Incantations and Deductions Chapter 3-In which the author discovers 'plot'
Whispering started early on the Thursday morning. Carl Powers, second year Hufflepuff, had never made it to his common room or dormitory the night before. At first Sherlock didn't think much of it; kids were always getting lost. Still, it was usually the first years who took wrong turns on the staircases or got led astray by some of the cheekier ghosts. A second year, missing all night was not unprecedented, but it still wasn't normal.
By first break the whispers had increased, become distorted and salacious as long hours passed and Carl had not returned with a bashful smile or delivered to the infirmary with some minor injury.
"Someone saw him going down to the lake, is what I heard. He's a swimmer, you know...."
"I heard he's been visiting the head of Hufflepuff loads and he went to see the headmaster the other day. Wonder what that's about?"
"His parents were splitting up..."
"There are an awful lot of corridors and dungeons in this school, some of them are cursed, I heard that..."
"He might just turn up you know..."
Sherlock finds John leaning against a pillar eating a Chocolate Frog. He offers Sherlock some, which he declines, but took the Agrippa card that John proffers.
"I've already got three."John explains which should have made the gift less meaningful but didn't.
"So what do you make of all this then?"asks John.
"Carl Powers you mean?"
"Yeah, can't move for the gossip. No one's doing any work and the teachers are all on edge."
"He'll probably turn up by lunch though, none the worse for wear. Can I share your book in potions? I left mine on my bedside table."
Sherlock acquiesces, but is distracted from John's usually enjoyable conversation. Something about this child's disappearance is worrying him. Still, he snaps out of it when John tells him to stop being 'a sulky twat' and spends an enjoyable hour making a Pepperup Potion, which he threatens to test on John .John points out that he doesn't have a cold.
In the afternoon John and Sherlock head down to the lake with their herbology class. They're going to be looking at freshwater dwelling plants.
"Let joy be unbound."John had mumbled sarcastically to Sherlock. Sherlock couldn't help but agree. There was a light drizzle and a decidedly autumnal chill in the air. John might actually have a cold by the end of the lesson
The professor was halfway through explaining why fresh water mint was so useful in various spells when she stops looking at something behind her class. Her skin went almost deathly pale and she let out a low exclamation of "Merlin's beard."
Sherlock and John are the first to spin round. What greets them is a sight neither of the boys will ever forget.
One of the school's porters, Luglarr Gabbro, a part troll known for his incredibly gentle demeanour is cradling Carl Powers's body in his vast arms. The unmistakably dead body of Carl Powers.
"I couldn't leave him where he was. He was so cold already, and it's starting to rain."Luglarr says in his slow, imprecise approximation of English.
Everything is still and quiet for a truly horrified moment. Then one of the more nervous girls in the class starts screaming, setting her friends off as well. One of the Slytherin boys shouts "He killed him!" and that sets off even more hysteria.
Only John and Sherlock are calm. They exchange a look then walk towards Luglarr. John holds his hands up placatingly when Luglarr steps back slightly, obviously slightly perturbed by everyone's reactions.
"Luglarr, you need to put him down."John says softly.
"But...I didn't do anything bad, did I?"
"Shh, no it's ok we know you didn't. You just wanted to get him back to somewhere warm, but this isn't the best way, alright?"John's voice is so soothing and so steady.
Luglarr nods and bends down, places the boy on the ground. Sherlock whips off his cloak and places it over the boy, but not before taking an inventory. Male, thirteen years old tall for age, dark hair plastered over his forehead wet from the lake and the weather, large hands and feet, wearing only bathing shorts and a necklace: died while swimming. Dead almost eight hours, drowned then washed up on shore, evidence from the inflation of the lungs filled with water) and signs of asphyxiation: discolouration of lips and tips of fingers and toes, sand on his clothing and hair, some water weed as well. He covers the boy as much as he can, Sherlock is tall and the cloak easily covers much of his body, only the ends of his feet stick out.
Meanwhile, John is instructing everyone to go back to the school in his calm, amazing voice. The teacher has recovered herself enough to organise this and the whole class has been somewhat subdued by John's manner. John tells the teacher that he and Sherlock will watch over Carl's body, and Luglarr, who has started to cry, until the headmaster arrives. She agrees, but still looks shell shocked as she thanks John and Sherlock for being so sensible in the matter, and they watch as she and the class depart.
John rubs a hand over his face. "Fuck." he mutters, then looks apologetically at the body, as if to apologise for cursing.
"Yes." Sherlock agrees, looking at Carl. Then he frowns.
On Carl's feet there are indentations, like those usually made by tight shoes or...plastic flippers. However, while on a living body the marks would be livid red, the one's on Carl's feet are grey-ish purple: indicating that he was dead and still wearing flippers. But there are no flippers to be found so-
"Sherlock? You alright?"
