Disclaimer: All the characters displayed in this fic are property of their respective creators, JK Rowling (Harry Potter), Moffat and Gatiss (BBC Sherlock), and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes).
This is a WIP, all comments and opinions are welcome. It will be updated as regularly as possible and will cover as canon as possible from after Sherlock's death, covering the months we did not see, until HLV.
Special thanks to AlessNox, who reviewed this work
Chapter 1: The fake flatmate
Hermione emerged from the underground with the stench of ancient pipes in her nostrils. It was probably one of the things she missed the most about magic: the ability to apparate whenever, wherever, with little to no consequences. She adjusted her trench coat and scarf to avoid the January chill while walking in direction of Marleybone road towards Baker Street, making a mental note to search for the nearest Tesco as soon as the paperwork was settled. With the absentmindedly technique of someone who has lived too long in London, she dodged people coming her way, thinking about her prospective flatmate, John Watson. The suicide of his partner (and allegedly lover) Sherlock Holmes had had full press coverage by the sensationalist papers in particular over the last six months, and it was still in the limelight every now and then. Apparently, the lack of a better accommodation arrangement had forced doctor Watson to rent the now spare room.
She stopped close to the end of the street, staring at number 221 across the road. The advertisement, addressed to Dr John H. Watson, might have probably gone unnoticed in the sea of renting ads on a popular website, if she would not have known what she was looking for. The conversation that they had shared the previous day had been short and concise, mostly standard get-to-know questions before arranging a viewing. Precisely, the nature of the conversation they were bound to have today was what was unsettling her. First, she did not know how to approach someone that was so evidently grieving, judging by the closed curtains and the full mailbox. Second, whether under different circumstances knowledge was power, in this case, they were a handicap. She knew so many things about him at this point that she would have to think very carefully about what she was going to say to him, and how.
She looked to her right and crossed the street, wanting to end this as soon as possible, hopefully with a signed lease contract. With a glance at her watch, she saw she was barely five minutes away from the agreed time and climbed the two steps to knock on the door. Upon getting hold of the knocker, the door opened revealing a petite woman with a kind smile on her face. ' She was probably looking through the peep-hole ', Hermione thought.
"Oh dear, you are Hermione right? You are here to see John, he told me you'd come today "
"Yes, Madam. That's me "
"Oh but come inside darling, this wind will get to your bones if you stand up there any longer "
The woman took Hermione by the arm and gently but firmly guided her to the back of the house, and gestured for her to sit in one of the old chairs in the kitchen. Hermione took off her coat while the old lady was taking off the stove a purple teapot and chatting about her hip and how bad it was with this weather. On the table, there were already a sugar bowl and two cups that were being filled.
"… Luckily for me, John is a doctor. Tea? "
"Yes, thank you, Mrs…"
"Oh, how incredibly rude of me. I am Mrs Hudson, the landlady. So nice to meet you"
Hermione took the cup Mrs Hudson was offering with a smile and took a sip, letting the beverage warm her body
"I am Hermione, Hermione Black. A pleasure to meet you indeed. "She shifted slightly towards the door, only to look back to the other woman "Do you know when Doctor Watson will be here, Mrs Hudson? "
"Oh, he is upstairs. He is just, you know…"She lowered her voice as if what she was about to say was some kind of secret. "He had been depressed for a while. He rarely goes out except for his meetings with his therapist and some grocery shopping. He doesn't even have a job"
"Yes, I supposed it. I heard about what happened. Really hard to miss it, when it was everywhere." She drank from her cup glimpsing Mrs Hudson, whose eyes had gone glassy at the mention of the deceased detective. "Especially if what the papers said was true and they were… Lovers"
"Oh, I never know with this generation. I told them thousands of times that I didn't care, but they never admitted it."
Hermione chuckled at this and it appeared to lift the spirits in the room. From what she had read on John's blog, it was clear to her that he was not gay. He had a weird fascination with Sherlock, granted, but she doubted it went further than just admiration. Sherlock? Not enough data points to draw a conclusion. He might have been asexual for all that she knew. Her train of thoughts was stopped when she heard the footsteps coming down the stairs. She turned herself to face the door, seconds before a man emerged in the doorway, hands on his sides slowly clenching and relaxing, and looking awfully self-aware.
