It’s a warm summer day, and Sherlock is lying in the cool grass, enjoying the soft rustling texture against his skin, watching in delight as a flitterby moth flies overhead, its magic warm and soft, trailing behind it in pale twinkling lights Sherlock’s learned not to describe, lest Mummy tell him he’s daft. He reaches his small hand up and lets his fingers drift through its trail, giggling when the flitterby brushes against him.
He hears Mummy calling him inside for lunch, but a few more flitterby moths have joined the one he’s watching, and they’re beautiful, their orange wings glimmering in the midday sun, their magic warm and soothing like a wooly blanket, so he ignores her. She shouts again, and then uses a Sonorus charm.
Sherlock winces. Mummy’s magic feels cold and makes his skin prickle like he’s been rolling in nettles rather than lying in the cool grass surrounded by flitterbys. He doesn’t want to go to Mummy; he wants to stay in the grass. He feels the magic in the air, thinks of what he wants, and holds up his hand. Mummy’s Sonorus charm and her voice stop, and Sherlock doesn’t have to look to know that she is angry. He giggles in delight, and continues to play with the flitterbys,
Sherlock is four years old, and it’s the first time he’s used magic. Unlike most children, it’s not accidental.
Mycroft gets his Hogwarts letter later that summer. Sherlock watches as Mummy hugs him, and then Dad makes a fountain of glittering confetti shoot from the tip of his wand. Sherlock giggles, delighted, and asks him to do it again. He does, because he likes to indulge Sherlock, and Sherlock watches carefully, feels the swirl of Dad’s warm orange magic and the distinct sharpness of his spell, feels the movement of his wand deep inside his stomach. He blinks, watches as the brightly colored rainbow confetti floats in the air, falls, and disappears.
Sherlock brings his hand up and feels the magic around him, his own magic, and he swirls his hand so the magic swirls the way Dad’s magic did, and he makes it do the little sharp tug that he felt when Dad did his spell, and he giggles in delight when confetti rains down on all of them, but this time, in soft blues and purples because those are his favorite colors.
His giggles fade when he realizes everyone is staring at him. Mycroft is scowling, and Mummy and Dad are astonished.
“Sherlock,” Mummy says, her voice shaky in a way Sherlock doesn’t understand. “Do that again, darling?”
Sherlock frowns. He doesn’t understand why everyone is unhappy with his confetti. Sometimes he doesn’t understand a lot of things. He feels like he lives in a different world than everyone else. He shakes his head, uncertain.
“No one’s upset with you, Sherlock,” Dad says. He seems to understand the slump in Sherlock’s shoulders, the wideness of his eyes. “We’ve just never seen you do magic like that before. That was brilliant.”
Sherlock thinks about how Mummy tells him he’s talking Mermish when he explains how her magic feels blue like ice and Dad’s feels orange and warm. He thinks of the way they’d celebrated his “accidental magic” that day he hadn’t wanted to listen to Mummy shouting for him, and how no one believed him when he said he’d done it on purpose. Still, Dad said his confetti was brilliant, so he decides to try again.
Sherlock frowns and feels his magic around him, and he swirls his hand and finds that sharp tug that he knows makes the confetti come, but he tugs a little harder this time, and this time, the confetti glitters in the air, drifts down towards the kitchen table, and stays, sinking into everyone’s breakfast. Sherlock’s lip wobbles and he winces when Mummy hastily charms his confetti away, her magic skittering over his skin and leaving goosebumps in its wake.
She spares him a look, clears her throat. “Well, I suppose this calls for a trip to Diagon Alley, doesn’t it? Imagine, Mycroft, starting Hogwarts!”
Sherlock’s never been to Diagon Alley, but he’s seen pictures in books and heard all about it from Dad. He desperately wants to go; he’ll even let Mummy put Sleakeazy in his hair if he has to, even though he hates the heavy distracting dull magic all over his head. It gives him a headache, but it’s worth it if it means he can go to Diagon Alley.
“Can I come, Mummy?” Sherlock asks.
“No,” Mycroft answers. Sherlock glares at him.
Mummy considers him for a moment, but Dad speaks up. “Of course you can,” he says. “We’ll all go.”
Sherlock doesn’t like traveling by Floo, but it’s worth the dizzying magic pressing up against him from all sides if it means he gets to go to Diagon Alley. Mummy goes first, then Mycroft, then Dad holds him close and they go through together.
Sherlock holds tight to Dad’s hand when they step out of the Floo and Dad sets him down to walk on his own. He’s frozen in place, eyes wide, and Dad tugs on him and forces him forward, lest someone else come through and bump into him.
Witches and wizards are everywhere, and so is magic as they step out onto the street. The buildings crackle with magic, spells float about everywhere, and the headache Sherlock’s had since Mummy covered his unruly hair in Sleakeazy is already starting to magnify. They start to walk, Mummy saying something excitedly about Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions and Mycroft walking proudly as if he’s been declared the first eleven-year-old Minister for Magic, but Sherlock feels like he’s surrounded by chaos. He winces away from a man walking by with an enchanted signboard, declaring in flashing and glittering letters a sale at Twilfitt and Tatting’s. The garish magic prickles against his skin like steel wool and he presses closer to Dad’s comforting orange magic, but there’s so much magic around him that he’s starting to feel sick and lose track of Dad’s.
Sherlock’s never been around so much magic before. He hasn’t realized he’s stopped walking or that he’s making soft sounds of distress until Dad is picking him up and pulling him into a narrow alleyway between two buildings. Mycroft is making embarrassed and annoyed sounds and Mummy is standing uncomfortably in front of the alleyway, trying to block her son from view.
“Sherlock?” Dad says. “Are you alright?”
The building to his left is old, and there are at least 16 different spells on the building itself. Sherlock can feel them, enchantments and protections and heavy, cold magic that feels like it’s gripping him and won’t let go where his arm is pressed against it. He pushes away from it and launches himself at Dad, curls his little hands into his robes and starts to cry.
His head hurts and he thinks he’ll be sick. Mummy casts a spell to straighten Mycroft’s robes out on the street, and Sherlock winces, feels it crackle over him, presses closer to Dad, rocks against him.
Dad picks him up and stands tall, then says something to Mummy. Sherlock clings to the folds of his robes, groans against the onslaught of magic all around him, doesn’t hear anything Dad’s saying.
“Sherlock,” Dad says. His voice is warm, but Sherlock’s head hurts and it only makes him feel worse.
“Keep holding on tight, Sherlock, just like that. We’re going to apparate, alright?”
Then he’s squeezed into a vice and the magic around him is so tight he thinks he’s going to explode and then they’re at home and then he vomits.
Dad cleans him off and notices the way Sherlock flinches away from his gentle evanesco, and so he doesn’t use any more magic after that. He brings him inside and notices the way Sherlock is tugging at his hair, groaning, and he brings him into the bathroom and rinses the Sleakeazy away with gentle, warm water. It feels good and Sherlock likes the way the towel feels against his hair instead of the staticky sharp prickle of a drying spell.
