Part 1: In which Petunia Dursley isn’t as unintelligent or unloving as she could have been
November 2, 1981:
Petunia Dursley read the letter in the basket from which she’d picked up her nephew.
Her sister was dead, her nephew was traumatized, her son was screaming at the top of his lungs at the intruder, and her husband was ranting about orphanages.
Petunia raised her eyes from the note. “Of course he can’t stay here, Vernon,” she said practically, and folded the letter in front of her. “But he can’t go to an orphanage either.” She didn’t say that neither they nor an orphanage would have the resources to raise Harry to his birthright, nor to manage his magic, nor his trauma. Vernon wasn’t bright enough to pick up on the subtext, however. “It’s not safe.”
Vernon paused his ranting, looked at his wife, and picked up his screaming son, who quit the racket once tucked up in his father’s arms. “Well, then, what?”
“I think,” Petunia said slowly, “I shall see if our cousins will be willing to help.”
“Oh, yes,” Petunia said. “I think I shall see.” She cuddled her too-calm nephew and made for the phone. “I’m calling Tim and Wanda.”
Tim and Wanda Holmes had their hands full. Their three children had clearly inherited their mother’s genius, thought it displayed in different ways. Mycroft, at seven, had an eidetic memory and the head for strategy that rivaled a general’s, while Eurus, at 5, was clearly a violin prodigy, despite displaying worryingly sociopathic traits. William, the youngest at 3, already read chapter books and solved complex math problems in his head.
Without Tim’s gentle practicality, Wanda thought she’d have gone off the deep-end by now.
Petunia’s call, therefore, did not come at a good time.
“Why, if I may ask, are you not able to take Harry?” Wanda asked icily. “You have one child to my three, and plenty of room.”
Petunia lowered her voice. “I am also married to someone who prefers things ordinary to the extreme. You know that I prefer ordinary, too, but I genuinely worry that the boy will not thrive here.”
“Do you mean to say he is a sort of genius, too, Petunia?” Wanda asked skeptically. Her cousin Lily had been brilliant in her own way, but hadn’t applied herself to any of the usual schools.
Petunia hesitated, then firmed her voice. “What do you know of magic, Wanda?”
Wanda sat back. For those who knew where to look, it was not difficult to spot the signs of magic around England. All it once, it clicked. “Lily.”
“Yes,” Petunia sighed, relieved that she didn’t have to say much more. “Lily was a witch. She trained at an exclusive school in Scotland, and she married a wizard. I’m quite certain that Harry’s inherited her skill. More than that, Wanda, he’s traumatized. He needs attention, and gentleness. I can’t give him that here. Vernon would never let me treat him like a son, and Wanda, he has Lily’s eyes.” Petunia choked on a sob. “I just can’t.”
Wanda closed her eyes. A small boom came from the direction of William’s bedroom, followed by a young girl’s cackle. Mycroft wandered through the kitchen to snatch a cake from the tray she’d just pulled out of the cupboard, a copy of A Brief History of Time in his left hand. Tim wouldn’t be home from work for another hour yet, but …
“When shall we come and get him?”
Timothy Holmes, who held a minor position in the British government (in much the same way his eldest son would upon his ascension to adulthood), listened to his wife explain the situation over the phone. Tim was nearly ready to leave the office for the day, having been putting out metaphorical fires from the magical world’s celebrations of Voldemort’s defeat since the small hours of the morning.
“You’re saying, dear, that Petunia’s asked us to take custody of Harry Potter?” He asked calmly, switching off his lamp as prelude to picking up his briefcase.
“Yes,” Wanda said, absently cutting up an apple to place in front of William and Eurus, who were scuffling over the milk. “He is my cousin, once removed. And Petunia thinks, if I’m reading her rightly, that he won’t be safe in her household with her husband.”
“Ah,” Tim said, looking out of his office and nodding to his administrative assistant. “That won’t do at all. Shall I go and get him from Surrey on my way home?”
“Please, dear. I know it’s a bit out of your way,” Wanda fretted.
“You ready the guest room, darling,” Tim said. “I’ll bring our boy home.”
He hung up his phone, then turned his lamp back on, and dug into his bottom drawer for legal foolscap. It took him a few minutes, but in the end, Tim had a legal document, ready for Petunia to sign, transferring custody of Harry Potter to Tim and Wanda Holmes.
He’d file it in the morning with all appropriate parties, including the Ministry of Magic, under seal, and arrange for a magical guardian to be assigned.
He did wonder, however, what had become of Sirius Black.
Tim shrugged, and went out, nodding again to his assistant as he left for the waiting car. “A detour today, James,” Tim said to his driver, who looked at Tim on the mirror. “Sir?”
“Number 4, Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey,” Tim said. “We’re picking up an infant passenger to bring to my home permanently.”
“I see, Sir. Do we need to stop for anything else?”
“No, James,” Tim smiled. “We shall pick up my orphaned cousin, and then we shall bring him home where he belongs.”
“Very good, Sir.”
Tim’s arrival on Privet Drive met no particular difficulty. His car was sedate, his uniformed driver not unusual. He met a bit of resistance as he crossed what seemed to be a ward line (reading intent, he assumed), but it was as nothing when he focused on his intention to keep Harry safe.
Petunia had obviously been watching for him, because she met him at the door.
“Come in, and thank you, Tim,” Petunia said. She led him to where Harry was dozing on the sofa. “All he had with him was this letter, this blanket, and the clothes on his back. I’m not even sure he has anything else.”
Tim frowned. He’d heard about the explosion at Harry’s home, but certainly someone would have gone to see about getting Harry’s things. “Has he seen a doctor?”
“I didn’t take him today, but I would take him soonest,” Petunia said. “See that cut on his forehead? I’m not certain it’s going to heal well.”
Tim’s frown deepened. “I see.” He set his folder of legal papers on the nearby table and gently leaned over Harry to pick him up. Sleepy green eyes slitted open. “Harry, dear, you’re going to come with me and Auntie Wanda.”
His small voice asked, “Mama?”
“I’m sorry, dear boy, but your Mama won’t be there,” Tim said softly.
Harry’s lower lip trembled. “Want Mama.”
“I know,” Tim cuddled him. “Come now. Auntie Wanda and all your cousins want to see you.”
“‘K.” Harry sighed and drifted back off. Tim held him securely in his left arm and reached for the bag Petunia held out to him with his right.
“Thank you, Petunia. We’ll be off, then.” Tim said.
Petunia touched her hand to Harry’s face. “Be well, Harry.” A soft glow left her hand and enveloped her nephew. Petunia looked up, startled. “But I don’t have magic!”
“Apparently,” Tim said gently, “you have enough.” He looked down at Harry. “Not everyone has enough magic to train, Petunia. But most of us have a little. It’s actually quite normal.”
Petunia drew back, the longing in her face apparent for a single moment before it was ruthlessly suppressed. “I’ll just get the door for you.”
“Thanks,” Tim said, then added. “Also, I nearly forgot. I have papers for you to sign transferring guardianship. They’re just there, in that folder. I’ve flagged the right spots.”
Petunia nodded stiffly, opened the folder, took a pen from a nearby drawer, and signed in all the flagged spaces before shuffling the papers together back into the folder. “I’ll walk you out.”
James had the back door of the car open, and an emergency car seat installed, ready for Harry, when Tim made his way out. Tim strapped the sleeping Harry into the seat, then sat next to him as James started the car. Petunia handed Tim the folder through the window, shook her head, tried to say something, but stopped. She lifted a hand, then walked back to front door.
“Any other stops, sir?” James asked.
“None, thank you, James,” Tim said. “Just back home.”
Wanda met the car, her three children trailing after her like ducklings. “And this is Harry,” she said, unstrapping him from the seat. Harry woke up and blinked at her. “Hello, Harry. I’m Auntie Wanda.” She turned around and showed him to her brood. “And these are your cousins: Mycroft, Eurus, and William.”
William Sherlock Scott Holmes pursed his lips. “He’s awfully small, mummy.”
“He’s awfully young, Wills,” Wanda said, “and he’s just lost his mummy and daddy. I’m sure we can all take good care of him instead.”
Eurus blinked. “Why would we do that?”
“Because it’s the right thing to do, for family,” Wanda said firmly. “And because I’m sure we’ll love him.”
Mycroft hummed. “I’ll see about looking through my books, Mummy. I think there was something about surviving traumatic events in early childhood, probably in the lower case on the left-hand side.”
“That would be kind, Mycroft,” Wanda allowed, as behind her, Tim thanked James, picking up his briefcase and umbrella.
Wanda looked down at the sweet baby in her arms, and promised, “We’ll take good care of you, Harry.”
Part 2: In which a number of people are dissuaded from questionable courses of action
The evening with Harry and his cousins had gone rather smoothly, Tim thought, for a given value of smooth.
His little geniuses were fascinated with the lad, who looked increasingly interested in the world around him as his cousins did their level best to get some sort of response from the quiet, traumatized baby. By bedtime, Wills’ antics had gotten a giggle out of Harry, and that made Wills puff up with pride.
With Mycroft’s help, Wanda turned the guest room into a nursery rather quickly, and when it came time to settle everyone down, Harry went into the new cot with a minimum of fuss, one of the children’s discarded plushies tucked firmly under his arm.
Tim helped Wanda settle the others down for the night, then followed her into their room, down the hall from Harry’s.
“I’ll be filing for legal guardianship in the morning,” Tim told her. “I don’t wish to stir up trouble where it’s unwarranted, but I can’t think that settling Harry with Petunia was done legally. I know, because James and I discussed it, that Sirius Black is Harry’s godfather. I can’t imagine what might have happened.”
“With magic involved, it’s hard to tell,” Wanda said, turning down their bed and plugging in the baby monitor on top of her end-table. “I had no idea Lily was magic.”
“Ah, well, I must confess, dear, that I’ve known for some time,” Tim said sheepishly. “My position requires me to know, and James is from one of the oldest wizarding families. I believe our young ward is now titled, actually. I shall have to look into that.”
Wanda turned and raised a brow. “I see. Another need-to-know, is it?”
Wanda rolled her eyes. “Well, here’s me needing to know. And you telling me because I need to know, I expect. Magic.” She shook her head. “At least tell me you know where to find tutors for a magical genius.”
Tim pursed his lips as pulled on his pajamas. (One couldn’t sleep nude with young geniuses in the house, for fear of fire or mad experiments taking over the place, leading to evacuations in the dead of night.) “I believe I know who to ask, at any rate,” he said calmly.
“Good,” Wanda said. “That reminds me; Mycroft’s tutor says he’s more than ready for advanced study in, well, just about everything. We should discuss schools with him; I’m sure he has ideas.”
Tim chuckled softly. “I’m more than certain he does. Will it be Harrow, or Eton?”
“I think Harrow is the front runner,” Wanda allowed as she got into bed. “Something about better academics?”
“I suppose he knows a way around the age rule? He’ll be 8 in just a few weeks’ time,” Tim observed. “That’s five years too young for most.”
“I trust he has a plan he’ll share with us,” Wanda said, unconcerned. She turned out the bedside light and turned to her husband, who obligingly opened his arms to let her rest her head on his lightly muscled chest. “Are we doing the right thing, Tim?”
He kissed the top of her head. “I believe we are.”
Wanda drew a deep breath, then blew it out. “Well, then.”
The morning rolled around with its usual explosions and madness. Wills proudly buttered his own toast (Wanda overlooked the gobs of jam and general stickiness) while Eurus scowled at the mess and Mycroft calmly talked to Harry about the general routine of the household.
“Of course, Harry, I go to my tutor’s this morning, as does Eurus, but Wills will be keeping you company with Mummy,” Mycroft informed him calmly, buttering a piece of toast and cutting it into small pieces for Harry’s little fingers while Wanda bustled around pouring milk. “But we shall all be back for a late lunch before music lessons this afternoon. I wonder what instrument you might like to play?”
Harry’s little brow furrowed. “‘Sik?”
“Yes, Harry, music,” Mycroft said patiently, and hummed a bit of a Brahms waltz. “Do you like music?”
Harry nodded. “Mama sings.”
“I see,” Mycroft said sagely. “We shall have to sing to you, too. Do you have a favorite song?”
“Sleepy song,” Harry said. “Sleep, my child, sleep.”
“This one?” Mycroft asked. “Sleep, my child, and peace attend thee, all through the night …” he sang a bit.
“Yes!” Harry clapped. “Mama’s song!”
Tim came in, kissed his wife, and looked upon his brood. “I will be leaving for work now. Try not to burn the house down, loves,” he admonished.
“Boring!” Wills shouted.
Eurus rolled her eyes. “Of course not, Daddy. Where would we sleep if we didn’t have a house?”
“Excellent points, dear ones,” Tim said calmly, and smiled at them all. “Come, Mycroft, I’ll drop you by Mr. Lake’s on the way out of town.”
“Certainly, Father,” Mycroft said, standing up and tweaking Harry’s nose slightly. “Have a good day, Harry! Mummy!”
“Are we invisible, then?” Eurus asked with a frown.
Wills pursed his lips. “Must be. Let’s make a mess and see who notices.”
Wanda added a rasher of bacon to Wills’ plate. “I do see you, Wills dear, and I will most definitely notice a mess.”
“OK, Mummy,” Wills said, but glanced at Eurus anyway, who smirked at him.
“Mischief everywhere,” Wanda muttered, then sat next to Harry in Mycroft’s space. “You’ll not cause me trouble today, will you darling boy?”
“Nope!” Harry said firmly. Then he giggled.
“Comedians,” she said. “Surrounded by comedians.”
On Tim’s way to work, he stopped at the main government center and filed Harry’s guardianship. One copy stayed with him; another was filed with Family Services, and the third he set to file with the Ministry of Magic, under his Queen’s Seal.
When he got to his office, he directed his assistant, a rather stout young magical named John Turner, to locate Sirius Black.Turner looked at him a bit oddly at the request.
“Sir, Sirius Black is in custody,” Turner informed him. “It’s all over the Prophet.”
Tim raised an eyebrow. “Interesting. What are the charges?”
Turner’s own brow furrowed. “It’s said he betrayed the Potters to their deaths.”
“So he’s been charged with conspiracy to murder?” Tim asked for clarification.
“Ah, the article didn’t say he’d been charged with anything specific. Just that he’d been found at the scene of that explosion yesterday, muttering about it all being his fault,” Turner turned to his locked cabinet, tapped the lock discreetly, then pulled out the day’s Prophet. He skimmed the front page. “It says they trotted him straight off to Azkaban.”
“No charges? No trial date set?”
“None that I can see here, Sir. Shall I inquire?”
“Do so.” Tim cocked his head to the side, thinking. “Also, I’d like to see the site of this gas explosion.”
“Of course, Sir. I’ll have the car brought ‘round.”
Tim wrote a note to his counterpart in the Ministry of Magic, asking for clarification on the investigation into the Potter murders and requesting a meeting, while Turner queried the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and called for the car. Both notes went into the pneumatic tubes set up to go directly from Tim’s office to the MOM departments designated for them.
Tim strolled out to the car to greet James, then slid into the back. “We’re headed to the site of the ‘gas explosion’ in London yesterday, James.”
“Of course, sir.”
James, an excellent driver, had Tim at the site in under ten minutes. Tim watched from the car for a moment as street workers engaged their machinery to clear out the rubble. “I’ll be getting out, James. Stay nearby, please.”
“Yes, of course, sir.”
Tim nodded, almost absently, then stepped out of the vehicle and got closer to the site. The gas main had been miraculously spared significant damage. (Tim smirked internally.) However, the wreckage failed to conceal the signs of a blasting curse. He looked further, then beckoned the foreman over to speak with him.
“Anything of interest found?” Tim looked piercingly at the man.
“Lot of mess and wreck for a gas explosion,” the foreman noted. “I’d do the secret handshake, guv, but I’m a bit of a mess. The DMLE was out last night and found several bodies, and one finger that belonged to a bloke named Pettigrew. Nothing else. We’re trying to set the street to rights the regular way to avoid suspicion.”
Tim hummed. “Squib?”
“Muggleborn. I assign myself the obvious ones,” the foreman acknowledged.
“My thanks. Your name?”
“Mr. Smith, I appreciate your information. Should you unearth anything else, please contact me, directly.” Tim handed him a card. “The whole thing’s a bit dodgy.”
“True enough,” Smith acknowledged. “Oi, Thompson, stop with the engine revving before I stop it for you!”
With a wave, Tim retreated to the car, thinking.
“Where to next, Sir?” James asked.
“Back to the office, I think,” Tim said. “I’m waiting on information.”
“Of course, sir.”
As he sat down at his desk, Tim saw he had a reply from the Ministry of Magic. He broke the seal, then pursed his lips at the response from a lower-level employee of the DMLE, which was clearly written in a hurry and used dismissive language indicative of the pure blood attitude toward Muggle relations.
“Hmmm.” Tim reached for his red telephone. By law, this needed the Queen’s intervention, because it looked as though Sirius Black was to be trotted off to Azkaban with no charges and no trial. That was against the British legal code, to which the Ministry of Magic had agreed at the time of the separation.
But only the Queen could overrule the MOM if such abuses were uncovered.
The voice on the other end of the red telephone asked him to wait while the Queen was fetched from the back garden, where she’d retreated with her dogs after her morning of paperwork. Tim affirmed his compliance, pulling another sheet of foolscap toward himself for making notes.
“Yes, Sir Holmes?”
“Your Majesty, thank you for taking my call during your rest,” Tim said formally. “I apologize for the necessity, but you are needed to mitigate a breach of justice.”
“As you know, ma’am, by charter, our magical citizens must adhere to the British legal code with regard to trials and convictions. We have long been concerned about the Ministry of Magic’s use of a magical prison and its guards, which might be seen as cruel and unusual punishment, but such a ruling has yet to be made, and convincing arguments have been made before you and your predecessors for their continued use. However, at this time, it appears that a man has been thrown into that prison without charges or trial, and there appears to be no movement either to charge the man or to bring him to trial. The man is a peer in the magical realm, and the legal and magical godparent of the baby who is being touted as the defeater of the magical terrorist known as Voldemort.”
“Young Harry Potter? I’ve been briefed on that situation.”
“Yes, Ma’am. What you might not yet know is that Harry Potter is my wife’s cousin, once-removed, and we have assumed his care.”
“I see, Sir Holmes. And the man imprisoned?”
“Sirius Black, heir to the Earl of Blackmoor, best friend to James Potter, and Harry’s legal magical guardian. Without a trial or conviction, his magical guardianship cannot be removed. And his magical oaths as a godparent make it extremely unlikely that he’s guilty of betraying the Potters, of which he is accused.”
“By my order, then, the Ministry of Magic has 24 hours to either release Sirius Black or charge him, and if charged, another 72 hours to bring him to trial with the use of Veritaserum to confirm his guilt or innocence. As I order it, so mote it be.” The Queen cleared her throat, and a piece of parchment flashed in front of Tim, affixed with her magical Seal. (Its companion appeared in front of the head of the DMLE and the Minister of Magic, causing much consternation.)
“Sir Holmes, as you know, magic runs through the British royal line, though we often opt for private tutors rather than formal attendance at Hogwarts. It appears as though young Mr. Potter is in need of extra care, and we are certainly grateful to him and his family for the end of the terrorists’ plot in Britain. Would it be beneficial for us to acknowledge Mr. Potter as the Queen’s Ward? You would have his daily care, but We would provide for his education, training, and magical guardianship. Of course, should Mr. Black be found innocent, our magical guardianship would be secondary.”
‘Your Majesty, my young cousin would benefit greatly from such a move, and we would be grateful for it,” Tim said formally, faintly surprised.
“May I have his full name, please?”
“Harry James Potter,” Tim said. “He may be titled, but I have not yet had the opportunity to check.”
“I see,” the Queen paused. “By my order, then, Harry James Potter, son of Lily and James Potter, shall be under the Queen’s protection. He shall receive the best of care in both the magical and Muggle realms. At age 15, he shall receive all titles due him through magical or Muggle means. In the event of the death or incarceration of his magical godparent, the Queen will assume that responsibility. As I order it, so mote it be.”
A proclamation sealed by the Queen’s magical seal popped in front of Tim. (It also popped into Harry’s files at the Ministry of Magic, there to be ignored until someone bothered to check.)
“I am humbled by your order, Your Majesty.”
“He is the same age as our Wills, Sir Holmes. I would be remiss if I did not offer all the help I could for a young lad with such an immense burden.”
“Thank you on his behalf, Your Majesty.”
Albus Dumbledore was not having a good day.
His attempt to access the Potter accounts at Gringotts, first thing this morning, went astray. His assertion that he held the magical guardianship of Harry Potter was flatly denied.
How on earth was he to pay for Harry’s upkeep? How was it that his magical guardianship wasn’t automatic when he placed Harry in Petunia’s care? She was a Muggle!
With Sirius Black’s arrest, there should have been no disputing Dumbledore’s authority over the matter of Harry Potter.
When he said as much, to the goblin in charge of the Potter accounts, all he got was a nasty, “The Potter heir is none of your business.”
Not even a “Good day!”
Dumbledore made his way over to the Leaky Cauldron for a pick-me-up and a think.
Under what conditions would his guardianship be denied?
- Another magical guardian had higher authority than he.
- A magical relative had custody of Harry Potter.
But neither of those conditions held true.
Unless they did?
Dumbledore pondered for a moment. Petunia Dursley appeared to be a Muggle, true. But what if she was magical, and simply didn’t have enough magic to train at Hogwarts? He knew she didn’t receive a Hogwarts letter, but it was certainly possible that she was something like a Squib, rather than a true Muggle.
The other condition shouldn’t be true. In the event that a magical child had no living magical parent or godparent, the law held that the Headmaster of Hogwarts would stand as the child’s magical guardian.
Sirius Black was Harry Potter’s godfather, but surely his arrest would negate that clause?
Dumbledore finished off his Butterbeer and stood up. Time to head to the Ministry, and look up some matters of family law.
He wandered down to the employee entrance of the Ministry, liking the ridiculousness of flushing himself down the toilet to arrive in the Floo. He emerged from the flames, shook himself off, and meandered toward the lifts to seek out the law library. Or that was his intention, but he was interrupted by a shout from his good friend, Millicent Bagnold, who, as the current Minister, looked harried. She also should not have been wandering about the Atrium at this time of day, and thus Dumbledore could be forgiven for the raised eyebrow he returned to her.
“I was just on my way to see you,” she said hurriedly. “Can you meet?”
“Lead the way,” he said promptly, and followed her back over to the lift that would take them to her office.
They seated themselves, then Millicent drew a deep breath. “We have to take Sirius Black out of Azkaban.”
Dumbledore raised both eyebrows as he looked at Millicent, shocked. “I beg your pardon?”
“Orders from the Queen, Albus,” Bagnold said curtly. “We must release or charge Sirius Black within 24 hours, and if we charge him, we must hold his trial within 72 hours. We are ordered to use Veritaserum to confirm or deny his guilt.”
“But, his guilt is clear!”
“Apparently, the Queen doesn’t think so. And by charter, we must obey the Queen in matters of justice or face removal of our charter,” Bagnold said sourly. “I’ve ordered the DMLE to charge him with murder and accessory to murder.”
Dumbledore thought the lack of trial was the likely reason for his own inability to access the Potter accounts and settle the matter of Harry’s magical guardianship. He reigned in his own temper at the oversight. “Well, at the Queen’s order then. I’ll call the trial for two days from now, 10 a.m., in the large chambers. I’ll procure the Veritaserum myself.”
“I believe we’re required to use the Queen’s Veritaserum,” Bagnold muttered. “And I’ll need to formally respond to her order with the date and time of the trial. That means a Queen’s representative, too.”
Dumbledore’s lip curled. As fond as he was of improving relationships with the Muggle world, at least publicly, he was less fond of their interference in magical affairs. “Right.”
“Where did you place the Potter boy?” Bagnold asked, curiously.
“For his own safety, Millie, I cannot tell you,” Dumbledore said smoothly.
“It’s likely to come up at trial,” Bagnold pointed out. “Black will want to know where he is.”
“And for Harry’s own safety, I will never allow Black to know where he is,” Dumbledore twirled his wand through his fingers. “It’s entirely too dangerous for anyone to know where Harry is at the moment.”
“True enough,” Bagnold said. “As you wish, Albus. As you wish.”
Somberly, Dumbledore left her office, and headed back to Hogwarts, there to contemplate the events of the day. Several things unsettled him.
- The Queen had gotten involved in Sirius Black’s case. Why? How on earth did she know that he’d been arrested and incarcerated without trial?
- The goblins failed to allow Dumbledore access to the Potter vaults. Period.
- He’d checked; because the Queen had ordered the trial of Black, Queen’s Veritaserum must be used. It would be provided in person by a representative of the Queen at the Wizengamot. That meant no tampering. Queen’s Veritaserum also carried extra strength; the truth WOULD come out at Black’s trial.
- That Black would have a trial suggested someone thought he could be innocent.
Dumbledore took a slice of sponge cake with lemon curd to eat with his after dinner tea. Contrary to popular thought, Dumbledore had not cast the Fidelius spell for the Potters; Lily Potter had. He’d been informed that Sirius Black was the Secret Keeper, but what if that had been a ruse?
Further to that line of thought, Dumbledore realized, if Harry Potter was indeed Black’s godchild, it was possible that Black was unable to betray Harry. It all depended upon the ritual used to confirm Black’s status as godparent. Dumbledore had been under the impression that Black was godparent in name only, but what if the Potters had completed the formal godparent ritual? In that case …
Dumbledore sipped slowly. Measures would need to be taken.
Part III: In which someone begins to investigate the pleasures and pitfalls of genius
Wanda was beginning to believe there was something seriously wrong with Eurus’s ability to empathize.
All small children must be taught to have empathy, true, Wanda thought. Careful lessons in thinking out how others would feel or think, considering all the ramifications of an action before taking said action, and choosing the course that would cause the least harm, should be employed early and often.
Despite Wanda’s concerted efforts, however, Eurus often appeared to weigh all choices, then take the most direct action to get what she wanted, regardless of pain caused.
“Eurus,” Wanda prompted, “please share your blocks with Wills.”
“Mummy, I’m building a tower,” Eurus replied firmly. “If I share with Wills I won’t be able to finish it.”
“But you will make him happy,” Wanda pointed out calmly.
“Why does that matter?”
Wanda bit her lip. “Because it’s important to help the people around you be well and happy.”
“But I won’t get my tower done, Mummy,” Eurus said again.
“It’s OK, Mummy,” William interjected. “I’ll just go play with something else.”
“Very well, Wills,” Wanda said slowly. “Will you please check to see if Harry’s up from his nap as well?”
Eurus’ attitude—Why does the happiness of others matter to me?—isn’t uncommon for small children, but Wanda was beginning to wonder if empathy was simply a skill Eurus would not be able to pick up.
All they could do was try.
All children were down for the night. All doors were locked, all windows closed and latched, all lights were out.
Wanda stretched out next to Tim and quietly related her fears about Eurus.
“I think, dear, we’re going to need to have her evaluated,” she said. “She asks good questions about why she should care about particular actions, such as taking Harry in or sharing her blocks, but she doesn’t seem to understand the answers well. I’m afraid that beyond a lack of empathy, we’re seeing a problem in general with processing emotion and compassion.”
Tim sighed deeply. “I’ll see about a referral tomorrow. My concern, if that’s the case, is that she’s quite smart enough to talk around a psychiatrist.”
“Assuming she knows what she’s being evaluated for,” Wanda pointed out, arching one brow.
“Are you suggesting something?” Tim asked.
“We don’t tell her what she’s being evaluated for,” Wanda said. “I know we’ve agreed to not lie to the children, so that we can demonstrate truth as a value, but in this case, we need to.”
“It would not be entirely a lie to say her genius is being evaluated,” Tim mused.
“Especially if we prepped her with an intelligence quotient test beforehand,” Wanda observed.
“I’ll make some calls and set it up tomorrow.”
Wanda checked the monitor again, then settled back. “Let’s get a good night’s sleep, if we can.”
“Always a sound plan, dear.”
Tim spent part of his Wednesday morning setting up an evaluation of Eurus with a trusted psychiatrist and educator. It would take place on Friday.
He spent the other part of his morning preparing for the trial of Sirius Black, now formally set for Thursday at 10 a.m. This included procuring Veritaserum from the Queen’s Potioneer, a pale wizard whose age was indeterminate. Tim suspected the man to be practically immortal, as he’d looked this way as long as anyone could remember. A few discreet inquiries suggested the man was actually the legendary Nicolas Flamel, but as he’d never introduced himself as anything other than the Queen’s Potioneer, Tim suspected the man wanted to keep his name confidential.
The Queen and her father both trusted the man, so it would have to do.
Their brief meeting yielded one vial of Queen’s Veritaserum and no additional wizarding insight.
Tim tucked the vial into his own briefcase, then locked it. He would serve as the Queen’s representative during the trial proceedings, and Turner would be his escort and backup.
He turned his attention to other matters for the afternoon.
Wanda, on the other hand, spent her Wednesday shuffling children to and fro.
Mycroft needed to be at Mr. Lake’s for the morning, but planned to join them all for lessons at Thomas Music Studio after lunch. Eurus had lessons with her tutor, Gemma Poppins, at home, while Wills and Harry spent the morning in the nursery with Wanda, who worked with Wills on his numbers while setting Harry to work on simple shape and color puzzles.
After lunch (a simple ploughman’s for the young ones at home), Wanda shook out Wills’ old pram and settled Harry into it. She directed Eurus and Wills to hold on to either side of it, and together, they walked downtown. Mycroft and Mr. Lake met them at the door to the Music Studio, and Mr. Lake parted from them with a tip of his hat to Wanda and Eurus, who looked at him blankly.
