A Study in Magic: The Application
by Books of Change
Warning/Notes: This is the sequel to A Study in Magic, which is a BBC Sherlock and Harry Potter crossover AU posted here. The HP timeline and BBC Sherlock's timeline were shifted forwards and backwards to match up. One major BBC Sherlock character's gender was changed for the sake of the plot. Readers beware!
Chapter Twelve: Werewolf Welfare and Woes
Severus spent the days following the attack on the London werewolf clinic scouring the news. Though Watson replied to his text about Fenrir Greyback—"Thanks for the heads up. Fine now."— he had a feeling Watson's definition of 'Fine' was very different from his own.
For a while, the news of Greyback's capture dominated the pages of the Wizarding News Broadcast, the Daily Prophet and all other news outlets. Then stories about werewolves and their loved ones' desperate attempts to get the new cure eclipsed it.
From the moment they realized the potency of blood transfusion, the Magical Institutes of Health (MIH) wanted to limit the treatment to small, carefully screened cohorts, to thoroughly test its efficacy. Fenrir's attack at the London free clinic only hardened their stance on screening candidates. To ensure compliance, they forced Dr Robert Ransom, aka Healer Robert Dongyi Ju, to resign as lead researcher and replaced him with one of their own. Then the British Ministry of Magic sent ten Aurors to Grimmauld Place, evicted all the residents except the house-elf, and closed down the clinic. Black was unable to stop them.
This left the two hundred odd residents in a quandary, to say nothing of the werewolves who learned about the cure after the news covered Fenrir's arrest. It was maddening for the latter: Knowing that an effective treatment existed, but unable to get it through official channels.
Then word about the treatment's nature reached the streets.
"They inject you with the blood of a witch or wizard who doesn't have the curse. That's it."
The simplicity both amazed and infuriated the general public. However, the rumours glossed over many important details. Watson told Severus what they were when he asked: clean needles, proper intravenous injection, and, most importantly, blood that was compatible with the recipient.
The average witch or wizard didn't know this. Severus himself was sceptical when he watched the urgent public service announcement Jacqueline broadcasted over the mobile network to educate the masses the reason why you shouldn't inject other people's blood into yourself without supervision. Human blood has types different enough that they cannot mix? How can this be? Severus had wondered.
Then a young man, who battled lycanthrope since leaving Hogwarts, injected himself with his mother's blood. He quickly succumbed to pains and fevers, and was rushed to St. Mungo's Hospital. His attending Healer thought he contracted the flu and gave him Pepper-up.
He died of kidney failure within hours. He was twenty-four years old.
His distraught mother appeared on televised news the next day. Her face was wet with tears and she was holding up a photograph of her late son, who looked pale and wane and covered with fresh, bloody scars.
"We thought it would be all right," she sobbed. "He was my son. My son. My own flesh and blood…"
The Magical Governments of Europe and the USA issued a joint statement with the MIH that urged werewolves to not inject themselves with blood on their own. This triggered a firestorm of outrage.
"You denied us a life worth living! Will you deny a cure also!?"
"The MIH is F*** up! The Ministries are F*** up!"
"Give us the cure! NOW!"
"Those who are bitten need action, not 'proof'!"
All over the world, parents posted pictures of their infected children. A witch from Sweden tabulated the number of people who lived with lycanthrope or similar moon-dependent curses that transformed a person into a predatory animal, and her estimate claimed one million … one million people denied of an effective cure, she said pointedly. Hundreds picketed the MIH, chanting: "Blood into bodies! Blood into bodies!"
Then the International Werewolf Welfare Society made their boldest move to date. They ran a full page ad in every major newspaper in the magic world which showed the following:
"IF WE MARKED EVERY WEREWOLF WHO DIED WITHOUT HOPE OR CURE, WE WOULD FILL A NATION."
Beneath this header was a grey, desolate landscape full of crude crosses, each clearly meant to signify a werewolf who died without treatment. Then, on the bottom half:
"THIS NEED NOT BE.
WE NOW HAVE A CURE.
WE CANNOT AFFORD TO WAIT."
Dumbledore returned to Hogwarts on the second day of the ad's run. Once he and Severus ensconced themselves in the Headmaster's office, he spread the now infamous ad on his desk and declared:
"What a remarkable change in public opinion."