Sherlock’s bedroom is cool and dark and Dad takes him to his bed and tucks him in nice and tight. Sherlock burrows into his blankets and Dad lies next to him on the bed, rubs his back, and lets Sherlock cling to him and cry.
There was a time when the secret room in Sherlock’s flat on Baker Street was full of beautiful plants. One or two were not-exactly-legal, but they were hidden amongst the splendor of all the others. Slowly, though, the not-exactly-legal plants began to overtake the others until only the most illicit plants remained; ingredients for dark potions, mind-altering magical plants, individual strains of those magical plants Sherlock had come up with himself, and a few other quite illegal specimens of magical flora. Now, though, everything has died.
The floor that was once lush grass is nothing but dried up dirt, and sticking out of that dirt is nothing but the remnants of a few dying illicit plants, mostly due to the fact that because of Sherlock’s overuse of said illicit plants, he’d lost the capacity to care for his magically hidden room for some time. He’s not even sure why he goes in there anymore, but sometimes, when he’s bored, he finds himself going inside, examining the dried out twigs and dead leaves, hoping he’ll find a spark of new growth even though he knows perfectly well that he won’t. He’s just closing the door behind him with slumped shoulders and a heavy heart, carefully re-warding the once beautiful room, watching the door disappear into the wall with a silent gesture of his long, capable hands, when he hears Mrs. Hudson letting in Mike downstairs.
He freezes, listening very attentively when he hears a second voice with Mike, one he’s never heard before. He can sense the unfamiliar magic as well, and his heart picks up just a bit, unsure why Mike would be bringing a stranger with him. Surely Mike wasn’t like everyone else; surely Mike wasn’t expecting to treat someone to a freak show, and yet, he’s brought someone with him, and Sherlock can't think of any other reason why.
He adjusts his shirtsleeves carefully and straightens a few books as the two sets of footsteps travel up the stairs (curiously, one has a very strong limp, he notices), and clears away the remnants of a questionable potion he’d been working on with a flick of his wrist, just in time to respond to the knock on the door.
Immediately, he ignores Mike in favor of scanning his companion, a shorter, handsome man leaning heavily on a cane. Strong, golden magic, with a dark stain in the area of his weaker leg. Curious.
“Hello, Sherlock,” Mike says, jovial as ever. “Brought my friend John along.”
“John,” the friend interjects, putting a hand out for Sherlock to shake. “John Watson.”
Sherlock notices the set of his shoulders and jaw, the firmness of the hand he holds out, the strength and control of his magic. “Gryffindor,” Sherlock says without thinking. “Ex-Auror. Currently working as a healer in St. Mungo’s.”
To his surprise, Mike laughs, though not in a way that shows any derision. “Told you he’s brilliant,” Mike says to John, who’s still holding his hand out but now looks quite shocked, if his raised eyebrows are anything to go by.
“How’d you figure that?” John asks. “And you could shake my hand before it gets tired, you know.”
“Tedious,” Sherlock mutters, but he offers a quick handshake nonetheless, before abruptly puling his hand back and looking at John through narrowed eyes. “Gryffindor is obvious,” Sherlock says with a dismissive wave of his hand. “Anyone would notice that. Ex-Auror is also obvious, due to the way you carry yourself and your wand holster. As for St. Mungo’s, that was obvious as well, given the work badge that’s still clipped to your robes.”
John looks down with a chuckle. “Oh, right,” he says, a bit sheepishly. Sherlock neglected to mention that he can still sense the magical residue of St. Mungo’s all over John, a particularly strong and harsh magic that makes him want to wrinkle his nose and request John take a shower.
“Indeed,” Sherlock says, unsure what else he’s expected to say. “Mike, you’ve brought my ingredients?”
“’Course,” Mike says, holding out the large parcel in his hands to Sherlock. Occasionally, Mike ran errands for him, getting him potions ingredients the apothecaries wouldn’t send via owl when he didn't want to go to the trouble of going to Diagon or Knockturn Alley.
Sherlock takes the parcel and sets it down, opening it by hand rather than magic since he has guests.
“This appears to be in order, thank you,” Sherlock says dismissively. He takes the money he’d prepared in advance out of his pocket and passes it over to Mike, then turns back to his ingredients, waving a dismissive hand in his guests’ direction. “I’m sure you can see yourself out,” he adds when Mike doesn’t move.
“Actually, if you’re still looking for a flatmate, John is, too,” Mike says. His voice is hesitant, a bit nervous, but there’s a typical undertone of warmth and hope. “He’s a bit… a bit tired of magical society, to be honest, and can’t afford rent on his own, so it seemed like a good match to set him up here with you.”
Sherlock freezes where he’s bent over the box of ingredients, mentally reviewing everything he’s noticed about John so far and assessing whether or not it could be possible. He stands up slowly, looking John over once more. “I play the violin,” he tells him. “Quite often, and sometimes at night. I also almost always have potions experiments going in the kitchen, some of which are quite… dangerous. There are times I don’t talk, sometimes for days. Is that a problem?”
There’s a strange fluttering in his chest when he speaks, something fragile that he doesn’t want to analyze, but he keeps his exterior calm and collected. He doesn't feel hopeful, exactly, but something about this stranger seems different than most of the idiots he comes across, even if he is a Gryffindor, which Sherlock knows means he probably acts rashly and without thought.
“Not a problem at all,” John says. “Sometimes I don’t sleep, anyway, so I’m sure your violin will be fine. Might be a nice flat, actually, once all this is unpacked properly.” He looks around the room, eyes scanning over everything.
Sherlock feels a flush of something uncomfortable, but ignores it, awkwardly eyeing the mess his sitting room has become. He’ll have to tidy, he thinks.
John comes to move in the next day. Sherlock has carefully tidied the sitting room, and has studiously ignored the strange anticipation building inside him since he met John the day before. He doesn’t know what to expect, or how to interact with John; he doesn't do well with people, generally, especially magical people, and he’s certain John will only stay a day or two and then decide he’s had enough.
John is upstairs putting his things away in the second bedroom. (“If you’ll be needing it!” Mrs. Hudson had said with a giggle, causing John to immediately bluster out that of course he’ll be needing it, while simultaneously causing Sherlock to feel something in his stomach he hadn’t quite understood.) Sherlock listens to the unfamiliar sounds of uneven footsteps above him, and doesn’t know what to do with himself. He busies himself with looking over some potions notes he’d taken earlier in the week, but it’s hard to focus, distracted as he is by the sounds and the signature of unfamiliar magic drifting about upstairs. Interestingly, John’s magical signature isn’t harsh or strange to him, but he needs to observe it up close to examine it more thoroughly. It’s tainted, anyway, by the curse on his leg, which Sherlock would really like to investigate.
Soon enough, the unsteady sound of John’s footsteps, which Sherlock is already growing accustomed to, descends down the stairs, and Sherlock makes sure to look busy.
