AN: Hi! So, I know I'm supposed to be working on a certain other fic, but I sort of got sucked into the fandom for the BBC TV show Sherlock and this came out of that. Yes, I love doing crossovers for Harry Potter, how'd you guess?
This may be a little rough. It was written rather quickly. O.O I also tried to keep my terms accurate for Britain, but I can't guarantee anything. Advice is greatly appreciated.
I promise to get back to work on "Connections" and to have something up for that fic soonish.
Warnings: non-graphic slash of the Sherlock/Watson variety. This also ignores any possible timelines/dates. I know Rowling announces when she meant for the Potter books to take place, but I've always believed part of the charm of the books was their generality. So generally, I ignore any references to a particular year. : ) Oh, and there's a few strong words in here, but only in the best of manners. Honestly.
One Impossible Family
It was an unspoken rule between the Holmes brothers that one did not mention their father. Ever. Not even opaquely. It was something they never had to discuss. It was something they never even discussed in the purely non-verbal way most of their actually discussions were conducted.
It was simply as if their father had never existed.
John understood that, bless his simple minded heart. He never asked those kinds of questions, which was enough to endear him to Sherlock from the first day. Questions about his sexuality? Fine. Complaints about his process, his manners, his unorthodox use of the kitchen sink and general disregard for most of the human race? Easily ignored.
Questions about his family? Blessedly, blessedly, absent. Even after Mycroft had to go and stick his podgy nose where it didn't belong, John kept his comments mostly to himself.
The fact that John did not seem to actually like Mycroft may have also helped.
All in all, it was a perfectly peaceful, productive arrangement.
Right up until a certain somebody decided she had to spoil things.
When the knock came at the door, John glanced up from his paper. It was Sunday morning. A time meant for peaceful reflection and maybe an afternoon nap. John had plans on happily doing both since Sherlock had announced there was nothing left of any interest out there in the world and had holed himself up in his bedroom doing god-knows-what with whatever that green slimy thing was and John was not-asking-questions.
Which made their visitor somewhat unusual. John doubted it was work related. Sherlock had an uncanny ability for knowing when a case was about to be dropped in his lap. The clinic would have just called. Mrs. Hudson would have let herself in and Mycroft only actually physically came to see his brother when something had been blown up, shot up or needed to be.
And that about near summed up the only reasons someone would come to call on 221b Baker Street.
Still, John set aside his paper, hauled his tired body up onto its feet, pulled on his best politely distant smile and opened the door. John would have liked to say he was surprised by the pretty redhead on the other side, but really, after several months of living under the same roof as Sherlock, John had fairly given up bothering. The woman definitely wasn't the oddest thing to show up on their doorstep. He supposed her wardrobe was a bit questionable, but John didn't bother trying to keep up with what passed as high fashion with young women these days. He was willing to wager that all of those layers and buttons were certainly far more complicated than any down-to-earth girl was willing to bother with, which meant it had to be expensive. Pointless things always were.
This was looking more and more like a case. So he asked "how can I help you?" in the same patient tone of voice he asked his own patients. It usually inspired a calm trust and wiliness to confide in him. He didn't usually get glared at like he'd just insulted someone's mother.
"And just who the hell are you?"
John blinked slowly and rolled with it. "Dr. John Watson, ma'am."
"And just what do you think you're doing here?"
John carefully kept his face blank through experience alone. "I live here."
She continued to glare at him for a moment, before her eyes widened slowly. "I'm going to kill him," she hissed before pushing her way passed John and into their sitting room. He might have been more alarmed by this if she hadn't been three inches shorter than him, dressed like a school marm and obviously looking for Sherlock.
Most people wanted to kill Sherlock. Didn't mean they meant to. It was a bit like sky diving. Everybody talked about doing it, but most people didn't have the nerve to try.
The yelling wasn't unexpected either. So John quietly shut the door and turned to watch her stand in the middle of the room and shriek. "If you don't get out here right this minute, I swear I'll tell Uncle George what happened to his work room!"
It was surprisingly effective. There was a loud thunk from upstairs and the distinct sound of shattering glass. The likely stain would never come out of the carpet, John was just sure of it. Then there was the nerve-wrenching sound of Sherlock on the stairs. It always sounded more like he was sliding down the stairs than actually walking when he was in a rush. John always expected to have to pick him up from the bottom one day and have to glue him back together. Finally, Sherlock came sliding around the corner, still in his sleep clothes, which were apparently serving as lab-work clothes for the day, his hair in its usual disarray but his face flushed a rather startling pink.
"What are you doing here?" he yelped. Causing John to blink again, slowly. Sherlock yelped. That one was new. He might have to tease him about it later.
"Me? What am I doing here? What is he doing here?" the redhead shouted back as she flung an accusatory finger in poor John's direction.
John held up both hands and kept as far away as possible. "I just live here," he said, the same way other people insisted they were just passing though, officer, honestly.
"He lives here," Sherlock echoed, his eyes darting over to John with the very clear message to "stay out of this!". Really. He ought to know better than to dangle a challenge like that in front of John.
"He lives here?" the woman squawked.
"Yes," both John and Sherlock replied calmly. There was a brief moment of serenity before things sunk in.
"Friends!" John exclaimed. "Just friends! Nothing else.!"
"Not that it's any business of yours," Sherlock added, crossing his arms and starting to look more like his normal self.
The redhead glared back at him, sniffed delicately and lifted her chin in the perfect mimicry of superiority. "It shouldn't have to be, but one of us ought to have the decency to tell Mummy you've gone and shacked up with someone."
"Friends!" John repeated, feeling like a ruddy parrot. "Wait, what? Mummy?"
Sherlock had gone even paler than usual. "You wouldn't dare!" he hissed.
