’s toes curled. “Well. Reasonably well, anyway. She said she wasn’t surprised about you. She seems to think – well, to think that things didn’t work out with the others because they didn’t suit me. All the way, you know. They didn’t understand what I was all about.”
“And I did?”
John laughed. “She said you’d say that, you know.”
“Four days ago, John. That’s when I began to understand. And I’m still not convinced I’m not in a medically induced coma in a hospital bed somewhere, and all of this is the result of my mind palace’s foundations beginning to crumble due to lack of stimuli.”
The fingers on his feet paused, then began their rhythmic motion once again.
“I wouldn’t let that happen, you know,” John said. He shifted, rearranged Sherlock’s feet in his warm lap.
“No. I’d read to you every day. Burn scented candles. Rub your feet. Play your favorite music. Maybe even give you marvelous blow jobs. You’d not suffer from lack of stimuli, Sherlock.”
“I’d do the same for you.”
“Oh?” John laughed. “Yes to the blow jobs, then, but no to the scented candles.”
“I know what stimulates you, John. I’d dress you in atrocious jumpers and make sure the telly played a constant stream of sci fi movies and Dr. Who. And I’d play for you – something melancholy every night to match my mood.”
They were quiet for a moment. John continued to rub Sherlock’s feet. He finally sighed, settled Sherlock’s feet in his lap, and spoke quietly.
“What Harry meant, I think, is that we’re kindred souls. No- don’t laugh. Really. We’re both trying to make do in a world – well, a world that’s too small for us. That’s not enough. We’re misfits. You’re not a sociopath, Sherlock. You’re a wizard trying to make sense of a Muggle world. You don’t miss magic consciously because you’ve managed to delete it. And I – well, I’ve missed it ever since I walked away from it. Until you came along, anyway.”
“Why did you walk away?” asked Sherlock. He pulled his feet out of John’s lap and sat up, watching John’s face closely.
“Sherlock, please.” John gave him that exasperated half smile. “Mycroft’s already told you. You’d never have let it go this long otherwise.”
They exchanged a look. Sherlock tried to look innocent.
“Don’t even,” John warned.
“He gave me the short version,” admitted Sherlock. “That your parents were targeted, tortured and killed. That you saw the war through to the end and walked the next day.”
“Yeah. That about covers it.”
Sherlock touched the book. “I read about it,” he said. “Death Eaters. Blood purity. You are Muggle-born. They targeted the families of Muggle-born Wizards in particular. You blame yourself – for not being able to prevent it. For exposing them to danger, making them targets.”
“Yeah.” John stood. “I’ll make tea.”
Sherlock let him go. The short version was more than enough.
When John settled down ten minutes later with tea for both of them, he leaned against Sherlock and pulled his feet up onto the sofa.
“So …” he nodded at the book. “Tolkein, right?”
“More than a bit,” answered Sherlock. “With an unpleasant aftertaste of Hitler and the second World War.”
“It’s not all like that, you know,” said John. He sounded strangely defensive. “Some of it is – God. Marvelous. Jaw-dropping. Jesus, Sherlock. You need a different book.”
He squeezed Sherlock’s thigh as he stood, pressed his mug into Sherlock’s hand, and left the room. Not into their bedroom but upstairs, to the room where he’d once slept back in the day when Sherlock was married to his work and John wasn’t gay.
Sherlock couldn’t imagine there were books in the flat that he hadn’t seen. He’d been in that room often enough – it was where everything went at least twice a year when John threatened to leave if Sherlock didn’t clean up his mess.
He heard John’s footsteps on the stairs again, and waited while he ducked into their bedroom. When he appeared a moment later, he had the wand in one hand and something small clutched in the other. Sherlock raised an eyebrow as John scattered what looked like a handful of match boxes on the table.
“I picked out a few with you in mind,” John said as Sherlock picked up a miniature book, then turned his head slowly to stare at John.
“Wait – need to enlarge them again.” He smiled apologetically. “I’ve no idea how this will come out. Probably shouldn’t have kept them like this for so long, but when I packed them away after Hogwarts I didn’t know….”
“But you kept them,” said Sherlock. “All these years.” He put the tiny book down and picked up another. He knew John Watson. Knew John Watson better than he knew any other human being. Knew John better than any other person knew John. Yet…yet he would never have suspected that John had a collection of school books tucked away in his old bedroom.
John wasn’t a collector. He didn’t keep things. Alright. Jumpers. Some of them had to be nearly as old as Sherlock himself.
John had his wand out. He was shaking his head and had that puzzled smile again. He pressed his lips together and Sherlock thought he was close to tears. But he shook it off with a sigh.
“I never thought I’d be doing this again.” He loosened his grip on the wand and rolled it in his hand. “Least of all in front of you.” He caught Sherlock’s eye then, and suddenly the wand was being pressed into Sherlock’s hand. He clasped it loosely, feeling its heat and its texture, and John molded his fingers around it properly, kept his hand atop Sherlock’s.
“You just have to cancel the shrinking spell,” he said. “The incantation is Finite. And yes, I do know that it’s bastardised Latin, but these spells have been around longer than the language, I’d expect.”
“So….” Sherlock was staring at his hand on the wand. “I just – what? Swish it and say Finite?”
John nodded. “Like this.” He modeled the motion, then dropped his hand away.
The wand felt both warm and cold, hard yet supple. It felt perfectly right and utterly wrong.
Sherlock remembered learning to ride a bicycle without training wheels. Father holding him, running along beside him then suddenly, no Father, and the wind in his hair, Redbeard running beside him, barking happily.
Elation. Success. Power.
He nearly dropped the wand – not because the miniaturised books suddenly grew, like dry sponges soaked in water – but because something - something - awoke inside him, from a place he didn’t know existed, traveled down his arm like the most pleasant of electric shocks, passed out of this body through his fingertips, and left him.
Not drained. Not scared.
Left him wanting more.
John had to pry the wand out of his hand.
“Yeah. I thought that might happen.”
“I need my wand.” Sherlock hated how the words came out. Breathless. Needy.
“I know. You should probably go visit your parents. Have a chat with your mum. Tomorrow?”
“Right. You’ll go with me?”
He felt a bit desperate, uncharacteristically unsettled. He had the odd feeling that his skin didn’t fit anymore, that it was an inadequate covering for whatever it was inside him that was trying to get out.
“Sherlock. Hey, Sherlock. Breathe.”
John’s was kneeling in front of him, between the sofa and the table, scooting in between his knees.
“We need to go now.”
“Your mum and dad aren’t going to appreciate us showing up after they’re in bed, Sherlock.”
“Right. Right. Dad would frown on that. Mum would make tea.” He took hold of John’s wrist. “You’re sure it’s too late, then?”
“Very sure. Sherlock, here. Hold it a moment. We’ll go first thing in the morning.”
Sherlock’s hand closed over the wand again.
“I shouldn’t have done that.”
John laughed. “God, Sherlock. You’re a mess. Here – look. My N.E.W.T. Potions textbook. You’ll like it – rather like chemistry, isn’t it?”
The book did manage to distract his mind from the wand. “Newts?”
“An acronym – look, never mind that.”
John settled on the sofa beside him, opened the book on Sherlock’s lap and a few minutes later, when Sherlock’s grip on the wand had relaxed a bit, gently pried it out of his hand.
“Read,” John said. His hand went around Sherlock’s waist and Sherlock relaxed against him, and read.
Chapter 5: Chapter 5
In which Sherlock learns why - and how - he deleted magic and John gets a broken nose.