“All moved in,” John says awkwardly. Sherlock glances up to see him looking around at the sofa and then the chair Sherlock’s currently in, before settling down into the opposite armchair, adjusting the pillow to suit his needs. “Er, it’s a bit chilly, isn’t it? Do you mind if I…?” He gestures toward the fireplace, and Sherlock waves his hand in nonchalant acquiescence, though he’s actually quite eager to witness and analyze John’s magic.
John pulls out his wand and casts the spell, and it feels warm and soothing. His magic is gold, and it glides through the air effortlessly. The fireplace is quickly ablaze with a gentle fire, and it doesn’t feel prickly or staticky, only warm.
“Er, you… you weren’t at Hogwarts, were you?” John asks, pulling him out of his analysis. “Only, we seem to be about the same age, and I’m sure I would have remembered you.”
“No,” Sherlock says sharply. “Of course I wasn’t at Hogwarts. I trust Mike has informed you of my last name, and I’m sure you’ve heard rumors of the younger Holmes brother.” He feels on edge suddenly, sure John is going to leave. Everyone does, once they realize who he is.
“I have,” John says, though there’s no edge to his words. “I don’t tend to listen to rumors, particularly rubbish ones. Did you go to Beauxbatons? Durmstrang? I mean, you’re clearly not a Squib if you’ve been ordering potions ingredients…”
Squib. The word irks him, the connotations irk him. Mrs. Hudson is a Squib, but she’s smarter and more capable than any witch or wizard he’s ever met, he thinks. “You’re right,” Sherlock says, though he still feels defensive in a way he doesn’t understand. “I’m not a Squib.” He doesn’t mean to, but he spits the word out.
“Oi, nothing wrong with Squibs,” John says heatedly.
Sherlock blinks, taken aback. “I didn’t mean it that way,” he says. “I wasn’t – of course there’s nothing wrong with Squibs. Most wizards aren’t of that opinion, though.”
“Well, apparently, neither of us are most wizards, then,” John says, not as heated as before, but still eyeing Sherlock in a way that makes him feel as if he’s under a microscope, which is a strange turn of events for him. “Anyway, which was it, then? Beauxbatons? Durmstrang?”
“I didn’t go to school,” Sherlock says. “I had private tutors.”
“Oh,” John says, unsure how to take Sherlock’s answer. “That’s probably for the better; school can be a bit rough.”
“Most Muggle-borns love Hogwarts,” Sherlock says. “You didn’t?”
“How’d you know I’m Muggle-born?” John asks.
Sherlock rolls his eyes. “You used cleaning charms on your room, but you put your clothes away without any magic, and you’re sick of wizarding society. Very few wizards from magic families would act that way,” he says without thinking.
John’s brow furrows. “How’d you know that, about the cleaning charms?” he asks.
Sherlock blinks, realizing he’s spoken without thinking. This is why he doesn’t like talking to wizards. “Oh,” he says. “That’s just – you know, you were –”
“You don’t have any tracking or spying charms up there, I’d have noticed,” John says. “How’d you know, then?”
Surprisingly, he’s not asking in a way that feels malicious to Sherlock, though he’s been known to misread people’s intentions. “Of course I don’t have tracking charms in your room,” Sherlock says. “I don’t have the time to worry myself over what kind of magic you’re using.”
“Alright, then, but how’d you know?”
Sherlock glances at him, realizing John’s not going to let this go. Sure that John’s going to leave, Sherlock resigns himself to telling the truth. “My relationship to magic is… different,” he says.
“Oh? How so?” John asks. He looks intrigued, and while he still doesn’t seem malicious, Sherlock knows how quickly people can turn, so he feels very little hope from his attitude.
“I experience magic in a way that’s very… different from other people,” he says stiffly, looking away from John and folding his hands tightly in his lap. He doesn’t wish to say anymore, doesn’t wish for John to leave.
“Oh,” John says. He seems uncomfortable. “Well… that’s alright, then.”
“I know,” Sherlock says.
There’s an awkward silence between them for a moment, permeated only by the sound of the ticking of Sherlock’s watch and the gentle flickering of the flames in the fireplace. Sherlock doesn’t know what to make of John’s response; no one has ever reacted to him like that. He feels that very fragile flicker inside of him again, something like hope, but he studiously ignores it, knowing there’s no sense in giving in to it.
“Are you hungry?” Sherlock asks abruptly, at the very same time that John says, “I’m famished,” and they look at each other and they’re both suddenly overcome by slightly anxious laughter, looking away as it passes almost as quickly as it had bubbled up. Something lightens in the atmosphere, and Sherlock allows that thing he won’t call hope inside of him to grow just a tiny bit.
“I know a good Italian restaurant,” Sherlock ventures, even if it makes his heart beat a little bit faster to offer the suggestion. “It’s Muggle-run, so you’ll have to hide your wand.”
“That’s fine,” John says. “I’d rather not go into Diagon Alley, to be honest.”
“Good,” Sherlock says. “Neither would I.”
And just like that, they’re off to dinner.
“Sherlock!” Angelo says when they get to the restaurant. He greets Sherlock with a hug that Sherlock awkwardly puts up with but does not reciprocate, but Angelo is not put off by his reaction. He and John are seated next to the window, and Angelo bustles over with a candle, muttering about making the atmosphere more romantic for them.
“It’s not a date,” John tells him, but Angelo is already gone and the words fall into the air around them. John shifts in his seat awkwardly, clearing his throat and adjusting the cutlery on the table minutely, and turns to Sherlock.
“Go on many dates, then?” John asks.
Sherlock makes a look of disgust, and to his surprise, John laughs. “I’ll take that as a no,” John says in amusement. “I don’t these days, either, if you were wondering,” he adds.
Sherlock narrows his eyes. “I wasn’t wondering,” he says.
“Oh,” John says. “Alright, then.” He seems a bit awkward, and Sherlock suddenly realizes he has no idea what he’s supposed to talk about now.
“So… home-schooling, how was that? Did you like it?” John asks.
“Not particularly,” Sherlock says, shoulders relaxing a fraction when John takes up the conversation again. “My tutors were idiots, and my parents were annoying.”
John laughs. “Sounds rough,” he says.
Sherlock hums his agreement, then pauses for a moment before looking at John sharply. “So, what’s an ex-Auror doing working as a general Healer in St. Mungo’s? Isn’t that a bit boring for you?”
“Getting right to the point, are you?” John asks, but he doesn't seem particularly bothered. “It is a bit boring. More than a bit. Can’t exactly work as an Auror anymore, though, with my leg.”
“No one’s been able to break the curse?” Sherlock asks.
“Obviously not,” John says tightly, rubbing his weakened thigh under the table.
Sherlock has a lot he wants to say about John’s leg, but he’s interrupted by Angelo coming to pour their wine, and then John starts asking about his potions research, and the moment is gone.
Later that night, John’s in his room, presumably sleeping, and Sherlock goes into his hidden room. He clears away some of the old dead plants with their withered leaves and tangled, knotted, dried out stems. He’ll have to get some new plants, he thinks.
