|The Great Quidditch Game
Author: thequeergiraffe PM
Part 3 of my series, The Brave and The Cunning, in which Sherlock has an admirer who likes to play his own sort of game, using the golden snitch as a timer. Rated for pre-slash.Rated: Fiction T - English - & John W. - Chapters: 10 - Words: 27,688 - Reviews: 23 - Favs: 54 - Follows: 60 - Updated: 07-28-12 - Published: 05-05-12 - id: 8088708
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The newly appointed and apparently temporary headmaster stood at the front of the Great Hall, giving the end-of-year speech with dignified solemnity.
"He looks good up there," John whispered to Sherlock. He'd snuck over to the Slytherin table as soon as he had the chance. "Think he'll stay on next year?"
Sherlock huffed out an extremely sarcastic laugh. "Please! He's miserable. Claims it's because the position is too prestigious, especially for one who's former position in the Department of Mysteries was so 'minor'. The truth is much simpler, of course." Sherlock shifted and eyed his brother with a smirk. "Mycroft hates children."
"Ah." John looked him over, noting the small wrinkle in Mycroft's nose as he addressed the room at large. "Yeah, I can sort of see it."
"And now," Mycroft was saying, the look on his face suggesting something closer to constipation than joy, "it is my great pleasure to announce the winners of the Inter-House Challenge. By a unanimous vote from their professors and the school staff, I present this trophy-" he hefted a smallish golden cup into the air for the room to see, "to Slytherin fifth-year Sherlock Holmes and his mentor, Gryffindor sixth-year John Watson." The room exploded with applause; everyone had heard about the incident with Moriarty, of course, especially since it had been featured in the Daily Prophet (front page, and John was rather proud of the heroic cast his photo had lent him). "Yes, yes," Mycroft said, sighing. "Please rise, Mr. Holmes, Mr. Watson."
John obeyed quickly, though Sherlock seemed less inclined to follow orders. He stood slowly and pursed his lips, an unhappy and insolent look on his face. "To you both, I must offer my congratulations," Mycroft said, looking as though he'd certainly rather not. "This cup will be displayed in the trophy room until the end of time, as a representation of your hard work and of the spirit of house unity that Hogwarts has come to embody. Now, sit down. Yes, quickly; moving right along-"
Sherlock tugged John down on to the bench beside him. "The bastard," he muttered. "He's in a strop because he's worried I didn't do well on my O.W.L.s. The imbecile! He even wrote to Mummy! The mad woman sent me a Howler."
John whistled. "So glad my mum's a Muggle," he laughed.
Pulling a face, Sherlock leaned his elbows on the table and set his chin in his hands, apparently solely for the frown the action brought to his elder brother's face. John let Mycroft's seemingly endless speech and grumpy expressions roll past him; his mind was drifting back in time, to the day after the events with Moriarty.
John had woken up to find all of his dorm-mates surrounding his bed, chattering excitedly about the morning's edition of The Daily Prophet.
"Someone stole the Sirius Black motorbike!" the Weasley boy (Danny? Donny?) cried, lofting the paper up so that everyone could see. "John, is it true? What everyone's saying?"
"What?" John sat up and rubbed absently at his rumpled hair.
"That the headmaster's gone mad," Mike Stamford breathed, his eyes round. "Everybody's saying he killed a house-elf and tried to kidnap a couple of students, and there's a rumor going 'round saying he had a hand in that motorbike business, too."
John pushed his way out of bed and headed towards the stairs. "How should I know?" he called over his shoulder.
"Because," Bill Murray called, sounding desperate, "you're mates with that loony Slytherin boy Sherlock Holmes! Which means you know everything!"
It had taken more effort than John expected to ignore the school rumor mill. Rather against their wills, Sherlock and John had become something of minor legends due to their propensity for getting themselves into trouble. That, coupled with Mycroft's sudden appearance and Moriarty's sudden disappearance (not to mention Sherlock's surliness), meant that John was bombarded all day with questions about what happened the night before.