Not the unannounced visit.
Not John telling her that a few days before, her son had unwittingly summoned the Knight Bus.
Father gave a resigned shake of his head when the reason for Sherlock’s visit became clear. “Well, we’ve had nearly fifteen peaceful years,” he said.
“Peaceful?” challenged Mummy.
“I don’t believe anything’s blown up in this house in all that time, anyway,” he said, giving John a polite nod as he disappeared, clearly intending to stay out of sight for the remainder of their visit.
Mummy made tea. Made it the way she always did, with the electric kettle and loose tea leaves and the tea service Grandmother Holmes had given her when she and Father married.
“I can’t say I haven’t been expecting this,” she said. They’d settled around the kitchen table, each with a flowered cup and saucer. “Ever since you came along, John, and Mycroft told us you were a wizard too. But like Sherlock, you’d given up magic.” She smiled a bit sadly. “Of course, you’d not gone about it so permanently. I am sorry, John – really. About your parents, and what you went through.”
“It was a long time ago,” John said. “I’ve come to terms with it. But thank you.”
“Those years – well, they made me glad to have sent the boys to France for school. Sherlock would have been in Harry Potter’s class, had we sent him to Hogwarts,” she continued, after a significant silence in which she studied John, not Sherlock. “Of course there was really no question of that, since we’d sent Mycroft to Beauxbatons and he’d done so well there.” She looked at Sherlock. “The curriculum, Sherlock. Hogwarts was soley magical – I thought you boys would laugh yourselves silly there. No insult meant, John – I went there myself – but Beauxbatons offered the classics, and maths, even some natural sciences.”
“I’ll have my wand now, Mummy,” Sherlock said when his mother paused to take a sip of tea. “Where is it?”
“That wasn’t the agreement, Sherlock,” she said, shaking her head. Beside him, John tried to smother a grin into his teacup but he wasn’t fooling Sherlock in the least. “I have clear instructions, written in your hand. It’s been years since I looked at them, but I do remember what is required of me. I’m to explain to you exactly why you self-Obliviated. I’m to explain why you didn’t want to be part of the magical world any longer and attempt to convince you that you made the right decision all those years ago.”
“Do you think I made the right decision? I doubt you’ll be able to convince me if you don’t.”
“I’ll give it a go, anyway,” she said gamely, not really answering his question.
“I went through quite a bit of trouble to make this difficult, didn’t I?” Sherlock asked.
“You made an Unbreakable Vow with Mycroft,” John reminded him. He shook his head, apparently still having a hard time with the concept. “How did he ever get Mycroft to agree to that?” he asked Mummy.
“I had already agreed to do with his wand as Sherlock wished. If he told me to destroy it, I would. Sherlock agreed to let me take the wand for safe keeping instead of destroying it only if Mycroft made the Vow,” she answered. She shook her head sadly. “He was determined to snap it in half and burn the pieces.”
John looked appalled – as if the idea of breaking and burning a wand was physically painful.
“Oh, Sherlock. I know you can’t possibly understand now, but let’s just leave it that very few people are brave enough – or desperate enough – to make an Unbreakable Vow, and fewer still could contemplate harming their wand in any way.”
“I’m quite sure Mycroft’s motivations were completely selfish,” Sherlock said.
“You didn’t trust him a bit, did you?” Mummy responded. “Oh, you were horrible. Simply horrible. Impossible to live with for several years before you did it, really. And I was so worried. I knew you’d find substitutes, and I wasn’t wrong, was I, Sherlock?”
Sherlock frowned at his tea. She wasn’t wrong, but he took it for a rhetorical question.
“I’d really like to hear why I did it, Mummy,” he said after an uncomfortable pause. He could feel the slight vibration of the table as John’s always dependable twitch came back to his leg.
“Well, here I go then,” she said. She reached across the table, took Sherlock’s hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. “I suppose I started you down the wrong road, didn’t I? I was raised in a home with magic, but after I married your father, I thought it best that we not focus on our differences. He knew I was a witch, of course. And he certainly didn’t mind my using magic around him, but oh, Sherlock – I loved him so much, and really, he was my everything. When you boys came along, we decided to bring you up knowing about magic, but presenting it as a useful tool. A special gift, not unlike your talent for the violin.”
“Or Mycroft’s for sticking his nose in other people’s business,” Sherlock interjected.
Mummy glared Sherlock into silence.
“A special gift,” she repeated, “but not the end all, be all, so to speak. And it was all well and good, really, a least for Mycroft. He went off to Beauxbatons when he was eleven, knowing about magic but not really knowing how much a part of him it was.”
“But I was four. And when Mycroft came home, he couldn’t keep his mouth shut about it. He’d have been dying to show up his little brother. Know-it-all, supercilious….”
“Sherlock got into his books, didn’t he?” John’s quiet voice, slightly amused, surprised him. Mummy smiled.
“Of course he did. And not just his books, mind you. Potions ingredients. Supplies. Even his wand a time or two. And that was the end of it, wasn’t it? He was five that first summer after Mycroft went away to school, and already reading French and English.” She smiled at the memory, then turned her attention back to Sherlock. “It went on like that for years, until finally it was your turn to go off to Beauxbatons. With Mycroft – and all his books – gone the better part of the year, you were forced to devour all the Muggle books in the house. You were especially fond of science – chemistry, anatomy, physics….”
She trailed off, her eyes far-away, and Sherlock impatiently drummed his fingers on the tabletop until John’s hand came down over his to still it.
“Go on, then.” That was John. He’d reached out with his other hand, and had patted hers. “Did he blow up the house a time or two?”
She rolled her eyes at exactly the same time Sherlock did. John laughed.
“A time or two, yes. But he loved science, and he loved magic, and off he went to Beauxbatons and back he came for the holidays, then for summer. And Mycroft was off to Uni by then, but he’d come by often enough. Sherlock would corner him, and they’d have the most heated, intellectual discussions. It seemed that for the first time, the boys had something in common. That they shared. But by the next summer, things had changed. Sherlock came back from school with a mission. He wanted to deduce how magic worked.”
“How magic worked,” repeated John.
“Yes. How magic worked,” confirmed Mummy. “And you know, as well as I do….”
“That the known principles of Muggle science cannot be applied to magic,” they said, nearly in chorus.
“He couldn’t be convinced.”
“The known principles,” repeated Sherlock. He worked his fingers through John’s, and looked up at his mother. “And once I had exhausted those?”
“You were miserable, Sherlock. Depressed. Inconsolable. You refused to admit failure. But you couldn’t reconcile the irreconcilable. You were never one to have a lot of friends – to pay too much notice to other people, really – but this … pursuit…it got in the way of everything. Your teachers had such hopes for you. You were brilliant – really. I’m sure that’s no surprise, but you had such a way with magic. Several of Europe’s renowned Potions masters offered you apprenticeships, but you turned them all down. I remember when you came home for winter break when you were sixteen – you set your father up in the kitchen with the ingredients for a shrinking solution. And you had the exact same ingredients and well-designed controls and the same preparation methodology and of course, yours worked and his didn’t, and the only difference was that intangible thing called magic.”
“I must have been insufferable.”
He realized his mistake – acknowledgment of self without a touch of sarcasm. Even though he was looking at the table, into his teacup, he could feel both John and his mother staring at him in surprise.
Mummy continued when he didn’t say anything more.
