A Study in Magic
by Books of Change
Warning/Notes: This is a BBC Sherlock and Harry Potter crossover AU. The HP timeline and BBC Sherlock's timeline has been shifted forwards and backwards to match up. One major BBC Sherlock character's gender has changed for the sake of the plot. The story was planned and written before season 2, but incorporates elements of season 2 as much as possible. Readers beware!
Chapter Eight Two: The Hidden Plan
Harry's feet hit solid ground; his knees buckled a little and the ceramic teacup fell to the ground and rolled away. Ron stumbled and fell on a polished wooden floor, and Neville landed on top of him, making them both grunt. Julia and Hermione were still standing, looking very windswept.
Once everyone had gathered their wits and were back on their feet, they looked around. They were in a corridor where nothing was moving but the nearest torches, flickering subtly. At the end of the corridor was a plain black door that looked hauntingly familiar.
"There?" asked Hermione squeakily, as she picked up the teacup from the floor.
Harry nodded. "Let's go," he whispered, and he led the way down the corridor.
They stopped again within six feet of the door.
"Did your grandpa ever take you here for a tour?" Harry asked as he stared at it apprehensively.
Julia shook her head, "Classified Information."
Harry approached the door. What felt like a million questions circled inside his head as the door swung open and he marched over the threshold, the others at his heels.
Why did Dumbledore leave a clone behind at Hogwarts? Why did he have a portkey that would take a person directly to the Department of Mysteries? Why did Mr. Shin deliberately let himself get shot? Did he use a clone? Dumbledore seemed convinced it was the real Mr. Shin who got shot, but how did he know? Was Mr. Shin really alright? Guns and bullets were nothing to sniff at. Sherlock got punched in the face once by John for showing Harry gruesome pictures of gunshot wounds because he thought it was a point worth driving home…
Harry pushed his thoughts away and looked around. They were standing in a large, circular room. Everything in here was black including the floor and ceiling. Identical, unmarked and black doors without handles were set at intervals all around the black walls, interspersed with branches of candles whose flames burned blue. Their cool, shimmering light reflected in the shining marble floor made it look as though there was dark water underfoot.
"Someone shut the door," Harry muttered.
He regretted giving this order the moment Neville had obeyed it. Without the long chink of light from the torch-lit corridor behind them, the place became so dark that for a moment the only things they could see were the shivering blue flames on the walls and their ghostly reflections in the floor. Then there was a great rumbling noise and the candles began to move sideways. The circular wall was rotating.
For a few seconds, the blue flames around them were blurred to resemble neon lines as the wall sped around. Then, quite as suddenly as it had started, the rumbling stopped and everything became stationary again.
"What was that about?" whispered Ron fearfully, while Hermione clung to his arm.
"I think it was to stop us from knowing which door we came in through," said Julia in a hushed voice.
Harry knew she was right: he could no sooner identify the exit door than locate an ant on the jet-black floor, and the door through which they needed to proceed could be any one of the dozen surrounding them.
"How are we going to get back out?" said Neville uncomfortably.
"That's not important," said Harry forcefully. "We need to find Dumbledore. He can take us back once we tell- errr, once we find him."
"Where do we go, then, Harry?" Ron asked.
"I don't know," said Harry, swallowing. "In my dream, I went through the door at the end of the corridor and into a dark room – that's this one – and then I went through another door into a room that … glitters."
"We should try a few doors, then," said Hermione.
So they did. The first door they pushed open led to a large rectangular room that was much brighter than the dark room, thanks to the lamps hanging low on golden chains from the ceiling. The place was quite empty except for a few desks and, in the very middle of the room, an enormous glass tank of deep green liquid, big enough for all of them to swim in, and a number of pearly-white objects drifting around lazily in it … objects that turned out to be tiny swimming brains.
They hurried out of the room, knowing at first glance that it wasn't the glittering room they were looking for. Hermione marked the door with a fiery 'X', so they would know which door they'd already tried, before the dark room's circular walls started spinning again.
The second door they pushed didn't budge. Harry and Hermione both used the Alohomora charm on it, but nothing happened.
"Right, we're leaving that door," said Hermione decisively after putting her wand away.
"But what if that's the one?" said Ron, staring at the door with a mixture of apprehension and longing.
"It can't be. Harry was able to go through the door in his dream," said Hermione, marking the door with another fiery cross.
The third door they pushed open led to another rectangular room, larger than the first, but dimly lit. The centre of it was sunken, forming a great stone pit some twenty feet deep. They stood at the topmost tier of what seemed to be stone benches running all around the room and descending in steep steps like an amphitheatre. In the centre of the pit there was a stone dais, on which stood a stone archway that looked so ancient, cracked and crumbling that Harry was amazed the thing was still standing. Unsupported by any surrounding wall, the archway was hung with a tattered black curtain or veil which, despite the complete stillness of the cold surrounding air, was fluttering very slightly as though it had just been touched.
"…Not the right one, let's go," said Hermione. She looked thoroughly frightened—more frightened than when she first arrived at the dark circular room, or when she looked upon the tank of swimming brains.
Harry didn't move. He thought the archway had an odd beauty to it, old as it was. The gently rippling veil intrigued him; he felt a very strong inclination to go down the steps, climb up on the dais and walk through it.