“Are you making poison?” John asks.
Sherlock looks up from the reaction he’s watching, irritated. “Obviously,” he says. “As such, it’s quite dangerous, and I’d appreciate it if you didn’t interrupt me.”
“Why are you making poison? Should I be worried?”
Sherlock rolls his eyes. “If I intended to poison you, do you think I’d be making the poison where you could walk in and see?”
“Guess not,” John concedes. “But poison’s a bit… not on.”
“I’m working on an antidote,” Sherlock says. “I can’t create an antidote without the poison.”
“Who are you going to test it on?” John asks in alarm.
“Don’t be an idiot,” Sherlock says. “I’m not testing it on anyone. There are other ways to test antidotes, which you’d know if you’d paid attention in potions.”
“It’s been a few years,” John says defensively.
“Yes, quite,” Sherlock agrees absent-mindedly.
“Oi,” John says in warning, pulling open the fridge to look for food.
“Be careful,” Sherlock says. “Don’t take anything from the top shelf.” He looks up just in time to see that his warning was too late, and John is dropping the container in his hands in alarm, and without thinking, Sherlock waves a hand and the container of pig intestine is back in the fridge where it belongs, not a drop spilled on the floor.
John blinks at him. “Was that – what was that?”
“Pig intestine,” Sherlock says, looking back down at his potion.
“That’s – a bit gross,” John says.
“You’re an ex-Auror and a Healer,” Sherlock points out. “Does it really bother you?”
“When it’s in the fridge with the food, it does,” John says.
Sherlock rolls his eyes. “It has containment spells on it. It won’t contaminate anything.”
“Hmm,” John says.
Sherlock can feel his eyes on him, so he looks up from his notes. “What?” he says. “Why are you staring at me?”
“I wasn’t staring,” John says. “I was just thinking that’s the first time I’ve seen you use magic. Do you prefer wandless spells? Only, I didn’t hear you cast anything.”
Sherlock looks down, flustered. “I don’t… you must have been so shocked that you didn’t hear me,” he says.
“Hmm,” John says again. He’s still looking at him, Sherlock can tell, and Sherlock stares at the notes on the pages in front of him and wishes he could care more about what they say than John’s reaction to him, but for once, he’s more interested in a person than his notes.
“Do you want some tea?” John asks a moment later.
Sherlock blinks. “Tea?” he asks, looking up in surprise.
“I was going to make some, anyway,” John says, but he’s still looking at Sherlock in a way that makes him unsure and uncomfortable.
“Alright,” Sherlock says after a moment. He looks down at his notes again, still uninterested in their contents. John is surprising.
They’re both in the sitting room one morning, John reading the newspaper and Sherlock sorting through some scrolls, when there’s a tapping on the front window. Sherlock recognizes the owl immediately, of course, and goes to let him in.
“Hello, Oliver,” he greets, holding his hand out for the owl, who coos at him gently but seems impatient as he rests on Sherlock’s finger, tapping one of his talons imperiously. “Yes, I know you’re in a hurry,” Sherlock tells him absently as he rushes off to the kitchen with the owl still perched on his outstretched hand, ignoring the way John is watching him.
He gives Oliver a treat, then goes back to the living room, unfurling the scroll and scanning it quickly as he walks. He grabs a quill to add a few notes at the bottom, and ties it to Oliver’s foot before sending him back out.
When he turns back from the window, John’s looking at him in amusement, eyebrows raised and something just shy of a smile curling on his lips.
Sherlock scowls in response. “Surely you’ve seen an owl before,” he says.
“Not here,” John replies.
Sherlock rolls his eyes. “Yes, well, there are times that call for owl post.”
“Who was that from?”
“I have a few regularly scheduled potions deliveries, and they always owl ahead to confirm,” Sherlock tells him, going back to his chair. “Is that so shocking?”
“No,” John says, “I suppose not. Bit weird, though. I’m used to seeing you use a phone, not an owl.”
“Different circumstances call for different communication styles,” Sherlock says. “I prefer to text, though. As much as Wizards like to believe Muggles are incompetent idiots, they do generally notice owls flying about central London in the middle of the day.”
John snorts a laugh. “Very true,” he says.
“You don’t use owls very often,” Sherlock points out shrewdly. “In fact, I’ve never seen you use owl post.”
John shrugs. “Don’t have anyone to owl,” he says.
“You don't keep in contact with anyone from Hogwarts? Or any Aurors?” Sherlock asks.
John shakes his head. “Not really. I was never very good at keeping friends, and after all this with my leg, it was… it’s been a bit… rough the past few years. Wizarding society isn’t always all that accepting of people who don’t fit a certain mold.”
For some reason, hearing someone else speak those words, hearing someone like John say them, a Gryffindor, an Auror, a Healer, makes Sherlock’s heart clench, makes him feel seen in a way he’s unaccustomed to feeling. It’s almost unsettling, though not in a bad way, and he doesn’t know how to respond, so he simply says, “No, they’re not.”
John clears his throat and shakes his paper out to read again, clearly unwilling to talk more on the subject, and Sherlock opens up the scroll he’d been looking at last, but there’s a warmth spreading between them, despite John’s prickliness at discussing himself, that drives Sherlock to distraction.
Sherlock is agitated. He’s pacing the living room, occasionally waving a hand and sending books to the floor or the wall, and there’s broken glass in the kitchen that’s most certainly his fault, and wasn’t an accident.
He stops in the middle of the mess and winds his hands into his hair and tugs, frustrated. His antidote isn’t working. He’s tried everything, and it isn’t right. He waves his hand and sends a book thumping into the wall, but it doesn’t satisfy him. He’s so caught up in his own whirlwind of frustration that he doesn't notice John come inside until the stench of stale St. Mungo’s magic hits him, and he turns towards John, hands on his hips, angry, nostrils flared.
“What the fuck happened?” John asks, looking around incredulously.
Sherlock is breathing heavily, and the magic clinging to John’s robes is irritating him. With a wave of his hand, he rids John’s clothes of the stale traces of magic that’s all over them, causing them to settle and re-settle on John’s frame.
“Oi!” John says. “What’d you just do?”
Sherlock brings a hand to his forehead, closes his eyes. He waves his other hand in the air, not to do magic, but to gesticulate. “You were – the magic on you,” he says.
Sherlock sighs. “I don’t have time for this stupidity, John. This is – “ He waves a hand again, sending another book into the wall. “This stupid antidote –”
“Hey, don't take it out on the flat,” John says.
Sherlock puts both of his hands into his hair again, squeezes, and then turns back to John, taking him in, data flying through his mind almost quicker than he can process it. “You asked a woman out on a date today,” he spits. “She said no. That’s fine; you’d have been disappointed in the end. You didn't finish your curry at lunch because you spilled most of it on your lap. Your afternoon patient was –”
“Oi,” John says again. “Sherlock.”
“Sit down. I’ll make tea.”