"Well, if someone could be bothered to write occasional, then maybe I wouldn't have to. If someone could be bothered to stop in for a visit, then maybe I wouldn't have to come all the way out here to this dreadful place. If someone hadn't gotten the same foolish idea to run away from home like a certain other idiot, then maybe I wouldn't have to be here to begin with!" She had started out coolly enough, but by the end was back to the yelling bit. Poor Mrs. Hudson. Hopefully she was still out to church.
"You ran away from home?" John demanded. He didn't know whether to laugh or shake his head sadly.
"I did not!" Sherlock insisted, once more focusing exclusively on John with a determination that was only slightly marred by the rising flush coming back with a vengeance.
"Did too," the woman muttered.
"I most certainly did not!"
"You unbelievably did to!"
John settled for sighing. "I'll put the kettle on, then, shall I?" He had a feeling this could take a while.
While Sherlock seemed impervious to the world around him and basic common decency, his guest was slightly more well mannered. She'd kept up a steady string of shouted comebacks to Sherlock's every comment, up until John force a cup of tea into her hands. She'd cut off mid-rant and glanced down at it like he'd just handed her a live grenade, before softly murmuring a thank you and gracefully taking a seat on their poor dilapidated couch like it was the Queen's own.
"Don't give her tea, John," Sherlock complained from behind him. "She's not staying. She doesn't need tea. And don't sit down with her either! She's much more vile than she may appear to the untrained observer. Don't you have someone else you could go torment?"
"Already have," was her sharp reply.
"I didn't catch your name, miss," John continued as he took his own seat across from her. He shoved the pile of papers under his seat with his heel and hoped she wouldn't notice the bits of something rotten/decomposing/petrified that Sherlock had laid out in small tupperware dishes along the mantle.
"Lily Potter," she answered primly before flashing him a warm smile that was just as natural on her face as the screaming fury had been only moments before.
"And how do you know Sherlock?"
She blinked back him serenely. "Who?"
John frowned and glance behind him to the pacing wildebeest wearing a hole in the floor. "Sherlock?"
"Enough tea!" he exclaimed before darting forward and trying to snatch the cup out of the poor woman's hands. She pulled it away just in time and dangled it precariously on the other side of her, silently daring Sherlock with a glare to just try climbing over her to get it. Sherlock pulled back with a huff. "Fine!" he snapped. "I'll come by for a visit. Next week. Sometime."
"Sherlock?" she demanded. "Really, Sherlock? You couldn't come up with anything better than that?"
"None of your business!"
Her eyes darted back to John, her tea cup still held out awkwardly but the rest of her body relaxed. "And just how do you know him?"
"Friends. Colleagues. Just Colleagues," John winced. He was really starting to hate this question. It was always so much more awkward that it ought to be. "Flatmates."
Her eyes snapped back to Sherlock. "You. Mr. I-don't-want-to-have-dorm-mates. You have a flatmate."
"Needs must. Are you quite through yet? You're making a scene."
"Oh, you haven't even begun to see a scene yet." She suddenly shoved her tea cup into Sherlock's hands before whipping a small heavy weighted piece of paper out of her sleeve and grabbing John's arm and slapping it into his hand. "This address. This evening, at six. Make sure this idiot gets there on time. I've already suitably threatened the other one. And make sure he brings a gift, would you?"
John stared down at the paper, reading the looping script artily scrawled across it, before glancing up again. "What kind of gift?"
She smiled brilliantly again, and warmly clasped his hand closed tight. "So pragmatic. That's exactly what this idiot needs."
"Of course, of course." She was already rising to her feet, brushing off her skirt in a way that wasn't rude, but certainly left John feeling like he should have made more of an effort to clean up Sherlock's mess this morning. "Well, I'm glad that's settled then," she announced over Sherlock's protests as she saw herself to the door. "I'll see you this afternoon. Pleasure to meet you, John. I'm sure the rest of the family will be thrilled to meet you as well. Yes, yes, just friends. I know."
She paused at the door, and turned back to fix one last deadly glare on Sherlock. "Oh, and brother dearest? Show up or I'll make your life a living hell from now until the next time it's Mummy's birthday."
John stayed in his seat, still clutching a piece of overly complicated paper, and stared at his always overly complicated flatmate. "Brother dearest?"
Sherlock spun around and fixed his with a glare. "Don't."
"I mean it, John."
"Fine!" John replied with a huff before pushing himself up to his feet and snatching the forgotten tea cup out of Sherlock's hands before the other man dropped it and ruined their last remaining decent cup for guests. "What does it matter to me, anyway? So you've got another crazy sibling running around out there. I mean, just what the world needs, another Holmes."
"Her name isn't-"
"Yes, I did catch that part," John cut him off as he kept his hands busy in the sink. "She's still your sister, isn't she? Which means she started out in this world as one of the Great and Terrifying Holmes. Getting married doesn't change that."
Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Sherlock holding himself perfectly still in the middle of the doorway. A normal person would have moved in or out of the room, or at the very least leaned against something. Instead, Sherlock had his arms wrapped around him like he thought he might fly into a million different directions if he didn't hold himself together. It was very Sherlock, but it was the look he only got when he had a mystery he couldn't quite solve yet and it always made John feel a little like he was kicking a puppy when he yelled at Sherlock when he looked like that.
"Lily isn't married," Sherlock finally announced.
John paused in his complaining and turned to face him. "Alright," he said, knowing that little bit of information was supposed to be a clue. "Then why is her name Potter?"
Sherlock scowled like John had just tried to suggest that barometric pressure had no relevance on extramarital affairs. Which of course, it didn't, but being Sherlock, he could probably prove it did down to the hundredth decimal. "Potter's her name because that's her name. Really, John."
"Okay. Then how come your name's Holmes and yet she's your sister? Previous marriage, single parent, divorce, adoption, which is it Sherlock? It's not like it's unusual for families to be complicated, but a little more information would be helpful here if I'm going to be meeting the rest of your family tonight. Because, honestly, if they're all like you and Mycroft, I might need the time to prepare."
Now Sherlock was just plain pouting. "We're not going."