Wanda shook her head, smiled at Mr. Lake in thanks, and ushered her brood into the Studio.
Michael Thomas had been warned of the new addition to their ranks, and he happily greeted all of the children.
“Mycroft, you will be in room five today, with Ms. Hanel. We’ve agreed that you’re ready to move up a level and start the cello,” Mr. Thomas told the young boy. “You’ve made excellent progress.”
“I’m pleased you think so, Mr. Thomas,” Mycroft said, smiling. “I’ll just go back, shall I?”
“Yes; you’ll find a practice instrument in the room already for you to inspect,” Mr. Thomas said. “And you, young Eurus, will continue to be in room 2 with Ms. French, and Wills will be in room 1 with Ms. Higgins. Off you go.”
Wills whooped as he ran to room 1, and Eurus rolled his eyes as she made her way to room 2.
“You, young Harry, will stay with Auntie Wanda, but we will see what music you might be suited for. Come along!” Mr. Thomas led the way to his primary studio space, where a selection of child-sized instruments were lined up on a table. Wanda looked on with approval as Mr. Thomas knelt to Harry’s level. “Do you like music, Harry?”
Harry nodded importantly. “Mama sing!”
Mr. Thomas glanced up to Wanda to confirm what he’d heard, and said, “How wonderful! Do you like to sing?”
“Yep!” Harry said proudly, then began to hum a recognizable line from “Twinkle, Twinkle.”
“Goodness, you’ve got excellent pitch,” Mr. Thomas praised. “Do you like to make music with toys, too?”
Harry stopped, mid-hum, and bit his lower lip. “Bang on stuff?”
“Why not?” Mr. Thomas picked up a triangle and its hammer, and showed it to Harry. “I could bang on this and make music.” He demonstrated, and Harry’s eyes grew big and wide. “Want to try?”
Harry made grabby hands at the triangle and Mr. Thomas passed it over. He listened as Harry banged happily, giggling at the sounds. He experimented with hitting the different sides and Mr. Thomas let him before guiding him into a rhythm. “Try this, Harry,” Mr. Thomas said, holding up a metronome, “listen and try to bang at the same time.”
Harry did his best, but he was a little off.
“Very well done,” Mr. Thomas praised. “I think you have quite an aptitude for music, young man.”
Harry beamed happily. Wanda smiled, too. An aptitude for rhythm and music often meant an aptitude for maths, too.
“Mrs. Holmes, I think we could start Harry with the triangle and basic music theory without a problem,” Mr. Thomas said. “We’d want you along, of course, until he’s three, but it looks as though he’d enjoy it.”
“I think so, too,” Wanda said. “Harry told Mycroft his mother sang to him regularly, and I know that Lily had a beautiful voice. I’m hopeful that Harry might have inherited her talent.”
“Well, no harm in exposing him to the lot of instruments, here, and letting him enjoy the music.” Mr. Thomas looked to his schedule. “I could actually handle his lessons myself on Wednesdays at the usual time, at least for the moment. We could revisit as needed.”
Wanda nodded. “I believe that will be acceptable. Thank you for tucking us in.”
As they wrapped up their lessons, her other children appeared at Mr. Thomas door to listen while Harry kept up on his triangle.
Mycroft leaned forward to whisper in his mum’s ear. “I think he likes it, Mummy.”
Wanda smiled back. “I think so, too.”
After a filling dinner of roast chicken, Wanda and Tim tucked all the children into bed and relaxed again in their room, listening to the sound of Harry breathing over the monitor.
“Trial’s tomorrow, then?” Wanda asked softly.
“Yes, at 10 a.m. I’ll be going in person,” Tim answered, rubbing a hand down her back.
“What will happen to Harry?”
“As far as I can tell, Wanda, his placement here is permanent,” Tim said. “The Queen herself validated our legal guardianship and directed me to take over his care. If Black is found innocent tomorrow, his role remains magical guardian, and I imagine we’ll need to work with him as Harry grows to introduce him to his magic. I also believe that Black will want as much contact with Harry as he’s allowed. There will be much to work out.”
A quiet moment stretched out between them before Wanda whispered, “I want Harry to stay with us.”
“No worries, love,” Tim said, and he brushed a kiss over her hair where it lay practically under his chin.
Part 4: In which there is a trial
November 5, 1981:
Courtroom Ten was packed.
Tim kept a firm grip on his suitcase as he took his place at the bar in space allotted for the Queen’s Representative. Despite the charm he’d had placed, years ago, to allow him to see what wizards did, being in the heart of the Ministry of Magic itself left him feeling intrinsically uneasy.
It didn’t help his nerves to see the shadow in a corner that appeared to be a Dementor.
Still. Tim gave no sign of his unease, and maintained his placid expression as Albus etc. Dumbledore called the court to order and directed the Aurors to bring in Sirius Black.
Black looked a bit worse for wear, Tim thought. Though dressed in the formal robes of his house, the House of Black, the man himself looked milk-pale, except for the deep-looking bruises under his eyes and at his neck. Tim frowned.
Dumbledore looked to the place where Tim stood, and announced, “With us today we have the Queen’s Representative, Sir Timothy Holmes. The Queen herself ordered Black’s trial, despite our assurances of his guilt.”— At that, Black looked up sharply—“And, per procedure, the Queen’s Representative must present the order before we proceed.”
Tim stood, straightened the formal robes kept for this specific function of his office, and opened his briefcase, retrieving the Queen’s order.
“Yes, well, it came to Her Majesty’s attention that Mr. Black had been sent to Azkaban with no trial date set,” Tim said calmly. “As the right to a trial is a fundamental right under British law, to which the Ministry of Magic is subject under charter, she ordered that a trial be given to Mr. Black. Additionally, Her Majesty expressed concerns about the humanitarian conditions of the prison itself, and this body may be held to account for those as well, should this trial show a need for further discussion.”
Dumbledore nodded acknowledgement, then raised his voice. “Members of the Wizengamot, the Queen has ordered that this trial be held. Thus I call upon Senior Auror Amelia Bones to prosecute the Ministry’s case against Mr. Black.” Amelia Bones stood and moved to the front bar. “Mr. Black, have you a representative to act in your defense?”
“No, Headmaster,” Black said hoarsely.
“Point of order, Chief Dumbledore?” Tim asked politely.
“Yes, Sir Holmes?”
“I believe you need to recuse yourself from adjudicating these proceedings on the grounds that you have now or have had a close relationship with the defendant,” Tim said.
Dumbledore looked flummoxed. He’d never been questioned on the point. “I was his Headmaster at school.”
“And, as it appears through the investigation my office has conducted, also his commander in something called the Order of the Phoenix, to which you recruited him directly?”
Tim continued. “And as our investigation also shows, you had what you believed to be was direct knowledge of Mr. Black’s role in the deaths of the Potters, and that knowledge is what, in part, led to Mr. Black’s incarceration without trial. As a matter of procedure, you cannot be allowed to preside over this trial.”
Dumbledore cleared his throat. “I hadn’t considered those points, I admit.” He smoothed down his beard. “I’m not at all certain you’ll find an impartial judge for this matter, Sir Holmes.”
“Ah, I see your point,” Tim smiled placidly. “Fortunately, I anticipated this, and I do have a list of impartial judges, vetted by the Queen and with knowledge of magic, from which you may choose a replacement. They await only my call.”
Auror Bones asked, “May I see this list?”
“Of course,” Tim said. “I have copies for both you and Mr. Dumbledore.” He passed over a copy to Ms. Bones and another to the Auror-on-Duty to hand to Dumbledore, who read it over.
“I don’t know any of these people,” Dumbledore mumbled.
“Nor I,” Bones said. “And you say they know about magic?”
“Yes,” Tim said. “Certain of our judiciary are read in to the existence of magic to handle crime that crosses over into the non-magical world.”
“I see,” Dumbledore said, stroking his beard. He’d have no control over how this trial went if he gave up his seat, and he wondered if he could stall.
A Lord stood up from his place in the gallery, and waited for acknowledgement.
“Lord Black?” Dumbledore acknowledged.
Sirius Black’s eyes snapped up as Lord Black, who was also known as the Earl of Blackmoor and Sirius’ grandfather, Arcturus, spoke. “I believe it prudent, in the interests of meeting the Queen’s demands, that this trial be as impartial as is possible. With that understood, perhaps I may suggest we choose a judge at random? Say, the third name on the list?”
“Have you seen this list, Lord Black?” Dumbledore had to ask.
The Earl drew his wand, placing it over his heart, to say, “I, Lord Arcturus Horatio Black, Earl of Blackmoor, swear that I have not seen this list of impartial judges as distributed by the Queen’s Representative. So mote it be.” He intoned, “ Lumos ,” and his wand lit up.
Auror Bones nodded brusquely. “I agree with Lord Black. Choose a name at random. It matters not to me.”
Dumbledore sighed deeply. “Having no other recourse—“ aside from blatant misuse of power, he thought, not without a bit of self-recrimination, “I hereby recuse myself as the judge of these proceedings, and ask that an impartial judge from this list be chosen at random by being pulled from a standard, non-magical hat.”
Tim nodded. “The Queen accepts your recusal.” He then produced his own hat. “Can someone assist in slicing this paper into different pieces?”
The Auror-on-Duty cast a charm to slice the paper, and several names were scattered into Tim’s hat like so much confetti.
“Auror Bones?” Tim asked. “Will you do the honors?”
She nodded, and pulled a piece of paper from the hat.
“The Right Honorable Elizabeth Jane Marsh,” Tim read out loud. “A moment then, while we fetch her.”
The crowd murmured among themselves as Tim sent John Turner out to collect Judge Marsh. Dumbledore waited at the front. Less than ten minutes later (and Tim took note that Sirius Black looked even more pale, if that was possible, in the interim), a petite older woman, her bright red hair silvering at the temples, appeared in full judicial robes and attire. She entered the Wizengamot in Turner’s wake, ascending to the bench that Dumbledore had vacated and waving his gavel off with a faint smile. “I’ve my own,” she said, her voice low and soothing as she produced her gavel from somewhere within her robes.
Tim stood, “Your honor, the Queen thanks you for your service, and reminds you of your judicial oath to be impartial, fair, and honest in her name.”
“Thank you, Sir Holmes. Ladies and gentlemen of the Wizengamot, I thank you for your attendance here today. When I was asked by the Queen to potentially serve as your judge, I took the time to review Wizengamot judicial procedure for criminal trials, and I am prepared. First, I see that we have a prosecuting Auror and the Queen’s representative in the dock. We need someone to serve as Mr. Black’s defender. Mr. Black, have you someone to defend you?”
Sirius looked to the crowd, seeing a sea of unfriendly faces, and said, quietly, “No, ma’am.”
Lord Black stood again, and Judge Marsh looked up. “And you are?”
“Lord Arcturus Black, ma’am. I am Sirius’ grandfather, and I am willing to act as his defender,” he said.
Sirius’ mouth dropped open, but he closed it abruptly.
“Very well, Lord Black, if your grandson has no objections?”
Sirius shook his head no.
“Then take your place.”
Lord Black made his way down to the bar to stand next to Auror Bones.
“I’ve reviewed the facts of the case as presented by Sir Holmes’ investigating team, and I believe much of this can be settled through the testimony of Sirius Black with the use of the Queen’s Veritaserum,” Judge Marsh said. “But first, Auror Bones, please present the case for the Ministry.”
Bones nodded. “Your honor, on the night of October 31, 1981, Aurors were called to the residence of James and Lily Potter of Godric’s Hollow. Upon arrival, Aurors saw that the home had been partially destroyed, and the bodies of James and Lily were found in the home, dead. Their son, Harry, was missing. Upon investigation, Aurors determined that someone had entered their home, killed James with a Killing Curse, proceeded to the second floor to cast the Killing Curse at Lily, and taken Harry. We later discovered that their home had been hidden under a Fidelius Charm prior to the incident. We also discovered that Harry had been taken by Rubeus Hagrid, at the behest of Albus Dumbledore, for his safety.
“On the scene, we found a wand identified as belonging to the wizard known as Voldemort, as well as the remains of his clothing. We determined that Voldemort had somehow found the home through its Secret Keeper, killed James and Lily, and when he turned on Harry, was killed himself. Later that night, or I should rather say, early the next morning, we were called to the site of an explosion. Witnesses said they heard Sirius Black confronting Peter Pettigrew, who loudly exclaimed that Sirius had been their Secret Keeper. Black dueled Pettigrew, and the explosion was attributed to that duel. Pettigrew appears to have been killed, but all we’ve found of his remains so far is one of his fingers. Witnesses also said they heard Black saying, ‘It’s all my fault.’
“Black was arrested on scene. Albus Dumbledore informed Aurors that he had personal knowledge that Black had been the Potters’ Secret Keeper, and thus it could only have been Black who informed Voldemort of the Potters’ location. It seemed logical, therefore, to send Black to Azkaban.”
“Without a trial?” Judge Marsh clarified.
“Yes, ma’am. It seemed obvious and unnecessary,” Bones said firmly (even as she internally signed over the breach of procedure).
Judge Marsh nodded. “Lord Black?”
“Your honor will appreciate that I have not had time to consult with my grandson, but I can attest to a few things.” Arcturus smiled, and it was not a nice smile. “First, my grandson and James Potter were the best of friends, good enough for Sirius to turn his back on his parents and move in with the Potters. I find it hard to fathom that Sirius could have turned him in.
“Second, my grandson is a known prankster. I find it entirely likely that he had some scheme in place that backfired, resulting in the Potters’ deaths and his subsequent feelings of guilt leading to an ill-advised, emotional statement at the scene of the explosion.
“Third, the Ministry had no business trusting the word of one man to send a man to Azkaban without a trial. I find it suspect that my grandson’s fate was left in the hands of a man who immediately took custody of the Potter heir. We do not know, in fact, where young Lord Potter is at the moment. That kidnapping should be investigated.
“And fourth, I was present when my grandson swore a stringent magical Godfather’s Oath to protect Harry Potter from all harm. I do not believe his oath would have allowed him to betray the Potters, even if he were so inclined.
“In closing, I believe my grandson to be, perhaps, guilty of bad judgement, but to be innocent of these charges.”
The Wizengamot broke out in whispers. Tim distinctly heard “Godfather!” And “always up for a prank” and “kidnapping—Dumbledore?”
Judge Marsh merely nodded, and turned one of the pages in front of her. “Auror Bones, can you provide witnesses?”
“We have the Aurors on scene, and we have one Ministry worker who responded to the duel site,” Bones said. “He can attest to Black’s confession on scene.”
Marsh looked up. “A statement made under duress cannot be used under British law, Auror Bones.”
Bones flushed. “Yes, ma’am. We also have Albus Dumbledore and his knowledge of the Fidelius Charm and Secret Keeper.”
“The same Albus Dumbledore who attempted to preside over this trial?” Marsh asked, and fresh whispers broke out.
“I see,” Marsh looked over another piece of paper. “Mr. Sirius Black, are you willing to be questioned under the Queen’s Veritaserum?”
“Yes, Your Honor,” Sirius said quietly.
“By the Queen’s rules, only her representative may question you while you are under its influence. Questions raised by the prosecuting Auror or your defender may be directed to the representative for presentation. Are we clear?” Marsh looked over her wire glasses at the people in question.
“Yes, ma’am.” Bones and Black both chorused. Tim nodded, and brought the vial out of his briefcase.
The Auror on Duty escorted Tim to where Sirius Black sat, bound in chains to the stone chair of judgement in the center of the chamber. Tim asked him to open up, and Black opened his mouth for the three drops he needed.
Tim stepped back slightly. “Please state your full name and any appropriate titles, Mr. Black.”
“Sirius Orion Black, Heir of Blackmoor, Regent to the Duke of Gryffindor, Godfather to Lord Harry James Potter.”
The Wizengamot erupted. Dumbledore paled, but let no outward sign of his internal cursing appear. Heir Blackmore? Regent? No wonder his attempts to claim the Potter vaults for Harry’s care met resistance.
Arcturus Black leaned forward, smiling darkly. (Somewhere in the stands, Lucius Malfoy snarled.)
Tim paused. “Who is the Duke of Gryffindor?”
“Lord Harry James Potter.”
More rustling and whispers. Judge Marsh banged her gavel once, for order, and the crowd settled. Tim raised an eyebrow at the Judge, but at her nod, continued his questioning. He decided to get right to it.
“Did you kill James and Lily Potter?”
“No.” A single tear fell from Sirius’ right eye.
“Did you arrange for James and Lily Potter to be killed?”
“No.” A second tear fell.
“Do you know who did?”
“Who arranged for James and Lily Potter to be killed?”
“Peter Pettigrew and Albus Dumbledore.”
Bedlam. Judge Marsh banged her gavel sharply and ordered, “Auror, please secure Mr. Dumbledore while we continue this questioning.”
The Auror-on-Duty nodded, taking magic suppressing cuffs from somewhere within his robes and approaching Dumbledore, who sat, motionless, and astonished.
“Sir?” The Auror motioned for Dumbledore to stand and turn around. Numbly, he complied, and the cuffs were settled over his wrists. A second Auror emerged from the door to the right of the chamber and took a stand near Sirius Black as the Auror on Duty.
Tim thought through the line of questioning. “How do you know who was responsible for the deaths of Lily and James Potter?”
Sirius continued to cry, silent tears dripping down his cheeks as he told the story in an emotionless monotone.
“A year ago, Dumbledore came to James and Lily and told them a prophecy had been spoken that identified the person who could finally vanquish Voldemort. He told them it could refer to either Harry, or Neville Longbottom. He said it would be best if they went into hiding. He suggested a Fidelius Charm, which would hide them completely. Only the Secret Keeper would know of their whereabouts and be able to give that information to someone who asked. Dumbledore suggested me to be the Secret Keeper.
“James said he told Dumbledore that it was a bad idea to paint a target on my back because everyone knew I was their best friend, and the most likely candidate to be Secret Keeper. He suggested our trusted friend, Peter Pettigrew, be Secret Keeper instead.
“Dumbledore disagreed. He insisted it should be me. They all argued. Finally, Lily told him she would cast the charm, and he needed to leave. He did so. Lily cast the charm, and Peter became Secret Keeper. Peter could only divulge the Secret if asked. Voldemort must have asked, and Peter told him of his own free will, or the charm failed.” Sirius stopped.
Tim asked, gently, “Do you blame Albus Dumbledore for Lily and James’ deaths?”
Sirius nodded. “The Fidelius was his suggestion.”
More bedlam. Judge Marsh sighed as she banged her gavel. “Aurors, continue to keep Mr. Dumbledore secure. We’ll need his testimony under the Queen’s Veritaserum as well.”
The Auror holding on to Dumbledore nodded, and Dumbledore’s eyes glittered.
Tim allowed himself a deep breath, before he continued. “What happened on the night of October 31, 1981?”
Sirius blinked tears out of his eyes. “I felt the secondary ward line that I’d placed at the house in Godric’s Hollow signal an intruder, and I apparated to it. The house was smoking, Harry was screaming. I ran inside. I saw James’ body on the floor. He had no wand. I headed up to the second floor, shouting for Lily. I got to the bedroom in time to see Severus Snape disapparate from Harry’s bedroom. Lily was dead. A pile of smoking robes sat on the floor by the door, Voldemort’s wand nearby.
“I went to Harry, and picked him up. He cuddled into my neck, sniffling, and I tried to soothe him. He was bleeding from the forehead. I tried to cast an Episkey, to heal him, but the magic didn’t work. I knew something was wrong. I heard Rubeus Hagrid yell downstairs, and I went down to meet him. Hagrid said Dumbledore had realized James and Lily were compromised and sent Hagrid to help. Hagrid suggested taking Harry to Hogwarts to have his forehead healed by Madam Pomfrey.
“I handed Harry over, and told Hagrid I’d meet him there later because I had a rat to track down.”
Tim paused, waiting to see if more would be forthcoming. “What did you mean by a ‘rat’?”
Sirius smiled darkly, and it amused Tim to see that it was the same smile his grandfather, Arcturus, was sporting. “Peter Pettigrew was an Animagus. His form was a rat. We all became Animagi at Hogwarts, under the noses of our professors. We went unregistered as a security measure.”
“An Animagus?” Tim asked.
“A wizard who can turn into an animal.”
Amelia Bones leaned forward, catching Tim’s attention. “With your permission, Judge Marsh? Animagi who don’t register within a year of attaining a form may be fined a thousand galleons or face imprisonment in Azkaban for a period of up to a year. Black may be confessing to a crime here.”
Lord Black also leaned forward. “If I may? My grandson’s Animagus form is registered with the International Confederation of Wizards, under seal. This may be checked.” He paused. “He may also not know that I registered him to prevent this scenario.”
Judge Marsh nodded, and looked to the Auror-on-Duty. “Please have one of your peers check that status and report back to the court. Mr. Black is not on trial for his Animagus status at this time, but the information could prevent the need for an additional trial.”
Tim looked at the judge. “If I may continue?”
Tim nodded, and directed another question to Sirius. “How did you track Pettigrew down?”
“I transformed and sniffed him out. I found him, and I lost my temper utterly. (The crowd, well aware of the famous Black temper, nodded sagely and whispered amongst themselves.) I confronted him, but the sneaky rat cut off his own finger and sent a Bombarda into a nearby gas line. It exploded. Peter transformed and disappeared down into the sewer with the other rats.”
More bedlam, a riot of noise that Judge Marsh had to stand up to silence. “Order!” She banged her gavel. “I will have order in this court!”
Tim stood back. “The Queen has no further questions.”
Judge Marsh nodded. “Auror Bones?”
Bones looked constipated. Clearly, they had been in error about Black. She opted not to ask about his Animagus form, as a courtesy. “None, Your Honor.”
“Just one or two, Your Honor. While my grandson is not on trial for the kidnapping of Harry Potter, I do think it’s an opportunity to see his intentions toward the lad, when he is found, and testimony given under Queen’s Veritaserum, given once, need not be given again.”
Judge Marsh took a moment to think. “I’ll allow it.”
Arcturus looked to Tim. “Please ask him about Harry, his role in Harry’s life, and his plans for the future.”
Tim, who very much wanted to know the answers to these questions for his own benefit, nodded, and turned to Sirius. “You are named Harry’s godfather and magical guardian. What are your feelings toward Harry?”
Sirius smiled softly. “He’s my pup. I love him.”
“And your plans for his future?”
“To help him become the best man he can be. To help him learn his role in our world. To tell him about his parents and teach him how to prank. To hold him when he’s scared and dry his tears when he is sad. To love him unconditionally.”
Tim turned to raise an eyebrow at Arcturus, who nodded. “I believe that will do, thank you.”
Tim nodded in return and looked to Judge Marsh, who glanced down at the paperwork in front of her, and then looked up. “I believe that will be all for Mr. Black. Please release him from the dais and escort him to a regular seat, Auror.”
Tim helped the slightly out-of-it Sirius Black, too. The Queen’s Veritaserum would gradually leave his system, but it would take at least an hour before it was gone completely. Tim preferred to have Sirius nearby in those circumstances.
When Sirius was settled, Judge Marsh looked over her glasses at the crowd.
“At this time, I would like to hear from Albus Dumbledore,” she said. “Also, I will want to hear from Severus Snape, as Mr. Black’s testimony places him at the scene.” She looked to the Auror on Duty. “While we listen to Mr. Dumbledore’s testimony, I should like for Mr. Snape to be found, if he is not present at this time.” The man nodded, and stepped to the doorway where his colleague waited for instruction.
Judge Marsh looked back to the court. “Mr. Dumbledore, if you please?”
Whispers broke out as the Auror who’d kept his wand and hands on Albus Dumbledore steered him forward to sit on the accused’s chair. As he seated Dumbledore, the Auror also tapped the top of the chair with his wand, and chains bound the man to the chair for the duration of his questioning.
“Certainly, this is unnecessary?” Dumbledore tried to say.
Judge Marsh simply raised an eyebrow. “Mr. Dumbledore, your name has come up several times today, and we mean to see what your precise role in these events is. Sir Holmes, if you would?”
Tim calmly moved forward while Dumbledore protested. The Auror on Duty finally tapped Dumbledore’s jaw with his wand and it opened involuntarily. Tim placed the three drops and stood back.
Dumbledore’s glittering eyes dulled, and his face slackened. Judge Marsh took note of the changes, and said, “Mr. Holmes, I’m sure the Queen has questions. Please proceed, and I’ll allow the Prosecutor and Defender time for theirs at the end.”
Tim inclined his head and stepped back a bit. “Please state your full name and any appropriate titles, Mr. Dumbledore.”
Dumbledore appeared to fight the potion for a moment before bursting out with, “Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore Grindelwald.” (The crowd broke out in astonished whispers.) Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot. Head of the International Confederation of Wizards.”
Tim eyed the man askance. “How are you a Grindelwald?” (Unknowingly asking the very question all the wizards and witches in attendance wanted to know.)
“I married Gellert when I was 20. I took his name. We never divorced.”
If Judge Marsh thought she had faced a riotous chamber before, she didn’t know the half of what a crowd of excited and belligerent magical humans could do. It took several minutes of banging her gavel, a squadron of Aurors, and silencing spells from a half a dozen different wands to bring the proceedings back to order.
“I think, Your Honor, that we can be assured the potion is working perfectly,” Tim said dryly.
“I believe so, Sir Holmes,” Judge Marsh said calmly. “Proceed.”
“How are you able to hold all three of the roles assigned to you without conflict of interest?”
“Very, very carefully.” Dumbledore replied. “Also, my oaths aren’t valid because I used a name other than my actual, legal name.”
Lord Black facepalmed.
Auror Bones looked stone-faced.
Tim just looked resigned. “Were you aware that Peter Pettigrew was the Secret Keeper for James and Lily Potter?”
“Why did you tell the Aurors that Sirius Black had been the Secret Keeper?”
“I believed that to be true. I told the Potters to use Black as their Secret Keeper, and I had no reason to think they wouldn’t do as I wished.”
“But you did know that the Potters had discussed using Peter Pettigrew?”
“Leaving some doubt?”
“Why did you not push for a trial for Sirius Black, given that you knew there was some doubt as to his guilt?”
“I wanted Black out of the way so that I could ensure the prophecy child was raised properly.”
“And what way is that?”
“He needs to be so humbled, and place so little value on his own life, that when the time is right, he will let himself be killed by Voldemort for the greater good.”
“And what circumstances will lead to this perceived outcome?”
“He has been placed with Muggles who I am certain will abuse him, leading to poor self-esteem and a need to be validated by the magical world.”
Judge Marsh wondered if she could have silencing spells placed on her regular courtroom. She could see the angry bellows from her place on the bench, but she couldn’t hear them, so she nodded to Tim to proceed.
“Under whose authority did you place Harry James Potter?”
“Only my own.”
“To be clear, you sent an innocent man to Azkaban for the sole purpose of getting him out of the way so that you could ensure his godson was abused?”
“Yes. It is the only way to eliminate Voldemort.”
Tim stood back, eyebrow raised, to look at Judge Marsh. “Your Honor,” he began, “while the Queen concedes we have the information about the guilt or innocence of Mr. Black, it appears through questioning that this witness has more concealed of relevance to the security of Great Britain. Under the precedent brought forward by Lord Black regarding Veritaserum testimony, may I proceed?”
Judge Marsh sat back in thought, then looked to Auror Bones. “Auror Bones, would it be beneficial for security to continue this line of questioning with Mr. Dumbledore here and now?”
Feeling tired, Auror Bones rubbed her eye under the monocle, then looked up. “Given that we believed we had eliminated Voldemort, or rather, that young Harry Potter had already completed that task, thus fulfilling any prophecy that might have been directed toward the young man, I think we must discover what Mr. Dumbledore has hidden from the public in his efforts to keep certain things private.”
Judge Marsh idly tapped her gavel, thinking, then looked up again. “Lord Black, have you an opinion?”
Arcturus sighed. “Your Honor, this matter is for the trial of Sirius Black, not the machinations of Albus Dumbledore. While it is true that his testimony could be used in a future trial, should one be necessary, I think we must consider the fairness to Mr. Dumbledore, who was not aware that his questioning might cover this ground. While I, too, would be greatly interested to know what he is thinking with regard to the late Dark Lord, it is not a matter for this trial.”
Judge Marsh nodded. “Agreed.” She looked up, marveling again at the silencing charms as it was clear many disagreed with her. “In the interest of fairness, a principle of which I am bound to hold, I will discard any further questioning on the matter of Voldemort. However,” and she looked to Auror Bones, “I hereby order Mr. Dumbledore into custody for any charges deemed appropriate by the Ministry, and I ask the Queen’s Representative to verify with Mr. Dumbledore the whereabouts of one Harry James Potter.”
Tim nodded once, sharply, and turned back to Dumbledore. “Mr. Dumbledore, with whom is Harry James Potter?”
“To my knowledge, he is with his Muggle aunt, Petunia Dursley.”
Tim turned back to the judge. “Your Honor, given quite valid reasons to protect the lad, I’d suggest we not discuss his precise location in open court.”
“Ah, quite right, Sir Holmes,” Judge Marsh agreed. “That’s quite enough information to find him, I’m certain, as it will likely be necessary. Aurors, please detain Mr. Dumbledore and remove him from the courtroom for his safety while he recovers.”
The Auror-on-Duty and his partner helped Dumbledore up from the stone chair, suppression cuffs and all, and handed him off to a pair waiting at the door to escort the erstwhile Headmaster to holding.