John takes a step closer to Sherlock, heedless of the look in his eyes or the mess he’s created. He reaches out and wraps his arm around Sherlock’s upper arm, ignoring the way Sherlock tries to jerk out of his touch, and herds him over to the sofa. Sherlock is so surprised that he lets him, and sits down with only a few agitated sounds rather than a verbal evisceration of his roommate.
John pulls out his wand and is about to cast a spell, but Sherlock reaches out and grabs his wand out of his hand.
“Hey!” Johns says. “What the fuck?”
“Don’t use magic,” Sherlock says.
“I’m not bloody cleaning this shit up by hand,” he says. “You clean it up, then, and give me back my wand.”
Sherlock blinks, realizing that he’s stolen John’s wand out of his hand, and looks down at it, feeling the familiar rush of John’s magic in his hand. He swallows, a little calmer from the warmth of it, and quietly hands it back to John, but won’t look at him.
“You really shouldn’t take people’s wands out of their hands,” John says, a calm in his voice that has something underneath it, something that makes Sherlock realize the kind of Auror John must have been. “Especially not ex-Aurors.”
“Yes, that was…”
“Not good,” John supplies for him, a bite in his words.
“Not good,” Sherlock repeats, blinking down at his hands, the adrenaline of his anger having left him.
“I’m making tea,” John says, going to the kitchen. “Oh, fucking hell,” he says, and Sherlock winces when he remembers the beakers he smashed in there. He waves his hand and clears the mess, and grudgingly does the same in the living room, while John makes tea without magic.
Sherlock lays down on the couch and turns to face the back, frustration still bubbling inside him, mixed somehow with a sense of disappointment in himself he doesn’t understand. He wiggles his fingers in front of him, making faint lights dance above each of his fingertips, tracing patterns he’s made in secret since he was a child when he’s upset. There’s something soothing about the faint lights, the quiet magic, the pattern. When he hears John come in the room, he closes his fingers into a fist.
“Sherlock,” John says. “Drink this.”
Sherlock sighs and forces himself to sit up. He takes the tea John’s holding out, and watches as John goes and sits in his chair.
“Alright?” John asks him skeptically.
Sherlock nods, blowing over the top of his tea.
“So, you don’t use a wand, then? Or incantations?”
Sherlock blinks, freezing and looking up at John, feeling caught out.
“It’s alright,” John says quickly. “It’s… a bit brilliant, actually.”
“It… is?” Sherlock asks, sure he’s missing something in this conversation.
“Of course it is!” John says. “I’ve never seen anyone use magic like you do!”
“That’s not what most people say,” Sherlock says.
“What do they say, then?”
“The most polite word they use is generally freak, and the rest aren’t worth repeating.”
“Well, most people are idiots,” John says with a shrug.
Sherlock blinks in surprise. “Yes,” he says, still feeling uncertain, but feeling something unfamiliar blossom inside of him. “They are.”
“Is that why you were home schooled with tutors, then? Hogwarts would have been too easy for you?” John asks. “I don’t understand why people say you’re a Squib.”
“You just said that most people are idiots,” Sherlock points out.
John laughs, and Sherlock can’t help but let a corner of his lip twitch upwards in response, despite the agitation that’s still curling in his stomach, but not quite as much as before.
“Really, though, how’d you learn to do that?” John asks.
Sherlock shrugs, uncomfortable. “It isn’t – it’s just how my magic is.”
“What do you mean?” John asks.
“I mean what I said, and I don’t care to repeat myself,” Sherlock says.
“Take it easy, I’m not trying to take the piss or anything,” John says, taking a sip of his tea. “I’m just curious.”
“Keep your curiosity to yourself,” Sherlock says, annoyed. He doesn’t know why he’s annoyed, but he is.
“No need to be a dick,” John says casually, reaching beside him for the paper. Frustrated, Sherlock makes it fall to his lap, and to his surprise, John laughs.
“Christ,” John says, but he’s smiling. “You’re ridiculous.”
Sherlock drinks his tea, and pretends the warmth in his stomach is only from the drink.
A few days later, John’s reading the paper, as usual, and Sherlock gets a text. A few in a row, sent urgently, and his eyes light up.
“John,” Sherlock says, looking up at him. “I need an assistant.”
“Assistant?” John asks.
“I trust you’re familiar with the Auror team that handles magical incidents within the Muggle police system?”
“Of course,” John says, brow furrowed as he puts down his paper to listen to Sherlock.
“I occasionally assist in solving crimes for them,” Sherlock says vaguely. “There’s been a murder, and they need help. Interested?”
“Lestrade,” Sherlock says. “Also a Gryffindor. I’m sure you know him.”
“You know Greg?” John asks in surprise.
“Who’s Greg?” Sherlock asks, impatient, already out of his chair and halfway towards the door.
“Lestrade, you idiot.”
“Oh,” Sherlock says. “Yes, obviously I know him. Are you coming?”
John hesitates only a moment before he’s standing up, cane in hand. “Obviously,” he says, and they share a smile, and then they’re off.
“That was brilliant,” John gushes later as they sit down at a Chinese restaurant for dinner. “Really, it was.”
“Yes, well, you’ve said as much,” Sherlock replies, eyes on the table, long fingers adjusting the cuff on his other wrist even though it needs no adjusting. There’s an unfamiliar flutter in his stomach, a warmth that he’s been feeling more and more since John moved in, that he doesn’t know what to do with.
“Yes, well, it’s true,” John says. “How’d you know how to find that cursed mirror?”
“It was easy,” Sherlock says with a shrug. “Its magic was very strong, as was the concealment magic.”
“Nobody else could detect the enchantments,” John said. “Bloody airtight, they were.”
Sherlock shrugs again, unsure of what to say.
“You don’t have to tell me about your magic,” John says. “I know you don’t… for whatever reason, you don’t like to talk about it, but it’s brilliant.” He pauses, hesitates, and Sherlock isn’t looking at him, but he’s listening intently to every word, his every cell on alert. No one has talked to him like this before. No one has called him brilliant; they’ve just thought him incompetent.
“I don’t know what other people have said to you about it,” John says carefully. “It seems like… I’m not brilliant like you, mind, but I’m not an idiot, either, and it seems like maybe people have… not been keen on your type of magic, but it’s really… it’s brilliant. You’re brilliant.”
Sherlock can feel his face flushing, can feel sweat develop on his palms. There seems to be a circuit missing between his brain and his mouth because he can’t get himself to speak, and he opens his mouth for a moment and nothing comes out, so he closes it, and is about to try again, when thankfully, the server comes, bringing their menus. He lets out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding.
“Alright?” John asks, when Sherlock doesn’t even move to take his menu. He sounds hesitant, maybe a little embarrassed.
Sherlock clears his throat. “Yes,” he says, and finally takes his menu. His eyes scan the items, but he’s not paying attention; he’s only thinking of John’s words.
“When I was a child, I didn’t do any accidental magic,” he says after a moment, eyes still on the menu. He doesn't know why he’s saying it; he just is.
“No?” John asks.