To be sure, Severus thought. Until now, lycanthrope wasn't something you mentioned in polite company, let alone admitted to having.
"How is Lord Voldemort taking the turn of events?" Dumbledore asked.
"I haven't been summoned, but I can guess it's a huge blow," said Severus. "Werewolves comprised half of his dark creature army. With Fenrir incarcerated and, from what I've heard, paralyzed from neck-down and cured, his stronghold over them is effectively over. But I suppose the Dark Lord can promise to give them the cure while the MIH dithers."
"Such were my own thoughts. We are fortunate Dr Ransom has no qualms against underground clinics," said Dumbledore.
That put one worry aside, Severus agreed.
"With the Goblins and Centaurs declaring neutrality, that leaves Lord Voldemort only his Dementors and Giants," Dumbledore continued.
"I take this to mean Hagrid failed his mission."
"He managed to reach the Giant settlement, and gain the favour of the leader, Gurg Karkus, by offering the Gubraithian Fire and Goblin-made helmet, per my instructions. But the night before he could offer the last gift, a fight broke out and Karkus was murdered. One Golgomath became the new Gurg. Since coming to power, Golgomath refused to listen to Hagrid. In fact, his minions seized Hagrid when he tried to talk to him. Fortunately, Madame Maxime saved him by shooting the Giants in the eyes with Conjunctivitis Curses. The day after they fled, McNair came and secured an alliance with the Giants. It is my opinion McNair had already won over Golgomath and convinced him to murder Karkus when Hagrid came."
"In short, they failed," said Severus. "Why bother sending an envoy? You knew success was unlikely."
"An effort had to be made. No matter how small the chance," said Dumbledore firmly.
"We could have employed Hagrid more fruitfully on the werewolf front," Severus argued.
"In hindsight, yes, we could have," Dumbledore sighed. "No one foresaw this outcome. And it is still up to us to use it to our advantage."
"Underground clinics are insufficient to the task?"
"We need to get the word around about them without the Ministry or the MIH's knowledge. We also must collect the necessary blood, and store this precious and perishable substance. Muggles can only keep blood products for up to a month, did you know this, Severus?"
"No. But I suppose this means we need to either find a way to store blood for longer or maintain a constant stream of donors."
"Just so," Dumbledore confirmed. "All daunting tasks to be sure. We will face even more challenges if the International Confederation of Wizards decides to impose emergency restrictions on who can administer the cure."
Severus hadn't thought about the International Confederation of Wizards. "Would they?"
"I do not know," Dumbledore said. "I will argue that even if they do, it would be impossible to enforce. Better to run trails with those who have lycanthrope than to merely run trails on them. Regardless, we must open another clinic and reach out to the werewolves."
Severus nodded. "I have some ideas on how to extend the shelf-life of blood. I'll let you know the results. Will Healer Ransom need the same batch of the Wolfsbane potion for his control group?"
"He asked for double the amount with the gravest of apologies. He expects a large influx of patients now that word is out."
"Understood. Is there anything else?"
Dumbledore's weary smile took a rueful tinge.
"More salves for bumps and bruises and broken bones, I think. Hagrid informed me he is bringing his younger half-brother, Grawp, to Hogwarts. He found him amongst the giants and is convinced the others were bullying him."
Severus stared at Dumbledore. Then he clutched his forehead and fought the urge to swear.
"And you can't stop him."
"No, I cannot," said Dumbledore resignedly.
Around the time intrepid picketers found a way to jinx the director of MIH to cluck like a chicken and sprout corresponding feathers, Dumbledore refurbished the Shrieking Shack into a clinic, and relocated the residents of the closed London clinic there. He also asked the Order and its Allies for volunteers.
Watson raised her hand. Almost everyone protested; letting a Muggle enter a purely magical settlement was a serious violation of the Statute of Secrecy, to say nothing about the potential dangers to Watson's life ("Think about your children!" Molly Weasley wailed). Watson ignored all objections and made daily trips to the Shrieking Shack (somehow; Severus suspected Sirius Black was side-apparating Watson there).
Enormous numbers of werewolves started to flock Hogsmeade. Watson, apparently, now had a reputation as THE trustworthy ally. This naturally led to a blood shortage. So Dumbledore asked for ideas on how to collect blood donations.