She could see he had tried to look formal and presentable, but months of voluntary confinement had made a significant impact on his appearance. The man she had seen in the photographs, while not typically handsome, had always been kind of attractive. There was something intriguing in his soldier-like posture, in the few slightly fairer hairs that were starting to decorate his temples, in the wrinkles around his eyes. But the person before her was a mere shadow of it. He was far too thin, too pale and baggy-eyed, too sad. He had shaved, but his shirt was full of creases as if it had been carelessly thrown on a couch, his trousers looked unwashed and his shoes were in dire need of a shine. She tried to discretely draw her eyes to his face, so he would not feel under scrutiny.
"Hi, sorry, it is ridiculous that I am late in my own house."He offered a hand that Hermione immediately took, with a firm but cordial handshake "John Watson"
"No worries at all. I am Hermione Black, pleasure to meet you at last"
"Likewise" The corners of his mouth turned up in a smile, that seemed a bit forced "Shall we go and see the flat?"
"Oh, darling. You two go, I'll bring you tea"
"Thank you, Mrs. Hudson," He said grinning warmly at her before turning back to Hermione. "This way please"
She followed him across the small lobby and started ascending the stairs. He was leading the way but keeping close enough as to talk with her.
"So, you have met Mrs Hudson"
"Yes, lovely lady. I wish all my landladies would have been like that"
"Don't we all? "
They made it to the upper floor, and even from her position behind him Hermione could see and hear the deep sigh John let out while taking the few steps to the door that was ajar, not even waiting for her to come after him. He stood in the entrance, with his back against the door, inviting her inside.
The best adjective for the room before her was oppressive. Too many things were stored in very little space, such as papers, laptops, books stacked in precarious equilibrium on the floor, boxes covered with a thick layer of dust. And if John's appearance was something to go by, she would bet the entire Triwizard Tournament prize that they were not his. She went into the room, inspecting the wall and the shelves, while her hand roamed every surface she could reach without bending. While her fingers touched the leather material of the couch on her right, she heard John's nervous babble.
"This is the common area. I swear it is bigger than it looks, it is just a bit cramped. "
She was half-listening, as a large, yellow smile on the wall had caught her attention. At first, it looked like some sort of modern art, but after a closer look, she saw the small cavities.
"Are those bullet holes?" Hermione turned her heard to John, that was apparently lost in his own thoughts, startling him.
"Yes, they are. The previous tenant had interesting hobbies."
"I know Dr. Watson, I read your blog. Found it when I looked you up. You know, a bit of a background check. "
He looked thoroughly surprised. She had seen the counter on his webpage, he should know a big part of the city knew about him.
"But of course! Who hasn't? The great adventures of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. They kept me up at night reading them"
As soon as the words escaped her mouth she knew they were not as harmless as she had thought. John's face, that had started to soften during the conversation, contorted into an awkward gesture while averting her gaze.
"Oh, God, I am so sorry. I promise I am not a crazy fangirl and that I haven't been stalking you. Really"
He stared at her, blankly. She could almost hear how the wheels in his head were working to answer her, and hers were speeding to find a way to fix it.
"Umm..."He was trying to say something, but it was almost as if his brain and mouth were totally disconnected. He let out a small sigh and a tiny smirk took place on his face.
"You are an improvement over Sherlock then"
Hermione felt an involuntary grin and laughed out loud. Not a hysterical laughter, but a heartedly, relieved sound. Although she could see the pain in his eyes, his demeanour was much calmer, and his smile had stayed after the small joke he did.
"And this way we have the kitchen, with its own door…"John explained, motioning with his left arm and extending the hand towards the open space on the left side of the living-room. "And through the small corridor, you have the bathroom and what would be…your… bedroom"
She looked at the kitchen without actual interest. She never cooked. She did not know how and she did not like it. It was one of the few things she sucked at, and after years of struggle and dozens of burned meat pies, she was quite ready to accept it. So she only needed a few things to be able to survive: a kettle, a microwave, a fridge, and menus of nearby restaurants. She left John where he was and wandered through the kitchen, taking a look at the dusty microscope on the table.