Sherlock shakes his head. “No,” he says. “It was…” He trails off, swallows, rubs his thumb over the rough edge of the menu. “Everyone’s magic felt very different to me. Mummy’s was… cold. Dad’s was orange and warm. It was… when they used it, I could feel the magic shift and move in the air, and I could detect the difference in movement between different spells.”
He’s interrupted when the server comes back, and John orders them a bottle of wine without asking Sherlock if he’d like to drink. Sherlock is grateful.
“A bit like synesthesia?” John asks.
“A bit, though more intense,” Sherlock concedes, his heart beating fast. He’s never talked to anyone about this; never trusted anyone with his story. He subtly casts a spell around their table, making sure no one will overhear his words except John.
“Did you just cast something?” John asks abruptly.
Sherlock looks up, feeling as if he’s been caught with his hand in a cookie jar.
“It’s alright,” John clarifies.
“Did you feel the magic?” Sherlock asks, curious.
“Sensed something a little different,” John says. “I was an Auror, you know.”
“Hmm,” Sherlock says, but he’s filled with approval for John, for his roommate, for what he hopes might even be his friend. “I was just… making sure no one would eavesdrop.”
“Good,” John says, nodding his strong jaw in approval once.
Sherlock blinks again, taken aback. He doesn't know why everything John says and does manages to surprise him, but it does.
“Anyway,” John says, then stops, smiling tightly up at the server when she returns with their wine and then not speaking while she pours some for him to taste, which he does, dutifully, and offers her another tight smile and a nod before she pours a glass for each of them and then retreats. “Anyway,” John repeats, holding his glass up to Sherlock’s. “Cheers, and then you can pick up where you left off.”
Hesitantly, Sherlock picks up his glass, the clink of it against John’s loud in the quiet of their table. He takes a sip, and the wine is sweet on his tongue, gentle and smooth. “That’s good,” he tells John.
“Good,” John says. “Anyway, you said you could feel everyone’s magic?”
“Yes,” Sherlock says. He takes another sip, letting the warmth ease him into talking. “The first time I used magic, Mummy was calling me in for dinner and I didn’t want to go, so I shut her up.”
John laughs. “Shocking,” he says.
Sherlock can’t help but smile, some of the tightness in his heart unclenching a little bit. “Yes, well. I suppose I’ve always been a bit of a dick. Everyone thought it was accidental and wouldn’t believe me when I tried to explain that I did it on purpose, that I could feel magic everywhere and all I had to do was manipulate it with my own magic and make it do what I want. They didn’t get it, and it scared them, so they pretended it wasn’t happening.”
“What do you mean, you could feel it everywhere?”
Sherlock shrugs. “It’s very… it can be… overwhelming,” he says. “Magical signatures are very strong to me. Magic moves through the air in currents, and I’m constantly aware of them. Mummy used to put Sleakeazy on my head when I was younger, and it gave me a headache every time, having all that magic rubbed all over me. When she cast cleaning spells, it felt like there were ants all over my skin. Someone would simply Accio something and I could feel the magic in the air twist and pull in that direction. I thought it was how everyone experienced magic, but when I’d try to talk about it and no one knew what I was saying, I began to realize it wasn’t. The first time I went to Diagon Alley, it was – all the magic everywhere was too much for me. It hurt. My father had to take me home.”
“It hurt?” John asks. Sherlock looks up sharply, but John looks merely inquisitive, not judgmental, so Sherlock takes another sip of his wine to help him continue.
“Yes,” he says. “It hurt. I’ve gotten a bit better at dealing with it now, but it’s – I don’t know how to explain it. I can feel magic and spells in a way that’s… very intense.”
“Hogwarts would have been hard for you, then,” John says, understanding in his voice. “All the magic everywhere.”
“Yes,” Sherlock says.
“You’re brilliant, though, even if your magic’s different than most people’s. Weren’t your parents a bit excited about that?”
Sherlock huffs out a laugh that is lacking in warmth. “No. They weren’t excited that their youngest son was the only one in the entire family line that couldn’t get a wand and didn’t get a Hogwarts letter.”
“You couldn't get a wand?” John asks.
“None of them worked for me,” Sherlock says with a shrug. “They don’t do what I want them to do. I don’t need spells or wands to channel my magic into action; I just move the magic around me in the right pattern and it does what I want.”
“That’s why people think you’re a Squib,” John says after a moment.
“Yes,” Sherlock says, taking a long sip of his wine.
“People are idiots,” John says. There’s an aggression in his voice that makes that familiar warmth in Sherlock’s stomach surge, and he doesn’t know what to say, warmed as he is.
They’re giggling as they go home, laughing over silly things in a way that Sherlock never dreamed he’d do in his lifetime; that was always something other people did, not something anyone would want to do with him. Nevertheless, he and John are giggling and chatting as they make their way home, and John seems delighted by almost everything Sherlock says. It’s a strange, heady feeling, and Sherlock can’t keep the small smile on his lips away, nor would he want to.
When they get inside, needlessly hushing one another on the stairs to avoid bothering Mrs. Hudson, giggling as John fumbles with his key and Sherlock just opens the door with a wave of his hand and accidentally makes it bang against the wall, John goes right to the kitchen and gets two beers out of the fridge. Sherlock sits in his chair, and John hobbles over to sit across from him.
“What a day,” John says, sending a floating beer in Sherlock’s direction with a flick of his wand. Sherlock takes it and drinks it, though he doesn’t normally like beer very much.
“You liked the case,” Sherlock says, his words just a little bit slurred. He doesn’t usually drink a lot, and he’s feeling quite warm and pleasant.
“I did,” John admits.
“Why don’t you go back to being an Auror?” Sherlock asks. “You think your job is boring.”
“My leg,” John reminds him.
“It’s just a curse,” Sherlock says. “It’s like a knot.”
“It’s not – if it were ‘just a curse,’ I would’ve gotten it fixed up a long time ago, wouldn’t I have?”
Sherlock blinks, realizes he’s made John angry. “Oh,” he says. “that was – ”
“Wait, a knot?” John interrupts. “What do you mean, a knot?”
“The curse,” Sherlock says. “It’s just a knot. I could untangle it.” He knows he could, he’s been dying to, but he knows this is off topic, this is something John Doesn’t Talk About, so he hasn’t let himself bring it up, but he’s dying to fix it.
John laughs, but it’s not warm. He takes a long gulp of his beer, and then shakes his head. “A knot,” he says, rubbing a hand over his face. “A fucking knot.”
Sherlock doesn’t know what to do. He doesn’t know why the atmosphere changed, why it’s not heady and giggly and warm. “I’m sorry,” he says, mostly because he’s sure it’s his fault, even if he’s not sure what he did.
“Christ,” John says. He takes another sip of beer, then a deep breath, then puts on a smile that isn’t quite right and turns back to Sherlock. “It’s alright,” he says.
“Is it?” Sherlock asks, unable to stop himself.
“Yeah,” John says. “It’s alright,” he repeats. “Put a fire on, it’s cold in here.”
“You do have a wand,” Sherlock points out.