“You were hurting. And I couldn’t help you. Mycroft couldn’t. Your headmistress tried, your professors. One of them came here, to speak to us, while you were still at school. Your Potions professor – a Muggle-born man. He told us that he advised you to stop living with one foot in each world. To choose one, and to go on. That you would never find the answers in one world for problems in the other.
“It took you two years, after Beauxbatons, to reach the point where you were confident you could selectively erase all of your knowledge of the magical world. You began by ridding yourself of the trappings – burning your robes, your books, quills and parchment. You took your owl to Diagon Alley and sold it back to Eeylops.”
John’s hand, warm in his own, squeezed again. “Owl post,” he said. “Owls deliver letters. Lots of people own their own.”
“Of course.” John may as well have said “Cows drink martinis.”
“You did it on a Sunday afternoon,” Mummy said. “You left the next day for Uni – you’d already made all the plans. Things were never quite the same after that, of course, but at least you didn’t have the torture of living with a foot in both worlds. You could apply your mind wholly to one. And while you didn’t have magic to distract you, you also didn’t have magic to…well…to complete you. You immersed yourself in your studies but Sherlock, you stopped dreaming. You lost that lovely sense of wonder you had as a child. Because suddenly, everything had an answer. All you had to do was research, gather data, assess and conclude, deduce if you will.”
John and Mummy exchanged another look.
“I did it here, then?” asked Sherlock. “You were here with me?”
“I was sitting at the kitchen table crying,” Mummy answered. She wasn’t crying now. She looked resigned. “Mycroft was with you. You did it, and he asked you all the questions you’d put together beforehand, to make sure you hadn’t erased too much. Then he handed you a document you’d written, Sherlock. You outlined your research into clearing memories and knowledge from the brain to make room for more – for more important material. You called it ‘deleting.’ The intent was for you to believe that any large gaps in your memory were caused by your experimentation. And you did – believe it. And it just made you want to perfect the technique, to be able to pick and choose, do it with surgical precision.”
“I did,” said Sherlock, rather dully, wondering if deleting would even have been possible if he didn’t have magic to begin with. He felt oddly disappointed, even disillusioned.
“I know what you’re thinking,” John said. “And does it matter? Really – you don’t consciously use magic when you delete. You don’t use a wand. If you’re really self-Obliviating still when you delete, you’re doing it non-verbally and wandlessly. That’s huge when it comes to magic, Sherlock.”
Did John think that would come as a surprise to him? Make him feel better? Of course he hadn’t been an inadequate wizard. But John was trying, and his presence beside him was comforting, giving him balance in this conversation where he definitely felt on the bottom end of the teeter totter.
“So, I was miserable, friendless –”
“I didn’t say you were friendless, Sherlock….”
“No, you didn’t. Was I?” He met his mother’s eyes. He knew she couldn’t lie to him when she was looking him in the eyes.
“Well, yes. A bit. There at the end.”
“A bit?” he challenged.
“You had friends in the beginning, Sherlock. Children like you who were excited to be at a magical school, excited to be witches and wizards, excited to finally be studying and using magic. But by the end, no. What friends you did have had scattered. None of them saw things quite like you did. They weren’t unsettled by the paradoxes. They didn’t care that the laws of physics that govern the world seemed to be fractured by magic. You didn’t ever find a kindred soul there.” She gave a significant look at John, slow and deliberate, then looked down at her hands.
“Alright. Miserable, friendless, alone, frustrated. What else – threatening self-harm, I expect?”
Mummy stayed uncharacteristically quiet.
He watched her take a deep breath as a weight settled in the pit of his stomach.
“You more than threatened, Sherlock. That’s why we gave in, in the end. We agreed – Mycroft and I, your father too – that it was the only way to give you a fighting chance.”
“I don’t remember.” His voice was flat. Beside him, John had gone very quiet.
“No, I expect you wouldn’t. Deleted with the rest of it. Dreamless Sleep potion and the Draught of Living Death – if your father hadn’t fallen so sick at the Tucker’s, if we hadn’t come home hours early….”
“Maybe this isn’t a good idea after all.” John’s voice caught. Mummy was looking at him with something like understanding, something like hope.
“Oh, John, no. I mean, yes. I think it is a good idea, despite what happened all those years ago. Because Sherlock has you now, doesn’t he? You both gave up magic, and you were both bereft, and you found each other, and honestly, I don’t see how that could have been only a happy accident, do you? And you’re running all over creation, getting into all sorts of scrapes and trouble looking for that rush.” She laughed. “And you, you John Watson, you’ve found a replacement for the magic you gave up. It’s right there, sitting beside you. Sherlock filled in all those empty places. So maybe – maybe it will be the same for Sherlock.”
“I hardly think I’ll forget the laws of physics, John or no John.” Sherlock felt it necessary to point that out, despite how close getting his wand back appeared to be. And he still wanted it. And he wanted to know what Dreamless Sleep was, and this Draught of Living Death.
“No, you won’t forget them,” Mummy said. She leaned forward and lowered her voice. “But maybe, just maybe, they won’t matter quite as much anymore. You’re different now, Sherlock. You’ve got a life boat, and an anchor.”
She stood then, letting him chew on her words as she walked over to the fireplace mantel and pulled a length of narrow wood out of what he had always considered a very bad ikebana – an arrangement of silk flowers and branches Mummy had created years ago, before he was born, in fact, and that had a permanent place on the mantel. So permanent that he barely noticed it anymore, but would notice immediately if it were gone. Brilliant of his mother to hide his wand in plain sight.
She didn’t hand it to him immediately. She sat back down in her chair across from him, and laid it on the table before her so that he’d have had to lean in and reach across to take it. He studied the wand, what he could see of it on either end of the hands she’d placed over it. It looked quite a bit like John’s had, though it was certainly possible that most wands looked alike.
“You intended to leave only this behind,” she said. Sherlock watched her fingers as they touched either end of the wand. “But Mycroft convinced you to leave something else at the very end. Two memories, extracted with this very wand.”
John’s sucked in a breath.
“Memories? What do you mean?” asked Sherlock, frowning. He disliked having these unimaginable surprises thrown at him at every curve.
John had dropped his head into his hands.
“Christ, Sherlock. That’s how it started. Just like with the deleting. Your mind palace.”
Mummy let go of the wand and reached over, touched Sherlock’s elbow.
“It’s no less an achievement because it started with magic, Sherlock. It was brilliant, really brilliant, and you’ve managed to maintain it all these years. But John’s right. You won’t understand until you see Mycroft. He has the memories, and the Pensieve.”
“I don’t understand.”
Of course he did, though. There was obviously a way to isolate a memory and view it. He imagined a film screen, perhaps a holographic three dimensional experience.
“When you view a memory, you’re an observer in the room,” clarified John. “You can walk around, see it from all angles, from different perspectives – even see things that were happening in your peripheral vision, that weren’t your primary focus.”
“Why does Mycroft have this – this memory?” Sherlock asked. “Why Mycroft?” Why would he have given something so important to someone he would never grovel to? Never beg?
“I think,” answered Mummy, “that you wanted to make it as difficult as possible to come back. You wanted to be sure you wanted it enough to have to ask Mycroft for it.”
“I imagine there will be even more hoops to jump through,” he muttered. “I’ll probably have to kiss his ring.”
John sputtered, and Mummy smiled, and Sherlock reached across the table.
“May I?” he asked. Mummy met his eyes.
“You’re sure you want this?”