"It is equipped with the usual. I don't really cook, so the kitchen is pretty much unused. The fridge will be divided equally, of course"
"Can a microscope be considered 'kitchen appliance'? Maybe it could come in handy. I don't know, we could investigate the mould from our cheese…"She muttered, looking through the lens and experimentally touching the right wheel to focus the image.
Hermione raised her head and stepped back from her spot as she saw his face turned darker. She thought that maybe she had gone too far, touching things that were not her own. He cleared his throat, as if he were trying to keep the tears at bay, and sighed.
"It was Sherlock's."He walked to the table, and his hand touched slightly an empty petri dish, longingly "Neither of us used this kitchen as an actual kitchen, so it was his lab. I should move it, to the downstairs flat maybe."
"John, I know this is none of my business, but if you are not sure about this, I can just leave. No hurt feelings "
The man shook his head, with slightly bright eyes that she guessed he did not want her to see.
"It seems a lifetime away but he has been gone for just six months. And…"His voice broke while she could see him inhaling deeply and blinking. He bowed his head even further down, while his left hand went to his eyes to bat some treacherous tears away. "I am sorry, Miss Black"
"No, please, call me Hermione" She went around the table and squeezed his arm lightly, as a comforting gesture. "As a piece of advice, and even though there is always going to be a date, a place or a name that would open the wound again, it will get better "
"Is that so?"
She nodded and made her way to the fridge to give him some space to gather himself. How could she explain to him how much she understood him, how much she had lost? That her nights were plagued with nightmares that never ceased and that the names of those she left behind were branded in her heart as much as 'mudblood' was in her skin. Now it was her turn to open her eyes to dry their corners, from where fresh tears were about to spill, and she opened the fridge. A foul smell smacked her and she had to repress her nausea, closing quickly the door as quickly as she could.
"Why does the fridge smell like if there were dead animals inside?"
"Oh! Right. Maybe because there were at some point"
"What did you do? Satanism? Did you sacrifice kittens to the moon or something?"
"God knows what Sherlock was up to sometimes. That fridge has seen heads, thumbs, livers..."His voice died when he saw her face of utter disbelief.
"Good "' Oh Merlin, what a nuthouse' "So bullet holes, lab kit instead of a beautiful bouquet of flowers, and dead animal and/or human part in the fridge"She smiled at him "I am in"
"Don't you want to see the rest?"
"Well, it depends. Do you have corpses in any of the other rooms?"
"No" John gave the first real smile since she knew him.
"Then I postulate as flatmate, doctor"
Just in that moment, Mrs Hudson appeared with a tray full of butter biscuits, tea, and cups.
"Ah, Mrs Hudson. Hermione here just told me that she will be taking the room"
The woman left the tray on the coffee table and her hands found head other in a gesture that could only be defined as delighted.
"But that's lovely dear. It would be so nice to see a woman's touch around here. But we might need to clean, John wouldn't let me touch a thing"
"I thought you weren't our housekeeper"
"Nonsense John. Pour her a nice cuppa while I go to fetch the key of the other flat to store all of this"
The old woman darted out of the room while John served the tea
"No milk for me Doctor "
"Just John. Now were are flatmates, Hermione"
The trip back to her old apartment was as dreadful as it could be for someone that hated small, closed, underground spaces. The soldier part of her, the one that still made her sleep with one eye open, was curious about the carelessness of her new flatmate. The conversation over tea had covered politics, gossip about the royals, the roadworks that were causing havoc in the traffic and the new policies on immigration. But neither of them had asked about her job. She knew that at some point, Mrs. Hudson had wanted to ask about her financial situation, but she guessed that seeing John so relaxed, she had let it slip. The mechanical tube voice announcing the Tottenham Court Road stop interrupted her train of thoughts and she stood, aiming for the door. This was the worst part. Not the noise, the dirt or the heat. But the fact that everyone had to leave through those ridiculously small doors made her angry every single time. Also, why did people have to be so incredibly slow? Did they actually want to spend more time there? Typically, when the doors opened, she would be the first to leave and sprint towards the automatic stairs. The few times she was not quick enough to rush the door, she had found herself in the middle of a snail-paced crowd, with her anger rising every second she spent there.