Holmes, because he was the worst Muggle to have ever lived, declared running a blood donation drive in Hogwarts and then transfusing the collected blood to the werewolves ASAP was the most obvious solution.
Potter, who not only inherited James Potter's flaws but was raised to possess Holmes's— therefore THE WORST student in Hogwarts— decided to do just that.
Severus was sure of this. He reached the conclusion following these salient clues: a change in Potter's evening routine, which now centred around the music chamber and the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy; a huge spike in Hogwarts' food consumption; and Potter and his gang scurrying around and asking older students to donate blood "for the poor werewolves; they will need it later, you know?" without mentioning how long of a later it was going to be.
"Is it safe?" Wizard-raised students wanted to know.
"It's fine. I give away blood all the time, and had no problems," Potter would reply.
"How much blood do they collect?"
Granger had a small glass tube ready for this question. "Just three-quarters of this."
"Which is nothing. Quidditch players shed more blood in a single game when a Bludger catches their face," Weasley would add, earning a ruinous look from Granger.
"What happens after you give blood?" Was another popular question.
"To you? Not much." was Lestrade's answer. "Ron's parents and his brother Percy… they donated a pint of blood each to my baby brother, Isaac. He was bleeding out in the womb and he would've died for sure if it weren't for them. Anyway, Percy went back to work right after donating. He sprouted a few white hairs a few days later, but that's about it."
Ron Weasley looked distinctly uncomfortable whenever Lestrade brought this up.
When they weren't persuading students in person—and taking those who consented straight to the Hospital Wing for a blood draw—Potter and his gang were handing out flyers about the blood drive during lunch. Severus caught more than one student in his potions class with a folded up flyer in their backpack. Once Diggory joined the effort, the entire Hufflepuff house got into it.
It was time to text Watson.
Your son is talking children into donating blood.
Good. I'm out of A, B, and O.
You must realise this is a risky venture that must stop.
The f***ing f*** Snape. You do not f***ing discourage kids from saving lives, what the f***
Watson. Mind your language. Don't you have children around? What will their parents say?
Watson's reply was a dazzling sixty-word display of pure swearing. Severus, feeling better than he had in months, regretted not having anyone to show it.
Severus continued to monitor Potter's activities after the exchange. He had no intention of stopping him. It would've been futile, and besides, the new cure's ready availability promised a compelling future.
No more werewolves.
Severus shivered whenever he thought about it. He could imagine how to make it happen: A bank where you could store untainted blood. If you were ever bitten, you simply injected yourself with the blood your stored. In the meantime, administer the cure to all werewolves, whether they wanted to be cured or not. Soon, the number of werewolves would dwindle to nothing.
No more werewolves.
Apparently, Granger realised the potential, too, for she started using it to argue students into agreeing:
"When you donate blood, you can help eradicate all lunar curses, not just lycanthrope. Just think about it: you will never have to worry about turning into a werewolf ever again!"
Either the message resonated, or Potter's activism efforts actually worked, for a steady stream of students visited the infirmary to get their blood drawn. Severus paid a surprise visit once, under the guise of bringing a new batch of Bubotuber Pus Salves and Pepper-Up.
He found Potter tying a blue rubber string on a fourth year, Luna Lovegood, while Diggory sat waiting for his turn. Potter froze when he noticed his potions master's presence. Severus was no less astonished.
Then Potter hardened his expression and finished making a knot around Lovegood's arm, just above the elbow.
"I'm going to find a good vein to draw blood from now," said Potter, his eyes now on Lovegood's pale arm. "Make a fist for me."
Lovegood regarded Potter with dotty interest as he gently pressed two fingers all around her inner elbow.
"Any luck?" she asked.
"Your veins are kind of thin. But that's fine. Mine are practically invisible, too."
Potter stopped his fingers at a particular spot. He seemed to make a note of the location. Potter then removed the blue strap, turned to the tray to his side, and ripped the wrapper around a syringe that had a clear tube instead of a plunger. He screwed a needle on the syringe and set the lot on the tray. He pulled on blue gloves. Then he ripped open a small white square, pulled out the wet pad inside it and started cleaning Lovegood's inner arm in concentric circles. Potter ran soothing commentary of what he was doing throughout the process.