She picked up the wand, but instead of handing it to him, stood with it, and walked quickly to the fireplace. John glanced at him, apparently as puzzled as he was. Mummy reached into a stoneware vase with an ill-fitting lid, something he or Mycroft had made in school, he’d always assumed, and tossed a handful of powder into the fire. It roared up, then settled back into low flames.
“Mycroft’s Ministry office,” she said, then bent and stuck her head in the flames.
Sherlock lurched out of his chair just as John launched himself at him to stop him. They ended up on the floor, each struggling for control, though Sherlock, more desperate to achieve his end, finally managed to land a solid punch to John’s nose and half-crawled to the fireplace as John curled up in pain.
Mummy, whole and hearty, was standing facing him, hands on her hips.
“What the hell were you doing?” he exclaimed, panting, on his feet again.
“Floo-calling your brother.” She covered her face with her hands and turned. Her shoulders were shaking.
“Mummy?” He stood and took a tentative step forward, touched her shoulder lightly.
“Oh, Sherlock – I’m sorry. It’s just … just….”
“I think you broke my nothe.”
He whirled around. John was struggling to sit up, blood streaming from his nose.
“John – ”
“Oh, isn’t this a lovely little domestic scene.” Mycroft’s voice behind him shouldn’t have surprised him, but it did. He ignored Mycroft in favor of finding a towel for John.
Mycroft walked past them into the kitchen and placed something on the table.
“I’m sorry.” This was approaching ludicrous. Sherlock sat on the floor beside John while John tipped his head back and pressed the towel gingerly to his face. “You must realise how it looked. She stuck her head in the fire, John. The fire! I just…reacted.” He pushed hair out of his eyes and watched as John looked at the bloody towel then pressed it back against his nose. “I may not always have these things down perfectly, but I suspect most sons would try to pull their mother out of the fireplace if they found her sticking her head in it!”
“Don’t be boring, Sherlock.” Mycroft, in an uncharacteristic show of concern, knelt beside John and pushed his hand away from his face. “Here, let me.”
“Get your hands off him.” Sherlock’s voice was low and lethal. “He doesn’t need your help.” He stood. “I’ll get ice, John.”
“Actually, I could uthe hith help,” said John.
Mycroft gave Sherlock a rather gloating look, then John, incredibly, dropped the towel onto his lap while Mycroft, with a wand that seemed to have appeared out of nowhere, given that he wasn’t holding the infernal umbrella, touched the end of John’s nose and muttered a spell.
A painful crunching sound came from the vicinity of John’s nose and he gasped, but then blinked his eyes and shook his head as if to clear it of the lingering pain. “Thanks,” he said, touching his nose cautiously.
Mycroft nodded and looked pointedly at the blood on John’s clothing. He raised an eyebrow.
“Go ahead,” John said. He leaned back against the sofa, resting his head on the cushions.
The wand acted like a vacuum, sucking the blood out of the clothing. When Mycroft stepped back, John looked more or less himself again.
“Useful,” said Sherlock.
“Now, may I ask how John ended up with a broken nose?” asked Mycroft. He was standing again, dusting off his suit.
Sherlock ignored him. John closed his eyes.
“I didn’t see it happen,” said Mummy, brushing past Mycroft and giving him a peck on the cheek. “But I suspect John tried to stop your brother from pulling me out of the Floo when I Floo-called you.” You sighed. “In hindsight, I should have explained the Floo to Sherlock first.”
“Yes, you probably should have,” agreed John. But there was a trace of humor in his voice now, and Sherlock relaxed fractionally.
“I am considering rejoining a world where people communicate by calling each other through fireplaces instead of using their mobiles to send a text.”
“I use my mobile all the time,” said Mummy. She pulled it from her pocket and brandished it. “I’ve never tried to stick my head into your fireplace at 221B, have I?”
“No, I suppose you haven’t,” Sherlock admitted, glaring at Mycroft.
“But it’s instinctive, you know,” she continued. “For wizarding business. And this is most decidedly wizarding business.”
“Most decisively,” agreed Mycroft. “Mummy asked me to bring the…things.” He gestured toward the kitchen table. A stone basin rested in the middle of the table with two small crystal jars beside it, each glowing with an eerie light.
“Oh, that pesky vow,” said Mummy, patting Mycroft’s arm. She brightened. “But that will be over if he takes his wand back, won’t it?”
Mycroft smiled. It was a dark smile, and it didn’t set Sherlock’s mind at ease. Rarely in his life could he remember being so unsettled, so out of his element.
“John, you’ve used a Pensieve, have you not?”
“I’m right here, Mycroft.” Sherlock waved his hand in front of his brother’s face.
“He can’t tell you directly, Sherlock,” said John. “He apparently can’t even mention specific magical items when you’re around.” He raised his hand as Sherlock began to protest. “No – listen to me. I know you, and I know him well enough. You insisted on all of this. They sound like your conditions, not his. You wanted this to be difficult. You wanted to make sure you absolutely wanted it back – enough to grovel at Mycroft’s feet. But you also didn’t want him to accidentally – or on purpose – spill anything to you. Thus the Unbreakable Vow. You’re too smart for your own good, Sherlock.”
Sherlock straightened his shoulders and looked toward the front door. He’d already been inside this house much longer than was comfortable. He usually escaped outside for a smoke within twenty minutes of arriving.
“I need a cigarette.”
“You want a cigarette,” corrected John. “But you want your wand more.”
When had John learned to deduce him so accurately?
“And we all understand your need to get outside for a smoke so often when you’re here.” Mummy had moved up beside him now, and took one of his hands in both of her own. She was looking up at him with a sort of resigned understanding, a bit of the maternal love he vaguely remembered from his childhood days. “There’s magic in this home, Sherlock. It unsettles you, or has – ever since. You don’t come here often – and don’t protest. I’m quite intelligent, and it hasn’t escaped me that if we want to see you, we come to Baker Street.”
No one said anything for a long moment, but the silence was more an acknowledgment of truth than an uncomfortable pause.
John stood then, and nodded to Mycroft.
“I know how to use a Pensieve,” he said. “I take it these are specific memories Sherlock chose?”
“One good, one bad,” confirmed Mycroft. “They’re not marked. He wanted it that way.”
John nodded, then took Sherlock’s hand. “Come on, you,” he said. His voice was fond. “Let’s get this over with.”
Sherlock found himself standing beside his mum’s sturdy kitchen table, in front of a stone basin that had to have come from some Egyptian tomb. It looked like a museum piece, anyway. He watched John’s hand hover over the two crystal jars and finally pluck one up. John unscrewed the cap and poured the contents into the basin.
Poured was the only word he could think of to use. The contents weren’t liquid. Not exactly. They seemed to be something like wet mist, threads of clouds, and they curled into the basin, not quite filling it. Sherlock was reminded of a steamy bathtub, of mist lying low on a field of grass.
John used his wand to stir the contents as Sherlock peered into the smoke.
“Just remember it may be unpleasant,” John said softly. “Remember what your mum just told you.”
Sherlock took a step backward. He hadn’t meant to. Mycroft and Mummy, standing side by side now across the table from them, exchanged a look.
He squared his shoulders. He’d been witnessing the aftermath of horrible crimes for more than a decade now. He could certainly bear a few minutes of his own pain and angst.
“Remember why you did this, Sherlock. Why you gave Mycroft these memories. The decision to walk away from magic wasn’t easy. You wanted to be sure your future self understood that.”
“I didn’t know then there would be you,” said Sherlock into John’s neck as John surprised him with a tight embrace.