“Yeah, but it’s much cooler when you do it,” John says, settling down into his chair, the darkness from the moment before slipping away just a little bit.
Sherlock flushes and lights the fire, ignores the way it blazes up a little too far for a moment before it settles. He pretends the warmth on his cheeks is from his beer.
While John’s at work the next day, Sherlock ventures into Diagon Alley. He wears his thickest robes, the ones he’s cast warding spells all over to keep the magic away from him, and he goes straight to the botanical shop. He makes his purchases and leaves as quickly as he can, then goes straight home. He goes into his secret room and carefully plants his new items, easily getting lost in the familiar but long unused skill, and casts the necessary magic to ensure their growth. He puts his fingers on his chin and tilts his head just so as he stares at the room around him, and then waves his hand until small fairy lights are suspended throughout the entirety of the space, glowing soft and warm.
There are enchanted windows on one wall that he once loved to look through, but they’ve long since become covered in a thick black film, a mixture of dirt and dust he hasn’t cared to remove. He uses a cleaning charm to clear it away, ignores the way a lump rises in his throat when he can see through the glass to the beauty beyond once more. He takes a moment just to look, to take in the clear blue sky, the vivid green grass, the gently bubbling water.
He’s only bought beautiful plants this time, some of which he needs for potions, but some of which he just likes. He remembers when he was small, before he turned eleven and didn’t get a Hogwarts letter, before everyone knew the truth of his magic, how when it was just him, alone in his room, he’d play and decorate his room with magical flowers and lights, how he’d go outside and the magical creatures would come to him without prompting, how he had such an affinity for magic that even the creatures noticed and responded, how he loved magic more than anything. His heart aches, but it isn’t unpleasant.
A few days later, Sherlock is walking to the shops when he gets a text from Mike, who says that John is in hospital because there’s been an accident. He doesn’t reply; he just ducks into an alley and Apparates even though he’s wearing Muggle clothes and doesn’t have his usual thick robes for going into magical places.
His skin is immediately crawling with all the magic once he’s arrived at St. Mungo’s. The Sonorus charm the registration witches are using skitters over his skin and makes his ears hurt, but he ignores it, forces himself to go to the reception area and ask for John’s room. Nobody gives him a second glance; nobody knows who he is, but he’s inundated by the magic coming off the throngs of people around him, by the strange magic of all their injuries and ailments.
Before he knows it, he’s pressed into the lift, his eyes closed tightly against the prickly magic that surrounds him. The heavy pressure of hastily cast Episkeys makes his head throb, the cloying and disgusting smell of malicious and infectious curses lingers in his nose to the point that he wonders if it’s going to bleed, the magic of the lift itself is bright and distracting. His head is pounding, and he can only think of getting to John.
When the lift finally stops, he hurries out, ignoring the sounds and vivid magic around him, hurrying past all the people and their chaotic swirls of too much unruly and unsettled magic. Finally, he gets to John’s room, and the relief feels tangible. He goes inside quickly, eyes immediately sweeping over John’s prone form, and John looks up in clear surprise. “Sherlock?” he asks.
Sherlock ignores him and goes further inside the room, breathing heavily, hands on his hips. His eyes continue to scan over John, and then he makes an exasperated sound. “A concussion? That’s all?”
“Er, sorry it wasn’t worse?” John says, brow furrowed.
“Mike sent me a text,” Sherlock says, agitated. “He never texts. He said there was an accident, and you were in hospital.” Magic is crawling over his skin, and his head feels as if it’s going to crack open.
“Calm down,” John says. “Come sit. It’s alright. I’m fine.”
Sherlock lets out an agitated huff of air. “Calm down? This is St. Mungo’s, I can’t calm down.”
“Yes, you can. Come sit,” John says again, gesturing towards the chair. Sherlock gives him a dirty look, and John sighs. “A patient had exploding snaps that malfunctioned and exploded in her face, quite horribly, and she brought them with her, and they exploded in my face instead,” John says. “I’m really fine, just a small concussion, but they want me to sit here a while instead of work, when honestly, I’d much rather just go home.”
“You’d rather go home?” Sherlock says. He can’t stop pacing, can’t stop moving. Suddenly, John reaches out and grabs him by the wrist, and Sherlock freezes, looks at him, blinks.
“It’s alright,” John says. “I’m alright. You didn’t have to come. You can go if you’d like.”
Sherlock just stares at him, feeling short-circuited by the warmth of John’s fingers wrapped around his wrist.
“Alright?” John asks, still holding onto his wrist.
Sherlock nods tightly, but can’t help but rock back and forth on his heels, all the magic of St. Mungo’s coming further into his awareness like it’s crushing him; the clinical magic of the monitors in John’s room, the magic from the Healers, the magic from the wards, the magic from the people filling the hospital. It’s a bit much for him, especially on top of the anxiety he’d felt when Mike texted.
John gives Sherlock’s wrist a squeeze and lets go. “Why don’t you go home?” he says. “I’ll be fine. I’ll meet you there when they let me out.”
Sherlock winces when someone in the hall casts a Scourgify charm, the harsh spell skittering over his skin. They cast it again, and he wraps his arms around himself.
“Oi, come on, we’re going home,” John says. He sits up and swings his feet over the side of the bed, just as the nurse comes in.
“I’m going home,” John says. “My flatmate’s just come to get me.”
“There’s paperwork –”
“I’ll deal with it tomorrow,” John says. “Ta,” he adds, then grabs Sherlock by the arm and pulls him bodily from the room. John Apparates both of them home, and Sherlock immediately closes his eyes against the squeezing, constricting pressure of the magic and hopes he doesn’t throw up, hunching over in pain.
“Sorry,” John says, looking at him in concern. Sherlock shakes his head, tries to keep breathing. He puts his hands on his knees and breathes deeply, then forces himself to stand up, and leaves the flat.
John follows, startled, calling after him to wait, but Sherlock ignores him, focusing only on 221C. His hand is shaking when he uses his magic to open the door, and he is about to close it behind him, when John forces his way inside, too.
Sherlock stares at him in the darkness of the basement flat, shocked he’d followed him in.
“I want to help,” John says.
“Stubborn Gryffindor,” Sherlock manages, and then he winces. “Don’t talk,” he says. His voice is quiet, and he doesn’t turn on a light. He goes to the old musty couch in the dark and curls up on it, face against the back, knees tucked into his chest. There’s no movement or sound from John for a moment, until he takes the heavy blanket from the back of the couch and lays it over him.
“Alright?” John whispers. Sherlock nods jerkily, and he hears the rustle of movement as John manages to get himself down on the floor to sit against the couch, the only place near Sherlock where there’s room for him to sit.
Sherlock’s not sure how much time passes, but finally, finally, he begins to settle, and the heavy wards he’s put on 221C that don’t allow any magic help him feel a bit better. His skin no longer feels like it’s crawling, and his head no longer feels like it’s going to split in two, and he’s much calmer. He sniffs, rubs a hand over his face, pretends it comes away dry.