"It's your mother's birthday, Sherlock," John said as calmly as humanly possible when dealing with what was apparently an overgrown four-year-old.
Sherlock's eyes shifted to the side. "I'll write her a letter then. She'll like that. We don't have to go."
John glared back at him, making it quite clear visually what he thought of that. When that didn't work, he decided it was time to fight dirty. "Fine. I'll just go by myself then. Think a bottle of wine would make an appropriate I'm-sorry-your-son-is-such-an-arse present, or should I pick up some flowers too?"
"You wouldn't dare."
John folded his arms over his chest, ignoring his soapy hands, and glared right back. "Try me."
John wasn't surprised when Sherlock spent the rest of his day locked away in his room. He didn't let it bother him either. He simply yelled through the door that he was off to the store then heading over to the party and not to wait up before leaving the flat. He hadn't gotten down the front steps before he felt the whoosh of Sherlock appearing beside him in a whirl of woolen coat and knitted scarf.
"This is a very bad idea, John."
"No, this, this is what normal people do. Even people who dislike their parents still show up from time to time for birthdays and what not. Especially when their sisters come and track them down." There was a little wine and cheese shop down the street that ought to do. He shouldn't have too much trouble finding something nice there – and if he could force Sherlock to pay, maybe they'd pick up something very nice in order to show the proper spirit.
"I don't dislike Mummy," Sherlock finally muttered.
"Could have fooled me."
"Well, that's not very difficult to do, now is it?" Sherlock shot back, but it was a poor effort at best. It took him another two blocks before he admitted the truth. "I don't want you to meet my family."
Well. That kind of hurt a little. Sure, they were flatmates (just friends!) so it wasn't like they really needed to be a part of each other's lives beyond whose turn it was to buy the milk, but still. He'd sort of gotten used to Sherlock already knowing everything about him. He could admit that part of him sort of wanted to know more about Sherlock. And besides, you could only get shot-at/blown-up/almost-killed-through-other-various-methods, with the same guy for so long before you started feel a responsibility for and from him. "Right," John finally said, feeling thrown off from his carefully laid out and eloquent plan on getting Sherlock to visit his mother. "I guess that makes sense. Naturally, it's none of my business, is it? So… I'll just – I'll help you pick out a bottle, if that's not overstepping my bounds too much, and send you on your merry way. But I'm telling you Sherlock, you have to go. It's not good not to."
"What?" Sherlock replied, sounding really scandalized now. "I'm not going by myself."
Really. There were times when John counted as one of those people that wanted to kill Sherlock. "You just said you didn't want me around."
"No, no, no, I said I didn't want you to meet them, not that I didn't want you around. Weren't you listening?"
"Well, you can't have it both ways, Sherlock."
"I know that!" Sherlock exclaimed, startling several people as they tried to walk around the spot on the sidewalk filled up by John and a flailing Sherlock. "You just don't know what they're like!"
Oh. John felt himself flushing and was even more embarrassed. "You mean you don't want me to meet them, not that you don't want them to meet me?"
Sherlock paused long enough to peer at him as if he was trying to figure out if John was actually something interesting or just stupid. "You're not making any sense at all now."
"Nevermind." John replied, wanting to move passed how embarrassing it was to have been embarrassed. "They can't be that bad," he said.
Which earned him perhaps the most derisive of glares ever. "Mycroft."
"Well, alright, it might be bad. But there's not much for it. Has to be done."
Sherlock nodded miserably, but followed John the rest of the way to the shop. Making a selection was just as miserable until John gave up on trying to get some input out of his colleague and settled for getting the shop keeper's recommendation. Which naturally was more expensive than John would ever have spent on a bottle of wine, but Sherlock paid, so it all worked out in the end. Coming out of the shop, John pulled out the piece of paper with the address written on it.
"Guess we'll need a taxi," he said. "I'm not familiar with this address." That was about as far as he got before Sherlock's long thin fingers wrapped around his wrist like a steel trap and he found himself staring into a pair of eyes far too close for what was socially acceptable. Especially between two just friends.
"There are things you need to know about my family," Sherlock announced gravely.
"They are not normal."
"I figured as much."
"No, really, they are not normal."
John scowled and tried to shake his hand loose. "I figured as much."
"They're not like people like you."
There it was again. That festering urge to do bodily harm despite his sensibilities. "And just what are people like me like, Mr. Holmes?"
Sherlock had the good grace to flinch a little. "Never mind," he muttered. "I suppose you'll find out soon enough."
Sherlock spun away then and flagged down a car himself. "Number 11 Grimmauld Place" he instructed.
John frowned and checked his piece of paper again. "Don't you mean-"
"Number 11," Sherlock repeated firmly. "There is no Number 12."
When the taxi dropped them off in front of Number 11 Grimmauld, John was relieved to see that they wouldn't have to walk far. Just, you know, next door. Where Number 12 usually was in relation to Number 11. Even if Number 12 did look a little on the sorry side of things from the outside. It was possible that Sherlock was embarrassed – it just wasn't very likely.
"Any particular reason we couldn't tell the driver Number 12, or is there some fascinating Holmesian theory as to why not?"
"He wouldn't have been able to see it."
"Yes, naturally. Cause it's so hard to spot when it's standing right there."
"Really, John, if you're going to be this difficult about everything, I'm never going to get through this night with my sanity intact."
"Your sanity?" John muttered indigently, but Sherlock was already bounding up the steps.
Relatively, Number 12 didn't look that much different from any of its neighbors, or even 221b Baker Street for that matter. They were probably all built around the same time, with a similar narrow design, and made out of similar bricks and with similar trims. But where other places had been decently kept up over the years, this place looked about one termite away from collapsing in on itself. Even the paint had all faded to a very sad sort of dingy grey. It still had the look, however, of a place that had been in the family for generations. John couldn't help but wonder what that said about Sherlock's childhood.
Coming up to the door, Sherlock hesitate. He stared at it, like a man bracing himself, before finally raising one fist, to either knock on it like a normal human being or to ward off evil.