"How are you feeling?" said Potter.
"Tickles," Lovegood replied. "But otherwise, I'm fine."
Potter smiled. "Good. I'm going to replace the tourniquet, now."
He tied the blue rubber strap around Lovegood's arm again. Severus noted the ends were up and away from the inner elbow. Potter asked Lovegood to make a fist, folding her hand into one as he said so. Once Lovegood made a fist, Potter picked up the syringe, pulled back the pink plastic case at the end of the syringe, and thus exposed the hollow needle. He finally positioned the needle just over the vein he picked earlier.
"I'm going to insert after counting three," said Potter. "You're going to feel a prick. One … two … three…"
He pushed in the needle. Lovegood stared at the ceiling and hummed to herself as Potter pushed the tube inside the syringe. Dark blood trickled into the tube.
"Open your hand," said Potter.
Lovegood opened her fist. Potter removed the tourniquet. More blood flooded into the tube. When it was three-quarters full, Potter pulled out the tube from the syringe (Severus noted the pink rubber stopper). He turned the tube upside down a few times, and then set it aside. Potter carefully withdrew the needle and put pressure on the spot with a twice-folded gauze.
"There we go," said Potter.
"Oh, already? That wasn't bad at all," said Lovegood.
Potter grinned. "You're a trooper. Romilda Vane fainted."
Potter dropped the syringe and needle into a red box labelled "BIOHAZARD", and put two strips of sticking plaster over the gauze, in a narrow 'X' pattern. He finally stuck a label bearing the day's date and Lovegood's name around the small tube full of her blood.
This all took less than five minutes. Severus, after he made a hasty exit, wondered how the boy had a venue and time to practice.
Scratch that, he could make an educated guess.
YOU TAUGHT YOUR SON HOW TO DRAW BLOOD?!
Yes. So? SH
Yeah, he's a natural (or he absorbed the skill via osmosis from the 10000000+ blood tests). And I had no choice. Madam Pomfrey couldn't stomach needles.
Now answer me this. How can a healer handle blood but not needles?
Severus groaned. What else did he expect?
About a week after Severus paid a surprise visit to the Hospital Wing, a poster appeared on the Daily Prophet's first-page bottom half. It featured a group of Hogwarts students, most whom Severus recognized: Julia Lestrade, Cedric Diggory, Ernie McMillan, Hannah Abbott, Luna Lovegood, the Ravenclaw fifth year Potter spent his Sundays with (Boot, if he remembered correctly), Cho Chang, Hermione Granger, Dean Thomas, Seamus Finnigan, Neville Longbottom, and, of course, all four Weasleys. In the front and centre was Potter.
They all smiled hugely, almost defiantly, at the camera. Then they raised a fist, rolled back their sleeves, and exposed their inner elbow. Where one could see two strips of sticking plaster over a piece of gauze.
The mark of a blood donor.
"To all those suffering from lycanthropy and other lunar therianthropy (LT)," said the caption below, "WE STAND WITH YOU!"
It was a watershed moment. Werewolf activists never had someone as influential and famous as Harry Potter pledging his support … and they didn't even have to beg for it. Before long, "We Stand With You!" became their rallying cry, and two strips of sticking plaster over a pad of gauze became their emblem.
The poster also woke up the MIH and Ministries of Magic to a new reality. Lycanthropy was no longer a shameful curse their victims suffered in secrecy. The rising, livid outrage threatened to spiral into a public relations nightmare. Their options narrowed to one: silencing the activists was impossible, so they must join them.
The day before Halloween, a small delegation of MIH researchers and Magical Congress of the USA officials met with Chandra Visco, the chair of the National Lunar Therianthropy Coalition (NLTC), a powerful coalition of activists for all forms of lunar curses, hoping to use the NLTC as a neutral intermediary between the MIH and the werewolf activists. Visco had a proposal, but her terms were inflexible: MIH had to provide expanded access to the cure. This program would allow qualified healers to treat patients outside of clinical trials. The Ministries will not prosecute any clinic or individual who administered the cure prior to the proposal and will pardon those who were arrested for providing treatment. In return, the National Lunar Therianthropy Coalition will act as a go-between for the Magical Institutes of Health and the embittered and alienated community of werewolves. Visco offered to join the planning committee for the phase II trials, which required subjects who transformed to predatory animals other than wolves during the full moon and help recruit patients for the trial using the NLTC's extensive network.