"C'mon, Harry!" said Hermione, grabbing Harry's arm and pulling. "We don't have much time!"
But Harry resisted. When he strained his ears, he fancied he heard whispers echoing up from the dais. Harry leaned forward to listen more closely.
"Harry, please!" said Hermione, tugging more forcefully. "We have to find Dumbledore!"
"Dumbledore," Harry repeated, still gazing, mesmerized, at the swaying veil. "Yeah … Right…"
With difficulty, he wrenched his eyes away from the veil. On his side, Julia and Neville were still staring, apparently entranced, at the veil. Without speaking, Hermione took hold of Julia's arm, Ron grabbed Neville's, and they marched them firmly back out of the door.
"What d'you reckon that arch was?" Harry asked as they reentered the dark circular room.
"I don't know, but whatever it was, it was dangerous," Hermione said firmly, again inscribing a fiery cross on the door.
"How can anyone work here without their heads going around the bend?" Ron muttered as the walls started to turn.
"My grandpa's not crazy," said Julia defensively.
"John said anyone who lets himself get shot is certifiably insane," Harry said.
"That would mean all army field operatives are loonies," Julia retorted. "Grandpa wasn't planning to get shot, I don't think. He just told me because of Moran, the chances of him getting shot increased tenfold."
That was reasonable, Harry had to admit. "Did he tell you what he was going to do about it?"
"No, he just said he's taking care of it."
"Aren't you worried?"
"Well, yeah," snapped Julia, while blue lines of light ran across her pale face. "But grandpa isn't the type to just roll over and die, so-"
"Stop it, you two," said Hermione sharply, as the wall slid to a halt. "Pick the next door."
Harry picked an unmarked door at random. He knew right away they chose the right one by the beautiful, dancing, diamond-sparkling light. As Harrys eyes became accustomed to the brilliant glare, he saw clocks gleaming from every surface, large and small, grandfather and carriage, hanging in spaces between the bookcases or standing on desks ranging the length of the room, so that a busy, relentless ticking filled the place like thousands of minuscule, marching footsteps. The source of the dancing, diamond-bright light was a towering crystal ball jar that stood at the far end of the room.
"This is it! This way!"
Harry's heart was pumping frantically now that he knew they were on the right track. He led the way down the narrow space between the lines of desks, heading, as he had done in his dream, for the source of the light, the crystal bell jar quite as tall as he was that stood on a desk and appeared to be full of a billowing, glittering wind. When they got close, Harry noted the tiny, jewel-bright egg drifting along in the sparkling current inside the jar. As it rose in the jar, it cracked open and a hummingbird emerged, which was carried to the very top of the jar, but as it fell on the draught its feathers became bedraggled and damp again, and by the time it had been borne back to the bottom of the jar it had been enclosed once more in its egg.
"So weird," Harry muttered as he jogged past the jar to the only door behind it.
Harry stopped before the door and glanced around at them all. They had their wands out and looked suddenly serious and anxious. He looked back at the door and pushed. It swung open.
He immediately felt a blast of heat and light. It was as though he'd open the door to a blazing, hot furnace. The next second the heat and light was gone, leaving a chill in its wake. Harry squinted at the room beyond the threshold.
It was clearly the Hall of Prophecies, though it didn't look at all like the place he'd seen in the dream. The dark, high hall lying beyond the door had broken shelves, shattered glass and cracked globes everywhere. A little distance away, a huge fiery serpent was getting gobbled up by giant ball of water. The ball seemed to grow bigger and bigger as it drew more water from a wand belonging to one of the two wizards battling each other. Harry studied the wizards, and quickly realized the black robed wizard was Voldemort and the one controlling the ball of water was Dumbledore.
And at that same moment, Harry fully understood why people said Dumbledore was one of the vanishingly few wizards Lord Voldemort had ever feared. The look upon Dumbledore's face as he stared at Voldemort was more terrible than Harry could have ever imagined. There was no benign smile upon Dumbledore's face, no twinkle in the eyes behind the spectacles. There was cold fury in every line of the ancient face, and a sense of power radiated from Dumbledore as though he was giving off burning heat.
Harry ran towards Dumbledore, a rush of pity overwhelming the fear flooding his veins. There could be only one reason behind Dumbledore's fury: his belief Mr. Shin was dead. That the two may be close friends was a thought very strange and foreign to Harry, but the sheer depth of Dumbledore's anger all but screamed it.
"Professor Dumbledore, Mr. Shin isn't dead!" Harry shouted. "He's alive!"
The fiery serpent vanished. The ball burst, and water fell on the floor with crash, sending waves everywhere and drenching the debris. The entire hall then seemed to come to a sudden stop. Both Voldemort and Dumbledore stared at Harry for a moment, Dumbledore looking as galvanized as he'd ever been.
"Potter," said Voldemort in his high, cold voice; perhaps it was Harry's imagination, but he sounded a bit out of breath. "You're lying…"
"It's true!" yelled Harry, and as he shouted it, pain seared across his forehead; his scar was on fire, and he felt a surge of fury that was quite disconnected to his own emotions. "Professor, your clone told us to tell you that he lives! Madam Bones and the Aurors are heading this way, too!"
"Don't be fool," said Voldemort. "I know a clone when I see one … and I know what guns are capable of … my sniper definitely killed the dear old Grandmaster…"
Dumbledore appeared to think it over. Voldemort, in the meantime, whipped his wand at Harry.