“No, you didn’t, did you?” John’s lips grazed his jaw, then he pulled away, and turned toward the basin. “You bend down until your nose just touches the surface,” he explained, demonstrating. “There may be a feeling of free fall for a bit, but it’s magic, Sherlock. You’ll end up as an observer in the place the memory happened. You can move around, but you won’t be able to influence action and you won’t be noticed.”
Now John stepped back and Sherlock, never one for over-long considerations when it came to action or lack of action, bent forward until his nose just touched the almost-surface of the liquid that wasn’t a liquid…and fell.
Chapter 6: Chapter 6
Three forays into the Pensieve, a surprising discovery and a little bit of fate.
Down the rabbit hole and all that.
He was aware of his younger self immediately, the only other person in this small, cramped space. He was in a library, sitting in a study carrel at a worn oak table with books piled around.
He was writing, furiously.
Sherlock was positioned in front of and to the side of the table, with a view of young Sherlock’s profile. There was nothing in the room to tell him that this wasn’t reality. It looked real. It felt real. He could hear the scratching of the pen, see the floating dust motes in the air. He skirted around the desk until he was standing beside himself, and stared down at the hastily scrawled words on the page.
Matter can neither be created or destroyed.
Molecular formulas. Newton’s three laws of motion. Einstein’s theory of relativity.
First Law of Thermodynamics. Underlined several times.
While young Sherlock continued to write furiously, releasing short, heavy breaths in a show of what might have been teenage angst in anyone else, Sherlock reached out toward one of the stacks of books. His finger touched it, yet didn’t touch it. It stopped, not penetrating ghost-like through the stack, nor running across familiar paper and binding. He took a quick step backwards, startled, when the young man he once was pushed back suddenly from the desk and began to pace around the tiny cubicle, muttering to himself. He whirled suddenly, then leveled his gaze at the papers and books on the desk.
“I don’t know what’s real!”
Hands drawn into fists, clutched at his sides. Trembling. The look on his face, the angst in his voice….
Sherlock was not one to self-observe. His self-awareness was frequently called into question. Observing now, as an outsider, removed, made him immensely uncomfortable.
His younger self stepped forward suddenly, crying out in a strangled mix of despair and frustration. He swept a pile of books to the side, sending them tumbling to the floor. More followed, and Sherlock took another startled step backward.
The younger man’s hand clutched at the paper, balled up piece after piece, dropped them to the floor, then flung himself into the chair again, laid his head on the table.
Cheek pressed onto the tabletop, unkempt hair sticking to the wet cheek, hands clutching the edges of the table.
The sound was mournful. It tasted like failure. It was a brittle surrender to despair, a release of tears and emotion that might have been cathartic had there been something on the other side of it – understanding, perhaps, or even acceptance.
It went on far too long. Three minutes. Five. The boy – the young man – continued to mourn, alone in this tiny room, his best friends – his books – thrown to the floor, damaged, broken.
Betrayed even by those he loved most.
He felt. Felt for the boy in the room, the younger self he’d left behind. It was painful – physically painful – to remain in the room and share a forgotten grief.
He was pulled out of the memory by strong hands on his shoulders, found himself pressed back against the solid, familiar weight of John. He was trembling – no, more than trembling. Shaking. His stomach was knotted. John’s arms tightened around him and he sagged as John lowered him onto a chair.
“Not what I expected,” he murmured, dropping his head into his cupped hands and rubbing his forehead, his eyes. He’d expected his attempted suicide – had been prepared for it. That, he thought, would have been an easier memory to bear, of his younger self resolved, decided, the memory less lethal knowing he had failed. He squeezed his eyes shut tightly, trying to file the experience away and out of his active memory as quickly as possible.
“Hey – maybe you should wait,” said John. “Hold on to it until you see the other one.” He was crouching down beside Sherlock now, hand on his thigh.
“He called it ‘The Day Before’ when he gave it to me,” Mycroft said, sounding as much a school teacher as a concerned brother. “The second one was given to balance the first.”
“It will be something good,” John assured him. “You want to wait a bit?”
Sherlock shook his head. He looked up at Mycroft, frowning. “That wasn’t exactly pleasant.”
“It wasn’t meant to be. And don’t look at me like that, dear brother. This entire little drama was conceived, written and produced by you. My part in it was assuring you the possibility of coming back. You wanted to destroy your wand.”
Sherlock flinched. Nothing in the world was worse than being beholden to Mycroft.
“Well, let’s get on with it then.”
John stood, using Sherlock’s thigh for leverage, and bottled up the first memory. He opened the second vial, dropped the memory into the basin, and stirred it a bit with his wand. A ghostly figure rose above the surface, a child Sherlock, eyes surprised and delighted.
Sherlock stared at the holographic image as it melted back into the basin.
He didn’t remember ever being so happy – looking so happy – in all the bits of his childhood he hadn’t deleted.
“Go on, Sherlock.” Mummy leaned in from across the table. “I think you’ll like this one.”
He didn’t tell them that it didn’t matter. He still wanted his wand. He’d seen himself at the brink of suicide, at the edge of despair, because of magic, and he still wanted it. No matter the memory he’d just seen, no matter that it came from a younger version of himself. He was curiously disconnected from it. And he knew, as surely as he knew that he didn’t deserve John, that he’d be one step away from toppling off another precipice were it not for John walking beside him, that he was different now.
He could accept magic into his life, impossible science, inexplicable logic, unbelievable occurrences, the same way he had, not too terribly long ago, accepted something else even more impossible, inexplicable and unbelievable.
Love was an intangible thing, subjective, unquantifiable. Locked doors and tightly guarded hearts had not kept it at bay. It obeyed none of his rules, ignored his threats, ate away at his defenses.
It forgave. And he had more than enough transgressions to pardon.
And now, here beside John, he took a breath and released it. John gave him an encouraging nod, and he bent over the swirling mist in the stone basin.
Falling was more like floating, and his feet touched down on cobblestones. It was sunny and warm, bright, noisy. Chattering children, scurrying people. He turned on the unfamiliar spot, awash in colour and light.
“Come on, Mummy!”
A child, recognisable by an untamed mop of dark curls, had a woman by the hand, pulling her toward a quiet shop on the opposite side of the street.
He eased into the shop before the door closed behind his mum. The shop had an old-fashioned counter and stacks and stacks of like-shaped boxes on shelves behind it. His younger self made right for the counter, bouncing on his toes with excitement as a very old, white-haired gentleman appeared from behind a curtain.
“Ahh. Young Master Holmes. Finally your turn, I take it?”
“Finally,” exclaimed the boy. “I’ve been waiting years.”
The old man and Mummy exchanged a look. “He’s going to Beauxbatons in August,” Mummy said, dropping a hand to her son’s shoulder and giving it a small squeeze. “Like his brother. Though I’d say that’s about all he has in common with Mycroft.”
“Mycroft’s an arse,” small Sherlock offered. “His wand is cherry and unicorn tail hair, 9 ¾ inches. I’d like mine to be longer than his, please. I’m bound to be taller than him soon enough.”
A tape measure had snaked from beneath the counter, and was wrapping itself around the boy’s wrist. It moved from wrist to fingers then scooted up and measured his nose. Young Sherlock ignored it completely, behaving as if animated measuring tapes were everyday business.
“Well, Mrs. Holmes, before we get started, why don’t you tell me a bit about your son? I’ve some ideas, but you’re bound to know him best.”
“I know me best,” insisted the boy.
