A Study in Magic: The Application
by Books of Change
Chapter Four: The Name of the Game
In the days immediately following his birthday, Harry often found himself alone in 221B with only Benedict keeping him company. Mycroft had relocated Mrs. Hudson to an undisclosed location for an indefinite holiday (“She is enjoying herself immensely,” was all he would say). Sherlock kept Sirius extremely busy, sending him all over England and beyond. In the meantime, he would vanish with John for long hours in various disguises (most often as an old couple that looked disturbingly like Mr. and Mrs. Holmes). Even Remus all but moved back to Hogwarts as the start-of-term date drew closer. All in all, Harry was left feeling like a disgruntled and lonely nanny as he fed his baby brother, cajoled him to sleep or changed his nappy for what felt like the hundredth time.
Sirius eventually declared temporary mutiny and parked himself in 221C for a half-day. Thus Harry was able to get some info out of him.
“I’ve been doing a lot of tracking,” Sirius groaned tiredly as he poured some Firewhiskey into a glass. “People who vanished after LV returned, who looks like they were taken away, and so on.”
Harry knew better than to ask who the victims were. He wouldn’t know who they were, and Sirius would get in trouble if he discussed them at length. So instead he asked:
“What kind of people is he targeting?”
Sirius took a long drink and then slammed his glass down on the table.
“It’s hard to say,” he said, at last. “I see no rhyme or reason to the disappearances. I mean, people like Amelia Bones make sense. So does Igor Karkoroff. But then we have perfectly ordinary people like Florean Fortescue missing.”
Harry stopped short at that.
“Florean used to give me free sundaes. So he’s gone too? What happened to him?”
“Dragged off, by the look of his place,” said Sirius.
“Who knows? He must’ve upset LV somehow. Or perhaps he knew something,” Sirius took another drink. “He was a good man, Florean.”
It was hard not feel morose after receiving such news. Harry was severely tempted to visit Diagon Alley to see how bad things were, but then he would have to bring Benedict along, and he couldn’t bring himself to put his baby brother at risk (Harry had a sinking suspicion Sherlock was counting on him to make this decision).
So the days went. Then one morning, Harry had a rare occasion where all of the Baker Street residents sans Mrs. Hudson were at home. So he asked Dobby for a special breakfast. Whereas the elf was more than happy to oblige, Benedict was not so cooperative. He cried relentlessly as John and Sherlock tried to convince him: no, they hadn’t abandoned him; yes, they were his parents; and sorry, baby, we won’t do this again (John was the only one who said this). In the end, Harry, Sirius, and Remus relocated to 221C in a rather transparent attempt to avoid the screaming.
Harry had just finished pouring the coffee when he heard a tapping noise. The three of them looked up and found an official looking owl, a handsome tawny, bearing the Hogwarts’ crest, tapping its beak against the egress window.
“Finally!” Harry exclaimed as he got up. “I was wondering if mine got lost or something…”
Sirius opened the window, and the owl flew inside. It landed on the table and then stuck out the leg that had a thick parchment envelope tied to it. Harry blinked curiously at the small bulge on the envelope as he reached out to untie it.
Remus offered the owl some water on a dish as Harry broke the wax seal on his letter. As soon as he opened the flap, a silver badge dropped out of the envelope and landed in the jam pot. Sirius used a fork to fished it out, and then put it on a napkin. Despite the sticky black currant jam coating its edges, it was hard to miss the large ‘P’ engraved on the surface.
For a long moment, Harry just stared at the badge, which glinted under the dim morning sun. His mind felt curiously blank, while at the same time his heart fell into turmoil. He had a sense that he should feel happy, but all Harry could manage was mild irritation as he thought about how much the badge was going to cost him in terms of time. It was as though he’d traded in one enjoyable activity—Quidditch—in exchange for something that only promised drudgery.
“Congratulations,” said Remus, at length. “You’re a prefect.”
“You don’t look too happy,” Sirius remarked.
“I wasn’t expecting it,” said Harry honestly.
“Who did you expect to get it, then?” asked Remus.
“Hermione,” said Harry, without reserve. “Other than her… uh, I guess I didn’t really think about it…”
“Ah, well,” said Sirius airily. “I suppose it’s natural you aren’t impressed. James and I weren’t prefects either. That honour went to Remus.”
“Yes, for all the good it did,” said Remus ruefully. “I think the teachers were hoping I’d exert some positive influence over you two. Needless to say, my efforts ended in abject failure.”
Harry smiled wryly but said nothing. He would never admit it aloud, especially in Sirius’ earshot, but he secretly felt buoyant whenever he knew he was different from James Potter. Bully was one of the first descriptions Harry got of him, and to this day no one said anything that suggested he that wasn’t. Harry knew he shouldn’t put too much weight in Snape’s words, considering the source, but the compliments he received for his Quidditch skills, particularly in reference to James’ own Quidditch talent, had the curious effect of substantiating the ‘arrogant athlete’ assessment of his biological father’s character. If an arrogant athlete, why not a bully? A nasty voice in his head would ask. Sirius and Remus freely admitted that James was a troublemaker—in the sense that he sought it out—and that disturbed Harry in ways that he couldn’t put into words. True, Remus said James continued to be good friends with him after learning he was a werewolf, but people could be friendly to those they happened to like, but be cruel to those they didn’t. Weasley twins, case in point.