"AVADA KEDAVRA!" he shrieked.
Harry stared at the jet of green light flying towards him. His mind was blank and his wand was pointing uselessly at the floor.
"No!" Neville and Julia screamed.
"Protego!" cried Hermione and Ron's voice.
Two shields erupted around Harry. A flock of paper charms and glass seagulls rushed to fill the remaining space between him and Voldemort. The spell burned right through the cluster of glass and paper and then shattered the shields. At that same moment, out of nowhere, Fawkes swooped down in front of Harry, opened his beak wide and swallowed the jet of green light whole: he burst into flame and fell to the floor, small, wrinkled and flightless.
"Your time is up, Tom," said Dumbledore. The cold fury Harry saw earlier was no longer on his countenance.
"So you think," Voldemort spat.
Then he was gone.
For a while there was nothing but silence. Surely it was over, Harry thought as he took a step back. Voldemort decided to flee. Surely he ran away…
"Don't move, Harry!" Dumbledore bellowed. For the first time, Dumbledore sounded frightened. Harry couldn't see why. The hall was empty except for him, his friends and Dumbledore, and the baby phoenix Fawkes croaking feebly on the floor.
Then Harry's scar burst open: it was pain beyond imagining, pain past endurance.
He was locked in the coils of a creature with red eyes, so tightly bound that Harry did not know where his body ended and the creature's body began: they were fused together, bound by pain, and there was no escape…
The creature spoke, using Harry's mouth; in his agony he felt his jaw move.
"Kill me now, Dumbledore…"
Blinded and every part of him screaming for release, Harry felt the creature use him again…
"If death is nothing, Dumbledore, kill the boy…"
Let the pain stop, thought Harry … let him kill us … end it, Dumbledore … death is nothing compared to this…
…But if I die, John will cry…
As Harry's heart filled with a powerful longing and grief, the creature's coils loosened, and the pain was gone. Harry was lying face down on the floor, shivering as though he lay upon ice.
There were voices echoing through the hall, more voices than there should have been. Harry opened his eyes, raised his head a little and found Dumbledore's crooked nose inches from his own.
"Are you all right, Harry?"
"Yes," said Harry, shaking so violently he could not hold his head up properly. "Yeah, I'm - where's Voldemort, where - who are all these - what's –"
The hall was full of people; a stream of witches and wizards were emerging from the door behind them. As Dumbledore pulled him back to his feet, Harry saw Madam Bones leading a stunned-looking Cornelius Fudge forward.
"He was there!" shouted a scarlet-robed man with a ponytail, pointing at the rubble. "I saw him, Mr. Fudge, I swear it was You-Know-Who!"
"I know, Williamson, I know, I saw him too!" gibbered Fudge. "Merlin's beard - here - here! - in the Ministry of Magic! Great heavens above - it doesn't seem possible - my word - how can this be -?"
"If you dig through this rubble," said Dumbledore, apparently satisfied that Harry was all right, and walking forwards so that the newcomers realised he was there, "you will find a convicted Death Eater many thought to have perished in Azkaban thirteen years ago. Also, at King's College Waterloo campus, you will find a wizard named Sebastian Moran. If you hurry, you will be able to stop him from harming innocent bystanders in his effort to shoot Harry's adoptive parents under Lord Voldemort's orders."
Harry felt like his body turned to ice, as mind-numbing terror filled his veins. Fudge goggled.
"Dumbledore!" gasped Fudge, beside himself with amazement. "You – here – I – what are you talking about?"
"Cornelius, just a few minutes ago you saw proof, with your own eyes, that I have been telling you the truth these past four months!" said Dumbledore in a thunderous voice. "Yes, Lord Voldemort has returned, your efforts to discredit me has almost bankrupted the Ministry and cost several people their lives, and now it is time you listened to sense!"
"I – don't – well," Fudge blustered, looking around as though hoping somebody would tell him what to do. No one did, but Madam Bones stepped forward.
"Shacklebolt! Williamson!" she barked. "Go to King's college and stop Moran! Make sure Mr. and Mrs. Holmes are safe!"
Two scarlet-robed wizards nodded and went away. Harry felt his terror abate a little. Fudge gaped at Bones before snapping his attention back at Dumbledore.
"Yes, yes, do go ahead," he muttered. "Now Dumbledore, you – you will need to tell me exactly – the Hall of Prophecies – what happened?"
"We can discuss that after I have sent my students back to Hogwarts," said Dumbledore.
"Your – your students?"
Fudge wheeled around and stared at Harry, who turned around and was startled to find Hermione, Ron, Julia and Neville standing right behind him.
"Harry – Harry Potter?" gasped Fudge, goggling worse than ever. "And all of the – why – what's all this about?"
"I shall explain everything," repeated Dumbledore, "when Harry and his friends are back at school."
Then he walked away from the Ministry officials, and headed towards his students.
"Don't worry, Harry," Dumbledore said quietly. "John and Sherlock took cover as soon as they realised Moran was shooting. They should be safe as long as they stay where they are. I also doubt John would let Sherlock risk his life foolishly."
Harry closed his eyes. The fear flooding his veins seemed to subside, and in its wake he felt a desire to scream, punch someone, or laugh hysterically.