“Be that as it may, Sherlock,” chided Mummy, “Mr. Ollivander asked me, not you.”
They had a brief staring battle, but Mummy persevered and Sherlock kicked his foot against the bottom of the counter to show his displeasure, but didn’t interrupt as she spoke.
“He’s observant,” said Mummy. “Doesn’t miss a thing – ever. A bit solitary, and very bookish. Loves to experiment, to gather data. I think he would have been a Ravenclaw had we sent him to Hogwarts.”
“So you’re clever, are you?” The old man smiled and the boy couldn’t keep it in any longer.
“Clever enough to know that you’ve started smoking again, and your daughters don’t approve, and you’ve got a sore tooth. Also, I’ve researched you extensively. You use an astounding range of different wand woods, but limit yourself to three magical cores, even though other wand makers are much more inventive in that area. I’d like phoenix feather, please. It’s rarer than the others, and I’m rather certain it will suit me.”
“Phoenix feather,” stated the old man, cocking his head a bit at the child and looking more interested and amused than agitated. “Phoenix feathers for those who arise from ashes, who burn up to be reborn again. For wizards who are reborn, or reinvented, who make new starts. Well, young Mr. Holmes, do you have anything else to add before we get started?”
“Only that the tape measure isn’t doing anything useful at all,” said the boy. “I think you use it a diversion – so you can observe your clients while they’re distracted by it.”
The old man smiled enigmatically, then turned with a speed that belied his advanced age and started running his hands lightly over the shelved boxes. Every now and again his fingers would pause and dance over the end of a box. He’d pull it out more often than not and it would sail over to the counter on its own, stacking itself up atop the previous box.
And so it started.
Sherlock, well-accustomed to operating in small spaces, maneuvered himself behind the counter, where he had a much better view. Wand after wand emerged from the boxes. Young Sherlock would give each a try, after which the old man would shake his head, pluck it from his hand, and hand him another.
“Nine and three quarter inches, maple, dragon heartstring.”
“Ten and a third inches, apple wood, phoenix feather.”
There was very little discussion – a frown at the results (billowing smoke, a sputter of lackluster sparks, a sound like the croak of a frog), an encouraging smile from Mummy. The more he rejected, the more excited the old man became. Young Sherlock didn’t seem to be tiring of the game yet, looking at the old man expectantly each time a wand was plucked from his grasp.
Until finally, Mr. Ollivander opened a box but did not immediately take out the wand and place it in the boy’s hand. A smile slipped slowly across his face, and he nodded, then lifted the wand out carefully, and held it up, speaking softly, reverentially.
“Cedar. Eleven and three quarter inches with a phoenix feather core. I made two wands from this particular cedar branch. It was such a lovely specimen of wood.”
“Cedar. Loyalty. Strength of character. Perspicacity and perception.” Eleven year old Sherlock’s eyes were shining. Despite his older-than-eleven vocabulary, he looked young, eager, childlike, alive in the moment. The boy stood up a bit straighter and looked the wandmaker in the eye. “May I? Please?”
Ollivander extended the handle, and Sherlock, gripping the counter from his position behind it, leaned in, unable to resist. His own hand mimicked the gesture as the boy’s fingers closed around the wood. The wand was naturally shaped, tapered at the end.
The boy took a deep breath, held it, then gave it a short, diagonal stroke.
Sparks shot from the wand, gold sparks, and silver, and red.
The boy’s face was transformed.
Sherlock’s face was transformed.
“This is it. This is the one.” Young Sherlock was bouncing on the balls of his feet again. He turned to Mummy. “It’s longer than Mycroft’s, Mummy. By two full inches! And I knew phoenix feather would suit me.” He threw his arm out in another long arc and as the wand moved, a stream of fat bumblebees seemed to escape from the tip. They swarmed together in the air over Mr. Ollivander’s head, to the absolute delight of the boy. (Of course he’d be delighted. They were bumblebees, after all, not mosquitoes or June bugs.)
“I made bees!” exclaimed young Sherlock. “Look, Mummy! Bees!” He watched as Mr. Ollivander, shaking his head almost fondly, corralled them inside an invisible barrier of some sort. “What did Mycroft make, when he got his wand, Mummy? Was it something horrid?”
“Oh, not too terribly horrid,” she said with a smile that the fully grown Sherlock recognised as both nostalgic and indulgent. She opened her pocketbook and gave Mr. Ollivander a handful of odd-looking gold coins.
“Slugs! I bet he shot slugs all over the room. No – I bet they oozed out of his slimy wand, didn’t they?” Eleven year old Sherlock was holding his new wand in both hands as he spoke, studying the wood intently.
“It’s got a streak of colour in it,” he said, looking up at his mother, eyes shining. “Look, from top to bottom, Mum!” He brandished the wand under her nose, and she took hold of his hand to steady it.
“Wand safety, Sherlock,” she admonished gently. She gazed at the wand. “Oh, my, thatis lovely. A bit of blonde. It’s striking – very unusual.”
Her young son beamed.
“Its brother is the same,” commented Mr. Ollivander. “I did tell you I made two wands from that cedar branch.” He looked intently at the young man, silver eyes unreadable. “Perhaps, some day, you’ll find the one that wields your wand’s brother.”
“We can have dueling wars or something!” exclaimed Sherlock, clutching the wand against his chest.
“Or something,” said Mr. Ollivander with a nod.
Mummy shot him a look, a look that young Sherlock missed.
“I hope he’s nothing like my brother.”
The old man gave the kind of enigmatic smile that Sherlock knew young Sherlock couldn’t yet recognise.
“Oh, no, Mr. Holmes,” he assured as he walked them toward the door. “He’s nothing like your brother at all.”
The world seemed to dissolve around him then and he was jerked upward, winning the fight against gravity until he seemed to be sucked back into his body still bent over the stone basin.
He collapsed backward into the chair, staring vacantly forward.
“The universe is rarely so lazy,” he muttered.
“Sherlock?” Mummy looked poised to hover. He hated hovering.
“My wand?” he said.
“What coincidence?” Mycroft’s palms were on the table, and he was leaning forward, looking intently at Sherlock.
Mummy extended his wand, handle first. Sherlock reached for it, palm up, and felt the wood settle into his hand.
No sparks. No bumblebees. No smoke or fire or ash.
But the feeling. Rightness. Completeness. Euphoria better than cocaine. Calmness. Clarity.
He felt settled in a way he hadn’t felt in years.
“Sherlock? You all right?” John leaned in, touched his cheek. “Sherlock?”
“What did you mean about coincidence?” Mycroft was not going to let this go.
Sherlock ran his hand over the wand, noting the streak of dark blonde running vertically from handle to tip.
“Cedar, eleven and three quarter inches, phoenix feather core. Fully two inches longer than yours, Mycroft.”
“Please –you can be so juvenile,” groused Mycroft.
“The length of my wand relative to yours seemed to give me quite a bit of pleasure when I was eleven,” said Sherlock. “I thought it bore repeating.”
“Boys….” Mummy was clearly more amused than reproachful.
“But right now, I’m much more interested in John’s wand than yours, Mycroft.”
John’s mouth contorted as he tried to hide a grin.
“John – may I see your wand, please.”
John produced the wand, just managing, Sherlock thought, to not make a flippant retort.
“Mine’s cedar as well. It isn’t the most common of wand woods.”
Sherlock watched Mycroft smile tightly. “This is going to get romantic, isn’t it?” his brother asked.