“Well, what’s done is done,” said Sirius with mock resignation. “Let’s tell his Majesty the good news, shall we?”
Harry snorted. The idea Sherlock would consider him being made a prefect as good news was absolutely ludicrous. Indeed, when Remus showed John and Sherlock Harry’s prefect badge, Sherlock clicked his tongue and scowled.
“A prefect. Dumbledore made you a prefect,” he muttered in an angry, rapid-fire fashion over Benedict’s wailing. “What was he thinking? You’ll waste valuable time following stupid orders and doing housekeeping as if you haven’t enough to go on … Only someone who has delusions for prestige or change would want the job!”
Sirius and Harry grinned at each other. Meanwhile, Sherlock continued to rant:
“What could you possibly get out of this? Roaming stupidly about in the name of patrolling, sitting in useless meetings, breaking up prepubescent fights or … Oh. Ooooh, that’s actually brilliant. No, that was obvious. Stupid, so stupid. Clearly, I need some air.”
Before Harry could make sense of the abrupt turnabout, Sherlock shoved Benedict into his arms.
“Congratulations,” said Sherlock, oozing insincerity. “Let’s celebrate the occasion.”
“Oh, great, I wasn’t sure it was something to get happy over,” said Harry sarcastically.
Then there was a sudden pause, during which everyone realized Benedict was NOT crying and was, in fact, making happy burbling noises.
“Where is your Hogwarts letter?” Sherlock demanded.
Harry flapped the parchment letter he was holding like a Tyrannosaurus holding an armful of laundry. Sherlock extracted it from his grip in a flash.
“Pick up food on your back,” said John as Sherlock pushed Sirius to the door, his protests notwithstanding. “We’ll text you what we want.”
Then the door shut, and soon Harry found himself standing quietly with John, Remus and his baby brother. No one said anything until Harry realized the warmth he was feeling wasn’t merely Benedict’s body heat. He looked down and saw the long wet patch on his shirt-front and the puddle beneath his feet.
Harry glared at Benedict, who was nestling contently in his arms.
“You … little … prat,” he growled. “You cried on purpose to get back, I just know it.”
Benedict gave Harry a gap-toothed grin. Remus quickly turned away, shoulders shaking, and John palmed her face.
“You understand what I’m saying, don’t you?” Harry went on, eyes narrowed. “You probably know how to talk already. You just babble because you don’t want your baby status revoked.”
Benedict giggled. Harry let out a gusting sigh.
Remus mopped Harry up as soon as he got his laughter under control. Benedict let John hold him in the interim, and once Harry was clean, he started shrieking if anyone so much pretended to take him away from his mother. Harry had to shake his head at his baby brother’s fickleness.
Harry and John sent texts asking for ridiculous things like Dragon rib-eye steak between requests for chips, Chinese and Pad Kee Mao while they waited for Sherlock and Sirius to return. Harry had to wonder how seriously the two were taking these requests because they didn’t reply back.
Sirius and Sherlock returned about an hour later. An enormous quantity of things spilled out of their enchanted shopping bag: books, potion ingredients, quills, parchment, sticks that looked suspiciously like dynamite, several very sharp knives and a container that held five juicy steaks (Both Sherlock and Sirius refused to admit which animal it came from).
“That doesn’t look like stuff I have to bring to school,” Harry remarked.
“Don’t be stupid, of course, they are,” said Sherlock. “Call it insurance.”
Harry squinted at the sticks of dynamite and tried to picture him using them. All he could manage was recall many scenes from Classic Looney Toons, particularly those involving Wile E. Coyote.
“Are you expecting me to train him on how to use those?” asked John, eyes narrowed.
“At the very least enlist an explosives expert who can,” said Sherlock breezily. “You know a few, don’t you?”
John scowled. “What exactly are you planning?”
“Harry, you explain,” said Sherlock, waving.
Harry gaped at Sherlock for a second before he regained his composure.
“Eh, LV wants to shore up his defences and offenses,” said Harry slowly. “Besides targeting certain people, he might want something. The question is: Does Hogwarts have something LV might want?”
“Good,” said Sherlock approvingly.
“We don’t know what LV wants,” Harry went on. “If we did, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. But it’s better to assume there is something. Hogwarts is known as one of the safest places in the world, meaning people would want to put stuff there for safekeeping. And the consequences of not making that assumption are costlier than making it.”
John nodded in agreement.
“Now we have to ask how LV would get what he wants in Hogwarts,” said Harry, warming into his reasoning. “I think he’ll use an agent.”
“Yeah, his MO is let his grunts do the hard work until it becomes obvious they can’t do it,” said John. Then she chuckled. “You’d think he’d know better by know, given his track record. Good for us, I suppose.”