He didn't get the chance, however. The door was flung open, revealing a slightly more than middle aged woman with vibrant red hair that flung her arms around him with a happy cry of "Albus!"
Things proceed fairly normal after that. They were both ushered into the house, Sherlock's mother still holding onto him by one arm, and repeating how happy she was to see him. John could see where Lily got her easy smile, and of course, that bright red hair that seemed to hold up against the weight of time. In fact, if Sherlock hadn't greeted the woman with a quiet "Mummy" John might have believed her a bit too young for the role. She had the look of woman with young children who kept her very active, not a woman with three grown ones.
The house itself was much more normal from the inside. There was a crowded coat rack by the door, and a table covered with mail. The rug running down the hall was old, and more than a little threadbare in parts, but it had much more of a cheerful, warm look to it than the outside of the house had suggested. There was the smell of something yeasty baking away, and what might even be roast stew. Voicing were calling out to each other from down the hall and even upstairs, and above it all was the warm rolling laughter of man very content with his life.
It made John's own rare awkward brunches with his sister seem downright miserly.
The only problem was, Mummy kept calling Sherlock "Albus", and for the life of him, John couldn't figure out why.
He tried to catch Sherlock's eye, but Sherlock almost seemed to be avoiding looking at John. Which was just silly. Sherlock wouldn't possibly be so childish. Right.
"Well, Albus, are you going to introduce your friend or not?" Sherlock's mother finally demanded. She turned away from her son and smiled brightly at John. "It's so nice to meet you. I don't know what's happened to my son's manners. He was never this rude as a child. I'm Ginny Potter, please call me Ginny. Lily mentioned that Albus would be bringing a friend, but I hardly believed it. He never liked to bring friends home. I wouldn't have believed he had any at school if I didn't know better. Such a pleasant surprise to have both of you here."
"Mummy, I haven't told him-"
"Dr. John Watson, ma'am."
"So polite! And please, call me Ginny."
"Of course, ma'am."
She gave him a look that was perhaps a bit more like her son. It was a look that assured him she knew he was being difficult just because, but that she might let slide this one time only. "This way," she announced before confidently taking possession of his arm and leading him down the hall. "A doctor, you say? I do hope you've been keeping our Albus out of trouble then. He has a way of finding it, you know. I blame his father. He was constantly coming home with cuts and scrapes, and that's just the ones we know about. I'm sure James had a hand in helping him cover up the rest. Boys can be very trying for one's peace of mind, I can tell you. I never believed my own mother, and heavens knows I should have, she had enough experience raising sons."
"Mummy, I was hoping to have a quite chat with John before he met the rest of the family," Sherlock hastily tried to say over her as he followed them. "You know, warn him, about the family."
"Nonsense, they'll all love John. After all, this is the first time you've bothered to come home in three years, so he obviously must be good for you."
John glanced back behind him to see the sour look on Sherlock's face and couldn't help but grin at him. As much as really didn't like Sherlock dropping him into the deep end like this – again – it was vastly entertaining to watch all six feet of Sherlock brought low by his Mummy. Lestrade would probably sacrifice his right foot for the opportunity.
John turned back just in time to reassure her, "we're just friends, ma'am."
"Of course, dear. Here we are," she said as she led him around the last corner and into the stretched out kitchen. Even though it was built to feed a house of this size, it was clear that it wasn't from a time period when the family of the house actually ate in the kitchen. Despite that, someone had managed to force into the room a very long and very narrow great wooden beast of a dining table. Just about every seat at the table was full, the vast majority of those seated with the same or similar red hair as Sherlock's mother. There were a couple of brunettes scattered throughout and a few blonds at one end, and only two other heads of dark black hair. One was an older man much farther down the table who had an infant with shockingly blue hair balanced happily on one knee, while he talked to another man with equally shocking green hair.
The only other individual with hair as dark as Sherlock's sat near the end closest to the door and smiled benignly back at them the way a snake does in the grass.
Well, apparently even though the rest of this little scene was about as far from normal and sane as John could guess, there was at least still one constant. Mycroft lived to torment his younger brother.
Things after that managed to get even more confusing. But it was a very normal kind of confusing. The kind of confusing that happens when a big family welcomes home a wayward son and his (just!) friend. John shook a lot of hands. Got slapped on the back more than once. All three of the blond women insisted on kissing his cheek, and so did the blond man. John was hoping it was a cultural thing. Food was placed before him, a drink was thrust into one hand and yet another infant (this one with plain red hair) was set in his lap.
And John Watson was officially welcomed into the Potter/Weasley clan.
There were some things that John figured out very quickly. Anyone with red hair was most likely a Weasley. Anyone without red hair was either the child of a Weasley or had married a Weasley. There were very few exceptions. And certainly more people in one room than physics should have allowed, but people for the most part were happily tripping over one another. The food was good, if a little unfamiliar. John knew better than to ask what was in the drink. The child on his lap tended to drool a little much, but John could manage that. If the worst thing that happened to him that evening was having a healthy baby get some spittle on him, he figured he'd survive.
It took him a while to realize something was distinctly not right. Something beyond everyone calling Sherlock, Albus, and Mycroft, James, of all things. Like the fact that John could have sworn that baby down at the other end of the table had had blue hair, not purple. And while he hadn't thought anything at first of the siblings bickering across the table from him, he did think it a bit odd how sparks kept flying up from under the table when things got out of hand and the adult didn't pay such things any mind. The sparks, John might have been able to excuse as typical behavior for any family related to Sherlock, but the fact that one girl could now only seem to squawk like a duck bothered him a bit. When a couple of pints of something frothy actually floated down the table, John started to feel the panic attack coming on.
That was not normal. That was about as far from not normal and not good as one could get and there was only so much one could excuse away as being Sherlock-related and why in the bloody hell was everyone calling his Sherlock something that quite clear was not right and maybe he ought to pass the baby back to someone else before he had a fit right there in the kitchen.