Sherlock ignored him. He laid the wands side by side, then end to end. No question about it – the same blonde streak ran through them both. Brother wands, made from the same cedar branch.
John, beside him, had grown very still.
“As you probably have gathered, that last memory was of me choosing my wand,” Sherlock began.
“Actually,” John corrected, “the wand chooses the wizard.”
Sherlock stared at the wands, mind processing the memory, John’s words. “Yes.” A smile broke unbidden across his face. “You’re correct. This wand chose me.” He touched the wand, rather reverently. “And the old man –the wand maker – told me he’d made two wands from the same cedar branch and that one day ….” He trailed off as his throat tightened. “One day I might meet the other.”
“I remember that,” Mummy said softly. “I thought it so poignant at the time, but all you could talk about was Mycroft’s wand making slugs.”
“Slugs?” Mycroft sounded affronted.
“Oh, this is rich,” said Mycroft. But he was smiling, and Mummy actually looked like she was going to cry.
John, however, gestured toward the wands.
“May I?” he asked.
And watched as John’s fingers closed over his wand, as he pressed his lips together, concentrating, feeling the brother wand, then raised it, and quietly said ”Lumos.”
The wand tip shone with a glorious, subtle intensity, a warm glow that bathed the room in soft and clear moonlight from floor to ceiling.
But Sherlock’s eyes were on John. On John’s face as it broke out into a disbelieving smile. On his eyes as he turned to Sherlock and whispered “This is magic.”
Then he was laughing, and holding the sides of Sherlock’s face, and kissing him – kissing him – right there in front of Mummy and Mycroft.
“Do you know – do you even know how lucky we are?” John asked, his breath warming Sherlock’s neck as he wrapped his arms tightly around him.
Sherlock looked over his shoulder at Mummy and Mycroft. Mummy’s eyes were shining through tears, and she pressed her lips together. Mycroft looked – how did one look both satisfied and envious at the same time?
“Don’t you need to get back to work or something?” he asked, even as he tightened his arms around John.
“Oh, no. Not at all. I’ve the day off, in fact. If you’re both planning to start being wizards again, you’ll require a reorientation to the Magical world. I can pull some strings and get you in to the Reorientation Office at the Ministry this afternoon.”
“We never stopped being wizards,” John said. He’d turned in Sherlock’s arms and was leaning back against him now. Sherlock clasped his hands over John’s belly and glared at Mycroft over his shoulder. “And no, we’re not going to the Ministry for a reorientation. We’re going back to Baker Street.”
“To play with our wands,” added Sherlock.
John snorted. Sherlock tightened his hold on him, hands drifting lower. He tucked his fingers into the waistband of John’s trousers, under his jumper. John ground back against him just enough to let him know his interest was noted and reciprocated.
“Zap us back, John,” Sherlock instructed.
Mycroft rolled his eyes. “Apparate, Sherlock. Really, you’re going to have to relearn the vocabulary.”
Mummy held up her hand. “Stay just a minute more, Sherlock. Mycroft, I have something I’d like to give Sherlock and John. Oh – and leave the pensieve. I’ll be needing it.”
Sherlock watched unbelievably as Mycroft kissed Mummy on the cheek then twirled on the spot, disappearing with a crack and without a protest of any kind.
“John – will you help me out? I’ve a memory I’d like you both to see.” Mummy was leaning over the pensieve, tiny crystal bottle in hand. John obligingly dipped his wand into the bowl, then lifted it out. A strand of cloud-water hung to it, and he dropped it into the vial.
“Ready?” he asked. Mummy was looking down into the basin. She nodded, and John held the tip of his wand to her temple. She nodded once more, and he pulled the wand tip away.
A thread, gossamer thin, seemed to flow from her temple, pulled carefully by John’s wand. It broke free, and hung from his wand as he carefully held it over the basin and released it. It floated down into the basin, filling it with undulant waves of silk-spun clouds.
“There was a time, Sherlock,” Mummy said, her voice so quiet that he had to lean in to hear properly, “in the midst of your torment, when you still clung to hope.” She blew softly over the surface of the pensieve, and the image of two wands, crossed together, floated, mist-like, above the surface.
John’s hand wrapped around his. “Together,” he said. He nodded at Mummy. “Thank you, Mrs. Holmes.”
Then John was bending down, still holding his hand, and Sherlock looked at his mother, oddly reluctant, but she only nodded at him, then turned and left the room.
He landed beside John, in his bedroom here at his childhood home. Mummy was here – of course she would be – it was her memory, after all. And Sherlock was here, too, all of sixteen or so, curled up on his side atop the coverlet.
“I’ve researched it, Mummy. We’ve a whole section in the library on wandlore, and I know I’m not wrong. Wands choose the wizard. And my wand has a brother – Mr. Ollivander told me. There’s someone out there, Mum. Someone like me.”
“Or someone for you, Sherlock,” Mummy said. She was sitting on the edge of the bed, and she reached out now, and fondly tucked a lock of hair behind Sherlock’s ear. A tender gesture, one that John had made too many times to count.
“The world’s too big,” Sherlock said. “It could be anywhere.”
“Mr. Ollivander made the wand,” Mummy assured him. “The wand is likely not as far away as you think.”
“I went to see him,” Sherlock admitted, after the silence stretched on and Mummy shifted on the bed. “He wouldn’t say. Only that fate will decide, and that I should live for the day or some tripe like that. Carpe Diem my arse.”
“Sherlock….” Mummy’s hand smoothed over his back. “You’re one of the few, aren’t you? Chosen by a wand that has a brother. Your day will come. You can’t force it.”
“You think so?” Sherlock rolled to his back. “Really?”
“You’re only fifteen, Sherlock. Yes, I do think so. Really.”
“Mycroft says it’s not logical,” he said, looking at her earnestly. “And he’s right. There’s not a thing scientific about it. It’s ridiculous. Hoping for something that will never happen.”
“Mycroft is wrong.”Mummy’s voice was clear and strong. “Mycroft understands logic, and reason, just as you do, Sherlock. Mycroft doesn’t understand fate.”
“No one does,” Sherlock retorted. “But I want to – if it happened – I might … believe.”
He said the last word quietly, and Mummy smiled, and ruffled his hair.
When he lifted his head, he was in the kitchen again, and John, beside him, was holding his hand, still staring into the stone basin, lips compressed.
“When I went to buy my wand, Mr. Ollivander was ill,” John said at last. “His daughter was there running the store. It was busy – I bet there were five or six Hogwarts students there waiting. It was the fourth wand I tried, and I was just a Muggle-born kid, out of my element. I was so happy to have it. I had no idea there was anything special about it.” He eyed their wands, lying on the table, and picked his up. “I think – if I’d known – I might not have left the Wizarding world. I’d have been looking for you there, Sherlock.”
“And you’d never had found me,” said Sherlock.
John grinned. “Fate.”
“Fate,” repeated Sherlock. He shook his head. “I can’t believe I’m acknowledging it.”
“Come on, let’s go home. I’ll teach you how to use your wand to confuse a few CCTV cameras.”
Sherlock reached for his wand and without a second thought, letting muscle memory take over, tucked it in an inside pocket of his jacket and took John’s arm.
“Baker Street,” he said.
And he winked at his mother and father, standing together in the doorway to the sitting room, and, not knowing any different, hoped that John’s crack of Apparition was much, much louder than Mycroft’s.