Of course John and Sherlock were safe … they knew how to handle a gun fight … but then again, Dumbledore had no idea … no idea at all … Sherlock running to his death in the middle of a firefight was the very least of his worries…
Sherlock grabbed John before she could hand Benedict over to him and rush off.
"Don't," said Sherlock, holding firmly.
"But he'll—" John protested.
"No doubt Moran will make good his threat," said Sherlock. "He's counting on you to come out in the open to save the life of strangers."
"Got any better ideas, then?" John snarled. "You're the genius here!"
"I do, as a matter fact," said Sherlock haughtily. "I'll call backup."
John stared. "What backup? The police?"
"As if," Sherlock sneered. Then he called: "Dobby!"
There was a loud crack and Dobby appeared before them. John's jaw dropped.
"We found Winky's murderer," Sherlock lied solemnly. "He is at that building over there, on the roof."
Sherlock jerked his thumb at the building where the shots were coming from. Dobby looked up at it, looking very pale and angry. John closed her mouth as the elf balled his tiny fists.
"You can take us up there, yeah?" asked John quickly.
"Yes, Dobby can, Dr. Watson, ma'am," squeaked Dobby, still glaring at the building. "But Dr. Watson and Mr. Sherlock need not go themselves. Mr. Sherlock and Dr. Watson should not risk their lives when they have Harry Potter and little baby Benedict to look after. Dobby will take care of the evil dark wizard who murdered Winky!"
And with that, Dobby cracked out of sight.
John and Sherlock stared at each other in astonishment.
"Did you expect that?" asked John.
"No," said Sherlock, shaking his head.
John nodded, "Okay."
They stayed behind the pillar, listening for gunshots. After hearing none for a full minute (much to John's private amazement), John hurried over to Shin.
John first checked Shin's pulse. It fluttered against her fingers, very faintly. John then checked the rest of him. Blood was seeping out of the old man's right side, the bullet that penetrated his torso acting as an inadequate cork stoppering a bottle. John quickly handed Benedict over to Sherlock, and pulled out their medical kit from their enchanted nappy bag. John then reached out to cut Shin's shirt, but encountered something very solid about a quarter inch away from his clothes.
"He's wearing bulletproof armour," said John, surprised.
"Of course he is," growled Sherlock, as Benedict beat his little fists against his face, screeching. "He asked for one after the meeting. He probably enchanted the one Mycroft gave him to be both feather-light and invisible, and wore it ever since."
John tore off the invisible armour. She couldn't tell exactly what type based on the weight for obvious reasons, but its shape and thickness suggested it could withstand rifle rounds (and John could count on Mycroft to be thorough). Sherlock muttered a series of deductions while John worked to seal Shin's punctured chest.
"The bullet didn't shatter upon contact, meaning it was a high velocity bullet. The depth of penetration also implies Moran is using an armour piercing rifle. Stolen from a military cache, perhaps? Shin seems to have put some kind of spell that drastically reduced the fragmentation and blunt force trauma under the impact point; his condition more resembles a knife wound than a bullet wound. Either way, damn it, Mycroft, you should've splurged and given him a type IV…"
John had just finished giving Shin emergency treatment when they heard approaching footsteps. Sherlock pulled John back to their shelter, and John tapped the charmed button that turned her green mackintosh jacket bright pink.
The paramedics only spared Sherlock, John and Benedict huddled behind a pillar a brief look before descending upon Shin, probably signing them off as an ordinary micro-family caught in a firefight gone FUBAR. John and Sherlock used this tactic often to avoid the public, press and police (in that order). It worked well; most people blundered around chasing after their mental image of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, while the real John and Sherlock, with their ordinary-looking appearance, roamed the streets of London undetected. Adding Harry—and later Benedict— into the mix only perfected the obfuscation. Sherlock didn't do ordinary, as everyone well knew.
Before long, the paramedics had Shin on a wheeled stretcher. John had a lot of things she wanted to say to them, but couldn't: the rifle rounds Moran probably used (9.6g), Shin's actual age (105) and his Magus positive blood…
John swallowed hard as she remembered what happened to wizards transfused with Muggle blood. Shin required emergency treatment and possibly a transfusion. Mycroft, the bastard, had used up all the Magus positive blood in London, if not the UK, for his experiments. There were ways to recover from the magic-loss, of course, but the months— perhaps years— it would take Shin to recover meant…
"I texted Robert," said Sherlock quietly. "He'll treat him even if he has to waylay the attending doctor."
John let out a shuddering sigh of relief.
The EMT team rushed away in good time. Sherlock and John waited some more after they left. Dobby didn't teleport back.
"Did something happen to him?" asked John worriedly.
"If so, then Moran would be shooting again by now," Sherlock pointed out. "But it's odd. Let's check."
He pulled out the invisibility cloak Sirius lent to them from their nappy bag and flung it over them. Unlike Harry's heirloom invisibility cloak, Sirius's cloak felt heavy and John swore passersby could see invisible ripples whenever they moved. Sherlock and John left their shelter after both were convinced they were completely covered. Sherlock led John to the building where Moran presumably selected as his vantage point.
They found Dobby on the roof of the building. The elf was savagely beating up a black-clad man, who was already unconscious, with a large, cast-iron skillet.