It was an uneasy alliance of three forces— governments, werewolves and their advocates, and academic researchers— but, amazingly, everyone did their part. The Ministries of Magic pardoned those who were arrested for treating werewolves with the new cure. Visco sent out letters from the NLTC to curse carriers using the coalition's enormous mail house. An all-star team of healers was assembled to run the phase II trials: Damocles Belby, of the Wolfbane Fame, Cixin Xie from Colombia, and Leila Denmark from Emory.
One person was missing from the team: Dr Robert Ransom. Pardoned, exonerated, and reinstated as program head, Ransom begged for a leave of absence so he could spend time with his wife.
If Severus expected to things to "quiet down" in Hogwarts after the need for werewolf activism decreased, he would've been sadly disappointed. Since he suffered no such illusions, Severus waited for the other shoe to drop.
The "Other Shoe" came in the form of Robert Ransom, showing up in the Great Hall dressed in a robe that was fifteen different shades of swamp green. A maroon trilby sat on his head, an egg-yolk yellow scarf coiled around his neck like a poisonous snake, and bright orange Muggle trainers adorned his feet.
"Spend time with his wife," Severus recalled as he watched Lestrade throw a muffin at Ransom, calling him a bloody eyesore. He also recalled the clinic in the Shrieking Shack.
Ransom didn't make another appearance after that. Severus assumed he was spending his time with Mrs Jacqueline in the mornings and at the Shrieking Shack clinic in the evenings. But then he heard a murmur from his colleagues that made him question this.
Severus didn't know since when his fellow teachers started to gauge Potter's morale from the quality of his homework, but there was an uneasy shuffling about the staff room when Professor Binns mentioned Potter submitted blank rolls of parchment instead of written essays for History of Magic. Then Professor Sinistra reported Potter only turned in his star charts, which were easy to copy, and Professor Babbling said Potter appeared to have lost all interest in Runes.
On the flip side, Professor Flitwick observed he'd never seen Potter exhibit better mastery over Charms as he did now, and Professor McGonagall admitted the same for Transfigurations. Severus said nothing, but if someone force-fed him Veritaserum, he would have confessed Potter far outstripped his peers in potion making, with the possible exception of Hermione Granger.
"It's almost strategic, the way he's going about it," McGonagall said. "Except I'm at lost as to what kind of strategy he's pursuing."
Lupin was not in the staff room to comment. In fact, he'd rarely mingled with the teaching staff for the last two months. While Dumbledore claimed Lupin was spending his not-teaching, not-grading hours at the Shrieking Shack clinic, Severus couldn't help but wonder if his absences were somehow related to Potter's strange behaviour and Ransom's sudden appearance.
Then Watson stopped sending him profanity littered text messages. Unease caged Severus at this point. He couldn't recall doing anything that would offend Watson. Nor did he suspect Watson was busy; since the MIH and the Ministry of Magic expanded the cure for "compassionate use", the number of patients staying in the Shrieking Shack dwindled to a more reasonable one.
At last, it dawned on Severus he had not asked Dumbledore about his trip to the Gobi desert. Dumbledore and Shin were going to ask a Dao-ga expert residing there if there was a way to destroy a Horcrux without destroying the vessel. Why Dumbledore was looking such a method, Severus didn't know. But if the trip was fruitful, wouldn't he have had heard about it? But if the trip brought bad news for Potter, then that would explain Watson's radio silence and so much more.
Severus barged into the headmaster's office.
"Why didn't you tell me Potter was a Horcrux?!"
Dumbledore looked over Severus's shoulder, no doubt checking if the door was closed. Once assured no one could eavesdrop, he sighed.
"You figured it out."
"It's not hard, not when you drop hints like boulders," Severus snarled. "Why research Horcruxes? Because the Dark Lord has them. Why look for ways to destroy Horcruxes without destroying the vessel? Because Potter is one."