Just as the shake was starting to come back into his hands and he started to feel a little lightheaded, a pair of long fingered hands, cool even through his shirt sleeves, were pulling him up by the arms. "Alright, you lot, that's enough," Sherlock announced, actually sounding pissed and not just annoyed, or whiney, or sarcastic, or bored. "Come on, John, out here." And like surfacing from beneath the waves of a redheaded sea, John and Sherlock broke free and out into the hallway. Compared to the din inside, it was blessedly silent out here, and John was able to brace his back against the wall and suck in deep steady breaths.
"What the hell, Sherlock?"
He stared back at John, standing tall and straight in the narrow hallway, but with his hands dangling limply at his sides. His mother had stripped him of his thick wool coat, his scarf, and even his suit jacket. He looked pale and thin standing outside of the chaos.
"I should have explained things better."
"Damn straight. Should have explained things at all."
"That – would be correct."
They stared at each other in the dim light of the hall. One of the toddlers in the other room started to wail in annoyance and a collection of voices raised to hush him. It was charmingly domestic (just friends!) and absurdly surreal.
"Well? This would be the part where you start explaining what the hell's going on, Sherlock. Or should I be calling you Albus too?"
Sherlock flinched and glanced away. "I – would prefer it if you called me Sherlock."
"And Albus? Who exactly is he?"
"That would be me. As well. Or was. Beforehand."
"I moved to London and stopped coming home."
"We're still in London."
Sherlock waved one hand dismissively. "It's not the same. Two entirely separate worlds."
"Alright," John agreed, for simplicities sake. "So you did run away from home?"
Sherlock scowled darkly and finally crossed his arms over his chest. "There was absolutely no running involved. I made the choice to leave. It was as simple as that."
"And changing your name?" John asked. "Simple as that doesn't often involve changing one's name."
"It was necessary."
"Sherlock, goddamnit, I love you, but if you don't start making sense real quick I might have to murder you."
Alright, that might not have been exactly what John meant to come out of his mouth. Judging by the way Sherlock was staring at him like he'd suddenly developed some kind of new and fascinating medical condition, he suspected that one little slip up wasn't going to be swept conveniently under the rug any time soon. Would that really be too much to ask? For Sherlock's steal trap of a mind to miss this one little mistake – because that was all this was, really, one little, horrible, great big mistake between two just friends.
Didn't mean a thing.
"Did you just-" Sherlock started to ask before another familiar voice cut him off.
"Really, Albus, don't tell me you brought the poor doctor here without some warning?" Mycroft drawled. He was leaning in the doorway, umbrella for once missing, but the same smiling condescending look on his face.
"Not. Now. James!" Sherlock growled, not once looking away from John's face, which he really ought to, or John was going to prove irrefutably that spontaneous combustion was possible.
"I'm sure now's a perfectly appropriate time," Mycroft replied blithely. "After all, you've already introduced him to Mummy, and most of the other family. Not to mention brought him under the charms protecting the house-"
"Lily did that!" Sherlock snapped back churlishly.
"- and here the two of you are having a charming domestic for anyone who steps out of the kitchen to see. We'll not go into the technicalities of co-habilitation-"
"Just friends!" John insisted, though he had a feeling he was losing that battle, and that he might have even sunk his own battleship.
"- and doctor-patient privileges and power of attorney-"
"What's that last bit?" John demanded. That was the first time he'd heard anything about that. John's own power of attorney was still in his sister's name since he'd been deployed, though maybe it was time to think about updating that. No one had ever said anything about Sherlock's power of attorney. He shouldn't need one. He apparently had a house full of family to step in if something happened.
Sherlock, apparently, had had enough. He grabbed the nearest thing on hand, a forgotten tea cup sitting on hallway table, and flung it at his brother, cup, saucer, tea and all. It was unusually violent of Sherlock, even with his brother. Apparently John wasn't the only one feeling out of sorts.
Watching Mycroft shake a thin stick out of his sleeve, and wave the entire mess away like it was a bit of dandelion fluff – well, that fairly well did it.
"WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON HERE?"
Perhaps not one of John's finest moments. The entire house descended into a silence so thick it was like the very air had been sucked out of the whole building. John kept a firm grip on the wall behind him, because he was pretty sure he was going to need it to keep on his feet. And Sherlock – Sherlock stared back him with wide eyes and pale skin and actually looked scared. John had never seen Sherlock scared. Much less scared because of John. Even Mycroft didn't look as smug as usual. In fact, he looked a little guilty almost. If such a thing were possible.
Which was nothing to how guilty he looked when the older, other, dark haired man stepped silently out into the hallway. He wasn't as tall as Mycroft and Sherlock, but he had the same messy hair as Sherlock and the same nose as Mycroft. That wasn't the creepy part. The creepy part was how normal he looked. He had a lot of the same features as the two brothers, mellowed with age, yes, but it all seemed to come together in a way neither of them would ever be able to maintain. There was something plain, and open, and friendly about the man's face that a few wrinkles and grey hairs had probably only increased over the years. He looked like the kind of guy you had a pint with after work, or who went to his kids football games in a worn-out favorite jumper.
He looked a lot like someone John would know and nothing like either of the Holmes boys even though it was clear he was their father.
"James, now might not be the time to bait your brother," the man said calmly, in a voice that wasn't raised but still could have carried across a crowded room.
"Go visit with your mother. You don't come home much more than your brother, and she's about reached her patience with that."
Apparently, there wasn't much to be said back to that. Mycroft gave his brother one last token look of disregard, before turning away with all the dignity of his position and going to check on his Mummy.
"Dad-" Sherlock started and John couldn't help but turn to stare at him. If hearing the Holmes brothers chat about Mummy was bizarre, hearing Sherlock whine to his father was even worse.
"You and I are going to have a long talk. Later. Right now, Dr. Watson and I are going into the library and having a strong drink. There will be plenty of time for you to join us and explain yourself later."