The worst thing, in John's opinion, was that he really wasn't entirely sure himself.
It wasn't until after supper that John had the opportunity to find out. Like most evenings, John snuck into the Slytherin dormitories and let himself into Sherlock's bedroom. Unlike most evenings, Sherlock's room was spotlessly clean and the boy himself was sitting in the center of the room, his clothes disheveled and his fists clenched.
"Mycroft," Sherlock said, to John's questioning look. And then, because the look remained, "Oh yes, and I've been in a fight."
John felt himself tense. "With who?"
"With whom," Sherlock corrected, frowning. "In answer to your query: some imbecile. He implied that I had been in bed with the former headmaster- both uses of the phrase being correct, here- and that now, with the new headmaster being my older brother, I would be allowed to continue doing as I pleased with no regard for school rules or, apparently, basic human decency."
"So you hit him?" John asked, his eyebrows raised.
"Of course not." Sherlock inspected his fingernails. "I merely mentioned the person he'd been taking to bed lately. And then, of course, he hit me."
"Oh, Sherlock." Shaking his head, John sat down on the floor beside the Slytherin boy and looked him over for injuries. "You could have called for me, you know. With the conch shell. I would have come."
"I'm perfectly capable of defending myself," Sherlock said indignantly. "I'm not one of your empty-headed girlfriends."
"No, you're not." John touched a small cut on Sherlock's cheekbone and frowned. "Tell me what happened, Sherlock. After I was…taken."
Sherlock scoffed. "Invaded, more like. I'll have to tutor you in Occlumency, I see." His eyes going distant, he recounted, "I knew. As soon as the house-elf apologized, I knew. Who is the master of Hogwarts house-elves? The headmaster, of course. And then it all clicked together. We couldn't find a corrupted professor because there wasn't one. 'Professor' was only one of his titles. It made perfect sense, then. The business with Quidditch, the painting that was used to deliver his message, the theft of the lobalug plants. I'm only surprised I didn't realize sooner. After that it was only a matter of tracking down where he'd taken you. The answer was obvious. The boathouse held sentimental value for Moriarty, clearly. It was the first place I checked."
"But the pips," John said. "There were five pips. Why did he take me before the final game?"
"Because we were close," Sherlock said, shrugging. "We had Moran. It was only a matter of time until Moran led us to Moriarty himself. And that article…the article I was talking about? The one about Moran's court case? It said that the headmaster had presented evidence in support of Moran's innocence and spoken as a witness in his favor. It didn't work, of course; Moran was clearly guilty. But the article said they were old school-mates, and that Moriarty believed whole-heartedly in Moran's innocence. That same day Moran simply vanished in transit to Azkaban."
John considered. "Even so," he said at last, rubbing his chin, "it would have taken us time to compile evidence against him. It's all good and well to condemn his friends, but Moran's guilt wasn't necessarily Moriarty's, not without proof."
"True," Sherlock sighed, "but what's the fun in a game if you're not winning it anymore?"
The roar of applause brought John back to the end-of-year speech. Slytherin had won the Quidditch Cup, Hufflepuff had won the House Cup (an accumulation of good deeds and few rule-breakers, it seemed), and John and Sherlock were regarded with a touch of respect- if not necessarily fondness, in Sherlock's case. All should have been well. And yet…
As John packed his trunk he thought back to the last time he'd packed it, just before Christmas. He and Sherlock had been an 'item', then, though John hadn't been eager to talk about it with his friends. It wasn't that he had been ashamed or anything, no matter what Sherlock had thought; it was only…
John had always thought that one of the best things about being in a relationship was showing off how great his partner was. But with Sherlock…Sherlock was like a secret camping site or the last bit of cake, hidden away in the back of the refrigerator. John didn't want anyone to know because he didn't want anyone to realize what a good thing he had. It would have been too easy, he thought, for them to take it away from him.
Friendship was good, though. Friendship was very good. And if there was anything Sherlock Holmes- the enormously wealthy, vastly intelligent, implausibly powerful git- needed out of life, it was a friend.
