It was with familiar resignation that I read Holmes' words. The note was typed and sparse (in his fashion), and explained little other than acceptance of some case. In earlier days, I might have felt some distress over my friend's sudden departure; by now such actions were taken in graceful stride. This was not the first time Holmes had taken leave without notice. Truth be told, to leave any notice at all was, for him, the very height of decency.
I occupied myself with work, and admit to indulging somewhat in Holmes excellent tobacco selection. One evening, during just such an indulgence, I sat before a merry fire with pipe and paper. December was drawing to a close and I found myself spending more and more time near a crackling blaze.
Imagine my alarm when the merry flames roared into a green inferno.
With a cry I sprang to my feet, only to sit once again, dumb-struck at what was happening. From within the very fire itself stepped Sherlock Holmes, irritably brushing soot from his robes- robes of the same quaint fashion fancied by wizards.
In a thrice he was by my side, speaking with low, urgent tones. "Questions later, Watson. In a moment Harry will come through the fir, and you must be ready."
In my life, I have never wanted to interrupt a man so much.
"Their healer wants him to spend time with his family."
The adrenaline hit hard and I opened my mouth to voice a question. Holmes cut me off with an impatient gesture.
"Later." he said, glancing to the fireplace, "A professor died in his presence. If you believe the doctor's word, the man passed away practically in Harry's arms."
Knowing the boy was safe allowed composure to set in, and I was filled with the same tight, focused calm that takes me during medical emergencies. As I looked into the fire, I felt as though a patient was en route.
Excerpt from A Study in Magic, by John Watson, MD.
Harry, McGonagall, and Dumbledore stood in a room of the Leaky Cauldron. Harry had not been impressed by the building's exterior, and it's insides were doing little to alter that opinion. Oddly enough, Holmes had rather liked the establishment. Unpretentious, he called it.
"Just take a handful," said McGonagall, "And say '221 B, Baker Street', clearly as you can."
They watched as Harry threw a handful of Floo Powder into the flames, step into the green blaze, and disappeared.
Only after he had gone did Dumbledore let down his twinkling facade. McGonagall watched the headmaster slouch slightly, drop his shoulders, and let his eyes fade to a dull shine.
Dumbledore heavily sat in a nearby chair. "I've done it again, haven't I?"
"None of that," said McGonagall, "You can't save everyone, Albus."
Dumbledore seemed not to hear. "And now he's back."
"We don't know that. What Quirinus did..." McGonagall swallowed, "You Know Who wasn't a god. I can't imagine him coming back after something like that."
The headmaster nodded weakly and McGonagall hoisted the old man to his feet. "Up," she said, "We need to be getting back. My next class starts soon."
"Go on ahead. I've some business to attend."
McGonagall nodded, turned on her heel, and disappeared. A moment later, Dumbledore followed suit.
The headmaster reappeared in a place he had not gone for a very long time. He stood in forest clearing. Thick foliage cast the wood into perpetual gloom, and all around were tombstones. They rose from the ground without rhyme or reason, and faded into the surrounding tree-line.
He slowly wove through the sea of stone, pausing before some, hurrying past others. Two small ones, so close together they nearly touched, he brushed in passing. The names on their faces, Frank and Alice, cut into his heart far deeper than the words were carved.
This was his secret place; a place where he went to remember. Two days after the War started, he had started with a single, simple stone marker. It had been the first time he accepted responsibility for the death of another, but far from the last.
Every death and every grave came with a lesson he took to heart, but no matter how far his instruction in war progressed, they had continued to fill the forest.
He stopped at a cluster of three markers. With a wave of his wand, a fourth rose from the loamy soil, shaping itself from the very earth. Another wave, and letters carved themselves into the empty stone.
In Life a soldier
In Death avenged
Rejoined at last with those he lost.
Harry stepped through the fire into Holmes' sitting room, tripping over the grate into the firm embrace of Uncle Watson.
"Alright?" asked Watson.
Harry nodded and shook the soot from his sleeves. "The trip makes you kind of dizzy, is all." He looked around at 221 Baker Street, noting Holmes seated on the divan. It was good to be home.
"How's school?" asked Watson, aiming for casual and missing completely.
"I'm guessing you already know."
A small smile flit across Sherlock's face.
"Sharp as ever, I see." Watson scowled in mock annoyance, then sobered, "But let me know when you want to talk about it."
Harry rolled his eyes. "I don't—"
"None of that, now. At some point, you are going to talk about it."
Harry gave Sherlock a plaintive look, one the detective pretended to ignore.
"Can we do it later?" asked Harry.
Watson fondly ruffled his hair. "Whenever you're ready."
He slowly warmed to the idea, and we spent many evenings speaking of his time at Hogwarts. In regards to the term's momentous conclusion, Harry has never before shown the depth of Holmes' influence. In spite of his youth, he moved through the stages of grief with astounding speed. As far as I can tell, he has genuinely accepted the loss and moved on; a victory I scarcely hoped for.
As for the deceased professor, Harry holds his memory and ideals close to heart. Indeed, the teachings of Quirinus Quirrell seem to hold weight equal to that of Sherlock Holmes. This was driven home for me by the visit of two students to Baker Street.
On the day Hermione and Neville arrived, I was sure they were part of the Irregulars, that network of urchins Holmes employs on occasion. To my utter shock, I discovered they were, in fact, first-years from Hogwarts. To even greater shock, I found Harry had invited them.
Small children—friends, even—visiting for no reason other than pleasure. Holmes was appalled.
Ever since that day, I occasionally toast the memory of Quirinus Quirrell. From my evening chats with Harry, I learned the professor was profoundly plural. In contrast with Holmes' philosophy of independence, Quirrell taught that one's self was not always enough. Such teachings seem to have taken root in Harry, and I, for one, am ever grateful.
Sherlock Holmes has always maintained friendship to be unnecessary, that it has no survival value. I, and now Harry as well, hold a different notion (one I like to think Quirrell also maintained).
For us, friendship is what gives value to survival.
Excerpt from A Study in Magic, by John Watson, MD