Judge Marsh turned a few pages in the file in front of her, then sat back. “I don’t believe we need any further testimony as to the innocence of Sirius Black. We have established, in fact, that Peter Pettigrew was the Secret Keeper of the Fidelius Charm cast by Lily Potter; that Albus Dumbledore believed the Secret Keeper to be Sirius Black, but had reason to doubt that this was so; that Dumbledore’s information, given to the Aurors, led to Black’s arrest, and that Dumbledore’s refusal to bring the man to trial was motivated by self-interest. I am curious about the implications of Severus Snape being present, but as he is not in court, nor does he appear to be easily found, I find it unnecessary to speak with him at this time. I look to the DMLE, and Auror Bones, to find and question Severus Snape with regard to his role in these events.
“It is my judgment, therefore, that the charges against Sirius Black be dropped.” She banged her gavel sharply, and stood.
The full Wizengamot stood with her. Aurors stepped forward and released Sirius from his cuffs, before directing him to stand at the dock with his Grandfather. Still under the influence, Sirius stood somewhat shakily next to his Patriarch while Tim shuffled his papers together and set them in his briefcase.
Judge Marsh remained standing as she had nowhere to go until the court was cleared, which took some time as the silencing charms were released and the assembly moved slowly out the back doors of the room.
Bones quietly informed Tim that she would handle the questioning and investigation into Dumbledore’s actions personally, and asked, “Should we have need of an impartial judge, may we call upon the Queen?”
Tim raised a placid eyebrow. “Of course. I’m certain she would be glad to assist. All of Her Majesty’s subjects, magical and non-magical, fall under her purview.”
Bones nodded once, and headed back toward holding and her offices, there to start her inquiry.
Sirius drew a shaky breath. “Harry’s with Petunia? We’ll need to get him straightaway.”
Lord Black raised an eyebrow of his own. “You’re not in any condition to take care of a toddler at the moment, Sirius, though I agree that Petunia must be investigated, at the very least.”
Tim cleared his throat. “Harry’s placement has already been decided by the Queen. She has named him her ward, and herself as his secondary magical guardian in the event you were found guilty, Mr. Black. As it happens, despite what Dumbledore thought he knew, Harry is not now living with Petunia Dursley, but with other, more welcoming relatives of his.”
“May I see him, do you think?” Sirius asked.
Tim smiled. “I believe that can be arranged, though I do warn you, my wife has been mothering him most ardently.”
Arcturus chuckled. “I see. And how are you related to the Potter heir, Sir Holmes?”
“Tim, please,” Tim looked around. “I think this is a discussion best left for more private quarters.”
“Indeed,” Arcturus looked around as well. “May I invite you to lunch at Blackmoor Castle, then?”
Tim signaled John Turner. “Yes, I think that would do. Do you know my assistant, John Turner?”
Sirius looked at John with puzzled eyes, which quickly cleared. “Ravenclaw, Muggleborn, three years above me?”
“You were always quick, Sirius,” Turner said calmly. “Indeed. I work for Sir Holmes as a liaison of sort to the magical world. You needed me, sir?”
“Please inform the office that I shall be out for lunch. Also, please inform Mrs. Holmes of my whereabouts and of the outcome of today’s trial. She’ll be worrying.”
“Of course, sir.”
Part 5: In which an accord is reached
Blackmoor Castle stood high on a rocky craig overlooking even more rocks on the southern coast of Wales. Tim shook out his umbrella against the cold drizzle that awaited them at the castle gates, to which Lord Black had ably apparated him.
Sirius appeared silently next to Tim in his next breath, and Tim obligingly tilted his umbrella to shelter the younger man as Lord Black laid a palm on the side door, next to the gate, and adjusted the wards to allow a Muggle entrance.
“Apologies for the delay,” Lord Black said quietly. “My ancestors were not kind to Muggles in the least, and I’m afraid I’ve allowed their measures to stand. It will take a moment for things to be completely safe for you.”
“Of course,” Tim said politely. Sirius said nothing, but looked hideous, the bruises and pale skin standing out even more in the rain. Tim noted that the young man was shaking slightly.
Lord Black noticed, too, as he lifted his hand away from what Tim could now see was an obsidian stone. It glowed briefly, then fell quiet.
“Minx,” Lord Black said quietly. A small creature appeared, dressed in what appeared to be a black cotton towel, affixed toga style at the shoulder with a pin bearing the House crest of Blackmoor. It had pale greenish skin, floppy ears, and big eyes, and Tim noted that it appeared to be nervous.
“Sir be wanting Minx?”
Lord Black nodded. “Please see that Sirius gets a hot bath and a change of clothes. We’ll be dining in the Sun Room in thirty minutes. Do ring for a healer if he needs one, please.”
“Yes, sir,” Minx said, nodding vigorously. “Come now, Young Master. Minx takes care of you.”
Sirius shuddered once, violently, then held out his hand to the little creature, and they disappeared.
“A house elf,” Lord Black explained. “One of three on staff here who take care of the home and its occupants. She’s a valued member of my household.”
“I see,” Tim said, mentally taking note as he followed Lord Black through the gate and into a courtyard that appeared dry and clean, despite the damp rain. He thought it an interesting bit of magic, as he shook out his umbrella and returned it to its collapsed state.
“Your John Turner will be joining us as secretary for our meeting shortly, I assume,” Lord Black said, leading the way toward the family entrance to the Castle. “I gave him our coordinates and added permission to the wards for his entrance.”
“Thank you,” Tim said. “He has been quite invaluable to me, particularly of late.”
“Yes, I imagine so,” Lord Black looked at Tim, his sharp eyes assessing the man. “You are not at all impressed by magic?”
Tim smiled wryly. “There’s no need. Much of what can be done with magic can be achieved by other means. It’s a complication, but one that can be worked with and around.”
“Hmmm.” Lord Black opened the heavy door to foyer and gestured for Tim to step inside. “And yet you have magic yourself.”
“Not enough to be trained,” Tim allowed. “I believe you’d consider me a Squib, actually.”
“Your parents were wizards?” Lord Black asked, leading the way to the aforementioned Sun Room.
Tim shrugged. “If they were, they weren’t practicing.”
“Curious,” Lord Black said, then said no more as they entered an inviting room faced with glass, warmed by the sun on three sides. One corner contained a cozy pair of wicker armchairs, dressed in blue and flanked by ottomans. A glass-topped dining table in the center of the room was set for four, its matching wicker dining chairs neatly tucked around it.
“We’ll eat when Sirius and John turn up,” Arcturus said. “Can I get you a drink?”
“Tea, please,” Tim said.
A tea set popped into place on the small table in the cozy corner, and Tim took a seat there while Lord Black poured.
An awkward silence fell.
Tim took a sip from his perfectly prepared tea, then broke the silence with the query uppermost in his mind. “Why did you choose to defend your grandson today? From all accounts, the pair of you have been estranged for some time.”
Arcturus took his own sip of tea. “I should have that conversation with Sirius before I do so with one who is nearly a complete stranger. But I suppose the short answer is that I never considered him estranged from me. From his parents, yes; my son and his wife are idiots who think just saying that he’s disowned means he’s disowned. But frankly, I made him my heir in ritual at Harry’s welcome. If the Queen hadn’t gotten involved, I would have taken steps to secure his release as soon as it was possible.”
Tim hummed thoughtfully, sipping his tea, then asked, “Was Mr. Dumbledore aware that Sirius is your heir?”
Arcturus smiled darkly. “Not until today.”
The men sipped their tea, which Tim acknowledged was quite good.
“I imagine much of our discussion must wait until Sirius arrives,” Arcturus said, “but I am curious as to how this matter came to the attention of the Queen.”
Tim nodded, finished his sip, and set his cup down. “I brought it to her attention, of course.”
“And you have her ear?” Arcturus asked with a raised eyebrow. “I’ve made some assumptions about what the role of ‘Queen’s representative’ entails, but I’m curious to hear what your role actually is.”
Tim smiled wryly. “Actually, my job is a bit more complex than that.” He thought for a moment. “My role in Her Majesty’s government is to ensure that the whole of it runs smoothly. I am not a public face; I am the man behind the curtain. In that role, I am required to know all that it is possible to know about the machinations of both our worlds. It’s frankly serendipitous that I am also Harry’s cousin by marriage. My mother-in-law was sister to Lily Evans’ mother.”
“So Lady Potter was herself quite connected socially? At least, in the Muggle world?”
“No, not really. As I said, my role is quite behind the scenes, as it were, and as it is, my family has nearly always been behind the scenes,” Tim said. “My wife’s family—Lily’s family—however, turned out many famous thinkers and scholars, including my own wife, who is something of a maths prodigy. She’s chosen to raise our children instead of work in academia at this time, but a place has been held for her at Oxford. When she’s ready for it.”
“Fascinating,” Arcturus said. “And she is happy to care for Harry as well?”
“She insisted, after her discussion with Petunia,” Tim acknowledged. “He fits right in with our brood. And, of course, he’s well hidden in the Holmes household. Our lot are quite brilliant and we’re all considered eccentrics, so none of our neighbors batted an eye when another child made his appearance.”
“Hiding in plain sight,” Arcturus murmured.
The men both rose as Sirius came into the Sun Room, looking much better. While still pale, the deep bruising at his neck was gone, and he appeared to be much steadier on his feet. John Turner followed him in, looking a bit harassed, but ready to attend to whatever matters Tim needed him. Arcturus gestured to the glass table, now laden with lunch, and said, “Please, be seated. We’ll eat and talk.”
Tim inwardly marveled at the silent appearance of the luncheon spread, but otherwise gave no sign that he was impressed with the magic it must have taken to do so. It seemed impolitic.
Lunch was simple by noble standards, but delicious. The elves had prepared a squash soup with creme fraiche, and light yeast rolls with Irish butter for a first course, and the men fell to with a will. Tim waited until the soup plates had been cleared before he bridged the gap between himself and Sirius.
“I’m imagining you’d like to know where Harry is, how he is, what he’s up to, and all of that?” Tim asked, aiming for friendly.
Sirius nodded as the second course, a simple roast chicken and vegetables, appeared silently on their plates. “I’ve been trying not to dwell on it, knowing I’ll get answers, but I’ve never been very patient and the Dementors have almost certainly scrambled my brain a bit,” he admitted. “Minx did give me basic healing potions, Grandfather—“ he looked over at Arcturus—“but I’ll need an actual Healer, I think, to address the underlying issues. Including the possibility of infertility.”
Arcturus closed his eyes. “I’d forgotten.”
“Infertility?” Tim inquired.
“Continual exposure to Dementors and the conditions at Azkaban can render its prisoners sterile,” Sirius said shortly. “I’m hopeful that as I was only there for three days, I’ll be unaffected.”
“And if not, my lad, we’ll address it,” Arcturus assured him.
“The Queen is certainly unaware of that side effect,” Tim said quietly, and John Turner flipped open his notebook to write that down.
The Blacks exchanged glances. “Why would she be?” Arcturus asked.
“As I said in court, gentlemen, the Queen has been concerned about unsafe and inhumane conditions at Azkaban for some time. She’s held hearings on the subject more than once, but has been convinced each time that there is no better method for subduing the magic of those captured and guilty of magical crimes. It’s one reason I got her involved in your case, Heir Black,” Tim said. “I knew that you are Harry’s magical godfather, and when John made me aware that you’d been sent to Azkaban, I made inquiries as to the circumstances. When the DMLE brushed me aside, I discovered that you’d been sent straight to Azkaban without a trial. It was my duty to bring the matter up to the Queen, and I would have done so even without the connection through Harry.”
Sirius drew a deep breath. “No one else raised an objection?”
“I had plans to,” Arcturus assured him. “It came to a head much more quickly with the Queen’s involvement, however.”
“And clearly, Dumbledore didn’t,” Sirius said bitterly.
“No,” Tim affirmed. “I’m not yet certain what his plan was, but it is obvious he meant for you to stay in Azkaban, and he meant to seek control of Harry by any means. I have been informed by Gringotts that Mr. Dumbledore attempted to get control of the Potter vaults as well.”
“He wants money to fund his Order of the Phoenix,” Sirius said dully. “He’d been talking to Prongs about it.”
“Prongs?” Tim asked.
“James Potter,” Sirius explained. “His Animagus form was a stag. We called him Prongs.”
“I see,” Tim said. “And what is the purpose of this order?”
“To act against Voldemort,” Sirius said quietly. “Although, I suppose that as old Voldie is dead, there’s no need for the Order of the Phoenix.”
“One can only hope,” Arcturus affirmed.
Tim took another bite of chicken, and John made another note.
“Well, what now?” Sirius asked, sounding a bit lost.
Tim swallowed and set down his fork. “We need to discuss arrangements for Harry,” he said. “The Queen has appointed my wife and I to be his guardians, and that has been filed. We are looking for the Potter will to be executed, but I do believe that Wanda and I were listed as potential guardians for Harry in that document. That said, Sirius, we have no desire to keep Harry from you. In fact, it would be to his benefit if you could step in as his magical guardian and teach him all he needs to know about the magical world.”
“I can do that,” Sirius said, taking a deep, shaky breath. “I would like to see him soon, if I may.”
Tim nodded. “If you’d like, we can arrange for you to see him tomorrow. If you’re ready. I’d thought about today, but I think it prudent for you to see that healer first.”
Sirius nodded. “With Grandfather’s approval, I’ll be staying here, behind the Black wards.”
Arcturus briefly looked surprised. “Of course, Sirius. As my heir, Blackmoor Castle is your home, as well.”
“And safe from those who would do us the most harm,” Sirius affirmed. “With your permission, too, Grandfather, I’ll check the ward scheme and make sure we’re as safe as we can be. I will not allow further harm to come to Harry.”
Something occurred to Tim, then.
“Sirius, would your Healer be willing to also examine Harry?” Tim asked. “He has a scar on his forehead that looks painful. I think it may be where a spell struck, and it’s not healing as it should.”
All three magical leaned forward with expressions of concern, but Sirius was the first to say, “Of course. When can he be here tomorrow?”
John looked to the notebook, then nodded to Tim. “You’re required to be with Mrs. Holmes and young Eurus at 10 a.m., sir. Mycroft will be at his tutor’s.”
“We’ve forgotten Wills again, haven’t we?” Tim asked resignedly.
John looked mildly amused. “I think you could take him with you, but I don’t think Wills is quite necessary to Eurus’ appointment.”
“Well, and here is where I suppose I must impose,” Tim said, to Sirius’ amusement. “Would you mind if my family and I brought Harry and my youngest son Wills here to stay for the morning? If we come by at 9, there would be time for you to meet all of us before my wife and I take our daughter to her appointment. Our Mycroft has tutoring beginning at 8:30, so you would miss him, but you’d see the rest. And, if all goes well, I’d be grateful if you could keep both Wills and Harry for the remainder of the morning.”
“How old is young Wills?” Arcturus asked.
“He’s 3 going on 30,” Tim admitted. “Quite good with maths and science, reading already, and more than a bit observant. He’s a handful. But he loves being a big brother to Harry.”
Sirius grinned. “I like him already. Certainly.”
“If I may?” John interjected.
“Yes?” Sirius said.
“Keep any of your potions equipment and ingredients locked up as tight as you can,” John said. “The lad has been known to make things explode when he’s bored.”
Arcturus started laughing, a deep, booming laugh that made Sirius eye him askance.
Arcturus wiped his eyes a bit, trying to contain himself. “Just sounds like he’s already kin to you, Sirius.” He started laughing again.
Tim smiled, and marveled as his plate disappeared and an enormous chocolate pudding appeared.
Part 6: In which great man falls from a pedestal
Albus Dumbledore mourned as his carefully wrought plans tumbled around him like so much a house of cards. Careless, he railed against himself, not to confirm Sirius Black’s status as Harry’s godfather. Careless, to assume that Lily would have prevented the blood ritual that allowed him to take those stringent oaths.
And now, much of the good he’d been attempting to shepherd would be lost. As would the wizarding world, if young Harry did not step up to defeat Voldemort when the time was right.
He sat, shackled in the magic-suppressing cuffs, contained in a small interrogation room in the DMLE, totally alone, the Queen’s Veritaserum still strumming through him. He estimated another twenty minutes or so before he stopped feeling compelled to share the absolute truth as he knew it.
Unfortunately, Dumbledore thought, he knew quite a bit of truth. And had, upon this occasion, stumbled over this biggest flaw: too much confidence in himself and his reputation, and not enough trust in others.
He still didn’t know how the entire matter had come to the Queen’s attention, and that, too, revealed a flaw in his planning.
The door to the conference room opened, revealing Amelia Bones, who sat down across from Dumbledore and set up a dicta-quill and parchment.
“Interview with Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, November 4, 1981, regarding the events surrounding the deaths of the Earl of Gryffindor and his lady wife, the Countess Lily Potter. This interview has been ordered by an impartial judge during a Queen’s trial, and Mr. Dumbledore has been dosed with the Queen’s Veritaserum. Mr. Dumbledore, anything you say in this interview could be used in further legal proceedings, per that order. Your only right in this interview is the right to remain silent on these matters. Do you understand this right as it’s given?”
“I do,” Dumbledore said quietly. “But I must also point out that this version of the Queen’s Veritaserum compels me to speak, or I would have avoided saying anything in open court as well.”
“Noted for the record,” Ms. Bones said, not unsympathetically. “I will do my best to stick to the matter at hand in my questioning.”
“Mr. Dumbledore, what do you know about the wizard known as Voldemort?”
“I know that he was born in an orphanage in 1926 to Merope Gaunt. She named him Tom Marvolo Riddle, after his father, a man whom I have identified as a Muggle who lived in Little Hangleton with his noble parents. Tom had difficulties in the orphanage, was never adopted, and seemed to bully the others, possibly with magic.
“I met him at 11 to discuss his attendance at Hogwarts, and found that he regularly stole from his fellows. I impressed upon him the need to set aside those ways while he was at school. He seemed to take that advice to heart, ending up as Head Boy in his seventh year. Afterwards, he did not take the Ministry positions that opened up for him. Instead, he began working at Borgin & Burkes. I am still unraveling where he went and what he did after that.
“As you know, he emerged under his new name several years ago, with a new pure blood agenda. He is smart, dangerous, and formidable. I do not believe that he is entirely gone.”
Ms. Bones waited a moment, but Dumbledore appeared to be finished with the question. She asked, “Why do you believe that Voldemort is not entirely gone?”
“There was a prophecy told to me that suggested only one person could truly defeat him. It’s in the Hall of Prophecies. It suggests that only one person has the power to defeat him. I also know that he was researching ways to gain immortality while he was at school. If he found a way, he will be back, in one way or another.”
“Did the prophecy name the one who could defeat him?”
“Not by name. Evidence suggests it could be either Harry Potter or Neville Longbottom.”
Ms. Bones raised her eyebrows. “Pause interview.” She stepped to the hallway, and spoke quickly with the Auror outside the door. “Inform the Longbottoms that their son may still be in danger. Locking down their wards and remaining wary wouldn’t go amiss. Please tell them I will be there to see them personally later today.”
The Auror nodded, and called for another Auror to take his place as he left.
Ms. Bones stepped back in. “Interview begin. Mr. Dumbledore, if Harry Potter is the one named to defeat Voldemort, could the prophecy have already come to pass?”
“I hope so,” Dumbledore said calmly. “But the orb still glowed when I checked it, which suggests it has not. Which also suggests that Voldemort is not gone, and the prophecy is in play.”
Ms. Bones rubbed her eyes. “Right. Do you know where we could start looking for Voldemort?”
Dumbledore could feel the potion’s grip easing up, but he still felt compelled. “I’m not certain at this time. You could start with the homes of his followers. Malfoy, Rosier, Lestrange, Crabbe, Goyle, Nott. Any of them have the means to help their disembodied Dark Lord.”
“Thank you for those names, Mr. Dumbledore.” She drew a deep breath, and asked what she knew to be a very broad question, one that might not be answerable: “Is there anything else you know that could help the DMLE in its search for Voldemort and his followers?”
Dumbledore remained silent. He knew a great many things, had studied a great many more, and nearly all his knowledge would be somehow valuable. However, that could not be easily expressed, and he didn’t need to fight the potion to remain silent.
“I think, perhaps, that question was too broad,” Ms. Bones mentioned.
“I do know a great many things that could be beneficial to the department, if one includes all the knowledge I have gained through my various masteries.” Dumbledore smiled weakly. “I wouldn’t know where to begin.”
Ms. Bones nodded briskly. “What knowledge specific to Voldemort do you still have that could be used to find him?”
“He learned a great deal in Albania,” Dumbledore said. “Should you not find his spirit with his followers, I expect we’ll see a trail of bodies that leads to Albania. Also, if he chose the method I suspect he did to remain ‘alive’, then he has left behind pieces of himself that can be destroyed to hasten his end. I have barely begun that research. There has been much to do.”
“Thank you. Interview end.” Ms. Bones stood up. “Mr. Dumbledore, you will likely be charged with kidnapping, given your court testimony. Your reputation aside, you had no legal authority to determine Harry Potter’s guardianship. You may also be charged with oath-breaking, and the ICW will be reviewing every law and action taken by the Wizengamot while under your authority. It goes without saying that the ICW and Wizengamot will be reviewing your statuses, and you will likely be sacked from those bodies, unless you choose to resign first. Should you need to, you may send for your solicitor. Auror Daniels will step into the room at this time to ensure your safety as the Queen’s Veritaserum wears off completely, and he will assist you in making contact with your solicitor before escorting you to holding.”
Then seethed, inwardly, as Ms. Bones left and Auror Daniels stepped in, silently.
A special edition of The Daily Prophet distributed that afternoon proclaimed Sirius Black’s innocence and Albus Dumbledore’s role in his temporary incarceration. It also offered the stunning news that Dumbledore had kidnapped Harry Potter, whose whereabouts remained unknown to the public at large.
Minerva McGonagall lost her temper. The Transfiguration classroom took a hit, but the house elves were able to manage the damage before the formidable woman put herself back together and reached for a quill. She wrote a letter to Sirius Black, posted it, and poured herself a whiskey.
Frank and Alice Longbottom, who had been assured of Harry’s safety by Dumbledore himself, did as bid by Amelia Bones and locked down their wards while the DMLE started its search for known followers of Voldemort based on the list of names given them during Dumbledore’s interview. The Lestranges, accompanied by Barty Crouch, Jr., were caught at the gates of Longbottom Manor, arrested, and investigated for suspicion of terrorism.
Severus Snape disappeared.
Molly Weasley, hands full with four of her seven children under the age of five, barely gave the matter a thought, except to question the Headmaster’s judgment for the first time in her life.
Little ripples, it seems, spun through the Wizarding World.
At the end of the day, Wanda and Tim settled into bed, having seen the children put to bed, to discuss the matter.
“Are you quite certain, dear, that Mr. Black will be able to handle Wills?” Wanda asked anxiously. “I know he’ll be fine with Harry—and Harry is quite excited to see his ‘Paddy’—but Wills is another story.”
Tim smiled, unperturbed. “Can you think of a better test of their suitability? And actually, I do think they can handle Wills. Lord Black seemed to think a child prone to making things explode would suit Sirius quite well.”
“Hmmm,” Wanda hummed, noncommittal. “If you’re sure he’ll be safe.”
“I’m sure he’ll be well cared for,” Tim affirmed, “though you must agree that Wills’ safety often depends on Wills himself. He’s quite capable for a three-year-old.”
“True,” Wanda conceded. “And he’ll be four in just two months.”
“Where has the time gone?” Tim asked rhetorically. “Next you’ll be telling me that Eurus will be turning six shortly.”
Laughing, Wanda kissed his cheek. “As you say, dear. And you were quite right about Mycroft, by the way. It’s Harrow over Eaton, and early admission as a day student. They believe he can complete the curriculum for his GCSEs within a year, and from there, we’ll see.”
Tim nodded thoughtfully. “I’ll speak with him this weekend about his career options. I dislike the pace at which he’s acquiring his education. It leaves him too little time to socialize, and learn social behaviors, which he will need to function in many career paths. It might be too late, at any rate, with that phenomenal memory of his. He could quite literally do anything.”
“Including public service?” Wanda asked archly.
He couldn’t deny it. A part of him thought his eldest son would do very well in his position, should he choose it. But he only hummed, and asked, “Is Eurus ready for her evaluation tomorrow?”
“As she can be,” Wanda said. “She believes she’s going for more advanced intelligence quotient testing. I completed the initial questionnaires based on my observations of her behavior and forwarded them along to the psychiatrist already.”
“You do think she’s leaning toward sociopathy, don’t you?” Tim asked quietly.
“I do,” Wanda said, heavily. “Her lack of affect or remorse, inability to empathize, and her detachment from all of us have all been highlighted since Harry arrived. She accepts my explanations about why he’s here, but she seems perplexed by our actions. Coupled with her genius, I’m afraid we have a child who could be very dangerous.”
Tim pressed his lips together, and firmed his jaw, before speaking. “Are you aware of any treatment for sociopathy that could help?”
“I plan to ask the expert tomorrow,” Wanda said, “and to make other inquiries. I found nothing in our quick stop at the library today. I suspect I shall have to send away for the correct books and articles.”
Tim nodded once, sharply. “Well, we’ll get the psychiatrist’s opinion tomorrow, and we’ll do our research. Perhaps, if she doesn’t feel empathy, it can be taught in another way.”
“We can hope,” Wanda said. “And we do have a few geniuses to help us think about it.”
Part 7: In which a young girl’s future is changed
November 6, 1981
With John Turner’s help, Tim, Wanda, Eurus, Wills, and Harry arrived at the gates of Blackmoor Castle via Portkey promptly at 9 a.m. on Friday.
Harry clapped his hands in glee at the landing, while Wanda and Eurus looked distinctly green. Wills pursed his lips on landing with barely a bump, and looked around, eagerly taking in the new experience and their new surroundings.
Tim simply shook out his umbrella, and laid a hand on the gate to get the attention of the house elves. Minx blinked into existence near him, and led them all to the side door and through to the house.
Sirius and Arcturus met them at the door, and Arcturus guided them into a small receiving room of some kind just off the foyer. “Welcome, welcome,” he said eagerly. “And I see we have several young visitors at this time.”
Tim smiled. “We do. May I introduce my wife, Wanda Holmes; my daughter, Eurus; my son, Wills; and my ward, Harry Potter, whom I believe you know.”
Indeed, Harry was already curled up like a monkey on Sirius’ hip.
“Wanda, Eurus, Wills, this is Mr. Sirius Black, Harry’s godfather, and Lord Arcturus Black, Sirius’ grandfather. This is Lord Black’s castle, Blackmoor.”
“A pleasure to meet you both,” Wanda said graciously. Arcturus took her hand, kissing the knuckles, before turning to Eurus, who said, “Pleased to meet you.” She, too, was treated to a kiss of her knuckles, before Arcturus turned to Wills, who put his hands behind his back.
“Nice to meet you,” Wills said. “But I really don’t like any kind of kissing.”
“That’s just fine,” Arcturus said solemnly. “Would a hand shake do?”
Wills thought about it, then nodded abruptly, and stuck out his hand for a formal shake.
Sirius waved from his position as a climbing gym for Harry. “Nice to meet all of you.”
Wills studied Sirius for a moment. “Do you like playing?”
“I do,” Sirius said.
“Do you have anything interesting like that thingy that brought us here to play with?”
“I have many interesting things here,” Sirius allowed. “As does Grandfather.”
Wills pursed his lips. “Fine, then. I’ll stay. Someone has to keep an eye on Harry.”
Eurus quirked an eyebrow. “He looks perfectly cared for, Wills,” she said.
Wills shook his head vigorously. “He needs an extra set of eyes, ‘rus. Trust me.”
“Fine, then,” Eurus said, rolling her own eyes.
Tim raised an eyebrow to his wife, who merely sighed. Turning back to the pair, Tim asked, “Were you able to secure a Healer?”
“Yes,” Arcturus said. “She’ll be here presently. May I offer a drink?”
“Tea, please,” Tim asked, and smiled as a full service popped up on a side table.
Wills’ eyes went big and round, and he immediately began investigating the table itself. Eurus remained silent, but Tim could see the wheels turning in her big brain.
Tim had the sudden thought that bringing Eurus here before her appointment might have been a mistake.
Minx popped in and informed everyone that Healer Banks had arrived, and Arcturus nodded. “Please see her into this room, and we’ll scatter as needed.”
With a nod and a pop, Minx blinked out, and Eurus looked to her mother. “Mummy, is magic real?”
“It is,” Wanda affirmed, “though it’s rarely spoken about in public.”
Eurus gave a slow nod. “Interesting.”
Tim watched his daughter realign and resort her world in seconds, before she asked, “Do I have magic?”
Wanda and Tim looked at each other, before Tim replied, gently, “Not that we’ve seen, dear.”
“Is there some sort of test for it?”
Sirius and Arcturus looked at each other, and Arcturus raised a hand. A plain white ball fell into it, and he handed it to Eurus. “Hold it, concentrate, and think, ‘Lumos.’”
Eurus did as instructed, and the ball gave a faint glow.
“That was the test, and it looks as though you passed,” Arcturus said quietly. “A glow like that indicates a bit of magic. Not a lot, and perhaps you won’t be able to train at a magic school, but enough to reveal a kind of special talent at some point.”
“Can I try?” Wills asked.
Eurus handed him the ball, and Wills screwed up his face with concentration. The ball glowed even more brightly.
“Ah, and a young wizard,” Arcturus said, impressed. “You did say your parents weren’t practicing magicals, yes?”
“Not that I ever saw,” Tim said quietly. He took the ball from Wills, and it dimmed. He thought, ‘Lumos,” and it gave a faint glow, such as what Eurus had. “See, just enough.”
Harry cried, “Mine!” Then he summoned the ball to his hands and it lit up, bright as the sun.
“And a burgeoning magus,” Arcturus said, satisfied. “Well done, all of you.”
Wanda fought the urge to run, screaming, and instead, took a deep breath. “It appears it’s quite lucky we’ve made your acquaintances, sirs.”