"You do know that your son and I are just friends, right?" John started with, like the blubbering idiot he was, once Mr. Potter had him seated comfortably in a chair by the fire and with a glass of whiskey in once hand.
Mr. Potter hummed in agreement and smiled a little. "Yes, I am familiar with the concept of just friends."
John nodded sharply. "Good. At least somebody is."
"After all, Ginny and I were just friends for many years."
John grimaced. "Not- not the same thing." God, he was not having a conversation about his not more than just friends relationship to Sherlock with Sherlock's aging father. He just wasn't.
"It never is," Mr. Potter agreed congenially. He took a sip of his drink, prompting John to do the same. It burned like the dickens, but right about now, that was just what was needed. After only a small sip, Mr. Potter set his aside, and leaned forward. "I assume you have questions."
"About being friends with Sherlock?"
Mr. Potter laughed. "I'm afraid I can't help you there. My children have always been unique and difficult. It's part of their charm."
"Charm. Right. Okay. Albus?"
Mr. Potter sighed. "I'm afraid that one might be my fault. I named my second son Albus Severus after two men I respected greatly. It may have been a bit much of a name for a young boy. I believe he enjoys going by Sherlock Holmes these days. Always had to be his own person, that boy."
Mr. Potter frowned. "I think we'll leave the choices of my eldest son to himself. That's not really the topic here, now is it?"
"Right," John agreed, because really, he didn't want to know about Mycroft. "I might be a little confused about what exactly the topic is." Because they were not discussing anything to do with what being just friends meant.
Mr. Potter smiled and took pity on him and let it go. "How about we start with magic, and work our way out from there."
John stared back at the other man, then carefully took a longer sip of his drink. Despite what certain people may or may not call themselves, a Holmes was a Holmes, and one really could not predict the insane things that would come out of their mouths. Of certainly, they could make it make sense, but only if one was able to keep up with them and their lightening fast movements from one collection of seeming unrelated topics to an impossible, inescapable conclusion.
"Well, that answers that question. I take it my son failed to explain everything?"
"Try didn't explain anything," John growled back. At the rate he was going, he was going to need much more than one glass of whiskey.
"Well, them, how about I start at the beginning," Mr. Potter told him gently. "And I'll explain it to you the same way it was all explained to me many years ago…"
"That's quite a story."
Mr. Potter leaned back in his chair with a warm mm-hm. "And?'
"I – I don't quite know how to put this..." John admitted, twisting the glass in his hands and beginning to wonder when Sherlock was going to come back and mitigate this whole disaster.
"But that's got to be the biggest load of bullshit I've ever heard." John admitted, feeling a bit like a heel. It just wasn't done to go around calling a man twice your age, the father of your – flatmate – a bold faced liar.
Mr. Potter just smiled, however, like John had done something clever. "Perhaps a practical demonstration then?" he offered.
John sighed. "Honestly? I don't think it would do much good. I'm too used to Sherlock regularly making the impossible seem perfectly normal."
There was something different about Mr. Potter's smile this time. It wasn't that there was anything missing from those other expressions, but there was definitely something more this time. "Yes," he drawls, for the first time sounding very much like both of his sons. "But haven't you ever wondered how he does it?
John's respectful enough to actually listen to what the other man says and not just dismiss it out of hand. The resulting paradigm shift leaves him struggling to catch up. "That – that makes a terrifying amount of sense," he says faintly. His mind is already whirling, cataloging all of the different unexplainable things he's seen over the past few months that might make a little more sense if looked at that way. The only problem was that it didn't explain everything, not even close. "Sherlock's still the smartest person I know. Are you trying to tell me he used magic for that?"
"No," Mr. Potter answered promptly. "No, that's all my boy," he said proudly with a smile as big as any football crazed father. "All of my children have turned out exceptionally bright. To be honest, I don't know where they get it from. It certain wasn't me." He exudes nothing but the utter must serenity, and John's inclined to believe that the other man really believes what he says about himself is true. Which is somehow even more terrifying than Mycroft could ever be. Despite what Sherlock might think from time to time, John wasn't an idiot. It didn't take much to see where the power in this family was. To have it smiling at him like nothing more than a doting, aging, father was a little nerve-racking.
"Why tell me all of this?" John asked weakly.
Mr. Potter stood up and slapped John good-naturedly on the shoulder before taking the empty glass from his limp fingers. "Because," he said. "I can recognize family when I see it."
John stared down at his empty hand, feeling even more panicked than he had a second ago. "I think I might need another drink," John announced.
Mr. Potter just smiled back genially and went to fetch him that drink.
It was some time later that John heard Mr Potter move out into the hallway. He couldn't say exactly how long it had been, since there had been a couple of glasses of whiskey in there, a very fine, normal conversation about the weather and the latest scandal in the parliament, and only one mildly disturbing realization that Mr. Potter had a creature that liked to come and clean up behind the family. Which would have truly been much more horrifying if it hadn't been for, well, those couple of glasses of whiskey. That and the whole thing went a long way towards explaining how Sherlock could be so bloody well manicured personally, and such an unbelievable bio-hazard in the rest of the flat. Apparently, he really was waiting for some poor, pitiful creature to come along and clean up behind him.
"Albus," Mr. Potter's voice called out from somewhere behind John. "You can come collect your young man now. Be gentle with him, though, hmm? He's had quite the shock."
There was a pause, and then the sound of Sherlock's voice, much closer than John had expected. "What did you do to him?" Sherlock demanded. Those graceful fingers brush against John's forehead before giving his shoulder a firm shake.
"We had a few drinks together," Mr. Potter's clear voice replied, the perfect example of innocence.
"He needed a few drinks," Mr. Potter replied before his voice dropped down into something darker. "A little more warning for the poor boy next time, Albus. I mean it. I know you're used to doing things at your own pace, but you're going to have to learn to take these things into consideration."
