Epilogue: Homeward Bound
The great Aberdeen-London express had left the soaring mountains of the Scottish Highlands far behind, and was racing through the rolling hills of Fife, where the corn stood tall and golden in the late summer sun. We were perhaps half an hour short of Edinburgh when Holmes stirred and woke from his slumber, scatting the papers that had piled up about him like drifted snow.
"Well, Watson," he said, indicating my notebook, "I see you have wasted no time in chronicling our latest adventure. I am glad that you consider the subject a worthy one."
"A most worthy tale indeed!" I exclaimed. "I would not have missed it for the world! I only doubt my powers to do the subject justice!"
"On the contrary, my friend," he said with a smile, "I can think of no story better adapted to your powers of sensationalism and melodrama. The tale is overblown, the villain grotesque, the young man at the centre of the story most dreadfully wronged… in short, to entrust this story to any other hands would be criminal."
"It's a fine story, and I really believe I can make something truly splendid out of it," I replied. "But it is not quite finished yet. For what has become of the Ravenclaw Codex?"
"Oh, as to that," said Holmes in that offhand way that I knew so well, "the Ravenclaw Codex is currently in the possession of Godfrey Easingwold, ironically enough. He would have handed it over on the spot, I believe, but I was not quite easy in my mind about his security in London, and in the end I persuaded him to take it with him as a guarantee of safety. So long as Black and his minions leave the lad to recover in peace, the Ravenclaw Codex will return with Easingwold to Hogwarts. However, should Black cause any member of the Easingwold family – or their guests – so much as a moment's worry or inconvenience, Easingwold or one of his companions will convey the Codex secretly to the Reading Room of the British Museum – for I think I may safely say that Black and his like would never venture there. There it will be held in a place of honour, where the finest scholars in the world may come to learn from it, and delight in it. You might argue, indeed, that it will have come home at last, to be cared for by the true heirs of Rowena Ravenclaw – she who loved wit and learning above all things."
"Bravo, Holmes!" I exclaimed. "I cannot think of a more worthy fate for that noble tome! But even so, the story is not quite at an end. What of Weaselby's tale? Of O'Connell's papers? Will their testimonies enable you to put an end once and for all to the machinations of the sinister Black?"
Holmes's face darkened.
"Weaselby's tale," he said after a pause, "was of little practical use, for all that I rejoiced to hear it, and learned much that will gladden the heart of brother Mycroft. Weaselby loved my brother dearly for his kindness when he first came to Hogwarts as a penniless and friendless (if pureblooded) child. However, Weaselby is not gifted with any great powers of observation or memory, and he can shed little light on the case itself. I have more hope, strangely, of O'Connell's papers. One can never fully trust the motives of a man of that sort, but there are little, indirect clues contained in those papers that may yet carry me a long way towards my goal. And if that is not far enough, well, I must resort to other means!" A fierce light came into his eyes, such as I had not seen since his final encounter with the late Professor Moriarty. "For men like Black are a pollution that both blight the world of wizards and, worse, spread their pestilence into ours – and I intend to put a stop to it, no matter how heavy the cost or how long it takes! If I could but free the world of Black's malign influence, I truly believe that I would go to my grave a happy man.
"But enough of that. My poor Watson, you are looking quite done up. The air in these magical institutions can have a noxious affect on the unprepared, and in any case it would be the height of folly to return directly to London. O'Connell's fair words and promises are all well and good, but they do not go quite far enough for me. I believe we would do well to alight at Newcastle or thereabouts, and make for the coast. The climate and scenery are, I believe, excellent at this time of year, and you will have ample time to take the sea air and compile your notes, while I subject O'Connell's papers to a really thorough examination. Oh, and I would recommend that you make at least one extra copy of your record, and secrete it in a safe place before our departure: one can never be too careful when dealing with these people."
"But Holmes," I exclaimed, "surely you do not mean to suggest that Black and his cohorts will fall on us unawares and take our memories from us, in spite of all you have done?"
Holmes considered this for a movement.
"It is possible, I suppose, but unlikely," he said. "Once Black's behaviour becomes common knowledge among wizards (as it inevitably will), he will hardly be able to move against us directly – and even if he did, my behaviour when I left London was so eccentric that I expect to be pestered with questions on the subject for months: I feel quite certain that one or the other of the clues I left in the course of our journey to the station would be bound to jog my memory sooner or later – those that were not secret messages to Mycroft. It does not pay to leave such matters to chance, that is all.
"But perhaps I am giving the man too much credit," he continued as our train slowed slightly in preparation to cross the Forth Bridge. "For what, after all, are the works of wizards, compared to what we have achieved here? Look, Watson!" he cried, gesturing towards the struts and spars of the towering, iron-red structure as they flashed past the windows of our carriage, "there's a miracle, if you like; there's a subject worthy for the history books; there's a fitting use of human talent and ingenuity! Why fear Black and his like when the future belongs to us? No wizard could build such a bridge, or the Crystal Palace, or Eiffel's tower in Paris; no wizard could invent the telegraph, or the smallpox vaccination, or the steam engine: why, the very train we took to Hogwarts is copied from a Muggle design! So long as we have science at our command, our future will contain miracles that will make the very best that Black can offer seem like the tawdriest of music-hall performers.
"But for now, let us turn to more pleasant matters. On our departure, O'Connell was kind enough to furnish us with a most splendid picnic, including a selection of bottles that appear to have been purloined from friend Black's special cellar. It is perhaps a little early in the day, but you and I have no need to stand on ceremony. Can I tempt you to a dram of whisky? Or perhaps a little of this rather unusual cognac?"