Today apparently was not her lucky day. Both lines had come at the same time, creating a bottleneck near the exit. Ten minutes later, sweating and ready to punch the first person that came across her in the face, she was already in her way home She was tired enough as to not notice the black car parked in front of her address. She fumbled with the keys while dialling the number of the Chinese place two streets away and reciting the numbers of the Kung pao chicken and spring rolls from memory. She had barely hung up when she noticed that her door was open. She took her gun out of the holster under her arm and opened the door, ready to shoot anyone that had been stupid enough as to rob her, but then she saw a familiar silhouette sitting in her armchair. She let out an angry moan, and closed the door with more force than needed, leaving her gun on top of the chest near the door, next to her wand.
"I could have killed you, you know. You have to stop trespassing other people's homes. Your power complex is just ridiculous sometimes, Mycroft."
She turned the lights on to reveal a tall man, with a slight protuberance on his middle abdomen, a sardonic smile, and a pocket watch in his hand. She went to the pantry and took two glasses and a bottle of red wine, and proceed to fill them.
"I wouldn't be me if I didn't."
She approached him and handed him one of the glasses while sitting on the couch facing him.
"You and your eagerness of making a big entrance. You have always been kind of a drama queen"
Mycroft smiled slightly before raising his glass and taking a sip. She imitated him, waiting for him to talk. It had always been like this, a soft way for him to establish the hierarchy in their relationship: he talks, she listens.
"How was the meeting?"
"It was alright. He is a mess, he is still grieving, and the flat is as Sherlock left it, apparently."
"I never thought my brother would leave such a lasting impression"
Hermione did not answer but looked at him, that was staring at the movement of the wine around the glass. One of the perks of working with and for Mycroft is that he was fiery protective of his privacy, or more particularly, of his family. Everything she knew about Sherlock had been the result of her own curiosity more than Mycroft's doing, as he rarely talked about him. But she also knew the lengths he had gone to protect him, so the silence was a defence mechanism even if it could be interpreted as lack of interest. Not that she cared. She owed Mycroft so much that whatever he asked she would do, and he was aware of that.
"Apparently I underestimated how… deep… their connection was"
"Apparently so. You should have seen John, he was devastated."
"I know. I wonder, how someone like Sherlock, was able to overlook the so evident defects of good, old doctor" His tone, condescending, made her clench her jaw. As much as she loved the pain in the ass that Mycroft Holmes and his sass were, there were times when she just wanted to smother him with the nearest cushion.
"Well, maybe it was time that one of the Holmes brothers did it"
"Touché "He raised his wine in a mock toast and drowned the rest of it.
"I could ask you the same thing. How is that the great Mycroft has burdened himself with someone belonging to the fairer sex? Am I not your John?"
"Oh please, Hermione, don't you compare yourself with John Watson. You can almost keep up with me"
"A compliment? I feel so honoured "
He poured himself another glass while she eyed at him over the rim of hers, studying him. One thing that had always fascinated her about him was his inability to expressing feelings as human beings usually did. She knew of his non-caring policy, but in moments like this, she could see it was a façade, at least in what attained to Sherlock, and that the only way of staying true to that policy was acting through small actions. Sending her, an MI-7 field agent to watch over John, was one of them.
"What do you want me to do next, Mycroft?"
He looked at her and for the first time in all the years she had known him, he seemed tired. He left the glass on the table and massaged his temple with middle and index finger of both hands, closing his eyes, as if having all of Great Britain secrets in his head was actually a physical pain. Hermione left her glass only to round the table and position herself at the back of the armchair. Her small hands found Mycroft's shoulders and started massaging the tense notches in the muscles there, feeling the man relax under her pressure.
"Monitor him. Make sure he moves on"
"You care about John now?"
"No. But even if I've tried to get rid of banalities such as sentiment, human nature is still my nature, and Sherlock was still my brother. And he would never forgive me if something were to happen to John"
She gave him a friendly last squeeze and steadied her hands, and she he could see that he had closed his eyes. With the dim light, she could distinguish the crests on his forehead, around the eyes, the purple marks under those. He looked much older than he was, and she couldn't help but feel bad for him. Even if he had chosen this life, this power-driven existence, he looked more and more drained with each passing day, and the part of her that looked up to this man as the good person she knew he was, ache for him. Especially now that he had lost the person he had cared about the most in the world.
"Do you want to stay the night? My spare bedroom is available you know."