"You! Bad! Evil! Wizard!" Dobby screamed between the whacks. "You! Murderer of! Winky! You-"
"Dobby— Dobby, that's enough!" said John, alarmed, as Sherlock took off the cloak. "You're going to kill him!"
Dobby stopped. Then he looked up at John with the skillet held above his head. His skinny arms trembled from the effort to keep it aloft.
"One more for Winky?" Dobby begged, fat tears rolling down his cheeks.
John thought about it for a moment.
"Just one," said John, raising a finger.
Dobby gave John a watery look of gratitude before hitting Moran's head with all his might. Then he let go of the dented skillet, which clattered to the floor, and blew his nose into his shirt.
"…Not good enough," Dobby mumbled. "Poor Winky…"
John reached down and patted the elf's head.
"Yeah, I agree and I'm sorry. But dead men tell no tales…"
Sherlock touched John's shoulder.
"We need to go," he said, pointing at the sky.
John looked up. Helicopters with their spotlights on were heading their way. Down below, a troop of cars and vans with flashing blue and red lights were fast approaching the building.
"Right. Dobby, take us out of here," said John.
May 24, 20XX, 9:45 PM
ALIVE?! PLEASE RESPOND!
May 24, 20XX, 10:34 PM
May 24, 20XX, 11:54 PM
We're all fine. Sorry. Mycroft made us relocate asap for security purposes
On May 25th, the morning after the final task of the Triwizard Tournament, Lestrade found himself in St. Mungo's with his children sans Ellen and Isaac. The witches and wizards waiting in the lobby with him were standing around the screen showing the MMN public news broadcast, which displayed a holograph of Minister Cornelius Fudge making an announcement.
"It is with great regret that I must confirm that the wizard styling himself Lord – well, you know who I mean – is alive and among us again," said Fudge, looking tired and flustered as he addressed his unseen audience. "It is with almost equal regret that we report Grandmaster Shin June Hu was attacked last night and is currently in critical condition. We believe the attack was done under the direct orders of Lord – Thingy."
Fudge blathered about the Ministry publishing guides to elementary home and personal Defence, while urging the wizarding public to remain calm. Next to him, a record of Albus Dumbledore dueling LV started to play. Quite a few wizards whooped and applauded as they watched the battle, and several witches burst into tears.
"Daddy?" said Rupert.
"Mmm?" said Lestrade.
"Grandpa alright?" Rupert asked. He looked gravely concerned.
Lestrade swallowed the lump in his throat. The corners of his eyes prickled. He had to remind himself Robert was taking care of Shin, not some random guy from either St. Mungo's or a Muggle Hospital least he lose it.
"…Yeah," Lestrade said croakily. "Yeah, he'll be alright."
"But you're sad," Martin pointed out. Who knew he understood his grandfather was fighting for his life?
Then Lestrade remembered with a pang only Julia had any real right to call Shin 'grandpa'. His younger children weren't related to him, and Lestrade forfeit the right to call him family when he remarried. Yet Martin, Rupert and Elise never questioned who Shin was to them.
"Well, grandpa's old," Lestrade mumbled. "So I … do worry if he'll fall asleep and never wake up…"
Sometime later, Arthur and Molly Weasley, who graciously came to wait with Lestrade, took the kids so they could all grab a bite. Lestrade lingered behind, and stared helplessly at the door that separated him from the operating theatre.
"Don't die," Lestrade whispered. "You … you're the father I never got to have…"
It was late Friday night, and Molly Hooper had just collapsed into a chair. She then rubbed her tired eyes with the palm of her hands. Besides the large beetle buzzing idly inside its glass jar habitat, all was silent inside the lab.
A voice spoke.
Molly jumped and looked around. Her face softened when she recognised the voice's owner.
"Hey!" she said breathlessly. "Sorry, I didn't see you come in."
"That's alright, I understand," said Sirius Black, stepping out from the shadows. "Busy shift?"
Molly nodded wearily.
"I got called in to look at the people who got shot at King's yesterday. It was so sad … all of them were so young."
Sirius turned grim. "I see."
Then he pulled up a chair next to Molly and sat on it. Molly rested her head against him, and drew a wince from Sirius.
"Bruises still bothering you?" Molly asked, as she lifted her head up.
"No," said Sirius, wrapping an arm around Molly and gently pulling her back towards him. "They're healing nicely. And I'm done making bulletproof armour for Sherlock."
"Did it work?"
"Yep," said Sirius, looking elsewhere. "I need to thank you," he added in a rush. "All the stuff you taught me about bullet wounds, it really made a difference. It saved someone's life yesterday. You're amazing—"
Molly was quiet while Sirius babbled. Then she lifted her head and looked at Sirius square in the eye.
"Sirius," said Molly. "What's this about?"
Sirius shut his mouth and met her eyes for a beat. Then he looked away and studied the beetle, which seemed to stare back at him with its wings flared.
"Listen," whispered Sirius. "I've … got stuff coming up. No," he added quickly when he saw Molly open her mouth from the corner of his eye, "This isn't me wanting to break up. If it were up to me, I'd be asking you if you want to ride an elephant and herd rhinos right now. But I've got stuff to do and it dangerous. All I can tell you is that the shooting at King's was a precursor."