“Please, call me Sirius,” Sirius jumped in.
Arcturus added, “And I’m Arcturus in private, of course.”
Healer Banks, a cheerful-looking woman with a kind face and light-blond hair, stepped into the room. “Good morning, all,” she said. “I’m Healer Banks, and I hear that I have a young patient this morning.”
Sirius pried Harry off his hip and held him out, listening to him giggle. “This is your young miscreant,” he said with a smile of his own. “Shall we adjourn to the study for privacy? Mrs. Holmes, I assume you’re coming along?”
“I am,” Wanda said. “And please, call me Wanda.”
Harry had a piece of Voldemort’s magical essence in his head.
“Well, isn’t that fascinating?” Healer Banks said. “I don’t believe I’ve seen that before.”
“Can it be healed?” Sirius asked anxiously, as Wanda helped hold Harry’s hands away from the still-raw scar on his forehead.
“I should think there’s a way,” Healer Banks acknowledged. “It’s unlikely to be obvious, because as far as I know, this is the first time anyone’s survived a Killing Curse. I suspect that the curse rebounded, broke off some part of the caster’s magical essence and embedded it at the site of impact.” She ran another diagnostic. “It’s not possessing him at all. It looks contained by someone else’s magic.”
“Someone else’s magic?” Sirius asked.
Healer Banks gently drew her wand over the lightning-shaped mark. “Sowilo,” she murmured. “Sun, or Victory.”
“Is it possible to know whose magic encases the soul piece?” Sirius asked.
“If their magical signature is on file,” Healer Banks acknowledged, carefully healing the skin. “Or if you suspect you know who’s magic it is, and you have a something of theirs that would contain their magical signature, we could compare it.”
Sirius rested a hand on Harry’s head. “I think it might be his mother’s.”
Wanda raised an eyebrow. “What makes you say that?”
“She was working on a ritual to protect Harry,” Sirius said softly. “Something like a ward that would be embedded in his very skin. She was worried sick over the prophecy and its implications for her son.”
“Mama!” Harry cried.
“Yes, baby,” Sirius said softly. “Mama wanted to keep you safe.”
“Do you know what ritual?” Healer Banks asked. “I can only imagine its applications should you identify it.”
Sirius shook his head negatively. “Lily was a genius at runes and arithmancy,” he said. “I’m no slouch, but I’m not even certain I know what language she was using to build the runic array in his room.”
“Whatever she did, it worked,” Healer Banks murmured. “I shall have to do some research. But it looks as though the ward enacted, and while it couldn’t prevent damage wholesale, it did contain it, and the part of self that the caster sent along with it. In theory, we should be able to remove it from Harry’s head and dispel it.”
“Whatever it takes,” Sirius murmured.
Wanda agreed. “It can’t be healthy to have that there.”
“Not long-term, no,” Healer Banks allowed. “It certainly provides a clear connection to its caster, and that’s not a healthy state of things at all. With your permission, I’ll bring these diagnostics to a colleague in the Department of Mysteries who specializes in such rituals and see what we can turn up by way of a ritual to remove it. I suspect it will have to be a ritual, as it was a ritual that encased it. And, of course, we do not want the original curse to finish its deadly work.”
Wanda paled. “No, of course not.”
Healer Banks stepped back. “He’s a healthy little guy, otherwise.”
“Good to know,” Wanda said, picking Harry up to set on her hip. “Anything I should know about raising young magicals, from a health perspective? Apparently, I have two more in the adjoining room.”
Healer Banks laughed. “If you’d like, I can run a quick diagnostic on each. Something like a magical physical. You’ll find that most young magicals need more calories than the average non-magical, and you’ll also find that many have more energy than you’ll know quite what to do with. They should also be inoculated for magical diseases, such as Dragon Pox, as soon as is possible. Harry, here, has already had his.”
Wanda nodded decisively. “Come, Harry. Let’s get Wills and Eurus for their turns.”
They went out to the adjoining room to find Eurus in something of a stare-off with Minx. Tim seemed unconcerned, so Wanda ignored it and looked to Wills. “Wills, dear, we’re going to let the Healer do a bit of a magic scan on you to see how you’re progressing. You, too, Eurus.”
Eurus didn’t blink. “Yes, Mummy.”
Healer Banks raised an eyebrow, but she brought Wills into the study for his quick scan. “All normal, Mrs. Holmes. A few more calories would be good, and, of course, he needs the magical inoculations, which I don’t have with me. You should take care of those as soon as possible.”
Wills skipped back out to the other room, and Wanda followed. She passed Harry to Sirius, and then gestured to Eurus, who looked up without blinking. “Yes, Mummy?”
“Time for your scan, love,” Wanda said.
Eurus blinked, and looked back at Minx. “Until we meet again, Minx.”
“Of course, Miss,” Minx said, and popped out.
Healer Banks led the way back to the study. The scan she took of Eurus made her frown, and recast. A soft glow settled over her head.
“Well, that’s not good,” she said softly.
“What is it?” Wanda asked, concerned.
“There’s an old blood curse active in Eurus,” Healer Banks said. She flicked her wand and a swatch of paper popped out of it, lined with runes. “A very old curse. It looks like a family curse. I haven’t seen one of these in several years, and it was on an old pure-blood family.”
“What does it do?” Wanda asked.
“It inhibits the growth of a magical core, and in some cases, that can lead to physical and emotional problems, such as a lack of emotional affect and empathy or selective mutism,” Healer Banks said, and cast again. “Have you noticed anything like that?”
Wanda bit her lip. “I think that’s a conversation best had among the adults.”
Healer Banks looked up sharply. “I see. This kind of curse is passed down through family lines. May I cast on you?”
“Yes, of course,” Wanda said. She waited as Healer Banks cast.
“Nothing,” she said, looking at her scan. “Shall we ask for your husband to come in?”
“Please,” Wanda said, and looked down at her watch. “We have an appointment shortly, as well.”
“This won’t take more than a minute,” Healer Banks said quickly, and went to the door herself. “Mr. Holmes?”
Tim unfolded himself from the settee, where he’d been quietly talking with Arcturus while watching Sirius play an intriguing came of magical catch with Wills and Harry. “Yes?”
“May I cast a diagnostic on you? We’ve come across something rather unsettling that can only be passed down through a family,” Healer Banks said.
“Of course,” Tim said, and joined his wife and daughter in the study.
Banks cast, and Tim’s head started to glow.
“Interesting,” Healer Banks said. “You have the curse, but it’s inactive. Well. For a measure of it. It’s inhibited the growth of your magical core, which means, of course, that it’s atrophied. You won’t be able to recover any magic. But you don’t appear to be suffering from general ill effects from it. No mutism, no mental health problems?”
Tim, unperturbed, said, “No. Well, I occasionally have suffered from depression, but that’s been well controlled for quite some time.”
“In the magical world, depression often is a sign that something is wrong with a magical core,” Healer Banks explained. “In this case, you have a blood curse that is now inactive, as it’s done its work of inhibiting your core and keeping you from gaining the magical abilities that should have been yours by birthright.”
Tim narrowed his eyes. “How are such things possible?”
“They’re really not, not anymore,” Healer Banks said. “The casting of such has been banned internationally since before Grindelwald’s war. It was a favored tactic of some to get some of the old families off the political scene. A cure was found in the 1950s, and those who were known to be affected were treated. However, such is the nature of the curse that many affected by it passed into the non-magical world before a treatment can be rendered. We occasionally see it, or something similar, in new students at Hogwarts that appear to be Muggleborn. But for treatment to be effective, patients must be seen before age 11, when most get their wands. Core growth can still occur before age 17, but after that point, it will atrophy from disuse.”
Tim thought about that. “So it’s likely that my parents or grandparents were cursed?”
“It’s possible that it goes even further back,” Healer Banks said.
“Both of my parents were non-practicing magicals,” Tim said. “I assumed they didn’t want to be a part of the magical world, for their own reasons. I was a late baby, and an only child. They’re both deceased. They died within days of each other just after Wanda and I married.”
“Well, the good news, is that this kind of blood curse can now be treated,” Healer Banks said. “It’s a course of potions best taken over several weeks, but we’ve had good results for young children.”
Wanda looked at Tim, who looked at Eurus. “Eurus, would you like Healer Banks to help release your magic?”
Eurus looked thoughtful. “Will it make me better?”
“Better at what, darling?” Wanda asked quietly.
“I know there’s something wrong with me, Mummy,” Eurus said. “I remember loving Wills and playing with Wills and now I don’t feel very much at all for him.”
Healer Banks knelt to look Eurus right in the eyes. “This will help, Miss Eurus. You should feel much better. You should be able to feel when the potions are done, and if you can’t, you’ll tell me, and I will personally research ways to help you.”
Eurus looked at Healer Banks for a long minute, then at her parents, who tried their best to look supportive. “Then I will.”
Wanda nodded. “Right, then. We still will need to make our appointment at 10, Eurus. So say goodbye. We’ll arrange to see Healer Banks next week and begin treatment.”
“Okay, Mummy,” Eurus said quietly.
Wanda escorted Eurus to the receiving room while Tim stayed back, to ask a last question. “Would this course of treatment do anything for me?”
“I’m afraid not, Mr. Holmes,” Healer Banks said kindly. “But if you have any other relatives, particularly young relatives, you should have them brought in for a diagnostic soonest. And it might not go amiss to research your own history. If we can isolate the originator of the curse, it could help focus the potions regimen a bit more.”
Tim thought about that. “Are there particularly well known casters?”
“A few,” Healer Banks said. “Some have been lost to time, and some, of course, will never be known. We do have records going back to Grindelwald war of three particular British casters. Has your family name always been Holmes?”
“To my knowledge, yes,” Tim said slowly. “A Holmes has always been in service to the Crown.”
“Ah,” Healer Banks said. “And thus, we have motive. Do you know if your grandparents were similarly affected?”
“I don’t, no,” Tim admitted. “I shall have to do some research, and perhaps look at the family records.”
Healer Banks nodded. “In your research, keep an eye out for the names Dumbledore, Fletcher, or Figg. Those are our documented offenders.”
Tim really thought he’d reached the limit on his surprises for the week, but gamely asked, “Dumbledore as in the current Headmaster of Hogwarts?”
“Yes,” Banks said. “His father spent the last years of his life in Azkaban for crimes against non-magicals and magicals alike, though it’s not well known. At least two blood curses have been attributed to Brian Dumbledore. The other two casters are less well known.”
Tim thanked her, arranged for their appointment at her St. Mungo’s office the following week, and followed them out to the receiving room, where he checked his watch. “We just have time to leave now, loves. Eurus, come with Mummy and me. Wills, you and Harry be good for Sirius and Lord Black, please.”
Wills waved him off while Harry giggled madly, and Sirius conjured another ball of light as he said, “We’re under control. See you later. We’ll have luncheon ready at noon.”
Tim nodded, held a hand out to his wife and daughter, and touched the Portkey John Turner had made him. It would take them to a blind spot in his office in London, from whence his driver, James, would take the trio to the psychiatrist.
As they disappeared, Sirius turned to his young charges. “Who wants to go flying?”
The specialist looked grave.
“It is as you suspected, madam,” he informed Wanda in a private consultation after his evaluation. Tim took Eurus across the street for a soft drink while he left the diagnostic details to his more than capable wife.
“I believe you are correct in thinking that Eurus suffers from sociopathy,” the doctor, whose name Wanda kept forgetting, for some odd reason, informed her.
“What can be done?” Wanda asked.
“At this point, there’s very little that can be done,” the specialist said. “Sociopathy diagnoses in children are rare; we don’t often find that parents are particularly attuned to their children in a way where the possibility even occurs. Additionally, the lack of empathy makes treatment extraordinarily difficult. There have been some trials in the states involving teens that look promising. The premise is that if empathy can’t be felt, then perhaps it can be learned. It’s called cognitive empathy therapy, but as I said, it’s very new, involves older teens, and is very much experimental. The teens are confined to an institution already to minimize the damage they can do.”
Wanda absorbed all this, then asked, “Where might I find the papers and reports on this condition and its potential treatments?”
The man rifled through his desk and came up with a three-inch thick binder. “Your husband indicated you’d want as much research as you could. I had these copied for you.”
Wanda accepted the binder with thanks. “Would therapy of any other kind be useful?”
“No,” the specialist said. “We’ve found child sociopaths to be exceptionally good at manipulating their private therapists. And of course, the more brilliant the child, the more able to manipulate and plan.” He drew a deep breath. “Honestly, with a child of Eurus’ genius, I’d be remiss if I didn’t recommend institutionalization. But I am also reluctant to go that route given her age. I’ve included in your packet the contact information for the lead researcher on cognitive empathy therapy. If there’s any hope to be found for helping Eurus become a productive member of society, it’ll be there.”
Wanda thanked him, a bit dazed, and made her way across the street to meet Tim and Eurus, who was enjoying a fizzy drink.
“So I’m wrong, then, aren’t I?” Eurus said, without looking up.
“It does appear that way, love,” Wanda said softly. “But we have things we can do to help you feel right again. We’ll start with Healer Banks and her potions regimen, and I have information from a doctor who specializes in helping young people learn how to act, even if they can’t feel. Perhaps, with both, we can help you feel right again.”
“I know it doesn’t mean much to you at this point,” Tim added, “but we do love you, very much, and we want you to be able to feel love, belonging, and all those wonderful things, in return. We’ll do everything we can to help.”
Eurus looked at them, not blinking. “Mycroft will be unhappy.”
Wanda tipped her head to the side. “What?”
“He said with my level of sociopathy you’d have to put me in an institution sooner rather than later, that it would be easiest for everyone,” Eurus said. “Will you put me away, Mummy?”
Tim looked at his wife. He was more than overdue for a conversation with his eldest genius. “Not unless it becomes absolutely necessary for your safety and the safety of those around you,” Tim said firmly, to Wanda’s nod of agreement. “Mycroft might be a genius, but he is still only a boy, and he doesn’t know everything. Please listen to Mummy and Daddy on this. I will be talking to Mycroft.”
Eurus nodded, and sipped her drink.
Luncheon with the Blacks offered no small degree of hilarity.
Somehow, Wills’ hair had turned orange.
By the sheer number of giggles Harry broke into whenever he got a glimpse of it, Wanda thought she had a good idea about who was responsible for the new sartorial choice.
“Hmmm,” she mused directly to Wills. “I do think that color suits you, dear.”
Wills rolled his eyes. “It’s just play, Mummy. Sirius says he can change it back when I like.”
“Very well, then,” Wanda said, indulgently. “Did the pair of you enjoy your morning?”
“We fly!” Harry yelled excitedly.
“Pardon me?” Wanda said, raising an eyebrow at Sirius, who looked a little guilty.
“Training brooms, I promise,” he said quickly. “No more than a foot off the ground and I was there the whole time.”
“Training brooms?” Wanda repeated. “Explain.”
Sirius glanced at his grandfather, who looked equally flummoxed for a moment, before clearing his throat. “I suspect this is one of those things we simply assumed you knew about. My apologies. In the magical world, we can use specially handcrafted brooms for transportation. They fly. Some are quite fast and specialized for sports; others are meant for leisure riding. The ones we used today are for small children learning how to fly. Very safe, indeed.”
Wanda narrowed her gaze at the gentlemen, who both had the wisdom to look abashed, before she said, clearly, “Any activity that a non-magical mother might consider a safety risk must be cleared with me before it is practiced with my children. Are we clear, gentlemen?”
“Yes, ma’am.” “Yes, Madam Holmes.”
Wanda nodded, firmly. “Wills will push that boundary as far as you will let him, and I suspect Harry might be the same. If I am to trust you with their care, you will need to educate yourself, posthaste, on non-magical child-rearing. I will lend you some books.”
Arcturus and Sirius exchanged glances again, and Sirius nodded as Arcturus cleared his throat. “I truly apologize, Madam Holmes. In the magical world, cushioning charms and other magic make such activities low-risk, if well-supervised, and any injuries can be easily and quickly healed and forgotten. It simply didn’t occur to me that you might have objections.”
Wanda took that in, accepted it, and countered, “If that’s the case, how do you teach your children about responsibility and consequences?”
“Ah,” Arcturus said. “That can be challenging. And of course, the magical world has a series of dangers that many non-magicals would have difficulty imagining. Such as enchanted objects that might ensnare the senses, and any number of magical creatures that might do harm that cannot be easily repaired. But I do take your point, Madam.”
Tim said nothing, but quirked a brow in the pair’s direction. They understood that to mean Wanda spoke for the both of them, and said nothing more on the subject, which was hastily changed to uses for color charms.
Eurus pursed her lips. “So you can change anything you’d like to a different color?”
“Yes, of course,” Sirius said. “I can make Wills’ hair any color he’d like.”
“Try blue,” Wills urged, and Sirius obligingly swished his wand. Eurus hummed in satisfaction.
“Could you do stripes?” She asked. “Only I saw someone with pink and white striped hair and I liked it.”
“Where was that, darling?” Wanda asked.
“Oh, over in the park by the music studio,” Eurus said. “There was some kind of concert. His hair stood straight up!”
Sirius, who’d spent a fair amount of time clubbing in the Muggle world, smirked and gave Eurus a pink-and-white striped Mohawk, before conjuring a mirror for her to see.
“That’s just it!” Eurus said. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” Sirius said. “Though you will need to ask your mother if you can keep it. It will wear off, and your hair will return to its natural state, within about six hours.”
“Six hours a good amount of time to enjoy that hairstyle, love,” Wanda said. “It’s otherwise not truly appropriate for your age.”
Eurus nodded, accepting the information, but her eyes slid sideways to Wills, who smirked at her from under his own blue curls.
Wanda had never even heard of the subject called Divination, but she could easily predict that her children were about to embark on a campaign of mischief.
Still, the morning had offered enough revelations, including hope for the future, that Wanda decided to let them have their bit of fun. She simply turned a weather eye on her children, and said, “No magic of any kind in public where any kind of non-magical can see. That’s now rule one. Clear?”
Wills and Eurus knew that tone, and Harry looked up at her, with a furrowed brow. She’d sounded like his Mummy.
“Yes, Mummy,” Wills and Eurus chorused, but a look at their eyes told Wanda they meant it.
Harry looked solemnly at Auntie Wanda. “‘Kay.”
She kissed his sweet little face. “Good boy, Harry. And thank you, my loves.”
They finished off luncheon with slices of cake and fruit, and at its conclusion, Wanda could see both Harry and Wills fading. “I think it’s time for a nap, my lads,” Wanda said. “Let’s be off to home, then.”
“Paddy?” Harry asked sleepily.
“Right here, Harry,” Sirius said, offering him a kiss on the forehead.
“Whenever Auntie Wanda wishes,” Sirius said solemnly.
Wanda smiled gently. “You’re welcome whenever you’d like, Sirius. And I think the morning’s work was a successful trial, don’t you? I should like to incorporate you into our regular tutoring schedule for Harry and Wills, if you don’t mind, and of course, we’ll set up a regular visiting schedule. You are, after all, Harry’s magical guardian and his godfather.”
Tim looked up from where he was helping Eurus find her hat. “Ah, yes. Wills and Eurus will need a magical guardian as well.”
“For students who come from the non magical world, their Head of House at Hogwarts becomes their magical guardian when they enter school,” Sirius explained. “Up until that point, it’s really a matter of assigning a guardian, should it become an issue. I’d be glad to stand for both Wills and Eurus, if you’d like.”
Wanda looked to Tim. “We should have Mycroft tested as well.”
“Ah, yes,” Tim looked to Arcturus. “Our oldest is a prodigy with an eidetic memory. He’s quite advanced intellectually for his age, and is currently with his tutor. May be we bring him by sometime next week?”
Arcturus nodded. “Of course.”
Mycroft was not in the least impressed with his parents’ sojourn. This might have had something to do with the lecture soundly delivered upon him after dinner, which Tim delivered ensconced in his own home study with his eldest.
“Frankly, Mycroft, it’s abusive in the extreme to tell a six-year-old, regardless of her intellect or level of affect, that her parents will be giving her away because of something wrong with her,” Tim said calmly and sternly. “I am deeply disappointed in you, and I’m considering disallowing your early admission to Harrow.”
Mycroft visibly winced. “But, what I said wasn’t a lie!”
“It most certainly was not a truth,” Tim said. “We’ve reassured her that she will not be institutionalized if there’s anything else that can be done, and we’ve taken steps today that will, we hope, keep that from happening.”
Mycroft opened his mouth, closed it, then carefully asked, “What steps?”
Tim looked at his eldest sternly. “Had you bothered to research the matter thoroughly, which I am assured you did not, you would know that there are experimental therapies that have had good results in the States. Furthermore, the fact is that not enough research has been done on her illness to make a defacto statement such as the one you delivered upon your sister a truth, by any stretch. You will not have any input into the placement of your siblings. Period. Am I clear?”
Mycroft bit his lower lip. “I thought I knew best.”
“Mycroft, you are not quite eight years old. While eminently capable for an eight-year-old, and intellectually well beyond your years, socially and empathetically you are, in fact, eight. And that means, by any definition, that you do not know best on those matters,” Tim explained. “Should you begin to believe that you do know best, I expect you to run your conclusions past me or past your mother. We are both capable, socially intelligent beings whose job it is, in fact, to help you learn these skills.”
“I understand, Father,” Mycroft said, quietly. “But Harrow?”
“Let us have a frank discussion, son,” Tim said, and gestured for Mycroft to sit on the sofa near his desk, rising himself to sit next to him and signaling the end of the lecture portion of the program. “I am concerned, frankly, by your lack of social skills. While I recognize you can only gain those by being social, for which school might, indeed, be the solution, I am concerned that you place too much emphasis on the intellectual over the practical, and too much emphasis on pragmatism over compassion. These are not terrible traits, in the main, but I worry that your later life and career will suffer without attention to proper social development. Entering school ahead of your peers in age will make proper social development challenging, if not outright impossible.”
Mycroft thought about that. “I see your point, Father, and I bow to your wisdom on that subject. But I really want to go to Harrow.”
Tim regarded his son a moment. “How about a compromise?”
“What kind of compromise?” Mycroft asked.
“I will allow you to attend Harrow as a day student, but you will take two years to complete your course rather than one. In your free time, you will work in service to the community,” Tim proposed. “You may choose, with your mother’s help, one or two community organizations with which to be involved, to help and support with your unique skill set.”
Mycroft’s brows drew together, a certain sign of deep thought. “To what end?”
“To build social skills and develop empathy for the average person,” Tim said easily. “If you follow this course of action, I will support your proposed next steps, and if your social skills are up to par as I expect them to be, I will allow you to apprentice with me during the summers in the Queen’s service.”
The brows went up. “Really?”
“Really,” Tim allowed. “A Holmes has always served the British Royal Family. We’ve talked about this. I want you to have time to determine that is indeed the course you wish to follow, as well, but I think an apprenticeship would give you that time. And you absolutely need better social skills to make a career of service.”
Mycroft sat up straight. “I would like to try, Father.”
“Then let it be as I have said,” Tim decreed, loftily, earning a half-smile from his son. “And Mycroft, I want you to go with us to the Blacks’ next time, to see if you have any magic to train. I’ve seen no sign of it, but your siblings have some, and I’d like to factor that into your plans if it exists. Lord Black tells me that your sort of memory can be a magical gift.”
“How fascinating,” Mycroft said. “I look forward to finding out.”
Children settled, Tim and Wanda relaxed into their own bed.
“Busy day,” Wanda commented.
Tim agreed with a grunt, his eyes covered by one forearm across the face.
Wanda settled in next to him, and lay her head on his chest. “All will be well, won’t it, Tim?”
He moved his arms to put them around her. “Of course it will, darling. Of course it will.”
Part 8: In which there is progress, and an old villain provides new information
The weeks sped quickly after that. Mycroft, it developed, did, indeed, have enough magic to train, and he lacked the blood curse that affected Eurus. Mycroft, however, adamantly disagreed with the notion of going to Hogwarts, as it affected his ability to train appropriately in the non-magical world.
Arcturus Black offered an elegant solution: By taking the Holmes family into his ancient house as a protected cadet branch, Lord Black could arrange for private tutoring for Mycroft, to be added to his regular schedule as needed. With private tutoring, Mycroft could be on track to take his OWL exams at 15, as was typical.
“Magical cores have physical limitations that fall away as one ages,” Arcturus explained to the young genius. “It won’t be possible for you complete the practical work before that age, at any rate.”
“With my current education plan, I will be ready to finish my graduate work at Uni at 15,” Mycroft said. “If all goes well, and it suits, I’ll be joining my father in service to the Queen.”
Arcturus nodded and smiled. “A noble pursuit.”
That settled, attention turned to Eurus, who began the suggested potions regimen to cure her of the blood curse, and Wills, who got his magical inoculations and became Harry’s very best friend and big brother in magic. Sirius gladly oversaw their early magical training while providing much-needed respite for Wanda, who saw that Eurus needed more concentrated attention, and therapy, as her ability to empathize returned incrementally.
The family was less happy with the lack of news about from Healer Banks, who continued her research into rituals that might rid Harry of the Voldemort essence in his head, but had little to report.
They tried not to let that bother them for the moment, and after a raucous holiday season at Black Manor, the Black and Holmes families seemed to be in great accord moving into the new year.
Things were not going so well for Albus Dumbledore, however.
A thorough investigation into Dumbledore’s background showed that not only had he been forsworn, but that the Potter vaults were not the first he’d attempted to usurp. With help from the goblins, who were quietly and gleefully pleased to see the wizard taken down from his pedestal, investigators found that Dumbledore made a habit of declaring himself to be the magical guardian of certain orphans and Muggleborns who came to Hogwarts, and then, helped himself to any funds left for them in the name of their educations and upkeep (despite the fact that he had no legal right to do so).
His trial, for kidnapping, theft, and oath-breaking, promised to be an Event.
Amelia Bones requested an impartial judge from the Queen, and Judge Marsh agreed to return to the bench to preside, so long as the Queen’s Representative was also in attendance. Tim agreed to attend, as well, in that role (though he was as keen to see the outcome of the investigation as anyone else).
The trial date was set for February 15, which allowed time for investigators to complete their work and turn their evidence over to the prosecutors. Dumbledore, held in magic suppressing cuffs in a solitary cell in the basement of the Ministry, under close guard, was allowed a defender, and time to work on his case.
As part of the overall investigation, Ms. Bones, herself, was sent to Nurmengard to interview Gellert Grindelwald. She did so accompanied by Tim Holmes, who secured Queen’s Veritaserum for the event.
February 1, 1982
Upon first glance, Tim thought the villain of Grindelwald’s war should be allowed a toothbrush more frequently.
The once-handsome scourge of Europe was missing most of his teeth, and his greasy hair looked more black than blond. The man looked thin as a rail, and Tim made a mental note to look into the humanitarian conditions of his prison.
“Ah, Mr. Grindelwald,” Ms. Bones acknowledged. “We’ve not met. I appreciate your willingness to speak with me today.”
Grindelwald raised an eyebrow. His hands, encased in cold iron embossed with magic-suppressing runes, were bolted to the table, and his feet, in heavy metal boots likewise embossed, were bolted to the floor.
“I don’t know that I had much choice, Madam,” Grindelwald said courteously. “May I know with whom I am speaking?”
Ms. Bones looked uncomfortable. “I am Amelia Bones, Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement for the British Ministry of Magic. With me is Sir Timothy Holmes, the Queen’s Representative. Sir Holmes has the authority to use the Queen’s Veritaserum for this interview to ensure the validity and truthfulness of your responses to our questions.”
Tim interjected. “You may, of course, refuse to answer any question to which we put you.”
“Will my cooperation weigh at all in my favor?” Grindelwald asked dryly. “Only I would appreciate a shower, and perhaps a toothbrush.”
Tim raised both eyebrows. “Are you not allowed such?”
The laser focus of Grindelwald’s bicameral eyes fell on Tim’s face. “No. I get hosed down when the guards decide I smell.”
Tim’s jaw firmed. “That’s certainly a human rights violation. I will inform the Queen, regardless of your responses today.”
Ms. Bones had paled. “I believe the guards at Nuremberg are maintained by the International Confederation Of Wizards, Sir Holmes.”
Tim smiled thinly. “Nevertheless, the Queen will be informed.”
Grindelwald nodded acknowledgment, his eyes not leaving Tim’s face. “How may I assist the Queen and the British Ministry today?”
“We have questions about your husband, Albus Dumbledore,” Ms. Bones said briskly. “If we may? Sir Holmes has the Queen’s Veritaserum.”
“Of course,” Grindelwald said, and Tim leaned forward to place three drops on the prisoner’s tongue. Grindelwald leaned back, and his expression softened. “Ah, Nicolas’ work.”
Tim nodded. He’d suspected as much.
Ms. Bones cleared her throat, set up her parchment at Dicta-Quill, and nodded to Tim, who asked, “What is your full name and date of birth?”
“Gellert Bathsheba Grindelwald. March 15, 1883.”
“Making you 98 years old?”
“How do you know Albus Dumbledore?”
“I married him in 1910.”
“To your knowledge, are you still married to Albus Dumbledore?”
“Do you still have a relationship with Albus Dumbledore?”
“While I am not allowed to write to or regularly communicate with my husband, I get one visitor a year, and it is Albus. He comes on my birthday, usually. Depending on the guard, I might get hosed down the day before.”
“What do you talk about?”
“We discuss the weather. The cells. The state of Hogwarts. His plans for the future.”
“What can you tell us about his plans?”
“Albus has many plans. I need a more specific question.”
“What do you know about his plans for Harry Potter?”
“Ah, the prophecy child. Harry Potter is to be Albus’ new Dark Lord.”
“Did he have other Dark Lords?”
“Who were they?”