John is looking at him concern etched all over his face.
"Yeah, fine." He almost adds "Why wouldn't I be?" but then he remembers the fact that they are standing over a dead body. Still, John doesn't know that this is not the first dead body he's seen. And the last one, was of course, far, far worse to look at.
'Stop it'. He tells himself firmly. 'Don't dwell on it'.
"Sherlock, come on, you're shaking." John undoes the clasp on his cloak and places it around Sherlock's shoulders before the taller boy can protest. They walk over to where Luglarr is sitting and John fishes a handkerchief out of his pocket and hands it to the porter. He accepts it gratefully and sniffs loudly, but seems incapable of speaking. John places a hand on his shoulder, in one of his strangely mature gestures.
"You're getting wet." Sherlock observes, as it's properly raining now, the raindrops making a soft hissing noise as they hit the lake. He holds out the side of John's cloak, expecting John to stoically turn him down or call him queer or another of the frankly lurid insults he's had hurled at him. John does neither; he just steps neatly under the cloak and presses himself into Sherlock's side.
John's teeth a chattering, either with cold or shock so Sherlock steps closer, nearly putting his arm around John as he holds the cloak on one side, his hand resting just above John's shoulder. He tells himself that this is just for John's benefit.
"Thanks." John mutters
"It's your cloak."
"You'll have to throw yours out."
They both look towards the wan figure of Carl Powers, almost entirely hidden under Sherlock's cloak. A boy who was tall for his age now looks forlorn and utterly vulnerable as he lies on the sand, the rain falling on him completely unheeded.
It was strange, but when the figures of authority arrived at the lakeshore both Sherlock and John expected for someone to do something, to make it better. It's funny, because Sherlock knows, has learnt the lesson the hard way that you can't trust adults to make anything better, that they aren't infallible. Still a part of him expected the headmaster at least to do something more constructive than to simply thank them again for being sensible and grant them fifty house points each.
Only Madame Hudson, one of the nurses from the Infirmary is really helpful in any way. She comes over to them, her starched uniform pristine, magically unaffected by the rain.
"Oh boys." she says, handing them both a hideous orange blanket. She knows John from his stay in the Infirmary after the Bludger debacle and she knows Sherlock, because he has a tendency to blow things, and by extension, himself, up.
"You were very good, I'm proud of you. That poor boy." Staff are now carrying Carl away on a stretcher, still covered in Sherlock's robe.
John tugs the blanket around him, but doesn't move away from his and Sherlock's makeshift cloak umbrella.
"What about his family?" John asks. Madame Hudson's mouth turns down unhappily, and she ushers them away from the beach, and they start walking back to the school.
"Muggles I'm afraid. It's going to be difficult explaining this. Still, it could have happened anywhere, tragic accidents do, don't they?"
Sherlock knows this wasn't a tragic accident. It was a tragic incident. And that's completely different.
"Will you two be alright?" she asks kindly when they get back to the school. "Only I have to see Luglarr. he's got himself into a bit of a state."
"We'll be fine, Madame Hudson." Sherlock says, shaking her hand. She pats him and then John on the cheek.
"Why did she bring us blankets?" Sherlock asks as they wend their way back to their common rooms.
"For shock." John says.
"I'm not in shock." Sherlock points out, reasonably.
"I bloody am."John says, with a shiver.
They have reached the corner where John will go in one direction and Sherlock in the other. Sherlock hands John his cloak back, reluctantly. He wants to stay with John, at least for the rest of the day to discuss what he'd seen. Somehow speaking his thoughts aloud to John made them easier to organise in his rampant mind. He's just about to suggest that they head to the Infirmary, if John really is suffering from shock then he might need medical treatment when someone shout's John's name down the corridor.
Seconds later Sarah has her arms around his neck. "I was so worried when your class came back and you didn't! And then Sally told me that you'd stayed there, with him. Was it really awful?"
John meets Sherlock's eyes over Sarah's head and there is apology in his expression.
"Yeah, it wasn't great. Can you just give me a minute to talk to Sherlock?"
Sarah glances at Sherlock, and for once there isn't outright hostility in her eyes. In fact the look she gives him is sympathetic and almost affectionate.
"Alright, but we all have to get back to our common rooms ASAP." she hugs John again and kisses him on the cheek. She gives Sherlock a curt nod and tucks some of her long brown hair behind one ear then heads back to the Gryffindor wing.
Sherlock stops himself from asking when they got back together.
"You going to be alright?" asks John. He's still wearing his shock blanket; his hair is plastered down with rain on one side and sticking up in wet spiky patches on the other. Sherlock feels an almost overwhelming surge of fondness for him.