Chapter 7: Chapter 7
Sherlock and John make a brief visit to a magical place, and determine to go on as they've begun.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
The level of magic in 221B seldom interfered with the electronics, though Sherlock released most of his passive aggressive tendencies on the CCTV cameras, honing his burgeoning wand skills by spinning them to point at brick walls and cloudy skies and follow little old ladies from shop to shop down the streets of London. John made lists – lists of all the spells and Potions Sherlock would love to know but which he must never know, except under very special circumstances, like Polyjuice potion, and the tickling charm, and the bat bogey hex, and if he let him make a shrinking solution, would he spill it on John’s jumpers or possibly down Mycroft’s trousers?
Magic at 221B was nearly always routine. A blanket summoned from the bedroom after a tumble on the sofa, a cup of tea grown cold and warmed again, a spot removed from a pair of trousers. They kept their mobiles and never stuck their heads into the fireplace, though John did send off for a supply of Pepper-up potion and a bottle of Firewhisky.
The delivery of the Firewhisky was nearly the end, as Sherlock obsessed over the small owl and the heavy bottle until John nipped it and said that it was the owl’s job to deliver the goods and the owl had no idea the bottle was too heavy for it to carry. Sherlock took one drink of the liquor and proclaimed that the owl should have dropped the bottle into the river – it certainly would have tasted better after being dredged from the bottom of the Thames
John resolved to make him try butterbeer next, and then perhaps pumpkin juice.
Magic was reserved for the flat, for comfort, for fun. Magic came to them at 221B, reborn like the Phoenix from the ashes of despair. A light in the dark, a wash of quiet joy. A wand, it turned out, was more than a weapon for John, more than an impenetrable mystery for Sherlock. Neither Sherlock nor John sought the marvelous trappings of the magical world, content with the grit of London, with cab rides in the wee hours, with chip and pin machines, with trousers and jumpers and coats that swirled like robes.
Until a Tuesday morning in early October, when Sherlock and John, bound for a quiet weekend in York, found themselves at King’s Cross Station with an hour to spare before their train. And John couldn’t resist – could he? – they were here, after all, and they were likely the only ones, or nearly so.
Sherlock was not one given to run at brick walls, but John fetched him a cart to push before him, so he gave it a go and found himself on a quiet platform, occupied by a dozen passenger rail cars attached to a quiet scarlet steam engine.
“Wizard space,” explained John, when Sherlock looked right and left for the neighboring platforms. And he walked down the line, hand running along the side of the cars, stepping back to get a peek inside, shaking hands with the old man who appeared to see who they were, who nodded with understanding, and let them climb up into the engine and took their photo with Sherlock’s phone, beneath the gold lettering on the side of the engine – the Hogwarts Express.
And two weeks later, because Sherlock couldn’t stop talking about wizard space and could they really make a laboratory in a cupboard?, John surprised Sherlock by taking him to an eccentric pub named The Leaky Cauldron, then through a magical doorway (three taps up and two across) and down a street Sherlock only recalled from the memory he’d viewed. John’s Muggle clothing wasn’t too out of place here, and Sherlock’s Belstaff easily passed for a set of heavy robes.
They peeked into the window of a bookstore and an apothecary, a joke shop and a clothing store, leaving that kind of shopping for another day, perhaps, and John pulled Sherlock forcibly past the entrance of Knockturn Alley and to the wand maker’s quiet little store.
And while Mr. Ollivander’s shop stood exactly where it always had, his oldest daughter was the proprietress now. But he still lived in the rooms above the shop, and when John gave her a bit of their story while Sherlock stood at the counter, nearly bouncing on the balls of his feet, she gave an “Oh!” of delighted surprise, then led them up a steep stairway into a cozy parlour, where the old man was tucked into a comfortable wingback, feet resting on an ottoman, fire burning warmly in the grate.
If Sherlock was reminded of Bilbo Baggins in his latter days, he did not say.
“Visitors, Father,” said his daughter, and she settled them together on a loveseat and spun a small tea service into existence and poured, then excused herself and slipped back downstairs to mind the counter.
Mr. Ollivander blinked watery silver eyes at them.
“Sherlock Holmes.” The smile on his face was distant, from another day and place. His voice was brittle, unused. “This one’s nothing like your brother, is he?”
“You remember me?” Sherlock asked, clearly surprised.
“The eleven-year old who diagnosed my sore tooth and deduced that I’d taken up smoking again?”
“He’s gotten much better, actually,” John said.
The old man’s gaze turned to him. “The other wand,” he said. “I’ve been curious about it, as I don’t recall ever having sold it. Three days I missed in all these years, and the first wand chose you on one of them.”
“John Watson,” said John. “It’s good to finally meet you, Mr. Ollivander.”
“The Auror.” He held out his hand. “May I?”
“Former Auror.” John stood, pulled his wand from his trouser pocket, and leaned forward to hand it to the wand maker.
“It was a lovely piece of wood,” mused the old man, the light of distant years in his odd eyes. “I worked it whenever I could, took my time and let the wood speak to me. It took me years to decide where to cut it.” He turned his gaze on Sherlock and held out a wrinkled hand. “May I?”
Sherlock glanced at John as he reached into his coat. He learned forward, as John had, and handed the wand over, then settled back beside John, oddly quiet, studying the man before them.
“Strange,” said the old man. “Wands sold more than twenty years ago yet....” His voice trailed off, and he shook his head. “You know the tale of Harry Potter’s wand?”
“His wand had a brother – Lord Voldemort’s wand. Each wand had as its core a feather from the same phoenix. The wands weren’t effective against each other.”
“Indeed.” Ollivander looked up from his study of the two wands and pierced Sherlock with his silver gaze. “But did you ever stop to wonder what they would have done – for good or for evil – if they’d tried to work with each other instead of against each other?”
There was an uncomfortable silence. “Are you saying,” John said at last, “that our wands will be stronger if we use them together?”
“Oh no, not at all,” laughed Mr. Ollivander. “It’s really not about the wands at all, is it? It’s about the witches and wizards who wield them. The music they make together.” He held the wands together in his hand, then drew them in an arc before him.
The wands sang.
An eerie trill, a soulful vibration. The steadily rising sound of hope, of the sun rising, notes spreading over the horizon, sinking into the skin like golden rays of sunlight on a clear spring morning. Rising, then, soaring, the heavy beat of wings, the rush of cold wind, the race to the precipice.
The old man gently placed the wands in his lap and looked across at his visitors.
“I don’t know as much as you think I might – but the wands tell me they’ve long been sleeping. And you haven’t told me why you’ve come here, and I can only guess it is to close the loop – to let me know you’ve found each other. Perhaps to hear a bit more about these marvelous wands of yours. But if, perhaps, you came looking for advice, I’d say to you to continue as you’ve begun.”
Then Sherlock launched into his questions about wands and wand lore in general, and their wands, in particular.
They didn’t return to Diagon Alley for a very long time, and the story of that day is another adventure altogether. And while they never did see Mr. Ollivander again, they took his advice to heart, and stayed their course.
Magic within them. Fate to bind them. Love to hold them. Music to soothe them.
A phoenix consumed and reborn. The heart of a dragon on wing.
While I do realize that there is more of this story to be told, the story I crafted had a beginning, a middle and an end, and this, alas, is the end. It's been an enjoyable, though brief, journey and yes, I can see myself writing a bit more of this world. It was a lot of fun to write Mycroft, and Sherlock as a child, and I had to keep myself from letting Sherlock and John use magic (at this stage of the game) to enhance their amorous activities. So, perhaps a sequel of magically-enhanced amorous activities?