Harry smirked as he recalled Quirrell and Barty Crouch, Jr. Both had not been particularly successful in carrying out an inside-job in Hogwarts. Though for Crouch, Harry thought as his smile faded, it had been too close and costly.
“So we’re back to sniffing out agents again,” said Sirius.
Harry shrugged his shoulders, “Can’t help it if LV decides to be predictable.”
“Aren’t you being a bit too nonchalant about this? Your safety is at stake,” Sirius pointed out.
Harry was thinking this was rich, coming from his godfather, who’d recklessly broke out of Azkaban to commit the murder he got imprisoned for when Sherlock asked coldly:
“Do you actually have an idea that will help us figure out what LV is up to?”
“No,” said Sirius.
“Then continue to keep your silence until we figure that out,” Sherlock snapped.
Sirius whipped around furiously, but before he could do anything, John slammed her mug on the table, hard enough to send the tea in it flying. Everyone stared at John, including Benedict.
“All right, girls,” John said in a deadly calm voice. “I understand that you lot aren’t fighting because you’re angry at each other. You lot are fighting because there’s a war going in, which leaves little room for error, but high levels of uncertainty. All this makes you very tense and stressed. I can’t be angry at any of you because I understand your motives and I sympathize with them. But instead of all this fighting, we can have a calm and sober discussion about our feelings and by doing so—”
“Oh, shut up!” Sherlock shouted as Harry and Sirius cringed. “You’ve made your point three sentences ago!”
John smirked, and then brought her mug to her lips.
“Moving on, then,” said John. “Would it help to imagine what LV might want? A crown that makes you smarter? A wand that makes you undefeatable?”
Sherlock rolled his eyes and let out a long, aggrieved sigh. “Do be serious, John.”
“I was totally being serious. Anyway, you mentioned the possibility LV might want to infiltrate Hogwarts in large scale. I can picture him ordering the assassination of, say, Dumbledore.”
Sherlock nodded. “Even if he didn’t have what he wants, Dumbledore’s demise, particularly in the hands of LV, will be a catastrophic blow the Wizarding World may not recover from … At least, not quickly enough. So, too, is yours,” he added, jerking his nose in Harry’s direction.
There was drawn sombre pause.
“Needless to say, we have a great deal of skin in this game,” Sherlock continued. “Thankfully we have experience sniffing out LV’s agents in Hogwarts, and have tools that make the job less daunting.”
Harry nodded grimly as he cast his thoughts to the Marauder’s map, his own 3D map of Hogwarts (which gave him real-time visuals of people), and all the ways Lord Voldemort’s previous agents had used to infiltrate Hogwarts: Polyjuice potion infused with hairs from people who had the same name as the agent, secret passages, portkeys, outright possession …
Harry felt his heart thumping as he remembered just how difficult it was to detect people under magical disguise. Would he be able to do this? One mistake and LV might…
“Don’t forget your friends,” said John. “You’ve got people who will stick with you thick and thin.”
Harry had a blank moment as he digested this.
Then he felt his heart swell as he thought about Sherlock, John, and his friends at Hogwarts … Ron and Hermione, spending hours, days and months with him trying to find the thief after the Philosopher’s Stone; Neville and Julia, with him in the Chamber of Secrets; all of his friend helping him through the years… now Sirius, Remus, the Weasleys…
“Sentiment,” Sherlock sneered. “But you made your point: We have a fighting chance. Let’s use it wisely.”
“Sure,” said John. “Now let me ask: how exactly is dynamite supposed to help? I suppose you can always use it to blow up a hole in a wall, but wouldn’t that make their job easier?”
“John, use your imagination. Harry can throw it at them if or when they infiltrate…”
The meeting adjourned after some heated talk over details and battlefield psychology. Harry’s messenger bag had an alarming number of required items by the end of it. Harry was just relieved he didn’t have to carry sticks of dynamite in person … at least he thought he didn’t have to. Sherlock didn’t mention them again, and John point-blank refused to teach Harry how to use explosives (or guns … or grenades … or rockets…).
Then Aunt Harry showed up at their doorstep the next day.
Harry had seen Harriet Watson, John’s sister, only once in person. A few days after the Internet Grapevine heard the news Dr Watson (companion of Sherlock Holmes, the ‘Net detective) had adopted a child, a woman who looked like a much bigger and older version of John showed up in 221B. Harry’s few memories of the incident was a feeling of horror as he listened to the foul language pouring out of the Watson sisters’ mouths.
John gaped at Aunt Harry for a stunned second when she opened the door. Then John tried to slam it shut. Aunt Harry easily caught the door, threw it open and pushed herself in.
“You’ve been involved in some pretty major shite since we’ve last talked, haven’t you Johnny?” Aunt Harry said impassively.
“Manure’s about to hit the ventilation system, yeah,” John snarled.
“Thought you’d settle down after having a baby. Congratulations, by the way.”
“Thanks, I guess. And ha, I wish.”
Aunt Harry snorted. Then she looked at Harry.
“Ready to blow some sh!t up, kid?”