“Myself, of course. Albus set me up as the villain in our game to lead the Wizarding world to a better place for the Greater Good. Tom Marvolo Riddle, who would be his villain moving forward after we were forced to give up the game. Young Mr. Potter will be the new Dark Lord against which Albus will battle to further his reputation and bring about the best for the Wizarding World.”
“And what, in your judgement, do you think is best for the Wizarding World?”
“The complete separation of Wizard from Muggle.”
“And how do you two propose to do that?”
“Wholesale slaughter didn’t work, so we’ve been using legislation and political change to create distrust and discord. Eventually, wizards will want it for themselves. When that happens, we have a spell or two that will help create a pocket dimension into which the wizards can go.”
“And what will happen to the muggleborn, without access to those spaces?”
“They will be stolen when named at birth, their parents obliviated, and their lives lived out in the pocket dimension.”
Tim felt appropriately horrified and momentarily speechless. He shared a glance with Ms. Bones, who couldn’t get any more pale, and mentally regrouped. “Right. How long have you been working on that spell work?”
“Since we were schoolboys.”
“Do you believe Albus Dumbledore to be actively working toward this goal?”
“Given your advanced age, do you expect to live to see that goal realized?”
“Yes. Albus has a philosopher’s stone. We have all the time in the world.”
Tim looked a bit flapped. “Isn’t that the stone that appears to grant immortality?”
“It doesn’t appear to do so. It does so, given the drinker takes some every year.” Grindelwald smiled wistfully. “Although it does nothing for teeth. I shall have to regrow some at some point.”
Tim thought for a moment. “What do you know about blood curses?”
“Terrible things,” Grindelwald said. “Albus’ father was fond of them. He got rid of several old families that way.” His focus narrowed. “Including yours, I believe. You do look like Sherlock Holmes.”
Tim took a deep breath, held it, and let it go. “Perhaps.” In fact, Tim’s grandfather was Mycroft Holmes, the first. To his knowledge, his great-uncle Sherlock had never married, content with his bachelorhood.
“Good that there’s a cure now,” Grindelwald commented. “It wouldn’t do to let such disturbed individuals into polite society. I wouldn’t wish them on Muggles, even.”
Tim stood impassive. “Are you aware of the circumstances that led to the blood curse being placed on the Holmes line?”
“Yes.” It was said with a smirk, forcing the next question.
“And those circumstances are?”
“Holmes had the ear of Queen Victoria, and the means, therefore, to cause problems for Brian’s plans to subjugate the Muggles,” Grindelwald shrugged. “He decided to remove the Holmes family from the board.”
Tim pursed his lips. “It didn’t work as he intended, then.”
“Likely not, as you’re here, and you don’t appear to be insane,” Grindelwald acknowledged.
“What else is there about Albus Dumbledore that we need to know in order to stop your plans from coming to fruition?”
“That is truly a heinous question. I can’t answer it. My husband is skilled in many areas, and it would be a truly bad idea to try thwarting him. There’s a reason he is out there, and I am in here, and it has everything to do with his ability to pretend to be Light and reasonable. I never pretended to be anything but what I am, and look where it got me.”
“Thank you for your time.” Tim leaned to the side, and murmured quietly to Ms. Bones, “Anything else?”
She shook her head negatively. There was quite enough to be going on with, and the prisoner wouldn’t be leaving the facility.
As the pair passed through security and headed out to the terrace of the castle in the Alps, Tim shook off the dull feeling of the place. “I think that was productive. We have confirmation that Albus Dumbledore is in fact married to Gellert Grindelwald, and in cahoots with him. Investigators can take it from there to look at the legislation and political machinations of the man himself, yes?”
“I believe so, yes,” Ms. Bones said. “Are you quite alright?”
“At the moment,” Tim said. “I was aware of the blood curse, obviously, and I am a victim of it. My core atrophied, but my mental health is stable. My daughter has not been as lucky, and she is taking the cure now. My sons seem to be free of it entire, which is a lucky break.”*
“What made you think to ask that question?”
Tim shrugged. “Shot in the dark. Good one, though. The Dumbledore name is one that our healer told us to investigate with regard to the curse on our blood line. I’d though, perhaps, having married a Dumbledore, Mr. Grindelwald would know about them.”
Bones nodded thoughtfully. “I think it’s a question we’ll need to put to Dumbledore as well, if we’re able.”
“If Mr. Grindelwald is correct in that the curse was placed on my great-uncle, than it’s highly unlikely Albus Dumbledore had anything to do with it,” Tim pointed out. “However, he might have additional information about the curses and how they work, or even what families were likely to have been targeted. That could be useful.”
February 8, 1982
Tim and Mycroft Holmes sat in a small office off the main family library, going through boxes of family papers left behind by Mycroft the first.
With Mycroft’s reading speed and eidetic memory, he was a logical choice to help Tim skim through and see if he could find the origins of the blood curse on the Holmes family.
The pair, undisturbed, read through several boxes of materials over the course of the day, with just one call to a meal at noon. At the dinner call, Tim sat back and rubbed his eyes.
“Nothing so far,” he muttered. “Mycroft?”
“Not that I can see,” the boy admitted. “I’ve found nothing on any relationship to a man called ‘Dumbledore’ at all. Though I’ve waded through his love letters to Nan. I don’t think I’m really old enough for flowery Victorian love poetry, Father.”
Tim chuckled. “I’m wondering, now, if the curse itself wasn’t put on Mycroft the First, then. Grindelwald did say that I looked more like Sherlock Holmes. Given that, I wonder if perhaps the curse was laid on Sherlock?”
“But if it’s a bloodline curse, shouldn’t it have stopped when Sherlock died?” Mycroft asked. “We don’t have any records of him having children.”
“No, he was a bachelor to the end,” Tim acknowledged. “Died in the 1920s, after a storied career as a consulting detective. Pioneered work in forensics that remains standard to this day. Really should see where his papers went.”
Mycroft nodded. “It could be that it’s him who ran into Dumbledore and got himself cursed.”
“But how would that affect us?”
Mycroft shrugged. “Maybe ask the Healer?”
“A wise course of action, son,” Tim said.
Tim decided to save the question of how a blood curse could have skipped laterally in favor of looking into the more intimate diaries of Mycroft the first.
He had a thought, and it certainly wasn’t one an eight-year-old needed to be privy to, as of yet.
By all accounts, Mycroft the first had been morbidly obese. Unhealthily so, and it lead to his early death. The massive sedan chair kept in storage as a memorial certainly attested to that.
Would such an obese man be, ahem, able to perform the act necessary to impregnate his spouse? Did they, perhaps, have a fertility problem?
And if that might have been the case, could his brother, Sherlock, have been willing to provide the necessary service? Or at least, the raw material?
He mentioned the idea to Wanda after the children were in bed, who looked at him thoughtfully.
“You know, that’s a possibility,” Wanda allowed. “Your father was an only child, and and he appeared well into their marriage. In that era, that could very well mean fertility issues, multiple miscarriages, or the sort. I’d expect to see that pattern, at any rate.”
“My father was born in 1906; I was born in 1943,” Tim mused.
“Yes, you’re a Blitz baby,” Wanda smirked.
“I actually think I’m a ‘condoms-are-going-to-the-troops-so-oops’ baby,” Tim said drily. “That said, John Holmes probably waited as long as he could to have a child. He couldn’t have waited much longer and been sure of training me to the Queen’s service. The war was tough on everyone.”
Wanda hummed noncommittally. She’d met the formidable John Holmes and his dour wife, Katharine, just once, when she and Tim started dating at uni. The elder Holmes had died from injuries sustained in a car crash shortly after their wedding, with Katharine at the wheel. It had been ruled an accident, but Wanda knew Tim suspected foul play, given that Katharine never drove.
“If, indeed, a Holmes heir was needed, and Sherlock provided the necessary to make that happen, would they have written that down somewhere?” Wanda asked. “It seems something that would be quite a secret.”
Tim pursed his lips. “Mycroft the first was excessive about journal keeping. Sherlock, too. I think his old notebooks actually reside at 221B Baker Street in London, still. You know, he bought the property after lodging in it for, oh, more than twenty years. He and his partner, Dr. John Watson, retired to Sussex in 1905 to keep bees. They were called out to service during the Great War, but, for the main, kept to Sussex after that.”
“So who owns the property now?” Wanda asked.
“Actually, I think it technically goes to our Wills now,” Tim said, thinking. “It’s family property, thus mine, but it was to go to the first of the Holmes line to also carry the Sherlock name.”
“Which would be our own dear William Sherlock Scott,” Wanda said, rolling her eyes. “Is that why you insisted on the name?”
Tim shrugged. “Sort of? It wasn’t as though I planned it that way, but I did want to honor my great uncle, and it never hurts a second son to have property in his name.”
“True enough,” Wanda acknowledged. “The Sussex properties?”
“Sold after his death by John Holmes. Watson died during the Great War.”
“When you said partner ….” Wanda hesitated. “Were Sherlock and John?”
Tim smiled softly. “Officially? Unknown. Unofficially, I suspect they were partners in every sense.”
“That’s nice,” Wanda said, and leaned forward. “You know, you’re awfully nice, too, Mr. Holmes.”
“Indeed, Mrs. Holmes?” Tim slid a hand under her pajama top, just brushing the underside of a soft breast with his knuckles. “Want to check and see if we have condoms? We really don’t need another ‘oops’ baby.”
Wanda laughed, and rolled herself on top of him. “Not to worry; we’re all restocked.”
“You’re truly brilliant, love,” Tim praised, and started taking off her clothes.
Part 9: In which Tim Holmes investigates the blood curse.
February 13, 1982
Wanda sneezed as the dust flew up from the short carpet in the foyer of 221B Baker Street.
“Oh, dear,” she said, and sneezed again. “This place needs cleaning.”
All four children and Tim were along, with Sirius as backup. Tim had requested the wizard to come along on the Saturday tour of the old lodging house in London under the notion that, perhaps, a wizard Holmes might have left surprises behind.
Sirius readily agreed that it was a possibility, and magical assistance might be a good idea.
Therefore, the entire family stood sneezing in the front foyer before Sirius raised a wand and quietly called out, “Tergeo!”
The others watched, fascinated as the dust was sucked into his wand, leaving behind a sparkling foyer that still had hats perched on the row of hooks to its left.
“Handy, that,” Wanda commented. “I think I shall let you and Tim go ahead and clear the dust before I bring the children up.”
Sirius flashed her a grin, and started up the narrow staircase to the first floor, sucking up dust with his wand as he went. Tim followed closely, looking ahead for obvious traps. He saw none as they made the first landing; only one open door and one closed. They stepped through the open door into what was obviously a front room or study.
A gold divan rested against the wall immediately to Tim’s right, and said wall was decorated with bullet holes shot in a pattern. It made Tim smirk (surprising Sirius, who’d begun to think nothing could flap the elder Holmes), and he took a good look around.
A black marble or granite fireplace took up the center of the opposite wall, with a dusty grate and a heavy wooden mantle that contained a collection of dusty pictures. To its right, a corner held a desk with glass chemistry equipment dating back to the turn of the century, and a small wooden chair held a violin. To the left of the fireplace, bookshelves lined a corner that ended on the wall to Tim’s left, which held just enough space for a desk placed against it, a door between the desk and the shelves connecting to the closed room beyond.
Numerous things crowded the room, as if hastily packed away and stowed, and Tim frowned.
“It looks like Sherlock, or whomever, left the space in a hurry,” Tim observed quietly.
Sirius pursed his lips. “I don’t feel or see anything obviously magical in this room. Though the violin has a glow about it.”
“You can see a glow around the violin?” Tim raised an eyebrow.
Sirius shrugged. “I have a touch of mage sight. Generally useful for seeing magic associated with objects.”
“Right, useful.” Tim turned to the door on the wall and turned the knob to lead them into what was obviously a man’s bedroom. It was tidy, but in that way that said it wasn’t much used at all. A narrow bed on the wall to the left, past the other door (which obviously led to the hallway), was made up with old duvet, but the case on top of the duvet beckoned.
Sirius held out a hand to stop Tim as they heard the children thunder up the first stairs. “That case contains something magical. Caution, please.” He peered into the glass case from over the top, leaving himself room. “Oh.”
“Is that a good ‘oh’?” Tim asked, listening as Mycroft exclaimed over the books in the front room, and Wills clearly made for the violin.
“It’s a confused ‘oh’,” Sirius admitted. “That’s a wand, hidden in plain sight as a pipe of some sort.”
“Interesting,” Tim said. “Why would he have left a wand here?”
“And that’s why I’m confused,” Sirius said. “Most wouldn’t be caught without their wands.”
“But he left it behind,” Tim observed. “Is it safe to pick up?”
“Nothing dodgy about the case,” Sirius acknowledged. “There’s a hat in there, too, but it appears to be nothing more than a hat.”
“Right,” Tim said, and called back to Wanda, “There’s a case here that might be useful. We’ll be taking it along.”
After hearing her acknowledgement, Tim and Sirius went up the next narrow flight of stairs to the two rooms on the second floor. One was labeled, “Mrs. Hudson’s Room.” The other was labeled, “Dr. John Watson.”
Tim smiled. “Why not label Sherlock’s room?”
“Because he needed reminding that the other rooms weren’t his, I suspect,” Sirius chuckled a little as he opened Mrs. Hudson’s door, and found the room empty of everything but dust. “Detectives aren’t known for their adherence to rules governing personal space. Hmm. Nothing here.”
Tim opened Watson’s room, to find a fascinating collection of medical paraphernalia from the turn of the 20th century, including a skeleton hanging in one corner. But, and this was interesting enough to confirm a rumor in Tim’s mind, at any rate, there was no bed at all.
“Clearly Dr. Watson’s office,” Tim murmured. “Anything magical?”
Sirius looked around carefully. “Nothing. Though if I were you I’d go through the desk and see if the good doctor left any notes behind.”
“Excellent idea. If you deem it safe, I’ll get Mycroft up here to look,” Tim said, using his fingertips to trace the nameplate of the man for whom he suspected his own father had been named.
“Should be fine,” Sirius said, casting a couple of other spells that revealed nothing.
Tim leaned back into the hallway and called out. “Mycroft, I have a project for you!”
Sirius went up ahead while Tim settled his son in front of Watson’s desk with instructions to find everything that could be found, and read, if possible. Mycroft nodded importantly and immediately started his work while Tim went out on the landing to call to Wanda. “Darling, there’s an empty room on this level if you’d like to let them run.”
“Oh, thank goodness,” Wanda called back. “There’s far too much in the way of fuss on this level for the wee ones.”
Tim heard her hustling them together and up the stairs to Mrs. Hudson’s room, which would now likely be designated for play, as he headed up himself to the third level, and another two rooms.
“Likely for other boarders,” Sirius said. “The one on the right is empty, too, but the one on the left is packed with boxes. Long-term storage or leftover things from other lodgers, at a guess. Nothing magical that I can see, or that my spells have revealed.”
Tim looked at the left door. “Well, then, nothing ventured …” He turned the knob, to find Sirius was right. Boxes were piled to the ceiling, some of them labeled, some of them not. He pushed his way in, minding the integrity of the stacks, to first see if anything was clearly labeled, “Holmes.”
Clearing the room would not be the work of a day, certainly, Tim mused, looking around and seeing boxes labeled “Watson,” “Hudson,” and an odd box with assorted small items labeled, “Lestrade.”
No other box was labeled “Holmes”, but it seemed likely to Tim that if Sherlock himself did the boxing up, nothing would be labeled but the others’ things. “Simple explanation is best,” he muttered to himself.
Sirius poked his head into the room. “Did you say something?”
“Not loudly, no,” Tim said. “Just looking about to find that most of these boxes really are Holmes’ things. I think. Everything is labeled except for Holmes, so I’m starting with the supposition that he did the packing up and labeled what wasn’t his.”
Sirius cocked his head slightly and nodded. “Seems logical. I’ll head up the next level and see what’s what.”
“Be careful,” Tim reminded him, needlessly, as Sirius went up to the fourth floor, which Tim assumed held the building’s only bath and WC. He turned back to his musings among the boxes. “It would be fantastic if a box labeled ‘read me first, I have all your answers’ would simply pop up in front of me.”
To his amazement, a box near the back began to glow. It removed itself, carefully, from a stack of other boxes, and hovered in front of Tim until he slid both hands under it, getting a good grip. The glow faded.
“Hm.” Tim decided to be grateful, rather than astonished. “I guess I’ll start with you.”
He moved into the other empty room on that floor, setting the box down in the middle, and examining it. On the surface, it appeared to be a plain wooden packing box, about three feet square and deep. Absolutely nothing about it appeared anything other than absolutely ordinary.
Except for the fact that the lid wasn’t tacked on, like the others in the room.
In fact, it looked sealed. Seamless. As if there was literally no way to open it.
Tim heard Sirius rumble down from the top floor. “I’m in here,” he called out, and Sirius found his way into the room where Tim was contemplating the smoothly sealed packing box that had magically found its way into his hands.
“Oh, interesting,” Sirius said, sitting on the floor next to Tim. “It’s a family box.”
“A family box?” Tim asked, looking closely around its edges without again touching it.
“Yes. Of the sort left to heirs,” Sirius explained. “If the next heir is not known, for one reason or another—such as no direct children of one’s own—it’s possible to enchant a box to reveal itself only to a person worthy of being the heir to the one who left it. Well, I say ‘worthy’. The conditions are known only to the caster, honestly.”
“I said it would be great if one of those boxes just jumped out and said ‘read me,’ and this one glowed, moved, and dropped itself in my hands,” Tim said tonelessly.
Sirius chuckled. “Sounds about right. Especially if the caster was looking for someone with that sort of humor. Or had it, him or herself.”
“Right, well, how do I open it now?”
“Pull the sword from the stone … Oh, you mean this box?” Sirius took note of Tim’s dry look, and laughed harder. “Conditions specific to the box. Clearly, you’re meant to go through this one, but opening it will require other conditions. You touched it to bring it here?”
“Then it’s not mere touch,” Sirius said. “Must mean it’s a puzzle for you to solve.”
Tim closed his eyes and pinched his nose. “Of course it is.”
“Shouldn’t be too hard,” Sirius commented. “The caster wants you to open it.”
“Not too hard?” Tim asked, stunned. “If we’re right, this box was created by someone who was once known as the best detective in the world, a man who thrived on puzzles and who was rarely fooled by anyone. Or anything. And I’m to solve the puzzle of it?”
“Well, you or his heir, if not you,” Sirius clarified.
“His heir,” Tim repeated, and huffed (making Sirius chuckle again). “Get Wills for me, will you? And perhaps the hat and wand we found?”
Sirius rolled to his feet. “I’ll let Wanda know what you’ve found, too, shall I?”
Tim nodded, and continued his examination of the box while he listened to Sirius thump down a level, talk quietly to Wanda, and collect Wills, who insisted, loudly, on carrying the case with the wand and the hat.
“Ob’is’ly, Daddy,” Wills said solemnly as he entered the room. “He left this on purpose so I could open the box.”
“Oh, right, obviously,” Tim said, just as solemnly, as he watched his young son deftly open the glass case, pull out the hat, place it on his head, and twirl around. “It suits you.”
Wills giggled, then reached for the wand, which shot off sparks in his hands. “Wow!” The preschooler giggled madly, swooshing his wand around.
And it clearly was Wills’ wand, if the surprised and concerned look on Sirius’ face was any indicator. “Less with the mad movements, darling boy,” Tim said firmly. “What do you do next?”
“Oh!” Wills looked right at the box, the hat falling over one eye, and tapped it with the wand. “Open up!”
The lid melted back to reveal multiple journals, with a massive scrapbook on top labeled, “Read First” in a fine copperplate hand.
“There ya go, Daddy!” Wills said. “He says I’m not old enough to read these yet, but I can let you cuz you’re daddy.”
“Who says, Wills?”
“The hat. The hat says his name is Sherlock, and for Daddy not to worry, because he’s not really real. He’s just sort of real,” Wills explained importantly. “And only I can hear him, I guess? I think that’s weird.”
“It is, very weird,” Sirius said slowly. “And I think it would be a good idea to take the hat off now, Wills, and hand it over so that I can take a look at it.”
Wills cocked his head, clearly listening. “Sherlock says that’s a good idea, too. He also says he’s glad I have at least one smart person with me. What’s comp-it-ant?”
“Competent?” Tim asked, clarifying.
“Yeah, that,” Wills said.
“Capable of competing tasks efficiently,” Tim explained automatically. “I’m glad he considers us that. Will he speak to me?”
Wills listened again. “He said he can only speak to his heir, sorry, and I guess that’s me. But that the journals should explain most everything.”
It took time to pull everyone away from their respective tasks, but eventually, they were all packed up. Mycroft had found case notes in Watson’s desk, so he’d brought those along, and Wills’ box had been carefully packed, open, in the back of the family van that Tim had upgraded to the week before. (Three children fit in a back seat. Four do not.)
Sirius claimed a seat next to Harry in the middle row, while the three Holmes children sat in the back row, with Wills in a booster seat between Mycroft and Eurus.
They made their way back home, stopping off once to pick up fish and chips for a Saturday night dinner. Sirius joined them for the meal once they were all in the house, helpfully reheating the fish as it had gone cold during the chaos of moving everyone and their cargo inside.
They all pulled up to the table, tucking in with good will, even as Harry looked to be nodding off into the mushy peas and Mycroft looked antsy, clearly eager to go back to the case notes he was reading.
Wills was unconcerned that Sirius had confiscated his hat, only telling him to be “vewy cawfuw” with it, the lisp that he was growing out of the only indicator that he, too, was tired.
The wand had been placed back in its case, and Tim put it up in his personal office with the explanation that Wills could have it when he needed it, which Tim privately hoped would not be until he was much older.
Eurus simply observed. While she was feeling much better, the family outing—and its accompanying chaos—had been a bit much for her still-healing neural-synapses, and she was looking forward to a bit of quiet in her own room.
Wanda encouraged them all through dinner, then led the younger three up to their rooms for bed while Mycroft headed off to his father’s office to read. Tim and Sirius, on the other hand, stayed in the kitchen, did the tidying, and then sat back at the table to look at the nondescript deerstalker cap, made with houndstooth fabric, that had caused both relief—answers!—and consternation (as it literally talked to Wills). The general rule of thumb, Sirius told them, was that one should never trust an object that talked if its brain wasn’t obvious.
“Anything that does talk and hasn’t got a brain has clearly been enchanted to do so, and that could mean anything,” Sirius instructed. “Without knowing the caster and the intent of the enchantment, nearly anything could happen to the one using it. I think we can say the hat is relatively safe, because it only speaks to Wills and seems to be entailed to its heir, but until we have a better grasp of who enchanted it, and what the enchantment itself was, we need to be cautious.”
“That seems eminently reasonable,” Tim said, “and that is irritating, because I would dearly love to know what my great-uncle was thinking.”
Sirius raised an eyebrow. Again. He did that a lot, Tim thought tiredly. “If Wills is his heir, it’s unlikely the caster is an uncle.”
“Didn’t you say an heir could be anyone worthy, or who met the caster’s conditions, in the event there were no immediate children?” Tim asked archly.
“I did, but I’ve never seen a wand respond that way to anyone who wasn’t a direct descendant of its original owner. The only exception that I’m aware of was the Elder Wand, and it’s been lost to history. Its loyalty lay to whomever was strong enough to take it, and its history is bloody. I’d say it’s very unlikely that the wand’s original owner was an uncle.” Sirius suddenly closed his mouth, then opened it cautiously. “Is this news to you?”
Tim pursed his lips. “Not really. Wanda and I have speculated because of the blood line curse that perhaps, my grandfather was not the brother that is listed on my father’s birth certificate.”
Sirius nodded slowly. “Blood line curses only pass to direct descendants.”
“And in my interview with Grindelwald, he named Sherlock Holmes as a thorn in Brian Dumbledore’s side.”
“Huh.” Sirius sat back in the kitchen chair he was straddling. “It could be very easy to determine paternity, actually. Have you ever done a family tree?”
“The Holmes keep the entire line tallied in a few ornate books I keep in storage,” Tim said. “But it’s unlikely Mycroft the first would have recorded anything other than what he wanted to be known.”
“Was he a wizard?” Sirius asked.
“I’m not certain. It seems likely, but I’ve never found any hint that is the case,” Tim said. “Of course, I’ve not been terribly motivated, either, given that I thought myself to be magic-less.”
“Three magical children beg to differ,” Sirius observed. “Though it’s possible the Evans line isn’t as non-magical as has always been thought. Did we even think to test Wanda for magic?”
“Ah, I don’t think so,” Tim said, a bit taken aback. “Though I can’t think why we didn’t check. Given that Harry is her cousin by blood.”
“Well. My thought was we could create a magical family tree. It would self-update as marriages, births, and deaths occurred, but it would also give you as far back as the spell can determine,” Sirius explained. “And there’s no lying on one, frankly. It’s one way the old families can keep track of true and legal heirs.”
“That would be a useful check on any information we find in Sherlock’s box,” Tim admitted. “How would we go about doing that?”
“Usually it’s done with materials that can take a semi-permanent form, such as a specially treated tapestry,” Sirius said. “That’s what we have for the Black family. I believe that can be ordered directly through Gringotts, as the goblins have a vested interest in making sure heirs are legal and true.”
“It’s a spell, combined with a potion that uses the blood of the youngest currently known descendant in the family. In this case, as you’re looking for the Holmes line, you’d use Wills’ blood,” Sirius said. “He’d probably get a kick out of it.”
“No doubt.” Tim rubbed his eyes. “Right, then, I guess we’ll have to order the tapestry parts and get cracking on that.”
“I’ll ask Grandfather if he knows about any other valid method, as well,” Sirius said, getting up from the table. “Still coming to dinner tomorrow?”
“Of course,” Tim said, rising himself. “She won’t say it, but Wanda loves the Yorkshire pudding your elves make.”
Sirius laughed. “I’ll make certain it’s on the menu. See you tomorrow.”
“See you.” Tim watched as Sirius turned on his heel and disappeared.
Wanda came into the room. “Mycroft has fallen asleep in the den with those notes.”
“I’ll haul him upstairs,” Tim said. He paused by his wife, kissing her gently. “Busy day.”
“Yes, it was,” Wanda said tiredly. “But we press on.”
“Yes, we do.”
February 14, 1982
Wanda came awake to find a tray already prepared at her bedside. It held a pot of tea with a cup, a croissant, and a bowl of fresh strawberries, along with a single red rose. Her bed contained only her, and through the door, she could hear the calm voice of Tim as he directed their children in breaking their own fasts.
They normally didn’t do much for the romantic holiday, but a thoughtful breakfast tray from her husband, with accompanying child-free quiet time, made her very happy.
She basked in the peace, nibbling on the strawberries while reading from a Mills & Boon romance she kept in the bedside drawer for light bedtime reading.
Things for her family had changed significantly, but in good ways, since she and Tim had agreed to take Harry.
She had a lovely quiet hour before a soft knock at her door alerted her to the end of her time. “Come!”
Eurus poked her head in the room. “May I come in, Mummy?”
“Of course, darling girl.”
Eurus closed the door carefully behind her, then crawled up on to the bed with Wanda, tucking herself into her mother’s side. “Boys are loud, Mummy.”
Wanda stifled a giggle. “Yes, they can be.” She ran her hand through Eurus’ dark curls. “How are you feeling today, love?”
It had become a standard question, yes, but Eurus knew Wanda meant for her to give truthful answers.
“Tired. Irritated. Boys really are loud, Mummy. I think Wills is building something to explode again. Mycroft has Harry playing with trains in the den and is making all the noises, too. Daddy is cleaning up after breakfast, and he said I didn’t need to help him, but I really wanted to, Mummy. There’s so much to clean! Daddy shouldn’t have to clean all by himself.”
Wanda’s heart just melted.
“No, no, he shouldn’t, darling girl, but he’s giving us a present of peace and quiet and strawberries,” Wanda explained, cuddling Eurus closer to her side. “We will do something equally nice for him some time soon, just to show him that we love him.”
“Okay, Mummy. Will you help me think of something?”
Tim finished the tidying, then joined the boys with their trains in the den. Wills was, indeed, attempting to make something “explode” to disrupt the train service. A spirited game of catch-a-crook would likely ensue, so Tim kept a weather eye on his youngest charge. Harry, however, looked more than up for the challenge, as every time Wills got close to the tracks, Harry would squint, hard, and Wills would be backed off by several feet.
He’d heard Eurus head up to see her mother, and he assumed Wanda would let him know if she needed assistance. The quiet, however, meant the females of their household likely were taking refuge from the noise together, and that made Tim grin.
He knelt down next to the track that Wills was trying to blow up, and raised one hand. “Harry, don’t you want to see what happens when Wills tries this?”
Harry pouted. “NO.”
“Aw, Harry, I just want to explode it a little. For science!” Wills puffed his chest out importantly and held out the small device in his hand.
Tim got a good look as it went by. Where on earth had his youngest gotten gunpowder?
Quickly, he caught it. “Ah! Now I’ve got it. I’m the super villain now. Come get me!”
Harry and Wills exchanged looks of glee, while Mycroft rolled his eyes. Tim smiled, wide, and happy, and took off through the house.
The group assembled at noon, tidied up and ready for inspection, to head by port key to Blackmoor.
Tim took Sirius aside as they landed and got the children sorted.
“So, I think Wills is making gunpowder with magic in his efforts to make things go ‘boom’,” Tim said bluntly. “Ideas on how to make that stop?”
Sirius started laughing.
“No, honestly, Sirius, help,” Tim said. “I cannot have him blowing things up with gunpowder. That way lies madness and a term in a juvenile prison center of some sort. Truly. Help.”