Silence fell in the lab again. After a while, Sirius turned to face Molly again. He immediately felt like a villain and murderer when he saw Molly's shiny eyes.
"When are you coming back?" Molly whispered.
"I don't know," Sirius muttered.
"How will I know when you're back?" asked Molly.
"I'll call you," said Sirius earnestly. "I don't think it'll take long. Sherlock's on the case, you know how good he is."
Molly didn't look reassured.
"What if something happens to you?" she asked. "Will I ever know?"
Sirius wet his lips. How should he respond to this? Just imagining Molly waiting and wondering for days stretching to weeks made him want to throw up.
"I'll think of something," said Sirius, trying to sound lighthearted. "I've got too much to live for. I haven't ridden an elephant yet, for starters." He paused. "I'll put a spell on that beetle if you like. If it turns tiny and boring, that means something happened to me."
Molly let out a soft chuckled that sounded sad … so very sad.
"I guess you could, since you're a wizard…"
They looked at each other again. Then they both looked down.
"I know that beetle's not the one you caught in the greenhouse," Molly blurted. "You should've just told me what Sherlock did to it."
"Dammit," said Sirius, blinking rapidly. "I thought I did a convincing job making it look like the original. What tipped you off?"
"Nothing," said Molly, while wiping her eyes repeatedly. "I just … It's funny, but Sherlock sent me a late Christmas present – a beetle with funny markings around the eyes, pinned and beautifully framed. I guess he wanted to apologize for accidentally killing it."
Two days had passed since the shooting at King's. Shin June Hu was awake and studying his room's tiled ceiling as though he could divine the secrets of the universe from its patterns. Then the door opened and Albus Dumbledore stepped inside.
For while neither Dumbledore nor Shin said anything. They merely studied each other for a very long time.
It was Shin who broke the silence:
"Sorry, I didn't duck."
Dumbledore made a strange noise. Then his shoulders trembled as he withheld his laughter or some other emotion, one couldn't say which.
"As happy as I am to see you alive, I want to give you a sound beating for misleading me," Dumbledore said after regaining his composure.
Shin chuckled briefly and then winced.
"You should do it when I can't hit back," he rasped.
"It's tempting," said Dumbledore. "But I shall defer until you get better."
"That won't be until another six months or a year," Shin grunted. "And I don't let people hit me if I can help it."
Dumbledore smiled sadly. Then he sat down on the nearby armchair.
There was another brief moment of silence.
"You knew Voldemort was after the prophecy," Shin said. "Surely you expected him to try to kill me to get it. Why else would you make a portkey that would take you directly to the Department of Mysteries?"
"I assumed you would do things my way," said Dumbledore.
"What gave you the idea?" Shin scoffed.
"My own presumptions, clearly," said Dumbledore. "I see now that you had your own ideas as far back as Sherlock's LV War Part II meeting. You knew one does not find Lord Voldemort unless he chooses to reveal himself. Therefore, as Mycroft Holmes said, the best way to make Voldemort reveal himself is to entice him to infiltrate the Ministry and stage an ambush. The main challenge of this plan is showing Voldemort, convincingly, that the security surrounding the Hall of Prophecy, which houses the record of the prophecy he obsessively desires to hear in full detail, is down."
Dumbledore looked at Shin.
"You are the security," he said. "As long as you are alive and well, and he has followers to order, Lord Voldemort will not risk breaking into the Department of Mysteries in person. However, if most of his Death Eaters are not available, and he had a feasible way in which to kill you, Voldemort won't hesitate to order your assassination and then infiltrate the Ministry himself. Also, if I witnessed your death, there is a strong chance that I'll become angry enough to go and confront Voldemort myself and kill him. Thus Sherlock conceived and executed a plan that would incarcerate all of his legally free Death Eaters. In the meantime, you prepared for Moran to assassinate you … with cameras ready to record and broadcast your 'death'."
Shin said nothing.
"I admit this scheme has a subtle brilliance to it," Dumbledore went on. "It certainly worked, for the most part. However, you of all people should know that getting shot is a deadly risk, especially — please pardon the phrase — someone your age."
"A famous author once wrote inside every older person is younger person wondering what happened; this is certainly true for me," said Shin. Then he sighed. "But yes, you are right and I'm sorry. I knew the plan was selfish and risky. The bullet could've killed me. There was no guarantee you would work out what my death would mean at the heat of the moment. Even if you did, Voldemort may have taken the prophecy's record before you reached him. Above all, how dare I trick you into killing him? Why would someone like you violate your principles and murder someone in cold-blood? But the thought of sparing war to my children and grandchildren was …"
"…a temptation so great, you thought no sacrifice was too great to pay," Dumbledore finished. "Yes, I understand."
There was another bout of silence.
"I can't help anymore," said Shin regretfully.
"You've helped enough," said Dumbledore gently. "Rest well, my friend."
Dumbledore stood up. That moment, the door flew open and Shin's children barged in.
"APPA, WHAT THE FREAK!?" Jeremy roared, eyes overflowing.
"You said you're taking care of it!" shouted Jason through tears and a snotty nose. "How is this taking care?!"
"You could've died!" Jacqueline cried between sobs.
"Why are you crying?" Shin snarled, pointing a finger at his sons and daughter and somehow halting them in their tracks. "I'm not dead! Now suck those tears back up!"