Dumbledore nodded. "He became one inadvertently. When Lord Voldemort tried to kill the boy, Lily cast her own life between them as a shield, which made the Killing Curse rebound upon Voldemort. A fragment of Voldemort's soul blasted apart from the whole and latched itself onto the only living soul left in that collapsing building. Part of Lord Voldemort lives inside Harry, and while that fragment of soul, unmissed by Voldemort, remains attached to and protected by Harry, Lord Voldemort cannot die."
Severus didn't care about that.
"So why didn't you tell me?"
"I suggested, and Harry agreed, that we should keep this knowledge among those he trusts most," Dumbledore replied. "And before you ask: my not telling you is not a question trust. I do not underestimate the constant danger in which you place yourself, Severus. To give Voldemort what appears to be valuable information while withholding the essentials is a job I would entrust to nobody but you. So while Harry confided to his closest friends and his family, I confided to the only expert on this subject I knew: Grandmaster Shin. It is he who suggested we seek the Dao-ga expert."
"And what did the expert have to say?"
Dumbledore's blue eyes drifted downward. The twinkle in them dimmed.
"She could not help."
Severus balled his fists.
"And there are no alternatives?"
"There is a ritual that allows one to transfer a soul fragment from one living vessel to another. Dr Ransom offered himself as a substitute, but Harry cannot give the soul fragment of Lord Voldemort that resides in him to Dr Ransom unless he learns Dao-ga."
"Which he cannot."
"Not within the time we are given, no."
Silence reigned in the office for a long while. The disappointment and betrayal Severus felt … the pain of it … it was beyond words. It broke him.
"So he must die?" Severus asked, more calmly than he thought himself possible.
"And Voldemort himself must do the honours. That is essential. Otherwise, Lord Voldemort cannot die," Dumbledore said.
Severus felt the pain intensify.
"I thought … all these years … we were protecting him for her. For Lily."
"To borrow the words of the expert June Hu and I visited: 'You cannot divide things which essence has mingled. Water and Ink. The best you can do is prepare the righteous son to meet his death'." Dumbledore shook his head. "She is right, of course. I knew this the moment I realised what had happened that fateful Halloween night. So I've done what I could to teach him, to raise him, and let him try his strength—"
Severus couldn't take it; he stood up.
"You have used me."
"I have spied for you," Severus spat. "I lied for you, and put myself in mortal danger for you. Everything to keep Lily Potter's son safe. Now you're telling me you have been raising him like a pig for slaughter—"
"This is touching," said Dumbledore seriously. "Have you grown to care for the boy, after all?"
"For him?" Severus shouted. He drew his wand. "Expecto Patronum!"
From the tip of his wand burst out a silver doe, just like always. She landed on the office floor, bounded once across the office, and soared out of the window. Severus did not blink nor look away until her silvery glow faded to nothing.
"After all this time?" Dumbledore asked, his voice choked with tears.
"Always," said Severus.
Forever and always.
Silence reigned again.
"…People have called me cold—detached," said Dumbledore at last. "They say so with good reason. It is true I watched over Harry with the purpose of preparing him to die. But now … now I understand your commitment, Severus. Believe me, I do. I would not have sought a Dao-ga expert otherwise. More importantly, though I'm convinced I am right, I also believe future will prove me wrong."
Severus stared at him.
"I don't understand."
"When I sent Harry to his Aunt, Petunia, I expected to retrieve him from her when the time came for him to enter Hogwarts," said Dumbledore. "In reality, I found him being raised by two most extraordinary Muggles: Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson. Since my first meeting with them, I have learned much about my hubris. It was quite humbling, really."
Severus worked his throat for a moment.
"This doesn't mean he will live."
"Well, no," said Dumbledore. "But where our Baker Street Trio is concerned, I expect the unexpected. Here, let me show you what I've witnessed when I told them the bad news."
Dumbledore got to his feet and walked around the desk, past Severus, and bent over the cabinet beside the door. When Dumbledore straightened up, he was holding a shallow stone basin etched with Runes around its rim. A Pensieve, Severus recognized, as Dumbledore placed it on his desk. The memories sloshing inside the basin simmered like so much liquid silver turned vapour.
Dumbledore resumed his seat behind his desk. He opened a desk drawer, pulled out a paper charm, and dropped it over the Pensieve.