Sirius put up a hand to ward Tim off as he laughed so hard tears began rolling down his face. Arcturus came into the foyer to find a fuming Tim and an out-of-control Sirius, and quirked a grin. “Problem, gentlemen?”
“Your grandson thinks my youngest son’s predilection toward explosions is funny,” Tim said drily. “Wills appears to be creating gunpowder with magic. I can’t think of another way he’d get his hands on it.”
Arcturus smiled. “Probably wished for something that would help make things go ‘boom.’ It’s early for that kind of transfiguration, but not unheard of. I imagine Sirius’ breakdown there comes from the knowledge that he, himself, preferred to make things explode as a child. Though I’m not sure I ever heard that he created gunpowder with accidental magic.”
Sirius tried to stand, wiping his eyes. “Just, really?”
“Really, really.” Tim said, starting to get the humor. He allowed himself a small smile.
Sirius steadied himself. “If you’ll allow me, I’ll give him space to create things that explode in a controlled environment.” An ominous giggle escaped. “I can set things up, with safety measures in place, to perhaps guide his destructive tendencies toward a positive outcome.”
“So your solution to counteract the accidental is to make it purposeful?” Tim inquired.
Sirius nodded. “With knowledge, rules, and supervision. Give him an outlet.” Another ominous giggle escaped. “Better than an accidental leveling of a city block.”
“Which did, in fact, happen, when Sirius was about six,” Arcturus said without inflection, setting Sirius off again.
“Ah.” Tim said.
“Thank all the gods for repair charms,” Arcturus added. “And empty warehouses.”
“In my defense, I scouted out the location carefully.”
After a truly excellent roast beef dinner, which included Wanda’s favorite Yorkshire puddings, Sirius took the Wills and Harry into the backyard for flying and roughhousing, while Eurus and Mycroft chose to curl up in the library with basic magic books. Wanda joined Arcturus and Tim in main room with the scrapbook from Wills’ box and a number of questions.
“First,” she began, “can you provide the same magic test you and Sirius used for me? We’re curious about why our children all appear to be so magical.”
Arcturus summoned the ball and handed it to her. “Think, Lumos !”
It gave off a faint glow.
“Some magic, not enough to be trained. You likely have some kind of gift, though,” Arcturus said.
“Intellect,” Tim murmured. “Eidetic memory.”
“Truly?” Arcturus asked, looking to Wanda.
“Yes. I have doctorates in math and chemistry. I did take time off from my positions to have our family. I hope to return after, but.” Wanda drew a deep breath. “Women do have a difficult time returning to academia.”
“Oxford is holding your position,” Tim said quietly. “And I have no doubt you could go anywhere you pleased when you’re ready.”
“That is, indeed, a gift,” Arcturus said.
“Second,” Tim said, “Sirius suggested we do a family tree to confirm my father’s paternity. We do believe, now, that it was in fact Sherlock Holmes who fathered him, and not Mycroft. How, I hope will be revealed in the journals, somewhere.”
Arcturus nodded. “A tree seems reasonable.” He gestured toward the long wall in the main room, which looked blank to the Holmes, and with one word, “Revelio,” uncovered the tapestry that rested there.
Stunned, Wanda and Tim watched as the Black family tree rose in its glory. At the bottom, they saw “Sirius Black” as son of Walburga and Orion Black, grandson of Arcturus Black through Orion. A silver thread linked Sirius Black to Harry James Potter, indicating magical guardianship and a godparent relationship.
“Will ours do this, too?” Wanda asked, avidly scanning the family lines.
“It will,” Arcturus said. “It’s a specially treated tapestry, in combination with a potion using the current youngest’s blood, that reveals back as many generations as there’s space. This one shows the last seven generations, but everything also is recorded in the family book, which is in the vault, as far back as King Arthur Pendragon’s vassal, Bedivere.”
“How fascinating,” Wanda said softly. “Will the work reveal non-magical ancestry, as well?”
“Yes,” Arcturus said, pointing to his niece’s marriage. “Andromeda married Ted Tonks, who is a magical muggleborn. His parents would be revealed on here if I touched his name, like so,” he demonstrated, “and light up in blue to denote non-magical.”
“I should very much like to see something like this for my own family line,” Wanda said raptly. “Should we do two?”
Arcturus shook his head. “No. All should be revealed through the use of Wills’ blood. There is a paternity spell as well, but it can only be used to reveal the immediate blood father of the person in question. It wouldn’t be useful in Tim’s case, as we’re concerned about his biological paternal grandfather.” He drew his wand. “With your permission, Wanda?”
She nodded, and Arcturus tapped her head with a “ Paternas familia! ” Wanda glowed, and “Henry Edward Evans” floated in the air, in gold, above her head.
“See?” Arcturus turned his wand to Tim. “With your permission?”
“Of course,” Tim said, and listened to the whispered incantation. He glowed, and from Wanda’s soft gasp, he gathered a name had appeared over the top of his head.
“It’s red,” Wanda said. “John Michael Holmes.”
“Red?” Tim raised an eyebrow and looked at Arcturus.
“Cursed line,” Arcturus said, solemnly. “I didn’t realize it would show up that way.”
“Interesting,” Tim said. “How long do you think it would take to get the tapestry and the potion together?”
“If you place the order with the Goblins tomorrow, it should be ready by the end of the week,” Arcturus said. “Now, are we ready to read some journals?”
Wanda took Tim’s hand and squeezed it. “Ready.”
“As am I.”
Tim decided to first place Sherlock’s journals in some sort of chronological order, while Wanda and Arcturus started looking through the big scrapbook. Tim could hear Wanda softly exclaim over some of the photos and items, which apparently had to do with original casework.
Tim’s focus, though, went to the first of the journals, which started in May of 1881.
He read quietly, learning about his grandfather’s first forays into forensic science, his complicated relationship with his older brother, and his distaste for using magic when science would do.
He smiled when he read the entry that introduced him to his new flat mate, Dr. John Watson.
It was clear to Tim from the start that Sherlock and John had a tempestuous relationship. John, for one, had quite a reputation as a ladies’ man, while Sherlock himself generally had no interest in the opposite sex at all. One exception, a Miss Irene Adler, proved to be attractive to Sherlock because of her brain, rather than her feminine attributes. Things between two men came to a head with John’s marriage to Mary, and Sherlock’s subsequent fall in Switzerland in 1891, pursuing the criminal James Moriarty.
Upon Sherlock’s “return” from the dead, the men had taken up residence together again. Mary Watson had died in childbirth, and John had been bereft. It was after Sherlock’s return that Tim noticed a different tone in Sherlock’s references to John. Fondness, affection, and even love colored the remarks as Sherlock detailed the cases that marked the progression of their relationship from flat mates to friends, then after the fall, from friends to lovers.
Sherlock hadn’t been so crass as to go into physical detail, but it was clear by 1899 that the men shared a bed, leaving John’s room to be used for his medical offices.
And then Tim saw it.
I was called to Diagon Alley today to attend to a mystery. I was able to successfully show B. Dumbledore was responsible for the death of a young mundane, much to his enormous displeasure. He’d thought he’d covered his tracks very well.
And there was the connection. Damn, Tim thought. He read on, through a few more case notes and studies, until he read this:
It seems I’ve been cursed. My magic doesn’t come as easily as it did. While it hardly makes a difference in my daily life—I do live among the muggles, with my dearest John—I wonder about the long-term effects of magic’s disappearance in my very core. The Healers tell me they’ve seen this curse before, and that at the moment, there is no cure. They also tell me it’s likely to have been set by B. Dumbledore, as he’s known for holding grudges and using this type of curse to avenge himself. It’s quite, quite, irritating, but I shall manage. B. Dumbledore has gone to Azkaban, and at any rate, could not remove the curse himself once set. I think I must press on.
Tim swore softly, catching his wife’s attention. Wanda looked up. “Found something, dear?”
“Just an entry that confirms that Sherlock was cursed, and that Brian Dumbledore was likely responsible.” Tim shook his head. “I know we thought it likely, but to have it confirmed by another source is upsetting.”
“I’m sorry, darling,” Wanda said.
Tim shrugged. “Nothing to be done for it now, at least not for me. But I’ll read on.”
He turned his attention back to the journals, reading through more case notes as Sherlock’s attentions to his casework waned with the loss of his magic, which seemed to be affecting his mental faculties.
My dearest John wants us to retire. I’ve often thought of doing so. Acquiring a bit of land, perhaps. Studying bees. I’ve always been fascinated by bees. John says he’s found a bit of property for sale in Sussex that might suit admirably.
Tim read of Sherlock’s decision to accept John’s proposal of retiring together to Sussex to raise bees, and to bow out of the criminal scene. It was 1905.
And then he saw another critical entry.
My dear brother has married, as he needed to do so to secure the Holmes line for service to the Crown. However, his chosen bride is more interested in her books than in consummation, and my brother, in his ill health, seems unable to perform. I have been asked to supply the means by which an heir could be conceived.
Dearest John thinks this is terribly funny.
I know an heir must be procured, but I am more than unwilling to actually lie with Elspeth. John, as a medical man, has suggested the use of a syringe to apply the necessary bodily fluids to the correct place, and I am positive he was amused greatly by the entire thought. Elspeth is amenable, so long as it is John, as a physician, who does the actual task.
Well. At least my dearest will be present at the child’s conception. Should it work, I will consider him or her to be his as well as mine and Mycroft’s.
Oh, and Elspeth’s. Of course.
Of course, Tim thought drily. He read on:
It seems that John’s grand plan to help create the next Holmes Heir has worked. I can only hope that Elspeth is safely delivered of a boy, so that we need not go through this again.
Several pages of notes about bees followed. Tim saw notes about temperatures, weather, and honey production, before he spotted another personal entry.
The child is a boy. John Michael Holmes. May he live long and happily.
Long, perhaps. Happily? Tim had his doubts. But still, the mystery solved, here, could be confirmed by the family tapestry when he had it made.
Wanda came over to see what he’d found, then hugged him.
“Confirmed, Arcturus,” Tim said calmly. “Sherlock notes the method of John Holmes’ conception and his date of birth. It was, in fact, Brian Dumbledore who cursed Sherlock Holmes. He appeared to be unaware, at least at this point, that his curse was a bloodline curse.”
“Well, good to know, but not applicable to Albus’ trial,” Arcturus observed.
“No, not at all,” Tim said. “But definitely good to know.”
“Meanwhile,” Arcturus gestured to Tim, waving him over to look at the scrapbook. “This last page should interest you.”
“Oh?” Tim rose and wandered over to where Wanda and Arcturus had the scrapbook resting on a small table conjured for the purpose. “What?”
Arcturus pointed. “There’s your hat and wand, in a glass case. Fascinating black and white photo, with a spell written around the margins. It’s actually a clue about the origins of the hat. I suspect we’ll find, as we read, that Sherlock imbued the hat with his remaining magic and an imprint, such as what we might find in a portrait, accessible only by his future heir. What prompted him to do so is not listed here. But the spell listed on this page is one I recognize as being of use to portrait artists. Modified, obviously.”
“So my grandfather really is speaking to my son?” Tim asked. “At least, when he dons the hat?”
“Well, an imprint of him, at any rate,” Arcturus said. “It’s not really him. But his knowledge, skills, and memory at the time he imbued the hat would be present for Wills to use. Eventually.”
“And he left this behind, telling us to see it first?”
Wanda laid a hand on her husband’s arm. “I imagine so that we wouldn’t worry, should his heir be as young as he obviously is.”*
Tim used the tip of his index finger to outline the spell, which glowed under his touch briefly, then faded. Spirals of additional spell work suddenly bloomed, with Latin and English instructions and details that Tim had no current hope of understanding, but which made Arcturus draw a sharp breath.
“Well, and he was a genius,” Arcturus said intently, reading. “He … well, it looks as though he based his ideas on the Hogwarts Sorting Hat.”
“The what, now?” Wanda said, absently stroking her husband’s arm as he stared in wonder at the page.
“All students put it on as they start at Hogwarts,” Arcturus explained softly, continuing to examine the spellwork outlined on the page. “Godric Gryffindor is said to have worn it first, and imbued it with the spellwork that allows it to competently sort children into their houses at school. It looks as though your ancestor here figured out how he did it, then did something similar to that deerstalker cap.”
“Fascinating,” Tim said, somewhat stunned. Then he cleared his throat, stood, and tucked his hands behind his back. “I could do with a cup of tea. And a walk.”
“Take the walk first, darling,” Wanda advised. “The boys are out back. I’ll organize tea for when you come back.”
Tim leaned down and kissed his wife’s cheek. “Thank you, darling.”
She smiled up at him, then waved her hands forward. “Shoo, love.”
Part 10: Pause for a trial
February 15, 1982
Family revelations aside, Tim quite looked forward to the trial of Albus Dumbledore, set to begin at 9 a.m. He expected it to take the better part of the day.
Amelia Bones had attempted to have the trial delayed, in order to better investigate some of the information that come from Grindelwald’s interview, but Judge Marsh, pressed into service once again, had ruled that the trial could proceed, as the current charges could be addressed, and others could be laid in the future should it be found necessary.
Thus the Wizengamot assembled, and court was brought to order at precisely 9 a.m. with the introduction of Judge Marsh by the acting Chief Warlock, Tiberius Ogden. Judge Marsh took her place, then spoke.
“This court is called to hear the case of the British Ministry of Magic against Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore Grindelwald, who is charged with kidnapping a minor of a noble house, attempted line theft, and multiple counts of embezzlement. Present, the defendant; his counsel, Elphias Doge; the Ministry’s Prosecutor, Amelia Bones; the Queen’s Representative, Sir Timothy Holmes; and the noble members of the Wizengamot. This proceeding has been closed to the public, though a full record of these proceedings will be distributed to the press and posted in Diagon Alley.
“Mr. Grindelwald, how do you plead?”
Albus Dumbledore stood slowly, weighed down by the cold iron runic shackles that shackled his magic in the court. “Not guilty, Your Honor.”
“Very well; you may be seated. In accordance with the procedures laid out by Wizengamot Code, the prosecution shall make their case against Mr. Grindelwald first. Your opening statement, Ms. Bones?”
“Thank you, Your Honor. The Ministry of Magic intends to show that Mr. Grindelwald, by virtue of his many positions within the Ministry and without, did, with malice and forethought, conspire to take the current Heir of the Earl of Gryffindor from his lawful guardians and hide him from the Wizarding World. We will show, through his own words and that of others, that this act was not the first time Mr. Grindelwald committed this crime, and that, indeed, Mr. Grindelwald willfully stole at least three noble lines that we can prove. He also stole money from noble heirs, and again, we can prove he did so for at least three noble lines.” Amelia Bones drew a deep breath. “Your Honor, there is no statute of limitations for line theft or attempted line theft under the Wizengamot Code, and as our investigation is continuing, I expect we will be bringing Mr. Grindelwald before this court again.”
Judge Marsh nodded, and looked to the dock. “Mr. Doge?”
Elphias Doge rose. “Your Honor, this man is Albus Dumbledore. The use of the name Grindelwald in this proceeding is base and meant to bias this good court. We will show that the actions taken by Mr. Dumbledore were made legally, and for the best interests of the Wizarding World.”
Judge Marsh leaned forward. “Mr. Doge, your client’s legal name ends with ‘Grindelwald.’ His marriage to Gellert Bathsheba Grindelwald has been confirmed by record and by the man himself, so the use of your client’s legal name shall stand. But by your statement, Mr. Doge, am I to infer that your client does not deny his actions, but instead, intends to justify them?”
Doge paled, as did Albus. “Yes, Your Honor.”
“Hmmm,” Judge Marsh looked up. “Ms. Bones, in the interests of clarity and transparency, please present the findings of your investigation to the court.”
Over the course of the next hour, Amelia Bones laid out her case, starting with the pensive projection of Albus’ own interviews with regard to Harry Potter, which asserted his intent to purposely isolate the lad with those who didn’t love him, purposely keep his magical guardian from assuming his guardianship, and purposely try to assume control of the lad’s vaults. Additionally, she added the bit of interview from Gellert Grindelwald that pointed to motive; the crowd was utterly silent as she showed that the couple had conspired to take over the Wizarding World first as revolutionaries, and second through political machinations. The revelation that they had a philosopher’s stone stunned the crowd.
Next, Ms. Bones turned to the evidence she’d collected regarding the Grindelwalds’ actions surrounding the orphaned Tom Marvolo Riddle. With the help of testimony from the Gringotts Head Manager, she showed that Albus had introduced Riddle to the Wizarding World, failed to show Riddle the single vault which would have come to Riddle upon his entrance to Hogwarts, and instead, taken it for himself.
“Mr. Riddle is no longer available to interview,” Ms. Bones solemnly informed the court. “And as Gellert Grindelwald makes clear, he was to be Albus Grindelwald’s adversary, a new Dark Lord. Albus Grindelwald did, in fact, succeed in this effort, as we now know Riddle as the Dark Lord Voldemort.”
The crowd gasped, and then a dull roar of fury from multiple corners filled the court.
Albus sat, stone-faced.
Ms. Bones continued, showing how Albus had assumed magical guardianship of several orphans of the last war, Riddle among them, in his role as Hogwarts Headmaster. Through those efforts, she maintained, Albus had accessed their vaults and left them penniless.
“Revolutions need money, after all,” Ms. Bones said coolly.
When the presentation of the case against Albus wound down, Judge Marsh nodded. “My thanks, Madam Bones.” She looked at the parchment on her desk, clearly labeled evidence of every crime the man in front of her had committed, then looked up. “Mr. Doge. In your opening plea you implied that Mr. Grindelwald did, in fact, commit these crimes, but that his actions were justified. As you are no doubt aware, there is no such plea as ‘not guilty by reason of knowing better,’ and, in fact, many villains attempt that claim when they find themselves in the situation that your client is in at this time. However, your client is entitled to a defense, and you have pledged to mount it. Present your case for Mr. Grindelwald’s innocence.”
Doge stood, a bit shakily, and said, “Your Honor, the evidence that the DMLE has provided appears to point to one conclusion: That Albus Dumbledore is guilty of kidnapping, line theft, attempted line theft, and embezzlement. However, the evidence presented does not show Mr. Dumbledore’s reasoning for his actions.”
Judge Marsh tapped her gavel to the bench. “I have already ruled that we must use the defendant’s legal name in this proceeding, Mr. Doge. Use his false name again, and be held in contempt of this court.”
Doge swallowed audibly, paling still further. Sweat began to bead at his temples. “Your Honor, I am unable to call him by his legal name.”
Albus ground his teeth.
Judge Marsh raised an eyebrow and asked, “Why not?”
“I believe myself to be cursed,” Doge choked out.
Bedlam broke out in the courtroom, and the Auror on duty raised the silencing wards. Judge Marsh nodded her thanks, and turned to Doge. “Are you able to tell us the nature of this curse?”
“I am bound to the Dumbledore family,” Doge continued to choke out, slowly, while Albus watched, helpless to interfere because of his bindings. “I was ordered to call my client by that name.”
Tim’s eyebrows rose, as did those of Madam Bones. (Really, eyebrows rose all over the courtroom in a universal British gesture of ‘I-beg-your-pardon-did-I-really-hear-that’?)
Judge Marsh simply looked at Albus, then his defender, then to Ms. Bones. “I do believe the court needs to hear about the circumstances under which such a binding can occur. Because I can’t be hearing that Mr. Doge is enslaved to the Dumbledore family, can I? Because that is most certainly illegal in the United Kingdom.”
Ms. Bones cleared her throat. “Those are the most likely circumstances, however, Your Honor. One family bound to another through magic usually occurs as a result of the settling of a blood feud or similar, and of course, slavery of sentient human beings was made illegal a century ago in the Wizarding World.”
“Mr. Grindelwald, can you explain your defender’s circumstances?”
Albus eyes’ glittered, but he made no sound.
Judge Marsh nodded. “I see. Sir Holmes, as the Queen’s Representative, have I permission to question the defendant using her Veritaserum?”
Tim looked at Albus, seeing that the man would refuse to cooperate unless he did. “You do, Judge Marsh.”
“Please approach and administer the potion.”
Tim stood, carefully straightening out the lines of his suit as he did so. He moved toward the bench, then turned to look at the defendant. He reached inside his jacket pocket and pulled out the vial.
“Mr. Grindelwald, please open your mouth.”
Albus clenched his lips tightly.
Tim sighed. “Your Honor, the defendant refuses to cooperate.”
“So I see,” Judge Marsh said calmly. “Ms. Bones, I will entertain your motion to remove Mr. Doge as Mr. Grindelwald’s defender on the grounds that he is magically compromised.”
“Wait!” Albus blurted out. “That’ll kill him.”
Judge Marsh looked to Albus. “Do tell, Mr. Grindelwald. Please. Cooperate with Sir Holmes.”
Albus reluctantly opened his mouth, and Tim laid three drops on the man’s tongue.
“Please state your name for the record,” Tim ordered quietly.
“Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore Grindelwald.”
“Describe the circumstances under which Elphias Doge became bound to the Dumbledore family.”
“He discovered Gellert and myself in a compromising position while on holiday from school. He threatened to expose us. We overpowered and bound him to the Dumbledore family for all eternity.”
“Why not the Grindelwald family?”
“Gellert is the last of his line. We wanted Doge to be bound for as long as possible. We did not yet have the philosopher’s stone. And a slave is always useful.”
Tim’s jaw tightened.
“And how do you feel about Elphias Doge today?”
“I do not want him killed by the oath. I regard him with some affection. He has been of use to me in many ways since my husband was imprisoned.”
“Please describe the ways in which Elphias Doge has been useful to you.”
“He has helped to implement some of the changes I have been trying to make in the Wizarding World. He has warmed my bed. He has seen to my every need.”
“Are you able to release him from his binding?”
“Are you able to rescind orders once they have been given?”
“Yes. But it’s rarely necessary.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Tim saw Doge hunched down in humiliation, face burning red.
“Does the binding affect only Elphias Doge? What of his family?”
“It only affects Elphias Doge.”
At that, Doge’s head shot up, and his dark eyes burned accusingly at Albus.
“Was he aware of that?”
“No. I let him believe that his obedience meant his family would be safe from the binding.”
Ms. Bones’ soft, “That utter bastard,” could be heard throughout the chamber.
Doge’s eyes shut, tightly.
Tim asked Albus, “Under what orders is Elphias Doge at this time?”
“To always call me Dumbledore. To always do exactly as I say. To defend me as best as he is capable. To keep my secrets.”
“And the penalty for defying your orders?”
“Death by magic.”
Tim could see that the crowd would be roaring without the silencing wards, and he looked around at Judge Marsh, who looked as though she’d sucked a lemon. “Your Honor? Further questions?”
The Judge leaned forward. “Ask him if he’s done all the things he’s accused of.”
Tim nodded, and looked at Albus. “Did you, in fact, do all the things of which you’ve been accused in this court today?”
Albus’ face turned red as he visibly fought the potion. He struggled for a long minute before blurting out, “Yes!”
Judge Marsh nodded, firmly. “Having heard all the evidence brought by the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and the further questioning of the defendant Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore Grindelwald, this court finds the defendant guilty of all charges. He will be remanded to the Queen’s Custody, held in the magical cells of the Tower of London, under guard with magic suppressed, at the Queen’s Leisure. Let no one interfere with the Queen’s Justice.”
Elphias Doge stood, and defiantly shouted, “He’s Albus Grindelwald.”
And collapsed, dead, to the floor of the Wizengamot chamber.
Never, in all his life, had Tim pictured the scene that he now took part in.
Escorted by six Aurors in full dress, Albus Grindelwald, in magic-suppressing shackles, was marched underground to a secret Underground station, with Tim and his assistant, John, at their head. They boarded the single car there, and sped quickly to Westminster Pier, exiting at the station there and out a normally unnoticed exit to the Thames. A dark boat rose out of the water there, and cloaked in conjured fog, the party boarded the boat for a trip up the river to the Tower of London.
The last non-magical criminals to be housed in the Tower were gangsters, twin brothers who spent their time waiting for trial after their arrest at the Queen’s Leisure in the Tower, some twenty years before. When the Queen had been informed of the scope of Albus Grindelwald’s crimes, she’d ordered the magical cells opened, aired, shored up, and freshly warded in anticipation of the sentence.
At least, Tim thought wryly, she wasn’t using the example of Henry VIII, who ordered the swordsman for Ann Boleyn’s execution a week before her trial.
Still, fortune favored the prepared, as the Queen had commented, and as she was preparing to have Tim launch an investigation into Azkaban conditions, again, she preferred to have any high security prisoners at the Tower. The placement there of the magical world’s most infamous prisoner, currently, served the secondary purpose of reminding the magical world that they served the Queen, too.
Thus, here stood Tim, witnessing a phenomenon not seen in more than a century, of a prisoner brought by boat to the Tower complex, and passing through the Traitor’s gate from the riverside. Though the gate appeared bricked over from the water, it masked the magical entrance that kept the water at bay as they arrived.
The Aurors urged Albus to his feet, and marched him off the boat, up the dock, and directly into the Queen’s Quarters, where the magical cells had been repaired and warded.
Tim stopped to discuss the conditions of imprisonment with the head Yeoman Warder, a stalwart non-magical whose daughter had attended Hogwarts, and confirmed with the man the policy of no visitors. Solitary confinement to the cells, except for meals that would appear three times a day. Supervised showers once per week; other sanitary facilities discreetly in a corner of the cell.
It would be Albus Grindelwald’s abode until the Queen decided otherwise.
That is, in fact, what “at the Queen’s Leisure” meant.
Tim witnessed Albus entering the cell, still in shackles that would not be taken off—the man clearly was a magical threat—and be sealed inside. The door to the cell itself magically disappeared into the wall, and Tim could see combinations of runes embedded into the stone that would keep the cell sealed to any but those authorized to approach with food.
“Done and dusted, Sir Holmes,” one Auror said. “We’ll be posting a guard here to aid the Warder.”
“The Queen and I thank you,” Tim said. “I’ll make my way home from here.”
All but two of the Aurors left, and those two took positions at the wall.
Tim nodded to the Warder, and wandered out of the Queen’s quarters. He walked up the cobblestone pathway to the corner behind the Vaults, where a tea cart did a brisk business. He bought a cup, then made his way over to a bench near the green to drink it.
“It’s universal, isn’t it?” A deep baritone voice drew his attention.
Tim looked up. “What?”
“A cup of tea to soothe the spirit,” Arcturus Black said, taking a seat next to Tim with a cup of his own.
“Quite,” Tim said, taking another sip.
The men relaxed into the silence, considering the events of the morning. Behind them, the marker placed that marked the Tower’s execution site glinted ominously.
“Well,” Arcturus said, eventually. “I’ve ordered the tapestry and potion for your tree. Gringotts had some on hand, actually, and pledged to deliver it this afternoon. Interested in solving that mystery today?”
Tim pursed his lips, then finished his tea with a swallow. “I think I’ll wait until the family can all be present. The children and Wanda are tied up with lessons and activities this afternoon until dinner time. I do believe Saturday is free, however.”
“Saturday will do,” Arcturus confirmed, and finished his own tea. He stood. “Need a lift?”
Tim shook his head. “No. I’m actually quite close to my own office.”
Arcturus regarded Tim for a moment. “You’re not at Westminster?”
Tim smiled softly. “No. My offices were established when the White Tower, there, was new. You’d likely be able to guess where they are, as they survived the Great Fire. But I’d ask you not to, for security’s sake.”
“As you wish,” Arcturus said, a faint grin on his face that reminded Tim of Sirius. “I’ll see you Saturday. The elves will be thrilled to make luncheon for the family. I think they’re quite bored with just me, and now Sirius, to look after.”
“Wanda will appreciate the effort,” Tim said, and nodded. “I’ll just stay here a moment more.”
“Right,” Arcturus gave a little wave and started strolling off, toward the public exit of the tower complex on the Thames side.
Tim sat, as he asserted, a moment more, feeling the melancholy that occasionally plagued him roll through his frame. He closed his eyes against the sensation, knowing now that it was his magical core responding to its loss, and drew a deep breath to remind himself of three things:
Tim nodded decisively, stood, and spun his umbrella as he walked off to his offices.
Part 11: In which a family looks to its history
February 20, 1982
Wills and Harry leapt at Sirius when they arrived at Blackmoor Castle, and he went down in a heap with the little boys cackling madly.
“Ouch,” he said, but there was no heat in it.
Eurus and Mycroft followed a bit more sedately, and Mycroft extended a hand to the young wizard he was beginning to think of as a kind of young, hip, uncle. “Come up, Sirius. Honestly, you, two.”
Wills and Harry bounded up, one on either side of Sirius. Harry was quite proud of his ability to run, and at eighteen months old, already demonstrated the significant control of his body that could mark a future athlete. Wills, of course, just liked the chaos.
“Mycroft, thanks.” Sirius grinned at the oldest Holmes. “How’s life?”
Mycroft rolled his eyes. “Adequate.”
“You’ve got to be the most dignified eight-year-old I’ve ever met,” Sirius mused aloud.
Mycroft looked gratified. “Thank you.”
“Makes me want to prank you,” Sirius continued with a smirk.
“Yes,” Wanda said, a trace of exasperation in her voice. “Please don’t.”
Sirius laughed and gestured toward the house. “Everyone in, if you please, Grandfather is waiting in the ritual room. I’ll show you the way, we’ll do the thing, and then we’ll have lunch. I saw some truly excellent-looking hand pies in the kitchen earlier.”
Tim bringing up the rear with Eurus, smiled. “Sounds good.”
The family paraded behind Sirius as he led them through the foyer to the study, and revealed a hidden stair behind a bookcase with a tap of his wand. They trooped down the stone stairs to what should have been a cellar, but looked instead to be a large, mostly empty room carved out of stone. Perfect grooves, in concentric circles, started from the very outside edge of the room and worked inwards, until the center circle gave a diameter of about four feet—enough for a single wizard. At its center, Arcturus stood with a potion and a length of fabric.