"Yes, I'll be fine."
John looks like he wants to say something else, but a passing Ravenclaw prefect tells them they have to go to their common rooms immediately. John pats Sherlock on the arm and smiles at him, a little weakly. John was clearly shaken by the afternoon's events and now responsibility for dealing with them has been taken away from him the reality of what he'd witnessed is beginning to sink in.
"John. It's going to be alright." Sherlock says, returning John's arm pat before turning and heading for his dorm.
They are all called to an assembly twenty minutes later. Sherlock's had time to locate his spare cloak and a dry shirt. He spots John sitting between Sarah and Mike, his obviously towel dried hair still sticking up slightly. Some students are crying. He spots a red eyed Molly Hooper sitting with her house.
The headmaster explains that Carl Powers, a 'bright and well loved member of Hufflepuff' had lost his life swimming in the lake. Unsupervised swimming was already against house rules ,and any student caught doing it would be put on a term long detention, as well as causing severe damage to their house points. In fact the lake was officially out of bounds for the foreseeable future.
Well, Sherlock thinks, that is annoying but not impossible. He will need to go to the lake at some point, and if the shoreline doesn't yield significant insights, he will need to go into it. He begins working out times at which this would be most ideal. Nightfall of course, is a fraught time, particularly with the teacher's being as jumpy as they are, there will be constant watches well into the night. It will have to be early morning then. Sherlock makes a mental note to find some gillyweed.
Of course, before this he needs to get a look at Carl's room. He thinks John might be able to help with that. He scribbles a quick note and moves through the crowd as the houses file out. He slips the note into John's hand who looks at him with a slightly dazed expression.
At seven o clock precisely Sherlock is tucked away in the corner of the cloisters where he and John first spoke. It's become something of a meeting point for them if they don't run into each other around the school, they can generally find each other in this secluded corner underneath an ancient elm tree that almost seems to be growing out of the school building. Or perhaps it's growing into it, it's difficult to tell.
At 7:03 he hears someone running across the grass, slipping slightly on the dew and muttering 'Bugger'. It is John, of course.
"Sherlock?" John asks and Sherlock steps out of the shadows.
"Shit!" John exclaims, quite loudly. Sherlock's presence was not as apparent to John as John's was to Sherlock. "You nearly gave me a bloody heart attack."
"You should be more observant." Sherlock chides, amusement heavy in his voice.
"Sherlock what's this about? We could get in serious trouble if we're found outside at this time of night."
Sherlock rolls his eyes. "Of course we're not going to get found ,John, there is no chance of that."
"Yeah, well,whatever .Look what's this all about? And this bloody note 'Meet me at 7 in usual place, if convenient. If inconvenient come anyway'?"
"I assume it wasn't inconvenient as you're here."
"Yes it was incon-bloody-veniant. I had to give about half a dozen people the slip. I still don't know how I'm going to get back in to the common room unnoticed."
Sherlock smiles. It was inconvenient, John Watson, yet you are still here. Another reason why you are so different.
"I know a secret entrance, it'll be fine. Anyway you'll only be gone an hour, tops."
"Right...so what are we doing?"
"We're going to take a look at Carl Powers's dorm."
"What. No we aren't. Why would we do that Sherlock?" John sounds genuinely incredulous.
"John, I believe Carl was murdered."
John stares at him, mouth slightly open. His face is partly illuminated by the waxing moon and partly hidden by the gnarled branches of the tree casting shadow. Still Sherlock knows an aghast expression when he's faced with one, even if it's half in darkness.
"What?" John doesn't so much say as breathes. "Sherlock you can't be serious."
"I can and I am."
"Listen, I've been asking around. Carl was a strong swimmer, he wouldn't have drowned in the lake because he knew which bits to avoid, where the fast undertows were. Now suicide, yes that is another matter, but that doesn't explain the flippers."
"Exactly! Carl Powers always wore flippers when he swam, always. But he wasn't wearing them when his body was found. Because someone removed them after he died." Sherlock is only vaguely aware that he is digging his fingers into John's shoulders and staring rather intensely into the shorter boy's large eyes, which are getting larger by the minute.
"...The current in the lake... they could have pulled them off."John points out.
" Why would a current pull off his tight flippers but not his fairly loose swimming trunks or the necklace he was wearing? If he'd been in a strong current he would have been found naked and likely far more injured than he was. Gods, I wish I knew his body had been found..."
"You... you're actually enjoying this, aren't you?"John's voice contains a note of disdain that Sherlock has never heard before, and really does not like. "This mystery. You think it's exciting."
"No seriously, you're practically giddy." John starts pulling away.