He smiled and opened his eyes. He touched briefly one of her hand in his shoulders still, before rising from his seat.
"Although tantalizing, I am afraid I have to decline. Important business tomorrow. I have an unavoidable meeting and I'll stay there for probably a week or two. Can I count on you to give me a full report when I am back?"
"Sure. Do you want to know how many times does John use the loo? "She smiled, although she let him know with an arched brow that she was serious. "I won't disappoint you then"
"I know. You are the best agent I have"
He went to the front door, gathering his coat from the arm of the couch. He put it on while opening the door, only to close it again and turning
"You know which day is in a couple of months, don't you"
"Regrettably, yes. I do"
"They have asked for confirmation, again."
"And you have said no, like every year, right?"
"Why? What's different?"
"Sirius is going."
She knew that too, although she did not see why that would make her do the same. The fact that he was going had caused a monumental argument a couple of weeks back. She had never gone to the 2nd of May celebrations, so she saw no need to change that. Sirius had never attended either, but for some reason, he had been required to, being the liaison between the MI-7, MI-6 and the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Also, he had never stopped using magic, and he was used to being surrounded by it. Hermione, on the other hand, had lived a perfectly comfortable existence in the most muggle-like way. Magic was something to be used during missions and even there, she liked to relay in muggle weapons, because magic folks were not used to them, and that made them an easy target.
"We'll talk about it once I am back," he said taking a look to his pocket watch, closing it as pompously as only him could "but I am utterly irritated of that Minister of yours, pestering about you not going every year"
"You might think he would have grasped the message after the first five non-answered invitations"
"Makes sense that the brightest left them"
"Two compliments in a row. You are going soft, Holmes"
Mycroft looked at her and then smiled. He opened the door, and before disappearing, he promised he would to get her a safeguard. With that, Hermione was left alone with a lot of thoughts and a half-full bottle of wine. She dropped herself on the couch and had another glass of wine while waiting for the dinner. She hated these first months of the year, only because they led to May, and May meant dealing with the stupid invitations to the Commemoration Ball. She let a cynical laugh escape her lips. Fancy to remember the dead once a year with a spectacular feast while all they had fought for was still in a distant future.
She sipped on her wine while she thought about her nineteen-years-old self, wondering if she would have been as astonished about her as she was about that naive school girl that thought she knew everything. Memories of resentment, hate, pain, love, and disappointment came flooding as every time she remembered the post-war days, and how her perfectly crafted world tumbled around her with the hard slap of reality in the face. After a while, when the future she had always wanted was seemed to be mocking at her, Hermione Granger, the war heroine, the brains behind the Chosen-One, disappeared into thin air to never be seen again.
She took her phone and scrolled down her contact list until she reached the 'S' and dialed the number of the other man in her lifetime
'Hi, there! This is the personal number of the best thing that could happen to London's night-life, Sirius Black. I probably won't hear this message, so keep calling. Cheers.'
Of course, he would not answer. She let a sigh before speaking.
"Hi, it's me. Um..."The exhaustion of the day was starting to weight on her, and the hand that was not occupied with the phone went to her eyes, blinded here momentary, letting her sight rest. "I was wondering if you were free to have dinner one of these days? I haven't seen you in a while, and… Well, give me a shout. Okay. Bye"
Hanging the call, Hermione dropped the phone to the couch, and let her head slid to the back of her seat, closing her eyes. The doorbell rang and she got up to take the warm food from the delivery man. With the plastic fork, she started eating directly from the box, and while she chewed on the perfectly cooked chicken, she realised that she needed to compartmentalize, she could not let the situation get to her. The most important thing now was to appear as d ordinary as John thought she was and work her schedule around him, and she still had some months to decide how she would pass the buck. She had spent too much time trying to have a semi-normal life to throw it all away now. She knew what would be in store for her if she went back even if only for a night, and she was not in the mood to suffer anyone's disapproval, recrimination, or tears. The only thing that caused her pain was Sirius, that had been shielding her from everyone since she left, taking care of her and healing her as a father would do. She had been working as one of the few MI-7 agents there were, trained in muggle military and magic, as a special group for delicate affairs, and in exchange, she had only asked for total protection, for the Ministry of Magic to not to know where she was, and Mycroft and Sirius complied. That deal, apparently, had an expiration date.