“Welcome, Holmes family!” Arcturus intoned. “This is the Black circle. As you can see, it’s set up to be used by any number, though when one is conducting a ritual it’s best to use a magical number — 1, 3, 7 or multiples thereof. We’re not conducting a ritual today, per se, but we are making magic and enchanting a tapestry, so it’s best to use a well-warded space, like this one.” He unfurled the blank fabric, which looked, to Tim’s untrained eye, to be woven of coarse, cream-colored thread of some organic nature. “This is pre-treated linen,” Arcturus explained, glancing at Tim. “It will expand or contract to whatever size tree is revealed. Once the potion is complete and sprinkled on, the tree will expand to however big it needs to be to encompass all your living magical relatives, and back six generations from them.”
“That could get quite sizeable,” Mycroft observed keenly.
“Indeed,” Arcturus nodded. “Another reason for our use of a large, empty, space.” He gestured to the room, which, now that Tim really looked, seemed much bigger once in it that it had been from the doorway.
Tim and Wanda approached, clasping the hands of two children each, with Sirius bringing up the rear. Mycroft and Eurus held on to Tim, while Wanda held Wills and Harry. As they approached, Arcturus uncorked the vial he had in his hand, and asked, “Wills, may I make your finger bleed a little, for the potion?”
Wills, having been warned of the necessity and asked in advanced if he minded, nodded importantly. He held out his hand, and Arcturus chanted a quick spell to make blood rise to the surface of Wills’ finger painlessly. Wills pursed his lips, but didn’t say anything, as he’d been warned to say nothing once the blood was drawn. Arcturus drew Wills’ blood from his hand, then, using his wand to direct it to the vial, which glowed a soft white as the blood was added.
Then, Arcturus winked at Wills, and emptied the vial with a toss onto the tapestry.
It shimmered, glowed, and started rapidly expanding.
Shimmering black, green, red, and gold lines spread across its surface as it grew, and grew, and grew.
“Did you know we had so many relatives, Daddy?” Eurus asked.
“No, my dear, I’m sorry to say I did not,” Tim murmured, lowly, watching the tapestry expand and wondering when it would hit critical mass.
Arcturus watched the lines as they formed. “Hmm. A number of these names show they are no longer among us. See the names in black? Means they’re already in the great beyond. Green for living; see here? William Sherlock Scott Holmes. Red connections for blood-adopted—there’s one of those here. Bit different from the paternity spell. Ah, see, Tim, look.”
John Holmes, according to tapestry, had three parents. A dashed black line joined him to Sherlock Holmes and to an Elspeth (Lestrange) Holmes, with a red line connecting him to Mycroft.
Arcturus muttered, “Mycroft must have blood-adopted the lad at some point after his birth. That could explain the anomalies.”
“What anomalies?” Tim asked, wondering if he actually wanted to know.
“Well, clearly, Sherlock was cursed, and you’re his direct descendant, as are the children. You, Tim, should have been mad by now, and your father would have been as well. Wills escaped the curse entirely—though that might be because of something Sherlock did for his heir, knowingly or unknowingly—as did Mycroft. That’s just not generally possible, though clearly it IS possible, given that it did happen. A blood adoption could account for it.” Arcturus continued to examine the tapestry. “Come, look. Harry’s on here, too. It’s quite safe now that it’s stopped expanding.”
With a shrug, Tim stepped forward, letting go of his children when they tugged at his hands. Mycroft and Eurus ran up to look, and Wanda walked over to where Arcturus stood to see her tree, bringing Harry with her, while Wills sat down next to his own name.
“Harry, love, see?” Wanda pointed to his name, in green, under the black names of his birth parents. “James and Lily.” She traced Lily’s name, and drew her finger up to their common grandmother. “Evangeline Ross Evans. She’s your common great-grandmother, children.”
Harry reached chubby fingers out, copying Wanda, to trace the name. “G’ama!”
Tim thought the lack of green on the tree to be terribly sad. The concept of living relatives, plus back six generations, sounded lovely, but when unfurled, the reality appeared to be he, Wanda, and their children, including Harry, were all that remained of … hundreds. Holmes and Evans.
“Who are these two?” Tim asked. He apparently shared a common second-great grandfather with a Rudolphus and Rabastan Lestrange, shown in green.
“Ah,” Arcturus said, uncomfortably. “They’re being held for the attempted murder of the Longbottoms. They’re followers of Riddle.”
Tim raised an eyebrow. “I see.”
“Love, I’ve got another living magical relative, too,” Wanda called from nearly the opposite end of the room. “A Minerva McGonagall. We have a common great-grandparents through the Ross family.”
Sirius blew out a breath. “Well, Holmes family, it appears that you’ve relatives on both sides of the recent conflict. Professor McGonagall is the Transfiguration instructor at Hogwarts, and a fine tactician herself. She’s head of Gryffindor house, actually, though I don’t know how things will change now with Dumbledore gone.”
“So many gone,” Tim said softly, looking at the dates. Many of the deaths were fairly recent, at least in his generation. “So much damage to the Wizarding World.” He looked up, beyond his own grandfather to the Holmes line that stretched back, unending, with the few names intermarried that were not close enough to show as living relatives—Black, Prewett, and Weasley among them.
“In that, the Grindelwalds’ plan makes no sense,” Arcturus said. “Culling the magical world made no sense. Unless they didn’t care about collateral damage at all.”
“Power. That’s what they cared about. Care about. We shall have to be vigilant,” Tim agreed.
Mycroft turned wise eyes on his father, but said nothing. The truth? Tactically, leaving the Grindelwalds alive, even if imprisoned, also made no sense. They could become a rallying point. They could become martyrs. They could … Well, Mycroft could see trouble ahead. He had read The Art of War , after all.
“Constant vigilance,” Sirius said, as if reciting by rote. “The motto of one of the best Aurors I know. And one of Dumbledore’s best friends. Or, he used to be.”
“Well, enough talk of that, I think,” Wanda said briskly. “Nothing to be done today, and believe we’ve found all the living relatives and a corroboration of our discovery of John Holmes’ true parentage. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m hungry.”
“To the pies!” Sirius instantly cried, and all the younger Holmes and Potters repeated the rally with a shout. “To the pies!
Wanda rolled her eyes, Tim smirked at her, and Arcturus laughed outright.
“Well, then,” Arcturus said, still chuckling. “To the pies, indeed.”
It was only later, when the children were settled and Wanda and Tim were tucked up in bed together, cuddled closely, that Tim gave voice to his fear.
“I don’t think we’ve completely eradicated this beast,” he whispered into his wife’s hair. “I fear dark times ahead.”
Wanda tightened her grip on Tim. “We’ll take things as they come, my love. Appreciate what we have. Plan for the worst. And do our best to raise these little geniuses, with their sharp minds and their brave hearts.”
Tim’s throat closed, and he nodded, gripping her tightly.
May 12, 1982
“I’m sorry it’s taken so long to get some answers,” Healer Banks said, genuinely remorseful. “As far as I can tell, the scar on Harry’s forehead is unique.”
“But you do have some,” Wanda replied. “Answers, I mean.”
“Yes, though I’m not pleased with what we’ve been able to uncover.” Healer Banks looked around at the small assembly in the small parlor at Blackmoor Castle. Sirius, Arcturus, Tim, Wanda, and Harry sat in the room, while Minx kept an eye on Wills and Eurus. Mycroft, of course, had tutoring.
“And that is?” Sirius asked, pointedly.
“It appears that on the night—Riddle, is it?—attempted to kill Harry, a piece of Riddle’s soul itself broke off and attached itself to Harry’s forehead.” The baldly stated words raised eyebrows around the room. “It’s a little known fact about that particular spell; it destabilizes the soul, leading to increased mental health problems in those who use it. But a wizard long ago discovered that with the right ritual at the right moment, a shard of soul could be broken off the whole and contained, in effect providing the caster a sort of immortality.”
“That sounds a nightmare,” Tim commented.
“Well, most would think so,” Healer Banks said. “I’m not a theologian, by any stretch, but I can only imagine that a soul must be whole to make its way back to wherever it is they come from when we’re born.”
“Right,” Wanda said. “So Riddle cast the AK, destabilized his soul, cut out a shard of it, and it ended up in Harry?”
“In the backlash of the protective magic that Lily Potter laid on her son in her final moments, yes,” Healer Banks said. “Riddle’s corporeal body disappeared, his remaining soul escaped, and that one shard ended up in Harry’s scar, surrounded by the protective magic of his mother.”
Harry, who’d been idly playing with a glowing ball in Wanda’s lap, looked up. “Mummy?”
“Yes, Harry,” Wanda said. “Your mummy protected you from a bad man, didn’t she?”
“Yep,” Harry said, grinning widely.
Healer Banks smiled faintly at the byplay. “The issue is that the ritual isn’t widely known, and when it was used in the past, it was discovered the the containers—which were all stable, inanimate objects, as far as I can tell—were nearly indestructible. The only things that could destroy them were things already massively destructive: basilisk venom, Fiendfyre, or the like.”
The horror of that thought washed over the room, and Arcturus cleared his throat. “And as you’ve not found another animate container, you don’t believe it’s been done before?”
“No. And that means we are actively looking for a way to separate the soul shard from Harry’s forehead without resorting to those measures,” Healer Banks confirmed. “It’s doing him no harm at the moment, isolated as it is within his mother’s protective magic, and I’d be hesitant to make a move on it before we have a way to ensure the Harry’s safety.”
Tim said, slowly, “You will have the Queen’s resources, should you have need of them. She is fully committed to Harry’s health and safety.”
“Thank you, Sir Holmes,” Healer Banks said swiftly. “But I think our lay lies in research, and perhaps in ritual. With your permission, I’d like to bring this to the Department of Mysteries. It contains some of the best scholars of our world, and they might know of a creative solution.”
Arcturus nodded slowly. “I would agree, Tim. Also, I will make the Black Library available. We have an extensive collection of volumes in dark magicks, of which I cannot imagine this sort of ritual would not be a part.”
“That would be an enormous help,” Healer Banks said, excitedly. “And a boon to our research.”
Arcturus waved it off. “We must ensure Harry’s safety and well-being,” he said.
“Agreed,” Sirius said curtly. “Whatever needs doing, shall be done.”
“I will review my ancestor’s journals, as well,” Tim said. “I don’t know that the Holmes knew of such magicks, but they were resourceful and intelligent people. I will read on.”
Wanda spoke suddenly. “What of Sherlock’s hat?”
All eyes turned to her. “Pardon?” Healer Banks said politely.
“Sherlock’s hat. Didn’t Sherlock have a way of imprinting himself on the hat?” Wanda asked slowly. “Is that procedure anything like moving a soul?”
“I think I shall prioritize reading Sherlock’s journal, dear heart,” Tim said quietly. “And perhaps I’ll ask Will to put on his hat.”
“There’s something else to consider,” Healer Banks said softly. “For this to have happened accidentally, we suspect Riddle’s soul was already damaged.”
“Meaning?” Arcturus said, eyebrows drawn together.
“It’s quite likely there are other objects containing shards of Riddle’s soul about,” Healer Banks admitted.
“Isn’t that just the way?” Tim muttered. “Right. I’ll need a task force with a purpose: one, to find a way to remove a soul shard from a living body, and two, to determine how many of Riddle’s soul shard containers exist and destroy them all.”
Sirius looked at Tim. “I’d like to be included on that task force. I’m rather talented and rather invested.”
Tim managed a nod, and looked to Wanda, whose resolute expression ensured her agreement.
“I’m happy to look over research,” Wanda said, firmly. “I may not have magic, but I do have my mind.”
Healer Banks spoke. “I will head the research into the medical area of removing the shard, and contact the Department of Mysteries.”
“We have an accord,” Tim said. “I will inform the Queen. And let us all tap the resources we have at our collective disposal.”
May 18, 1982
Wills, now a very self-important four-year-old, looked pleased to be headed back to Baker Street with his hat.
The adults had all agreed that the Baker Street location offered the best access to materials Sherlock might need, and in any case, it would be familiar surroundings for the, er, hat.
So Wills sat in the front of the same crowd gathered for the Healer’s reveal a week previous, ready to put on the hat.
“Remember, Wills, to let him see this conversation,” Sirius coaxed gently. “Allow him to hear what you hear, and see what you see. Tell him your cousin has a soul piece in his scar, and ask him if he has any ideas. Don’t worry if they don’t make sense. Just repeat what he says.”
“Kay!” Wills said, and put on the hat.
The adults stayed silent as Wills relayed the problem to the entity in the hat. Wills giggled.
“He says you’re all smarter than he thought.” Wills scrunched up his nose. “Think of the hat as a computer with Sherlock’s brain in it. It’s not really his soul, he says. That moved on. Oh! It’s me, now. Cool.”
“Very,” Tim said wryly. His grandfather had been reincarnated in his son. Fabulous. “Does he have any ideas?”
“He said, ‘In-ves-tig-ate portraits. Talk to Sorting Hat? And the Grey Lady at Hogwarts. He doesn’t know the answer. But that’s where he started in thinking about the hat.”
“Right, then,” Tim said. “Tell him thank you.”
Wills scrunched up his face again. “He says you’re welcome. And he wishes he could help more.” Wills fell silent for a minute. “Baker Street on a ley line?”
Sirius sat up at that. “Baker Street is on a ley line?”
Wills rubbed his temples. “Ouch, hat. Stop shouting. Yes. Good place for magic things. No in-ter-fer-ence like Hogwarts.”
“Actually, I believe London itself is at a convergence of ley lines,” Tim murmured. “If one runs under Baker Street, that makes it a good spot for tapping the extra power of it.”
Wills said, “Can I take off the hat now? He says he doesn’t have anything else we could use for this problem. And he’s loud.”
“Of course, sweetheart,” Wanda said.
“Bye, hat!” Wills said, and took it off.
“Well, that was interesting,” Arcturus said. “Portraits, the Sorting Hat, the Grey Lady at Hogwarts. And Baker Street on a ley line. That’s all useful information, even if he didn’t have any particularly specific help.”
“The journal didn’t detail the procedure he used to isolate his memory into the hat,” Tim said. “I imagine he thought it proprietary. It’s interesting Wills used the word ‘computer’ to describe the hat.”
“He said something about a computing machine and a dictionary and I guessed, Daddy,” Wills said.
“Oh. Well done, then, Wills.”
“Well, I think this place will be useful down the road for any number of things,” Wanda summed up. “But it’s back to research for the lot of you.”
“We do believe that this will work, Mrs. Holmes,” the DOM worker known as Croaker said quietly. “You’ve reviewed the research yourself.”
Wanda sat back, reviewing all the available data accumulated over the last four years. While she’d prefer an option that would allow for an experiment before the ritual (her scientific soul prefered a trial that did not involve her youngest child), they had every reason to believe that the ritual developed by the healers and researchers would work.
It required three wizards, and object of some sort of pure metal or gem, and a procedure cobbled together from a variety of sources that should, in theory, remove the soul shard from Harry’s forehead and place it into the object of the ritual, which would then be destroyed.
The researchers also had found a way to track the other pieces of shard, while contained. They were hopeful they could also find the original soul somewhere, too, but at this point, the variable of containment was the best they had to work with, seeing as Harry’s scar was already contained. A procedure to shift the shard from container to container without destroying the container had been successfully tested, moving a shard found in an old gold locket at one of the Black properties to a platinum box made for the occasion.
“And if it doesn’t?” Wanda asked quietly, needing to know the alternative should something disastrous occur; needing to hear it spoken out loud.
“Lady Potter’s magic still protects young Harry,” Healer Banks said. “He will live, and we can try again.”
Wanda nodded decisively. “Then, let’s go ahead. When would be best?”
They settled on the new moon, in the ritual room at Blackmoor Castle, which would be February 8. Healer Banks, Croaker, and Sirius would be the casters, and Harry would be at the center of the ritual circle, next to the platinum box they proposed to use. Harry, who knew of the collective research to remove something terrible and magical from his forehead, would be informed. At five, he was capable of staying still when he needed to, and fascinated by magic.
“Though, I suppose, we could put him to sleep for the ritual to ensure that he’s absolutely still,” Healer Banks said. “It shouldn’t affect the ritual’s efficacy.”
Wanda agreed. “I think I like that option best. Harry will know that he’s going to undergo a procedure, but keeping him asleep for it might help keep him from being traumatized by it.”
“Sounds like we have a plan, then,” Sirius said. “I’ll go inform the gents.”
“The gents” being Arcturus and Tim.
“Right, then, go forth and be productive,” Wanda pronounced. “I must collect the children from their tutors.”
She found Eurus, Wills, and Harry huddled over a book in the main library at the private school that hosted the trio four mornings a week.
“What are we reading with such avid attention, my lads and lass?” Wanda asked.
“ Treasure Island ,” Wills said with bit of a growl in his voice.
“Ah,” Wanda said. “And how do you find it?”
“A bit scary, Auntie,” Harry said, pursing his lips. “But Wills is all about the pirates.”
“Adventures, and sailing the seven seas! Yo, ho, maties!” Wills crowed, earning a “Shhh” from stern-looking librarian at the desk. Not even a little cowed, Wills rolled his eyes and lowered his voice to a whisper as he finished the line. “And a bottle of rum.”
“I do quite like the idea of buried treasure, Mummy,” Eurus said, sedate as ever. “I wonder if that’s something we could do?”
“I think it’s something best reserved for an adventure on the high seas. Or at least the beach,” Wanda suggested. “We could consider a holiday to the beach this summer and investigate for pirates. Perhaps find some buried treasure. Perhaps bury some ourselves. What say you, maties?”
“Sounds arrrrrrrr-duous,” Wills growled out. “Let’s do it.”
“I think it sounds like a plan,” Wanda said. “We’ll discuss it with your father and Mycroft tonight.” She nodded to their school bags and jackets. “Armor on, lads and lass. We’ve got to get some lunch in us before music lessons.”
Grumbling only a little, the children shouldered on their jackets and bags, and followed Wanda out.
At dinner time, the family gathered to hear of pirates, make plans for the beach, and, of course, eat roast chicken and veg. As the meal drew toward dessert, Wanda cleared her throat. “I do have some news that we need to address.”
“Yes, Mother?” Mycroft asked, alertly, as the others simply looked up at her.
She glanced at Tim, then said, “We believe we have found a way to help Harry. It’s a ritual, Harry, on the night of the new moon, which, if successful, will transfer that bit of no-good in your head to a box, which can then be safely disposed of.”
Harry scrunched up his nose. “Will it hurt?”
“Not a bit,” Wanda assured him. “In fact, we’ll have you asleep for the whole thing, and when you wake up, it will be gone.”
“And you believe this will work, Mother? Father?” Mycroft asked, seriously. At twelve, he’d nearly completed his regular education, received tutoring on magical subjects, and was on track for his placement at Oxford in the fall. (The collective having decided that Oxford would suit very well for dual educations in magical and non-magical politics and international relations.)
Wanda nodded. “I have reviewed the research myself at every step. We have a successful case of inanimate-to-inanimate transfer. While I’d prefer an animate-to-inanimate trial to go ahead first, there’s no way to safely do so. With his mum’s protection already at play, Harry will be perfectly safe, even if it doesn’t work.”
Mycroft looked seriously at Harry. “Mum thinks it will work and it won’t hurt, Harry. What do you think?”
“I wanna do it,” Harry said. “I want this icky thing gone.”
“Then it’s settled,” Wanda said, noting how Eurus and Wills moved a bit to flank Harry and take his hands firmly.
Tim smiled at all of them. “Settled. Now, I believe there was pudding?”
February 8, 1986
Wanda let out a deep breath as she was brought to Harry, who lay asleep in the bed kept for him at Blackmoor Castle.
The ritual had worked.
All scans indicated that the soul shard had been removed from the scar on Harry’s forehead, while Lily’s magic, curiously, remained in place in what appeared to be a sort of personal ward. Croaker told Wanda that it hadn’t been seen before, and while the researcher was keen to figure out how it worked, he respected Tim and Wanda’s negative position on the subject.
Harry was a child, after all. When he was grown, perhaps, Harry could choose to allow Croaker to study him.
Given Harry’s personality, however, Wanda thought that would likely be a no.
Still, seeing him still, quiet, and asleep, the scar a faded white line on his forehead, filled her relief.
Harry was safe.
Part 12: In which we see glimpses of the future, and a fate averted
Their bit of beach was crowded with flashing lights, shouting men, and lots of equipment whose names Eurus didn’t know. What she did know, however, was thankfulness, because their friend, Victor Trevor, had a chance.
They’d been playing an elaborate game of hide-and-seek, involving pirates, treasure, and assorted traps, all along the beach when Victor hid a little too well. Eurus had figured it out, calculated the tide, and ran for her mother.
Her little brother, Wills, looked at Eurus with keen eyes.
“And how did you know where Victor was hiding?”
Eurus rolled her own eyes. “It wasn’t hard to figure out. As it happens, I don’t think he intended to hide down there.”
The siblings watched as emergency crews helped their friend out of the well he’d fallen into during their play. Six-year-old Harry ran up to them. “What’s going on?”
Nine-year-old Eurus took his hand. “Victor got himself trapped in the well on the beach during our game.”
Harry looked up at her doubtfully. “Really? I thought he could keep up.”
“Apparently not as well as we thought,” Wills said grumpily.
The trio watched as Victor emerged from the well in the arms of a burly fireman, to be brought to the waiting ambulance at the top of the cliff. Wanda hurried over to her brood. “Well done, my lads and lass, on getting help as soon as was possible,” she said, kissing each of their foreheads. “You’ve certainly saved his life. The water was rising very quickly in that well.”
Eurus smiled. “I’m glad.”
“Me, as well,” Wills said grumpily. “Though he really was the best Red Beard. And now he’ll be gone for the rest of the day.”
“Perhaps a new game?” Wanda suggested. “I’ve a mind to put all of you right where I can see you for the rest of the afternoon.”
The three glanced at each other, exchanging information in a complicated code of eyebrow raising, heated looks, and bitten lips. Apparently, Eurus was elected, in the end.
“Could we maybe make surprise pies in the kitchens instead?” Eurus looked pleadingly at their mother.
“Bit warm for that, isn’t it?” Wanda asked, surprised.
“Well, we wanted to bury and find treasure,” Eurus responded calmly. “If we can’t do it on the beach, maybe we can bury it in food and surprise Sirius with it later.”
Wanda laughed. “I like it. Let us prank the prankster!”
“To the pies!” Harry yelled, in what had become a well-worn family war-cry.
“To the pies!” The others cried in return, and they scampered up the beach to their summer home.
The owl that winged its way into the Holmes kitchen caught everyone off-guard, despite the knowledge that Eurus’ Hogwarts letter would likely be arriving at any time. Auntie Min had said so, and since making her acquaintance years ago, the children had found that Minerva McGonagall did not lie. At most, she’d refrain from speaking or pretend not to notice miscreants under her feet.
Eurus liked her a bit better for it.
She still had her days in which apathy set in, but it was a manageable apathy. She could recognize the symptoms as well as any, and she would tell her mother, who would ask her to grade her feelings on a ten-point scale. One meant: Eh. Might be moody but ultimately not in need of intervention, and ten meant: Get me the potion and a quiet room, please.
Eurus did not prefer the potion option. It was sort of a Pepper-Up? Not quite, she didn’t think. But it helped her keep the dark side of apathy at bay, pepped her up a bit, and allowed her to get through to the other side with the help of the techniques she continued to learn through her therapy.
The non-magical psychologists thought she was a bit of a miracle, though they were still wary of her. Sociopathy and/or psychopathy, diagnosed at her early age, warranted caution.
But Eurus truly did feel better. While she’d likely never be entirely free of the blood-line curse’s effects—the potion stopped the physical restriction of her magical core, after all, but could not account for the emotional and physiological effects of the five years that it had been bound—her mental health could be managed. Best of all, she could feel: Love for her family, happiness for her friends, empathy for others, compassion for those less fortunate.
But could she manage Hogwarts?
Auntie Min seemed to think it doable, if the owl currently pecking Eurus’ left ear was any indication.
“Stop it,” Eurus scolded gently as she reached for the envelope attached to the bird’s foot. “Have a piece of bacon, then. We’ll reply with our own owl.”
The school owl, a large tawny, nipped her ear, snagged a piece of bacon, and flew off.
The rest of Eurus family—just Wills, Harry, and Mummy this morning, as Mycroft and Daddy had gone already—looked at her in varied states of anticipation. “Come on, ‘Rus,” Wills said, setting down his toast. “Read it out loud.”
She rolled her eyes, but dutifully broke the seal and opened the parchment envelope, reading out loud:
“ Dear Miss Holmes,
“We are pleased to inform you of your acceptance into the Hogwarts School Of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary equipment and supplies.
“Term begins Sept. 1. We await your owl no later than July 31.
“Professor Minerva McGonagall”
“Etcetera, etcetera,” Eurus said. “There’s a second sheet. What do you think, Mummy?”
“We’ve had this discussion quite a bit, darling, and you know that the choice is utterly yours,” Wanda said gently. “You have choices. You can be homeschooled in magic and continue your non-magical education. You can go to Hogwarts and complete your non-magical education via correspondence. Minerva does truly believe your conditions can be managed at Hogwarts. Your potions will be in the infirmary, and a quiet room available for the bad days. Your Head of House, whomever that is, will be informed of your needs and tasked to help you manage them if needed. And, frankly, if it doesn’t go well, you can come home, and nothing more said.”
Eurus bit her lip. (Wills and Harry were crossing their fingers under the table, which Wanda found amusing.)
“I think,” Eurus said slowly, “that I would like to try. I would like to try school, at any rate, and I think, with my magic, Hogwarts is the best place. But Mummy, I want to continue with my violin, too.”
“That won’t be a problem, darling,” Wanda assured her. “We’ll add it right to your school schedule, and you know that Uncle Arc will arrange for your magical music theory tutor to go right to Hogwarts with you.”
“Then, yes,” Eurus said. “I’ll go to Hogwarts.”
Wills whooped, Harry jumped up and started dancing around the kitchen, and Wanda smiled. “Wonderful, my love. Let’s send the owl, and we’ll make a trip to Diagon Alley later this week.”
As she was tackled on either side by her little brothers, Eurus wondered if actually going to school would feel as good as the decision to go.
Diagon Alley, of course, was packed. It seemed that everyone had gotten their letters and headed straight for the shopping. Eurus frowned.
“I don’t like these crowds, Mummy,” she said.
“I’m not sure I like them, either, Eurus, but as we’re here, and Sirius is wrangling your brothers, I suppose we’d best make our way forward and make the best of it. One to ten?” Wanda asked, briskly.
“Four,” Eurus grumped. “But it could head toward ten pretty quickly.”
“Let’s focus on the most important bits, then,” Wanda said. “Ollivander’s, your uniform, trunk, books, then general supplies. If it gets to be too much, we’ll come back later or send someone else for it. The only bits you truly have to be here for are the wand and the clothes.”
Eurus took a deep breath, counted to four, slowly, and back down from four with her long exhale. Then, she raised her chin. “Let’s go, Mummy.”
Wanda led the way to Ollivander’s, which, thankfully, had no waiting. The wandmaker himself came to the front as they walked into his front door, and he smiled.
“Ah, another Holmes!” Garrick clapped his hands once. “So delighted to see you all back. And how is young Mycroft’s wand serving him? Elm and dragon heartstring, 12 inches, bendy, but strong.”
Wanda smiled gently at the wizard’s enthusiasm. “He’s quite taken with it,” she told him. “And his tutors find no fault with his learning at this time.”
“Good, good!” He turned to Eurus. “And you, Miss Holmes? Are you here for your first wand?”
“Yes,” Eurus said politely, paying no attention to the tape measure flapping about her face.
“Hmmm,” Ollivander peered at the measurements it displayed. “You are one who has been cured of a bloodline curse?”
Eurus had no reason to lie. “Yes.”
Ollivander nodded briskly, his eyes taking in the readings and the knowledge. “Right. You’ve worked with other instruments in wood, yes?”
Eurus exchanged a glance with her mother. “Yes? I play violin.”
“You might find you have an aptitude for making magic through your music, young lady,” Ollivander said, raising his voice a bit as he went back into his stacks. “You should discuss it with your tutor, if he or she is magical.”
Eurus looked to her mother again, and Wanda shrugged. “Worth mentioning, I’d guess,” Wanda confirmed.
Ollivander came back and laid out three wands. “First one here, cypress and unicorn hair, rather inflexible. Give it a bit of a wave.”
Eurus picked it up, and it sparked half-heartedly.
“Ah, no. This one, then. Elm and unicorn hair,” Ollivander said.
She waved it, but nothing at all happened.
“Well, definitely not, then,” Ollivander said. “Not much to be said, then. Try this one. Rosewood and unicorn hair, elegant and rather bendy.”
Another swish, and ice speared out of the wand, headed directly for a shelf behind Ollivander, who ducked.
“Hmm. I’m off track altogether,” he mused. “Though that rosewood … here, try this one.” He dashed off and brought out three more wands. “Maple and unicorn hair.”
Almost, Eurus thought, as the wand sparked under her hand.
“Oh, very close,” Ollivander said. He pursed his lips. “I was using unicorn hair under the presumption that your magic might not be as aggressive as it could have been, but … perhaps I’m wrong.” He rummaged on a lower shelf and brought out another wand. “Maple and dragon heartstring, 13 and a quarter inches, somewhat inflexible.”
Eurus picked it up, and warmth ran through her entire body as a soft shower of sparks emanated from the wand tip.
“There we are,” Ollivander said softly. “How very interesting.”
“What does that choice signify?” Wanda asked.