Dark curls bounced as the Slytherin boy waltzed through the crowd at Hogsmeades' train station, seemingly oblivious to John's shouts. Ever-persistent, John wormed his way through the multitude of students and blocked Sherlock's path. "Hey," he said, a touch breathlessly.
Sherlock raised his eyebrow. "Hello."
"I…" John shifted awkwardly. Sherlock was looking at him strangely, as though the idea of speaking to John now that the school year was through was both startling and repugnant. "I was looking for you," he finished lamely, his throat dry and his cheeks warm.
"Come to say good-bye?" Sherlock looked as cool and indifferent as ever, but there was something about his eyes that John felt betrayed his true feelings.
"We still have a whole train ride for that," John smiled, enjoying the look of genuine surprise on Sherlock's face.
Sherlock narrowed his eyes and looked around at the milling students boarding the train. "I suppose I imagined you'd be sharing a compartment with the likes of Molly, Sarah, Bill, and Mike."
"You could join us," John suggested, and then- deciding the sneer on Sherlock's face precipitated a decline- said, "or you and I could share a compartment, if we can find an empty one."
"Why would we do that?" Sherlock blinked, and John shook his head.
"You still don't get it, do you?" He took Sherlock's hand and led him towards the train, shouting over the din: "Sherlock, we're friends! I'm not going to just stop being your friend because the mentor project is over!"
"You have other friends," Sherlock called, following John closely down the aisle inside the train.
"Yeah," John agreed, sliding open a compartment door and tugging Sherlock inside, "but I like you best."
He tugged too hard; Sherlock came toppling into the little room and knocked them both to the floor. Sherlock looked down at John. John looked up at Sherlock.
"You're lying on me," John said softly, for want of anything better to say.
Sherlock immediately climbed to his feet, a sweep of colour gracing his angular cheeks. "My apologies," he said stiffly, and then- with equal rigidity- he extended his hand and helped John to his feet. He closed the compartment door and sat down on one of the benches, his spine straight and his grey eyes distant.
John sat down across from him, hands on his knees. "Sherlock?"
"I was…" Sherlock cleared his throat, smoothed his hair, straightened his tie. "I was thinking."
"When aren't you?" John laughed, but Sherlock's expression remained serious.
"I was thinking we could…" Sherlock hesitated again, and then plunged forward so quickly John struggled to keep up. "I was thinking we could resume our prior arrangement. The physical aspects of our relationship were enjoyable and clearly we both retain some measure of interest-"
"Whoa, whoa," John interrupted, holding out his hands. "Sherlock, I…I'm not sure that's a great idea. Please don't take it the wrong way, but…" He sighed and took Sherlock's hands in his. "I want this. You. But you deserve better."
"I'm perfectly capable of deciding for myself what I do and don't deserve," Sherlock said huffily, yanking his hands away and folding his arms. "If you're denying both of our wants out of some misguided sense of duty-"
"Not duty." John shook his head. "I care about you, Sherlock, and I don't want to see you get hurt. Especially not by me, not if I can help it."
Sherlock considered this for some time, his jaw set stroppily and his lips pouted. Eventually he sighed and rolled his eyes. "Fine." A crafty look stole across his face. "But perhaps one last snog, for memory's sake? Such things are traditional, aren't they?"
John laughed and covered his face in his hands. "You're insufferable."
"That doesn't mean 'no'."
"No," John said empathetically, but Sherlock's faux-pleading look made him giggle and amend, "All right, one very tiny, very quick snog. And then we revert entirely to friendship only. Deal?"
"Deal," Sherlock said quickly, pulling John over to his bench and kissing him so quickly and insistently that John was nearly dizzy with it.
It was everything that John had been missing in the last several months; it was like fire-whiskey and the shock of cold winter air hitting his lungs, like orchestra music and the soft, subtle hum of Brahm's waltz in his ear.
It was too much. It wasn't enough.