"Can we please talk about this later? I can't believe you got him drunk. John, I can't believe you let yourself get drunk!" When Sherlock forcibly tipped his head forward, John finally opened his eyes, still feeling pleasantly warm and fuzzy. "This is terribly irresponsible of you, John,"
John chuckled. "And you're terribly magical, Sherlock."
"How accurate of you. Father, I hate you."
"Yes, yes, now that my work here is done, I'm going to bed. You children do try to avoid causing any trouble more trouble in the mean time. That goes for you too, James. Honestly. You'd think at my age I wouldn't have to manage such things. All I ask for is a few grandchildren to spoil. All my brother-in-laws get grandchildren, but do I? No. I had to have bloody brilliant children too busy being brilliant to settle down properly…"
"Just friends," John muttered back, feeling that ruddy blush working its way across his face again. But wait. Wasn't calling it a ruddy blush kind of redundant? He started chuckling again. "Hey, Sherlock," he said, tugging on Sherlock's shirt sleeve. Cause Sherlock always liked pointing these things out. "I'm redundant."
"You're drunk," Sherlock repeated. He sounded extremely annoyed, which was usual, and almost kind of doting, which was absurd. But hey, why not? Weirder things had happened today, right?
"Are you really magical?" John asked again, just to be sure. Certainly Sherlock wasn't above lying to him if he thought he had to, or it was for an experiment, or he was trying to manipulate John, or because it was fun, but surely, Sherlock wouldn't lie to him when he was drunk. Surely not Sherlock. Heh. "Hey, can I see your wand?" he asked, 'cause that would totally prove the point.
Sherlock stared down at him, wide dark eyes, just the hint of a curl starting to form over his left temple, and a really bright shade of red spreading across those sharp looking cheekbones, making them look soft, and much more touchable than Sherlock had any right to look.
And someone was chortling from the doorway. "Best take advantage of that offer while you can, Albus!"
"SHUT UP, JAMES!"
"If you're expecting any sense of commiseration out of me, than I will unfortunately have to inform you that it is most certainly not forthcoming."
"Why did you let me drink so much?" John groaned, ignoring Sherlock's rather snippy reply in favor of burying his head under his pillow and trying to pretend the rest of the world didn't exist.
"I didn't permit you to consume a copious amount of alcohol. That was my father."
"Why did your father let me drink so much, then?" John amended, not caring particularly about the details. "I could have sworn he was matching me drink for drink. Don't tell me your father can hold his liquor better than me, my pride might not take it."
"Yes, well, you will quickly find that my father is not limited by reasonable expectations."
John pulled his head out far enough to stare up at Sherlock through one beady eye. "Okay. What the hell crawled up your arse and died? Your dad seems perfectly nice. Nowhere near the psychotic, over-bearing, mad-scientist I was expecting."
"I wish," Sherlock muttered, crossing his arms and slouching down further in his nest of pillows and feather comforters.
John groaned again. "You would." For a moment, there was blessed silence again. John listened to the sounds of dust mites drifting through the air, and the distant creek from down the hall as someone else actually got out of bed. Even with his eyes squeezed shut and the pillow over his head, he could still feel the sun pressing down against him in with a single minded cheerfulness that shouldn't be allowed. John let it drag on, enjoying the peace. Then he sighed. "Alright. Out with it. What's the story, Sherlock?"
"There is no story."
"Right," John snorted. "Or should I be asking Albus?"
"I told you to call me Sherlock!"
"And I can demand to be called King John the Benevolent. Doesn't mean it's going to happen."
"But you know me as Sherlock."
John sighed. Damn. He was going to have to surface again. He pulled the pillow back and risked one quick glance to confirm it. Right. There was the pout. He sighed again and prepared to sacrifice his pride for the greater good. "You'll always be you, you know. Just, you with weird – weird – family drama. This doesn't – change anything. Or anything like that. I mean, I doubt even Houdini could change you into somebody else. Or should. Or anything. Can I stop now?"
There was a moment of embarrassing silence before Sherlock snorted. "Houdini? Really? That was the best comparison you could come up with?"
"Too early," John replied, "and no trying to change the subject."
"If I was trying to-"
John cut him off. "You. Your dad. You and Mycroft's weird identity crisis. Explain."
John could practically feel the waves of displeasure coming off of Sherlock. "Mycroft is nothing but an unimaginative bloody great big copycat. This was my idea. Why he had to follow me around like he has nothing better to do, I'll never understand. Why he couldn't he just keep playing Quidditch and away from me. Would have stopped him from getting all pudgy, now, wouldn't it have?"
John frowned. "Quidditch?" he asked. He wasn't surprised to hear Sherlock spouting words he didn't recognize, but usually they were more science relate.
"Mycroft played football?"
"Professionally? Only at the minor league. Took that job with the Ministry of Sports. Clearly, they shouldn't have let him within fifty meters of that place. He's obviously taken quite a taste to manipulating things."
John knew better than to say anything about pots, or kettles, or the colour black. At least not where Sherlock could hear him. "Right. So your brother wasn't always a megalomaniac ponce. Wait, what about you? Did you do?"
"I? I attended school."
Which, of course, was natural. Perhaps one of the most normal things he's heard come out of Sherlock's mouth in a while. Unfortunately, it inspired John to try to actually picture what Sherlock must have been like as a student. Horrifying, cute was the first word that popped into his head. Logically, however, a young Sherlock must have driven his professors barmy. But what is even more horrifying is how that piece of realism actually only increases the endearing aspect instead of decreasing it. Obviously, John needed to never drink again if it was going to inspire such thoughts. Or may never stop drinking. "This the part where you ran away from home?" he asked, just to get the conversation moving away from that.
"Now you're just being intentionally stupid. Stop it. I have already stated, repeatedly, that I did not run away from home."
"Right. You just left home, with the intention of not returning, while still in school."