“Oh, maple is a wood that is highly sought after, but it’s discerning, and generally chooses only those with the ability to achieve great things. As dragon heartstring learns quickly and adapts with its user, I think we’ll find Miss Holmes has great potential. This is, in fact, a learning wand,” Ollivander said. He smiled at Eurus. “I should think we have a young Ravenclaw in our midst.”
Eurus raised an eyebrow, but happily took the wand, now nestled in its case, from the elder wizard. “Thank you, Mr. Ollivander.”
“You’re quite welcome, Miss Holmes.”
Wanda counted out seven galleons, handed them over, and thanked the wizard as well before the pair set out down the alley to Madame Malkins to fit for robes. That shop, unfortunately, was a bit more crowded, and they browsed through accessories for a bit while they waited their turn.
“Do you suppose I really will be a Ravenclaw, Mummy?” Eurus asked, eyeing a particularly nice silver and blue woolen scarf.
“You won’t know for certain until after you’re sorted, darling,” Wanda said, “but I should think of all the houses, Ravenclaw might suit you best. It’s allegedly for scholars, and you’re certainly one of those.”
Eurus smiled at the compliment, and the pair looked up as their names were calmed. “Holmes? We’re ready for you, next.”
Eurus stepped up to be measured, and Wanda ordered the lot required, as well as an extra set of woolens. Scotland, after all, would be cold.
Task complete, Wanda asked again, “One to ten, dear?”
“Still four, Mummy. Let’s get the trunk.”
Wanda nodded, and they headed out to get the trunk and complete the shopping.
In the end, Eurus stuck it out to the very end of the shopping list before saying, in a small voice, “Mummy, I’m getting to a six or seven.”
Wanda tucked the last of the purchases away in her ever-expanding bag--a gift from Sirius--and held out her hand to Eurus. “Quiet room at home? Or tea and a snack at that quiet shop down the road?”
“If the shop’s not crowded, tea, please, Mummy.”
“Let’s go see,” Wanda said, squeezing Eurus’ hand firmly, and leading the way.
September 1, 1988.
Eurus was a bit concerned that the Hogwarts Express would be too much for her, so she asked for a potion right away when she got up. It would help her cope with the stress of the new environment in the absence of other grounding.
Wanda provided it without comment, and the family shuffled itself out to the waiting car, trunk already loaded up with her school things.
Wills and Harry argued over who should sit in the very back seat while Tim took the wheel for the ride to King’s Cross. Mycroft, of course, had gone on to school the day before, wishing his sister well as he, himself, set off for Oxford.
As the family got on the road, Wanda checked her bag and handed back a basket. “This is for the train, darling,” she told Eurus. “There’s a bit of lunch, some pocket money, and a new book.”
“Thank you, Mummy!” Eurus said, excitedly looking through the basket.
“Boys, if you’re well-behaved as we see Eurus off, there’s a basket for each of you, here, too,” Wanda said. “Your treasures will remain a surprise until that eventuality, however.”
Wills smirked at his mother, and Harry gave an innocent smile.
“Right,” Tim said, glancing in the mirror. “That would be the carrot, boys.”
They wiped their faces and looked solemn. “We solemnly swear not to ruin Eurus’ day,” Wills said. Harry nodded along.
Wanda looked back. “You said nothing about mine or your fathers’ days, lads.”
A silent conversation between the boys, accompanied by increasing giggles from Eurus, alerted their parents to the potential for mischief later, but as that remained a perpetual danger, Tim and Wanda elected to ignore it.
The silent-but-obvious conversation continued until the family reached the lot next to King’s Cross, when the boys competed to help Eurus with her trunk and drag it into the station, their parents close behind them. They were met at the entrance to the platform by Sirius, who’d brought a gift for Eurus.
“This way,” Sirius said, after greetings were exchanged. “This gift is best given away from prying eyes.”
He led the way through the brick wall to Platform 9 ¾, then to an open spot about half way down the train, before withdrawing his hand from his pocket to reveal a fluffy, gray-and-white kitten with a rather squashed nose.
“This wee lassie needs a name,” Sirius said, holding her out to Eurus. “I know a familiar is a personal thing, so if she doesn’t suit, I’ll take her home with me. She’s half-Kneazle, so she should be very smart, and it seems to me she’d make a good friend for you.”
Eurus took the small kitten with shining eyes, her throat closing up. She looked up at Sirius with a wide, wide smile, that he returned.
Tim cleared his throat. “It looks like a gift well-appreciated,”
Eurus nodded vigorously, cuddling the kitten close. She opened her mouth and closed it a few times before managing to whisper, “Rain. Her name is Rain. Thank you so much, Siri!”
“You are quite welcome, Russie.” Sirius leaned forward to kiss her forehead. “Think good thoughts, learn great things, help me prank the miscreants when you get back for the holidays.”
She giggled, and her voice was stronger as she said, “I will!”
The train ride passed quietly, with Eurus cuddling Rain and reading her new book. She shared her compartment with three other like-minded quiet people, which she genuinely appreciated. They exchanged pleasantries and bits of lunch when appropriate, but otherwise, her companions--all just a bit older, and wearing silver and blue accessories--left her to her reading with faint smiles.
As she left the train at Hogsmeade, Eurus saw Hagrid, whom she’d met before, leading the first years toward the boats for a trip across the lake. While Eurus had seen Hogwarts many times--Mummy and Auntie Min often took tea together in the summer--she’d never quite seen it from this perspective.
As Hogwarts lit up the night sky, Eurus smiled, feeling warm and happy.
It seemed like no time passed at all before she sat on a large stool in front of the entire Great Hall, and felt the Sorting Hat on her head.
“Ah, such brilliance here,” the Hat whispered into her head. “And such a long journey to get here already, you brave, strong girl. Where to put you? Such bravery could be rewarded with Gryffindor, Miss Holmes. But such a fine mind! Rowena Ravenclaw herself would have loved having you in her house.”
“Let my brothers be brash and brave, Hat,” Eurus whispered back. “I want to study, and learn, and grow.”
“Then let it be RAVENCLAW!” The hat shouted at the last, and her new housemates cheered as she took off the hat, and joined them.
Because of the ways their birthdays fell, Wills, at twenty months younger than Eurus, ended up ahead of Harry by a year and behind Eurus by two in Hogwarts. As his welcome letter was dropped in his breakfast plate two weeks before Harry’s tenth birthday, Wills seized it with a cackle.
“Mummy! Got my letter!” Wills shouted as he tore open the seal to see the official notice of his acceptance into Hogwarts.
As the heir to Sherlock Holmes, Wills, of course, had had his wand since he was four. He’d also had access to the wealth of knowledge left him by Sherlock in the hat, though he’d rarely used it.
Tim and Wanda maintained strict control of the deerstalker, and Wills knew they planned to allow its use only as needed until Wills himself was of age.
Something about letting him grow into his own person first? Whatever.
While not quite at Mycroft’s calibre of genius, given the latter’s eidetic memory, Wills himself had a substantially high IQ and talents for chemistry and the sciences, as well as a grasp of logic and keen observational skills that could not be measured. He, too, played the violin, though he was not a prodigy, like Eurus.
In short, Wills was good at all sorts of things, but his siblings just edged him out in their chosen areas.
If it hadn’t been for Harry, Wills might have let his disgruntlement with that state of affairs lead him down some very dark roads.
As it was, Harry kept him grounded. His little brother needed Wills to be a steady influence, partner-in-mischief, and occasional tutor. Harry’s status as the Duke of Gryffindor and the future regent of magical Britain--kept under wraps for the most part--meant he needed a highly specialized non-magical education as well as his magical training, and Wills was best placed to assist Harry in his studies.
It also gave Wills something else to do. Something beyond blowing things up.
Though blowing things up made his day. In so, so many ways.
Wills made a mental note to schedule time at The Marauders’ Den with Sirius soon.
“So a trip to Diagon needs planning, then?” Wanda queried as she brought more bacon to the table and set it in front of Harry, who promptly piled most of it on his toast for a sandwich.
“Yes, please,” Wills said. “I’ve got my wand already. But I’ll need the uniforms, the trunk, and the other stuff.”
“Can I go, too?” Harry asked.
Wills wrinkled his nose. “You know how people get when you show up on Diagon, Harry. Are you sure you want to put yourself through that?”
Harry wrinkled his nose, too. “Yeah, I know. Maybe we could get Sirius to do a color charm on my hair or something?”
Wanda set down the letter, which she’d picked up from her second son, and looked at the pair of them. “We could do that. Let’s send Sirius an owl and see if he’s able to join us on Saturday. I’ll release your wand to your care at that time, too, Wills. I’d like to see if Ollivander could tell us what it’s made of.”
“Certainly,” Wills said. “I’d like to know, too.”
“That’s settled, then.” Wanda rose. “I’ll go and send that owl. I believe you two are working on magical history this morning?”
“Right,” Wills said, and he shoved the last of his bacon sandwich in his mouth, Harry following suit. “‘Ot ‘oo et oo Arc’s.”
“Mouth closed at the table, Wills,” Wanda said absently, already composing the note that would find its way to Sirius’ house in Kensington. “And Arcturus is expecting you in ten minutes, so I’d expect to see you leave shortly.”
Eurus wandered into the kitchen, Rain perched on her shoulder. The teen seemed sleepy, but Wanda wasn’t worried, what with that perpetual state of not-enough-sleep that seemed to belong exclusively to teens. “What’s for breakfast, Mummy?” Eurus yawned through her question.
“Bacon sandwiches,” Wanda said, pointing to the table. “If Harry’s left you any.”
Harry nodded, getting up from the table. “Half a plate, ‘Rus. Plus the good toast.”
“Thanks, Harry,” she said, settling herself down. “Where’s Myc?”
“Off with your father already,” Wanda replied, sealing her note. “They’ve got some pet project for the summer.”
“Right,” Eurus said, piling bacon on toast. “I’ve got practice this afternoon, Mummy. I’ll be with Ms. Frakes from 1ish, on.”
“When is the concert again, darling?”
“Oh, it’s just the first bit with the London Symphony Orchestra,” Eurus said. “I’m the guest soloist for the Sunday series in two weeks. I’m just working it out today, and I’ll be practicing with the Orchestra next week.”
“Make sure to get a schedule on the bulletin board for me, love,” Wanda reminded her. “We’ll get you where you need to go, but we need to know that you need to get there.”
Eurus grinned. “Of course, Mummy. I’ll write it up after breakfast.”
“Bye, Mummy!” Wills shouted from the parlor, with Harry echoing him as the pair dissolved, the portkey to Blackmoor Castle obviously in use.
Wanda wandered to the backyard to get their owl, Wolfgang, and Eurus sleepily finished her sandwiches.
Diagon Alley on Saturday seemed just as crowded as it always was. Harry, disguised with blond hair and blue eyes, wandered the shops with Sirius while Wills and Wanda followed the same route: Ollivanders, Malkins, the trunk shop, books, and general supplies.
Ollivander, who popped out when Wanda and Wills stepped into his shop, stopped short when he saw what Wills already had in his hand.
“Oh, my,” Ollivander said. “What have we here?”
“My wand,” Wills said. “It was left to me specifically by my great-grandfather.” He and Wanda had agreed privately to keep his reincarnation and status as Sherlock Holmes’ heir quiet. “We wondered if perhaps you could tell us about it.”
Ollivander gently took the wand from Wills. “This wand is walnut, 11 ½ inches, flexible, with a dragon heartstring core. Oh, you Holmes and your dragon heartstring.”
Wills grinned. “Neat, right?”
“This wand belonged to my father’s very great friend, Sherlock Holmes, if I’m not much mistaken,” Ollivander murmured. “I met him once, you know, when I was very small. He seemed so very large to me.”
Wanda cleared her throat. “Is it safe for him to use?”
“Oh, yes, of course,” Ollivander said, handing the wand back to Wills. “If this wand chose young Mr. Holmes here, it clearly knows what it’s about. I look forward to seeing what you do with this, young man.”
Wills grinned, tossed his dark curls back out of his eyes, and winked. “As do I.”
September 1, 1990
Tim required a van for the trip to King’s Cross this year, as Mycroft was available to go along. Transporting two trunks and assorted school paraphernalia also meant a need for more space.
Eurus curled up in the very back seat with Mycroft, who was attempting to get Rain to jump up on demand, while Wills and Harry took spots in the middle seats.
Harry seemed glum, but with his companion heading to school, that was to be expected.
“I wish I could go,” Harry said. “I know I have to wait until next year, but I’m going to be bored without you, Wills.”
Wills shrugged. “Just make sure to go and visit Sirius often,” he advised. “He’ll help keep you from being too bored.”
“And, don’t forget, you’ll have special tutoring in magical law and organization this year with Arc,” Tim said, glancing in the mirror to make eye contact with his young ward. “You’ll be busy enough. And Wills and Eurus will both be back at the holidays.”
Harry frowned. “I just don’t really want to be at home alone.”
Tim and Wanda looked at each other, and Wanda glanced back. “I suppose, then, it’s time to tell you of the plan for you pick your familiar early.”
Harry perked up. “Really?”
Wanda smiled. “Yes. Sirius has asked to bring you to the pet store on Diagon this week to help you find the right pet.”
“What about me, Mummy?” Wills asked.
“Oh, he’s bringing yours,” Wanda assured him, a twinkle in her eye. “Apparently, the beast nearly asked for you by name.”
“What?” Wills asked. “How is that possible?”
“I’m sure, if you think about it, you’ll figure it out,” Wanda said, and ignored the spate of questioning that followed with the skill of one who’d spent a great deal of time helping college freshmen learn problem-solving.
The interesting question of what Wills’ familiar might be occupied the foursome right up until they got to King’s Cross. Mycroft took Eurus’ trunk for her, while she carried Rain and her carrier. Wills hauled his own trunk, and Harry kept up a steady stream of speculation as they approached the barrier to Platform 9 ¾. They passed through, and met Sirius on the other side.
A pug puppy rested in a carrier on the floor next to him, his tongue hanging out.
“Who’s this, then?” Wills asked, excitedly.
“This young lad told me he wanted to come home and befriend a youngling,” Sirius said, laughing as Wills held his hand out for a sniff. “I already cleared it with the school, as a dog isn’t exactly on the approved pets list.”
“What do you mean, he told you?”
“I met him in my animagus form,” Sirius explained. “I’d gone for a run in the dog park near my place in London, just after I’d been with you. He was clear that your scent was for him. I transformed back, talked to his owner--thankfully, she was open to giving away another puppy from his litter. So here he is. He’s been answering to Jack.”
“Has he been out?”
“Yes, I just took him for walkies before we got here,” Sirius said. “And I’ve included a self-cleaning kennel carrier. It’s lined with newspapers at the back, bigger on the inside than on the outside, and ready for use at Hogwarts. I’ve been kennel training him for you.”
“Jack,” Wills said, reaching through the mesh front to rub his ears. “It’s great to meet you.”
The train ride was boring except for a meeting between Wills and a pair of ginger-haired twins in the corridor that culminated with plans to prank their older siblings.
“Percy’s a bit of a stick-in-the-mud,” Wills’ new friend, Fred Weasley, said, “so we’re honor bound to stir him up a bit.” His twin, George, nodded vigorously.
“Well, Eurus isn’t so much a stick as a boulder,” Wills admitted. “Nothing flaps her. And when it does, it’s best to lie low until she works it out of her system. I wouldn’t cross that line on purpose, lads. But she’s a good sport, too.”
They passed the time discussing the varied pranks they’d pulled over the years, and the pair of second-years introduced Wills to their friends Lee Jordan, who was with them in Gryffindor, and Adrian Pucey, who was in Slytherin House.
“Is it easy to make friends in other houses, then, if you’re sorted one way?” Wills asked.
“Oh, yeah,” George said. “I mean, I guess people used to take House rivalry pretty far? But McGonagall won’t let us get away with too much. Mainly, it’s a Quidditch thing at this point.”
That, Wills, understood, having had a fair few arguments about Quidditch with Harry and Sirius.
When they arrived at Hogsmeade, the twins and their fellows waved goodbye to Wills and sent him off with the other first years to Hagrid, who conducted them across the lake. Wills took in everything as he and his cohort were led inside Hogwarts for the first time.
He marched in with his fellows and stood patiently in the Great Hall, until finally, he heard,“William Sherlock Scott Holmes!”
He sat on the stool, suffered the Sorting Hat to be placed on his head, and waited.
“Where to put you …” The hat whispered in his ear. “Brave, yes, cunning, absolutely. Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant! And loyal, oh dear.”
Wills rolled his eyes. “Anywhere but Ravenclaw, hat. I do not wish to suffer my sister’s presence for longer than I must.”
“Well, then, better be, SLYTHERIN.” The last was shouted, and Eurus could be heard to say, “Of course he is.”
“Finally!” Harry yelled, voice full of righteousness. “My letter!”
All three of his elder cousins looked at him. “Right, yes,” Mycroft said. “Guess it’s to Diagon Alley this week for you.”
“Ollivanders, Malkins, the trunk shop…” Eurus trailed off. “Mummy, may I be excused from the Diagon trip? I only need books and supplies.”
Wanda set another tray of scones on the table. “Leave me your list, yes. Wills, are you going?”
“Of course!” Wills said. “I need to ensure my baby brother has everything he needs.”
Harry scowled. Fred and George Weasley were a menace to brothers everywhere, he thought, and were bad influences on his partner-in-mischief.
Mycroft smirked. “I think I’ll come along this time,” he said. “Keep the riff-raff away. You can hardly go to Diagon as someone else. Everyone will be expecting to see you this year.”
Harry shrunk down in his chair. He’d forgotten that part.
“Are you going into the office today, Myc?” Wanda asked, adding more fruit to the bowl.
“Yes, actually. Want to come along, Harry? Your office is looking spiffy,” Mycroft teased.
Harry shrunk down further. “I’d rather not. It’s supposed to be excellent Quidditch weather today.”
“Well, your office will be there tomorrow, too, I assume,” Mycroft said, and grinned widely.
“You’re a terrible big brother,” Harry said stiffly.
“Yes, yes, I am,” Mycroft said. “Reminding you of your peer obligations on perfect day. Terrible of me.”
Wanda sighed. “Mycroft, be nice. Harry is not required to attend to any peer obligations this summer, short of any sort of government collapse, as you well know. And it is a perfect day. Wills, Harry, why don’t you contact Sirius and head to Blackmoor for some flying?”
“Thanks, Mum!” “Thanks, Auntie Wanda!”
“And let him know we’re heading to Diagon on Saturday, as usual.”
With general assent, the youngest boys headed out to take their portkey to Blackmoor, and Wanda turned a gimlet eye on Mycroft.
“Quite enough, Mycroft,” Wanda said. “You know that he’s not sold on his status, and that the Queen will not force him to take his place as magical regent. He may well choose a different career at this juncture.”
“And you know, Mummy, that Harry will do nothing of the sort,” Mycroft said, smiling softly. “He’s got quite an aptitude for leadership, a strong head on his shoulders, and a desire to help others that will take him quite far in this field. He’s going to make a fine regent, because he will want to be. He excels in his politics and history lessons. He’s simply almost 11, and more interested in flying.”
“Which is as it should be,” Wanda said firmly. “I’ve agreed to all the lessons, but we will allow him to enjoy his childhood while we can.”
“Of course, Mummy,” Mycroft said, and rose. “Father’s already at the office, but I’ll be on my way now, too. Have a good day!’ He turned a heel and disappeared with a crack.
Wanda looked at Eurus. “Love, how do you feel about a girl spa day?”
Eurus set down her tea. “Amenable. Let’s go, Mummy.”
Ollivander looked surprised to see Harry Potter in the midst of a crowd of Holmeses, but he took the boy’s appearance in stride.
“Well, Mr. Potter!” Ollivander strode forward, measuring tape in hand. “How nice to meet you!” He looked around at the Holmes brothers and their mother. “And how do you come to be with this fine company?”
Harry looked up, momentarily nonplussed, until he remembered that his guardianship remained a closely guarded state secret in the magical world. “Ah,” he said. “Well, these are my cousins, Mr. Ollivander. Auntie Wanda and my mother shared a grandmother.”
“I see,” Ollivander said, and indeed, he did see.
The Holmes name had faded under the bloodline curse, but their relationship to the Boy-Who-Lived clearly had facilitated their return to magic, and the magical world.
“Mrs. Holmes?” Ollivander asked. “An Evans, then?”
“Yes, actually, though our great-grandmother was a Ross,” Wanda allowed. “As you’ve surmised, my husband descends from Mycroft Holmes and Elspeth Lestrange.”
“Quite distinguished families, all,” Ollivander said. “And here we have a Potter with close ties to the Ross and Black families.” He waved a hand at the measuring tape, which started its work of showing Ollivander character traits that might be useful in determining a wand. “Well, anything goes with this one, eh? Let’s get started.”
It seemed to Harry, later, that he’d tried every wand in the shop before he felt the warm tingling and sparks that signified he’d found his wand.
“Phoenix feather and holly,” Ollivander murmured. “And a brother wand to Tom Riddle’s.”
Mycroft looked up alertly. “Pardon?”
Ollivander looked up to see Mycroft’s razor stare, and said, “Ah.”
“Would you mind explaining that, Mr. Ollivander?” Mycroft said politely.
“The phoenix whose feather resides in this wand gave just one other feather, which I used to make the wand that chose Tom Marvolo Riddle,” Ollivander said. “That the other chose young Mr. Potter here is notable, if not necessarily useful, given that Mr. Riddle is no longer among us.”
“I see,” Mycroft said.
Harry shuddered slightly. He wasn’t sure he liked Mr. Ollivander. But that information was no doubt useful, and he could tell, by looking at Mycroft, that it was significant.
At dinner that night, Tim waited for his family to clear their plates before he brought up the issue that had plagued Harry’s thoughts since he’d left Ollivander’s shop.
“Mycroft tells me, Harry, that your wand is the brother to Tom Riddle’s,” Tim said calmly. “I think it’s time to share with you the whole of your story, as we know it, so that you’ll understand a bit about choices, and what they mean to you and your future.”
Harry sat up importantly, and looked to the man who’d taken on the responsibility of being his father, even though he wasn’t required to. “Alright, sir.”
And so, Tim began to tell the story of the orphaned Tom Riddle, who had been groomed by Albus Dumbledore Grindelwald to become a Dark Lord, a murderer, and a man who condemned his own soul through ritual murder.
“I want to be clear, here, Harry, that when Tom Riddle’s wand chose him, Tom was as innocent as you are, with great potential to cause great harm, or great joy. Albus chose him to groom for the role of Dark Lord because Tom also had a terrible start to his life, and he had come to know, as we do now, that, such people must work harder than others to maintain their ability to be good, and do good things,” Tim said. “He must have seemed like the perfect candidate. And, in fact, he was. Riddle caused great harm, and a prophecy arose that told of the only person who would have the power to vanquish him, one born as the seventh month died in the year in which it was told.
“It could have been anyone, really, but Albus Dumbledore decided it meant one of two babies born at the end of July: you, or your friend, Neville Longbottom. He let that opinion be known, and Tom Riddle decided it meant you, setting in motion a self-fulfilling prophecy. He came to your home in Godric’s Hollow, murdered your parents, tried to murder you, and gave you that scar. That scar, which contained a fragment of Riddle’s soul, and which we rid you of when you were five.
“Albus planned for you to be raised by your Aunt Petunia and her husband, Vernon Dursley, both of whom are known for being less than tolerant of anything, or anyone, different from them. He planned to groom you, as he had Tom Riddle. But Petunia loved you, and knew herself and her husband well enough to know that you would not be best served in their care. And she called Wanda.
“We took you in, Harry, because we loved your mother, and because no child should live in a home without love. The moment we saw you, we fell in love with you, and you became our child. Our youngest child, to round out our family.
“Many actions and decisions rippled out from that decision, Harry, but the biggest thing you must know, is that you are loved.”
Harry’s eyes were wet, as were Wanda’s. Mycroft and Wills moved to grip Harry’s shoulders tightly, while Eurus reached under the table to take Harry’s hand.
Tim continued, gently, “And you have fulfilled the prophecy, Harry. You had the power to vanquish him. And the soul he left in your scar was the key to our finding the rest of him. There’s just one piece left to find, and we’ve been working on your behalf to take care of that bit.
“You may or may not face the remaining bit of Riddle, Harry, but your very existence facilitated the end of the harm he could cause, and for that reason, I believe the prophecy to be fulfilled.”
Harry cleared his throat. “Could I be there when he’s gone for good?”
Tim’s eyes flicked to Wanda, then to Mycroft. He looked back at Harry. “If it’s safe for you to be present, then yes.”
Harry nodded, and leaned into his brothers and sister.
September 1, 1991
By this point, Harry had been to Hogwarts many times, though never across the lake in a boat. He sat with Ron Weasley, the younger brother to Fred and George; Hermione Granger, a bright girl with a memory to rival Mycroft’s; and his friend Neville Longbottom, who’d been a regular playmate when he was younger.
“My sisters will probably be coming in two years,” Neville said glumly. “But at least I get a little time off from the pestering.”
“Twins?” Hermione asked, curious.
“Triplets,” Neville said.
Hermione’s mouth made a faint, “Oh,” while Harry buried his smile behind the noble mask Mycroft had been coaching him to use.
They marched into the Great Hall in pairs, and Harry smiled to see the floating candles. He ran into a few other former playmates, shaking hands with Heir Malfoy and Anthony Goldstein when he saw them, but remained quiet, for the most part, until his name was called.
“Harry James Potter!”
He walked forward, and confidently sat on the stool. As the Duke of Gryffindor, he thought it highly unlikely that he’d be placed anywhere but Gryffindor, but needs must. Hermione and Neville had already made it into Gryffindor house, so he’d have friendly company, anyway.
The Hat perched on his head.
“Of course, you know, Your Grace, that I can really only place you in your own house?”
“I do know, Hat,” Harry whispered back. “But my sister and my brother are in other houses. It’ll be fine.”
“Know that your cunning, intelligence, and loyalty would have made you a fit for any of the houses, Your Grace.”
“Thank you, Hat.”
Easter Break, March, 1992
Tim looked on calmly as the last of the soul containers known as Horcruxes was destroyed in front of him.
“That’s the last,” a grim Sirius Black commented. “All that’s left is whatever piece of his soul was flying around in the first place.”
Harry, who, as Tim promised, was present, looked up. “One more? What will happen now?”
“If our research is correct,” Tim said quietly, “having no anchor, the remaining spirit should cross over to the other side on its own, or become no more than a ghost here. A malevolent ghost, to be sure, but if we can locate it, we can exorcise it.”
“Reports put him in Albania, Father,” Mycroft said. At 19, he’d completed all his formal education and now worked exclusively for his father in the Queen’s service. His eidetic memory, a boon to service, also functioned as a security nightmare. In the wrong hands, Mycroft could be used grievously.
So his father ensured he was trained. Thoroughly. In magic, combat, self-defense, tactics… in short, Mycroft lived simultaneously as the Queen’s best resource and her best asset.
Though he did have a distaste for field work.
Tim looked at Sirius and Mycroft. “Go, then. Let me know what you find. You have your mandate from the Queen.” He paused. “Take James.”
His blond-haired, blue-eyed former driver melted out of the shadows and into the light. “Sir?”
“They might need a double-oh,” Tim said simply.
James Bond nodded sharply, and the trio left.
Tim and Harry portkeyed home, to Wanda, Wills, and Eurus.
The Albanian forest lay still and quiet as Mycroft, Sirius, and James wandered through to the spot the Grey Lady had identified as the site of her demise.
Mycroft’s keen eyes noted signs of habitation nearby, and he pointed them out to Sirius. “Marks here? A snake, do you think?”
“A rather large one, I’d say,” Sirius said. “Recent.” The trio worked their way closer, with Mycroft stopping on occasion to cast revealing spells, and a special spell he’d learned via Wills’ hat to reconstruct a crime scene.
“Just there!” Mycroft yelled as an enormous snake with red eyes struck from the bushes.
James took its head off with one clean swipe of the machete he’d been using to break down foliage.
Sirius sat hard on the ground, looking at the corpse. “Was that?”
Mycroft cast the spell again. “Yes. This snake was possessed by Tom Riddle. See his magical signature, there? But whatever soul was there; it’s gone.”
“Burn it,” James suggested. “Be very sure.”
Mycroft nodded, conjured a fireproof box, and levitated the snake into it. Sirius cast two wards to clear the ground and keep the fire from spreading, and Mycroft cast Fiendfyre.
It burned to ashes.
The reigning British monarch always placed a Holmes at his or her left hand, but the position remained shrouded in secrecy. Rarely, someone traced a Holmes back to the monarch’s service. Tracing them back to the magical world? Even more rare.
So it came as no surprise, to Tim, at least, that the magical world never knew of the Holmes’ role in the incarceration of Albus Dumbledore Grindelwald, or the final death of Tom Marvolo Riddle, or the placement of Harry Potter as regent to magical Britain.
When, in later years, someone asked, “Whatever became of Albus Dumbledore?” Tim would smile gently, and say nothing. When his second son took to calling himself “Sherlock,” completed degrees in chemistry and forensic chemistry, and talked about becoming a consulting detective, Tim quirked a grin and helped him set up his offices at 221B Baker Street. He and Wanda attended Eurus’ violin concerts with pride, and when he retired, leaving his office to Mycroft, Tim made himself available to advise the new Duke of Gryffindor in his role as appointed regent of the magical world, while Wanda went back to her research.
Time marched on, and magical and non-magical alike virtually forgot the Grindelwalds, the threat of Tom Riddle, and the darkness left behind when a young Harry Potter had been left on his aunt Petunia’s doorstep.
In their blooming age of magic, they’d quite forgotten The Holmes Factor.