The paper charm floated and stood upright on the silvery vapour's surface. The room around them wobbled, darkness fell, and Severus felt as though he was freefalling. Next blink, he found himself in a room he didn't recognize.
It was in Hogwarts. This much he was certain. But he'd be damned if he knew which one. It was enormous and looked rather like the interior of a sumptuous treehouse or perhaps a gigantic ship's cabin. Multi-coloured hammocks were strung from the ceiling and from a balcony that ran around the dark wood-panelled and windowless walls, which were covered in bright tapestry hangings: Gryffindor's lion, Hufflepuff's black badger, the bronze eagle of Ravenclaw and silver and green of Slytherin. There were bulging bookcases, long tables akin to the ones in the Great Hall, and in the corner a large wooden-cased wireless.
"There they are," said Dumbledore, pointing at a group of people standing around a lamp.
Severus and Dumbledore approached the group, which comprised of Holmes, Watson, Black, Lupin, Robert Ransom, Jacqueline (Shin) Ransom, Grandmaster Shin, memory Dumbledore and finally Potter.
Severus didn't notice the boy at first. Just like he didn't when he first saw him at the Leaky Cauldron four years ago. Like that fateful day, Potter was not wearing glasses. His infamous scar lay hidden under his fringe, which, under the soft glow of lamplight, looked deep red.
Lily's dark red.
"It was a long shot anyway," said Holmes.
"I can take over the Dao-ga training in the mornings," said Ransom. "I'm out of work, anyway."
"Says the man who's running multiple clinical trials," Holmes drawled.
"Sherlock," Watson murmured.
Holmes fell quiet. There was a beat.
"Dr Robert, do you think I can learn Dao-ga in three months?" Potter asked. "And be honest with me."
"I'm always honest," Ransom said. "And no, I don't think so."
Potter let out a shaky breath. "I figured."
"Why three months?" Black asked. "You have more time than…"
"No, I don't."
"Harry…" said Lupin.
"I DON'T!" Potter shouted. "Voldemort isn't going to wait around until I get strong enough to learn Dao-ga! He's definitely not going to wait until I finish taking my O.W.L.s! You know this!"
No one said anything. Watson looked anguished.
"Babe…" Watson started.
Potter shook his head.
"I'm not giving up," he said, with a steel in his voice. "I'm just … preparing for the worst. I'll keep looking for the missing Horcrux. I'll skip classes if I have to. Sorry, professor."
"While I normally do not condone skiving, Harry, I believe you put a lot of thought behind this," said Dumbledore quietly. "Would you mind sharing them?"
Potter wet his chapped lips before saying:
"Defeating Voldemort, that's the most important thing. If this means I must fail school, then so be it. If … after I survive, after I live through it, I can repeat fifth year. That's okay, isn't it?"
Lupin covered his mouth. Black looked away, and his shoulders began to shake. Ransom held his wife tightly while she wept into his chest. Shin held out a handkerchief to a watery-eyed Dumbledore while looking desolate.
Severus didn't look at Holmes. He didn't want to. He focused on Watson instead.
Watson's eyes welled up, but the tears did not fall. She sat motionless for a moment. Then Watson closed her eyes, drew in a deep breath, and then looked at Potter with unabashed pride.
"Yes, Harry, that's okay."
Potter laughed; it sounded more like crying.
"Knew you would work it through eventually," said Holmes, his tone strangely warm.
"No, you didn't," Watson retorted.
"I probably won't, skip classes I mean," said Potter, wiping his eyes. "I have a feeling… once I can really understand magic— the deep things, the ugly things—I'll know. When I can understand what makes blood magic work the way it does, and know what it really means to make a Horcrux, then I'll know what I ought to do."
Final Notes: This is the first chapter that made me cry while writing. I never cried over my own writing before. I heavily referenced "THE EMPEROR OF ALL MALADIES; a biography of cancer" for this chapter. It's the best book I've read this year. I read it through THREE TIMES because I loved it so much. I highly recommend it.
THANK YOU for all those who read my original story, MEMORY CHASERS, off Inkitt. And a special THANKS everyone who went through the trouble of signing up to read it. Thanks to you, MEMORY CHASERS made the "Inkitt Classics" list. There are only 19 copies left ... claim your free ebook while you can! You can find a link to the story at: booksofchange dot com