"I was not in school!" Sherlock hissed before reaching out and flicking the side of John's neck. Which, normally, would not have been very painfully – except for the whiskey, of course. Which Sherlock knew, of course. "I am a fully certified wizard, if you must have it spelled out for you," Sherlock informed him haughtily over the sound of John groaning some more.
He rolled over, trying to get away from Sherlock and his bone fingers and glared up at him before getting distracted again. "Wait. Did the words 'fully certified wizard' just come out of your mouth, and why does that sound like a bad joke in poor taste?"
Sherlock actually blushed. "Like you have room to talk," he muttered cryptically. "Focus, John. I'm trying to explain this to you. As I said, having recently graduated from the premier British wizarding school, keeping in mind that it is the only British wizarding school, I suddenly found myself without gainful occupation and hence set out determined to do something of worth."
"And where does the bit about changing your name fit into all this?"
Sherlock scowled down at his lap. "Yes, well, that," he sneered. He held the look of severe malcontent for a moment before sighing and letting it fade away. "There are certain things one should know about my family."
"Other than the magical bit."
"Yes, other than that. I should say, rather, that there are certain things about my father that one should know. I shalln't go into the particulars. They're depressing, more often than not; and rather ridiculous the rest of the time. One could say that he single-handedly saved all of wizarding Britain at the ripe old age of 17. That would actually be what most people say. Try to imagine a combination of King Arthur and Robin Hood. Only with a penchant for trainers and corny practical jokes that he likes to pull out in front of your peers on the rare occasion that you can actually have any over without them going into an apoplectic fit at getting to meet The Great Harry Potter."
John stared at him, wide-eyed. He took in the narrowed eyes, the flushed skin, the clenched hands and the rising tone of voice, and realized this might be the most human he's ever seen Sherlock. "Wow. No resentment there, or anything."
"I assure you, John, It gets old quickly being the son of Harry Potter. Especially, when you have bloody perfect James Potter, the older brother that everyone already knows and just loves."
"And that might explain some of the irrational competitiveness, there."
Sherlock scowled darkly and reached out to poke John again. "There is nothing irrational about me."
"Of course not," John agreed easily enough. He tried not to notice the similarities in his tone of voice, and the one people used when he tried to tell them that he and Sherlock were just friends. "And so you changed your name. So people wouldn't connect the two of you. What about Mycroft?"
With a snarl, Sherlock had one of the pillows out from behind him and flung it across the room. It thumped ineffectively against the far wall and Sherlock glared at it as if it were to blame. "Bloody annoying prat. What does he do? He follows me. Can't just let me have this on my own, can he? No! He's bloody James Potter, and he always has to mess with me. He even copied my name, John! Holmes was mine! It was my chance to get away from everything! And he followed me!"
John's never much liked Mycroft. He's creepy, for starters. And the whole trying to bribe him thing really didn't set the right tone to their first meeting. And he can sympathize with Sherlock's constant frustrations. Doesn't mean he misses the way Sherlock's older brother downright hovers. But he keeps those thoughts to himself, and gets to keep having civil conversations with Sherlock.
"I think that about near covers all the most important questions," John announced. "Except for one."
Sherlock glanced over at him, his eyes narrowed. "What?"
"Sherlock," John asked in his most reasonable of voices. "Why are we in bed together?"
If John had thought Sherlock was blushing before, that was nothing to the explosion of pink that follows his question. When Sherlock finally answers, he actually mumbles. "There was a shortage of space. Mummy invited the whole clan over."
The only problem is, now John's blushing too, and kind of wishing he could hide his head back under the pillow again for an entirely different reason. And he was trying not to notice that while Sherlock's hands might be a bit chilly, there's quite a bit of very pleasant body heat coming from only a couple of inches away, and they've had this whole conversation while in nothing other than their nightclothes, with John sprawled inelegantly across one side of the bed, his head nestled next to Sherlock's hip while the other man leans back against the headboard as naturally as if they did this ever morning. "Right," John announces, starting to scuttle backwards out of the bed and away from temptation. "I'll just go find a coach, then."
John fully expects Sherlock to leave things be at that. There's no reason to hope for anything different. So it does kind of catch him by surprise when Sherlock lunges across the bed, wraps one hand up in John's old worn out t-shirt and tugs him back down. They crash back down to earth in a jumble of embarrassing awkward elbows and knees (most of which seem to belong to Sherlock) and John's left feeling too nervous to move again.
Sherlock rolls his eyes, which is a rather effect way of disguising the fact that he won't quite meet Johns. "Oh, for reason's sake. Just stay here, you idiot. Or – or my feet will get cold."
"…we can't have that."
"Exactly. Happens all the time."
"Guess I'll just have to adjust then."
"Obviously. Really, John, I don't know why you insist on pointing out these things that ought to be apparent."
"…must be something wrong with my head," John mutters as he wiggles his way more firmly into the bead, ignores Sherlock's cold hands and cold feet and enjoys what passes for peace and quiet living with Sherlock Holmes.
It was an unspoken rule between the Holmes brothers that one did not mention their father. There were many reasons for this. Some of them had to do with state secrecy. Some of them had to do with not sounding insane. Most of them had to do with building their own great lives outside of the shadow of The Great Harry Potter.
The boy that was just Harry didn't mind very much, as long as they made sure to come home and visit their Mummy from time to time.
John, surprisingly, understood all of that the same way he understood when to push Sherlock and when to ignore Mycroft, no matter what either brother said. He never asked those kinds of questions that Albus and James had come to dread as schoolboys, such as anything having to do with scars, snakes, tournaments, dark lords, or immortality. He did still complain about Sherlock's process, his manners, his unorthodox use of the kitchen sink and general disregard for most of the human race.
And if from time to time, Mr. Potter and Dr. Watson retired to the library to drink a little too much whiskey and ruminate together about the uniqueness that was the Holmes family, Sherlock pretended not to notice.
The fact that John still did not seem to actually like Mycroft may have also helped.
All in all, it was a perfectly peaceful, productive arrangement.
Right up until a certain somebody started whining about grandchildren again.