"No. No that isn't it. I will admit, fine, I like mysteries, puzzles, whatever you want to call it. But if Carl's death is dismissed as an accident when it is nothing of the sort then whoever did it will get away scot-free. And you and I both know that's not right."
John eyes him for along moment and Sherlock suspects that he is weighing up rather more than simply deciding whether or not he wants to help Sherlock tonight. After a moment his eyes narrow and he gives a curt nod.
"You believe me?"Sherlock asks.
"I've no reason not to. You seem fairly convinced and you're the cleverest person I know. Plus if you're wrong I might just laud it over you forever."
The fact that John's wry humour has returned to the conversation is a good sign in Sherlock's favour. Still he has to check.
"Do you trust me?"
"Yes."John hadn't even hesitated that time. Sherlock smiles at him.
"Good. Come on, we need to get to the Hufflepuff common room."
Sherlock and John stop and hide behind a pillar quite near to the doorway.
"Put these on." Sherlock whispers, handing John a yellow and black tie, jumper and cloak with the correct banding and crest on. He pulls another set out for himself, sans the cloak.
"Where'd you get these?"John asks, nonetheless whipping his tie off.
"Filched them from lost property."
Sherlock finishes with his new tie and jumper then sets about coming his hair back from his face, smoothing it down to his scalp, before placing a pair of thick black rimmed spectacles on his nose. Then he rounds his shoulder's slightly, even though he can hear his childhood violin teacher screaming at him about bad posture, dips his head forwards and places his hands in his pockets.
"How do I look?" he asks John, who is unabashedly staring.
"Absolutely nothing like yourself."
"Perfect. I didn't have time to brew any Polyjuice Potion. Now all we have to do is wait."
Fortunately, the man they are waiting for arrives only moments later.
"Greg!" John hisses down the corridor as he heads towards his common room.
"...John?"he calls back. Sherlock can't resist the urge to roll his eyes. This is all sovery pantomime.
"Yeah, come over here a minute will you?"
A second later Gregory Lestrade, fifth year Hufflepuff prefect and member of the Hufflepuff Quidditch team, and by extension, a mate of John Watson, is hiding behind the pillar with them. He's almost as tall as Sherlock and has close cropped naturally silver hair, brown eyes and a currently rather confused expression.
"What's going on? John, why're you dressed like that? Who's this kid? Are you in Hufflepuff? I've never seen you before."
Sherlock sighs, rolls his eyes again and explains in double quick time the basics of why they are there, his theory about Carl Powers and why they need to see his room. Greg's eyes are huge by the end of it.
"You're...that Holmes kid." he states eventually.
"Fantastic deduction, you'll go far, Detective Lestrade." Sherlock quips sarcastically.
Greg bristles and looks like he's going to say something derogatory, possibly about Sherlock' smother, and woe betide anyone who insults Sherlock's mother, when John steps in.
"Seriously, just five minutes in his dorm room, Greg."
"John I can't just-"
"If we get found out we'll say that we bullied you into it."
"You are bullying me into it!"
"You see why it's such a perfect conceit then." Sherlock points out and gets a sour look from Greg.
"We think he was murdered, and Sherlock thinks that there could be something in his room that'll help lead us to the killer. Please, be a mate."
Sherlock can't help feel an odd sense of pride and happiness when John uses a collective pronoun.
"Look John, I'd like to help, but really...I can't." Greg starts walking away.
John looks like he's having some sort of internal war. Then he licks his lip, squares his shoulders and says :
Greg stops walking, his spine going stiff, like John has cast Stupefy on him. Then he turns slowly, his expression a mask of shock.
"How did you-"
"You don't need to know that. But I know Greg."
"Have you...I mean did you say...?"
"Not a word to anyone. I swear."
Sherlock has absolutely no buggering clue what's going on, but it's highly entertaining.
"If you don't help us I will. Everyone will know."
Greg stares at him. Then he looks at the stone floor. Then he bites his lip. Then he shakes his head.
"Really...John I just can't... My dad'd go nuts if you two got me in trouble."
Greg turns again and starts walking. John watches for a second and then does something so incredibly odd that to Sherlock's mind it was the only possible way that the little exchange could have been made any odder.
He starts to sing.
A sensual little tune Sherlock vaguely recognises, in a surprisingly pleasant voice, he softly sings to Greg's retreating back:
'I love myself/ I want you to love me/When I'm feeling down/I want you above me...'
By the time John has finished his little ditty Greg has turned around again, and gone a wonderful shade of scarlet. It takes him a moment to speak.
"You...utter...bastard." he stammers through clenched teeth. John stops singing and smiles a little smile, sensing victory.
The prefect lets out a pissed off little moan of defeat. "Alright, fucking fine. Five twatting minutes, and no longer, you hear me?"
"All I need." Sherlock says.