"All the way!"
They sniffled more loudly.
"Can we hug you now?" Jacqueline asked. Her voice was wobbly and her face was still wet.
Shin let out a gusting sigh, full of irritation.
The three promptly flung themselves at Shin, Jason sobbing the loudest.
Dumbledore watched the four for a lingering moment. Then, without another word, he quietly slipped away.
Voldemort looked down at the ruins of Azkaban before him. His Death Eaters, previously incarcerated in the stone prison, groveled all around him at his feet. A bit further back, hundreds of Dementors stood by, blocking the other prisoners from leaving the wreckage. Most of them were huddled in a corner, practically comatose due to the Dementors' influence, but some attempted to crawl away, and yet some others begged Voldemort to save them.
One of the latter was a squat little woman. Her short mousy hair was tangled and sported many bald patches. Her pouchy eyes were sunken into the sockets of her broad skull, which had toad-like skin stretched over it.
"Take me with you," she begged. "I can help."
Voldemort regarded the woman through his pitiless eyes. Then he laughed … a terrible sound that left everyone cowering in fright.
"You think you can help me?" said Voldemort. "Me, the greatest of all wizard-kind? Me, who has the blood of Slytherin himself running through his veins? You, who is so incompetent that you botched even the simplest of tasks and nearly led the Ministry of Magic to ruin?"
Then he pointed his wand at the woman. She was shoved back inside the fortress, like an invisible hand had pushed her, and the rubble gathered up around her and sealed her in.
"Toads need not apply," Voldemort sneered. "Now come, my Death Eaters…"
The last evening at school arrived. Most people had finished packing and were already heading down to the end-of-term feast, but Harry had not even started.
"Just do it tomorrow!" said Ron, who was waiting by the door of their dormitory. "Come on, I'm starving."
"I won't be long … look, you go ahead…"
But when the dormitory door closed behind Ron, Harry made no effort to speed up his packing. The very last thing he wanted to do was to attend the Leaving Feast. He worried what Dumbledore would say at his year-end speech. Surely he would mention Voldemort's return … Harry didn't want to hear it. He heard enough about Voldemort.
All week Zing/MMN regaled its viewers with 24-7 coverage on Voldemort: how he infiltrated the Ministry of Magic; how he partially destroyed Azkaban the day after, and left with all his incarcerated Death Eaters and the Dementors; his activities (and atrocities) from the past; reruns of Dumbledore's battle against Voldemort; there was even a documentary on guns and how Moran used a rifle to critically wound Mr. Shin. As if that wasn't exhausting enough, many students tried to make him talk about Voldemort. Some wanted to praise him for correctly guessing Voldemort's return months before the Ministry, others wanted to hear how he figured it out in excruciating detail, and yet others demanded what he was going to do about it, since LV was a personal problem of his … surely he had a plan! Harry had never been more grateful for his friends, particularly Hermione, who firmly (and politely) told them all to piss off.
The common room was empty by the time Harry finished throwing his things haphazardly into his trunk, and he lumbered down the spiral staircase. He slowly made his way to the portrait hole, out and off to the corridor, ignoring the Fat Lady, who called after him: "The feast is about to start, you know, you're cutting it very fine!"
But Harry had no intention of going to the feast. Seeing people and listening to their talk was the last thing he wanted. As Harry wondered where he should go instead, he looked down at the Fat Lady's corridor and saw somebody who had long, scraggy blonde hair fastening a note to a board on the wall. A second glance showed him it was Luna Lovegood.
Harry honestly didn't know how to react to Luna. On the one hand, her eavesdropping initiated a chain-reaction of events that ended in Voldemort's return and Winky's death. On the other hand, Luna had no idea what was going on. And yet … what would've happened if she hadn't been there at the Music Room the night Remus received the werewolf treatment? What would've happened if she never mentioned her eavesdropping to Hermione? It hurt his mind and heart to think of the possibilities.
"Hello," said Luna vaguely, glancing around at him as she stepped back from the notice.
"Hi," said Harry. "What are you doing? How come you're not at the feast?"
"Well, I've lost most of my possessions," said Luna serenely. "People take them and hide them, you know. But as it's the last night, I really do need them back, so I've been putting up signs."
She gestured towards the noticeboard, upon which, sure enough, she had pinned a list of all her missing books and clothes, with a plea for their return.
An odd feeling rose in Harry. It was a few moments before he realized that he was feeling sorry for Luna.
"Why would anyone do that?" asked Harry, frowning.
"Oh … well…" she shrugged. "I think they think I'm a bit odd, you know. Some people call me 'Loony' Lovegood, actually."
Harry looked at her and the new feeling of pity intensified rather painfully.
"That's not right," he said flatly. "Do you want help finding them?"
"Oh, no," Luna said, smiling at him. "They'll come back. They always do in the end. It was just that I wanted to pack tonight. Anyway, why aren't you at the feast?"
Harry shrugged. "Just didn't feel like it."
"No," said Luna, observing him with her oddly misty, protuberant eyes. "I don't suppose you do. A lot people have been saying insensitive things lately, ever since the Ministry admitted You-Know-Who is back. Someone in my dorm said we should hire Muggle soldiers to kill him since guns are powerful enough to defeat Grandmaster Shin. A few of them might die, of course, but it'll be worth it."