John drew back first, his heart racing and his body begging for more, more, more. He was still touching Sherlock, he realized, one hand in his hair and the other in his lap, and he pulled his hands away as hurriedly as though they'd been burned. "That was…"
"Exceptional?" Sherlock suggested, smirking a little, although the look in his eyes mirrored, in some ways, how John felt.
"A really bad idea," John said gently, moving back over to his own bench and trying to smile. "You seem to be full of those."
Sherlock shrugged. "An idea, in itself, is rarely good or bad. Rather, I find it's the execution that makes the difference."
"Oh, don't start rambling," John said, laughing, as the snack trolley arrived. He ordered, glad for the distraction, and the kiss never once came up in conversation again.
Something about King's Cross was always a bit surreal.
Perhaps it was because John knew, as soon as he arrived at Platform 9 ¾, that he'd be switching personas. In autumn he became a wizard and Quidditch enthusiast; in summer he transformed back into regular old John Watson, with the dead dad and the delinquent sister. Out there, he thought, looking at the wall that served as a portal to the Muggle world, I'm completely ordinary. None of them know about Moriarty or Sherlock. They don't know about flying motorbikes or Mermen or mandrake cultivation. They think I'm at military school, for God's sake.
"Well," Sherlock said, snapping John out of his thoughts, "I suppose this time it truly is good-bye."
"It doesn't have to be," John said. Sherlock gave him a look, and he cleared his throat. "What I mean is…you could visit. Over the summer? If you get any interesting cases, or…"
"Boys! Yoo-hoo!" Adorned in a very regal purple robe and feathery purple hat, Mrs. Hudson butted her way through the crowd and pulled both John and Sherlock into her surprisingly strong arms. "Oh!" she cried, sounding enraptured…and then she proceeded to box both of their ears, grumbling, "What a fright you gave me! All that awful nonsense with the headmaster! Oh, Sherlock, I expect it from you, but John!" She tisked unhappily and then kissed his forehead. "Still, all's well that end's well, as they say. Oh, and how you've grown! You'll be visiting the manor over holiday, won't you?"
John opened his mouth but Sherlock spoke over him. "Of course," he said, kissing Mrs. Hudson's cheek. "Antagonizing Mycroft on my own has lost its charm."
"Oh, you." Mrs. Hudson brushed at Sherlock's clothes, her mouth pressed into a thin line. "I wish you'd give your poor brother some peace." Suddenly she paused and looked from Sherlock to John and back again. "Well," she said, a twinkle in her eyes, "I'd best be getting your bags, Sherlock. You take your time now, sweetheart, and meet me down at the café when you're ready." She bustled off, giving them one quick look over her shoulder as she went.
"You'll have to let Mrs. Hudson down gently," John teased. "I think the news of our platonic plans might break her heart."
Sherlock rolled his eyes. "Mrs. Hudson will survive, I have no doubt." He looked at John appraisingly, his all-seeing gaze making John flush as always. "We still have the conch shells," he said at last. "If you're ever in any danger. If, say, Moriarty-"
"You'll be the first to know it," John said seriously.
"Good." Sherlock nodded. "Then…farewell, John." He bent very slightly at the waist and pressed one soft, quick kiss to John's cheek before disappearing into the crowd.
John stood rooted in place for a long moment, his fingers brushing absently at the place where Sherlock's lips had been. Then he grabbed his bags, headed out into King's Cross proper, and took the train to his mother's house. Three months, he thought, watching London pass by through the filmy windows. Three months. And then I can go home again.
A/N: Ladies and gentlemen, that's the end of series one. I'll be writing some bonus one-shots covering the cases the boys take over the summer (I'm already halfway through writing The Parselmouth League) but I don't expect to begin posting any of the series two stories until September or October (for more information on why this is the case, please feel free to check out my tumblr). The first series two story is A Scandal at the Ministry, in which Irene Adler comes into possession of a very dangerous memory and Sherlock gets in a little over his head. Until next time!