Harry nodded curtly. He'd overheard similar arguments from his fellow students himself. Those same students also complained whenever the Zing/MMN news broadcast talked about the Muggle victims who died because of Moran. They weren't interested in Muggle news, they said. They wanted to know what the Ministry or Dumbledore was doing about the You-Know-Who problem. It was as if they thought Voldemort was a pesky infestation of vermin, and didn't pause to think someone, somewhere was grieving over their lost wife, husband, mother, father, son or daughter … like the Muggles weren't real people too…
"What'd you think of the idea?" Harry asked.
"I thought it was horrible and I said so," said Luna.
"That was good of you."
"Thank you," said Luna, smiling vaguely. "I'm glad you say so. She and her friends just laughed in my face."
Harry sighed. "Are you sure you don't want me to help you look for your stuff?" he asked.
"Oh, no," said Luna. "No, I think I'll just go down and have some pudding and wait for it all to turn up… it always does in the end. Well, have a nice holiday, Harry."
"Yeah… yeah, you too."
She walked away from him and, as he watched her go, Harry found that the terrible weight in his chest seemed to have lessened slightly.
Harry didn't go to the feast. Instead he walked all the way to the lake, sat down on its bank, sheltered from the gaze of any possible passersby behind a tangle of shrubs, and stared out over the gleaming water, thinking…
Perhaps the reason he wanted to be alone was because he had felt isolated from everybody since he returned from the Department of Mysteries. An invisible barrier separated him from the rest of the world. Unlike other people, he didn't the option of running away or hiding. Voldemort would not rest until he killed Harry or got himself killed. In short, he, Harry, was a marked man.
A terrible weight of grief and despair dragged at him whenever he thought about what this meant. Every action he took had magnified consequences; just look at how he botched up his first big case and led Winky to her death. Also, anyone helpful to him was in grave danger. Mr. Shin would've never thought to risk his life and friendship with Dumbledore — the only other man who had the power to kill Voldemort — in hopes to spare his family pain and death if he never met Harry. Voldemort might hold his friends hostage. He already tried to murder John and Sherlock. Benedict was so traumatized by the shooting, John temporarily relocated to Yorkshire, at Sherlock's parents' home, where the chances of him hearing sharp noises were minimal. Harry would never forgive himself if his baby brother was left permanently scarred by the incident.
Harry sat there for a long time, gazing out at the water, trying not to think about his future. Because frankly it looked hopeless. He didn't have Sherlock's genius, Mycroft's resources, or the kind of power Voldemort had. Even if he had a hundred years to practice, he would never be as good. He also felt fury towards the people whose skills and gifts he envied, for it was because of such people—people like Voldemort, who thought himself above it all because he was more powerful and gifted than everyone else—that he got handed his burden in the first place. He also resented the fact he would have to rely on them, but what other choice did he have? He was just an ordinary person, forced to fight against titans…
Harry's phone rang just as the sun started setting. Harry hesitated for a beat before he connected the call. A holograph of Sherlock and John appeared.
"Hey babe," said John.
Harry said nothing. He felt his throat close up as he thought about the magnitude of danger he'd bring to the person he loved the most. Benedict deserved to have a safe childhood, with his own mother raising him. Anyway, Harry wasn't really …
"Shut up," said Sherlock, interrupting Harry's train of thought. "I know what you're thinking."
Harry looked down. He heard rather than saw John let out a sigh.
"Alright, you just listen," said John. "Do you remember what I told you when you blew up your room several years back?"
Harry drew a blank. He'd blown up various parts of 221B so many times over the years he lost count. In fact, he couldn't remember a time when he wasn't blowing something up.
"I said we don't care if you're a looney, an X-man-esque mutant or a criminal mastermind," said John. "From this day forth, you're my son."
Harry swallowed. He remembered now … John had told him that the day Sherlock discovered his magic.
"In light of the current circumstances, Sherlock and I agreed there should be an addendum," John continued. "Now listen carefully, we put a lot of thought into it: we don't care if the entire wizarding world goes against you, Sherlock thinks you're boring— he doesn't by the way— and Mycroft declares you an enemy of state. You're still our son."
Harry bit back a sob. His vision turned blurry.
"Since you're our son, we have no intention of sitting back and let a magical psychopath murder you," John declared. "That's final. No negotiations. So if I don't see you at platform nine and three quarters tomorrow, I'll…"
"Okay, okay!" said Harry, wiping his face on his sleeve, more relieved than any words could say. "I'll be there … I wasn't planning on anything…"
"Wrong," said Sherlock, smirking. "Still lying like a beginner …"
"What the heck are you teaching him?" John demanded. Then she smiled at Harry. "See you tomorrow."
Harry said bye and ended the call. Then he got up and returned to the castle, smiling.
Perhaps it was hopeless. Perhaps he wasn't good enough. But he wasn't alone.
Final Notes: Thus ends A Study in Magic. A total wimp I may be, I couldn't escape the logic/fact/reality that all the planning and preparation in the world can't spare you from debilitating injuries, especially when you incur them deliberately.
You can't go this long writing HP/Sherlock fanfic without quoting another famous British author. I speak, of course, of Terry Pratchett. Can you find it? ;)
Until next time!
ETA: A sequel is on the works. It's currently titled: A Study in Magic, the Application