A different sort of discomfort settles over him when he remembers that John is there, that John has witnessed all of this. “John?” he whispers, voice harsh.
“Mm?” John says, voice quiet and rough.
“Were you sleeping?” Sherlock asks, still facing the back of the couch. His voice is quiet, a rough rasp between whisper and speaking. It feels intimate somehow in the darkness of 221C.
“No,” John says.
“Good,” Sherlock says. “You’re not supposed to sleep with a concussion. Or Apparate.”
“It’s alright,” John says. “I’m fine. I know it’s 1981.”
Sherlock snorts, and then high-pitched laughter comes from John, and something warms inside of him again. He rolls over carefully, grateful for the cover of darkness.
“Are you alright?” Sherlock asks. “You do have a concussion.”
“I’m fine,” John says. “Are you?”
“Yes,” Sherlock says. His voice is quieter than he had intended, smaller. “Thank you,” he adds. “I wasn’t – you didn’t have to come down here.”
“It’s alright,” John says again. “You came all the way to St. Mungo’s for me. I wanted to make sure you were okay.” He pauses for a moment, then says, “You have wards down here? No magic?”
“You can tell?” Sherlock asks, surprised.
“I was an Auror,” John reminds him, yet again.
“Yes, but I’ve met a lot of incompetent Aurors,” Sherlock says.
“I’d like to think I wasn’t incompetent.”
“Clearly not,” Sherlock says with a small smile. Carefully, he sits up, swinging his legs down beside John’s form on the floor.
“Help me up?” John asks, so Sherlock does, reaching down to help him up, steadying him when he stands, noticing how warm and solid John is underneath his hands. He turns and they go up the stairs together, all the way up to their own flat.
“What do you usually do when you go to Diagon Alley or hospital or places like that?” John asks once they’re upstairs. “Is it always that bad?”
Sherlock shakes his head. “I have a set of robes I usually wear. They’re quite thick, and I put a lot of wards on them. They help keep the magic out.”
“Brilliant,” John says.
Sherlock flushes, turns away to go to the kitchen so John doesn’t see. “Would you like tea?” he asks, though his hands are slightly unsteady as he reaches for the kettle.
“Alright,” John answers.
Sherlock makes tea, the ritual familiar and soothing, and when he hands it to John, he can tell John wants to speak.
“You have questions,” Sherlock says.
“Yes,” John says.
“Go on,” Sherlock says. Surprisingly, he’s not bothered.
“I was just… how’d you figure out you needed a room like that?”
“Like the basement flat?” Sherlock clarifies.
John nods, takes a sip of his tea.
“When I was younger, a lot of Healers came to try to figure out what was wrong with my magic,” he says. “Most of them were idiots, and had nothing useful to say.”
“There’s nothing wrong with your magic,” John says. His voice is colored with aggression, and Sherlock feels that now familiar flush crawling up his neck. “It’s brilliant.”
“That’s… well…” He pauses and clears his throat. “Nevertheless, Mummy called in Healers at least once a week, sometimes more. One of them said that I have a rare disorder that sometimes shows up in pureblood families that no one ever talks about because purebloods generally like to pretend they’re perfect.” He doesn't mean to, but he says the word ‘perfect’ with clear derision, spitting the t out at the end.
“A disorder?” John asks.
“Mm,” Sherlock says, taking a sip of tea. “It’s a sensory issue; I’m overly sensitive to magic, obviously, and because of the way my mind and my own magic process external magic, it can become quite overwhelming in large quantities, and it can become very… it can be abrasive and painful in certain ways. It’s… however, it can also feel very good. It’s… difficult to explain, and few people have ever asked me to and actually cared to hear the answer, so I don’t have a lot of experience describing it.”
“It’s alright,” John says. “That must have been hard, as a kid.”
Sherlock eyes him for a moment, notices the sincerity in the slant of his eyebrows and the slight tilt of his head. “It was,” he admits after a moment, eyes drifting to the side and hand tightening on his teacup. “If I’m honest, I don’t have a lot of good memories of my childhood.”
“I don’t, either,” John says. “Have good memories of my childhood.”
John shrugs. “My dad was an arsehole, and my sister hated me after I got my Hogwarts letter. We don't talk.”
“I’m sorry,” Sherlock says.
“Don’t be,” John says. “I’m not.”
“Oh. Alright,” Sherlock replies, even though he’s not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
“Is there anything you did like when you were a kid?” John asks. He looks genuinely eager to know the answer.
Sherlock blinks, unused to someone actually caring about his life. “I enjoyed reading, and doing experiments. I used to play a lot with magic, too, before my parents told me it was strange.”
“Play?” John asked.
Sherlock shrugs. He waves his hand and a flurry of soft, warm lights follow behind. He uses a finger to send them towards John, who holds his hand out, and Sherlock gently sends them forward to hover over John’s palm. John smiles, the lines in his face illuminated by the warm lights Sherlock’s been playing with since he was very small. Sherlock changes the colors, then organizes them into the shape of a butterfly and lets it fly around the room.
“Things like that,” Sherlock says, a bit awkwardly, letting the butterfly dissolve.
“Brilliant,” John says again. Sherlock smiles, soft and hesitant.
Later that night, when John’s in bed, Sherlock goes to his hidden room and checks on his plants. They’re blooming beautifully, and the ground beneath his feet is soft and lush with thick green grass, so he adds some more lights, and with a strange but not unpleasant feeling in his heart, he makes some small butterflies and birds out of the lights to fly amongst the flowers. He adds a small pond in the corner, with a rocky wall above it. Carefully, he forms a waterfall. He smiles.
There’s another case, and John skips work to help Sherlock, who solves it almost immediately. They stumble home a little bit tipsy again, and they’re both giggling, laughing over the events of the day, enjoying each other’s company.
When they get inside, John goes to the kitchen and says he’ll get them drinks while Sherlock sits in his chair, head fuzzy and warm, smiling absently in the direction of John’s chair until John comes back and hands him a glass of wine.
“Sherlock,” John says as he sits in his chair.
“That’s me,” Sherlock says. He can’t help it; a giggle escapes his mouth.
“Yeah, I know,” John says with a fond roll of his eyes. “Um… a while back now, you said the curse in my leg looks like a knot.”
Sherlock sits up straight, suddenly as alert as he can be and focused on John. “Yes,” he says. “I did. It does.”
“Yeah. That’s… do you think you can… can you really fix it? Or were you just talking?”
“I don’t just talk,” Sherlock says vehemently. “Yes, I can fix it. Of course I can. Your magic is… it’s warm, John, it’s very warm, like the sun, and it’s gold. It’s beautiful. It’s - ” He pauses, startled; he hadn’t meant to say that. He clears his throat, uncomfortable, feeling redness creeping into his neck. He doesn't dare look at John. “The curse on your leg is tarnishing your magic, keeping you from using it to your full potential, and obviously affecting your leg. It’s from a Death Eater, right? I can’t think of anyone else who’d use such a dark curse.”
John is quiet for a moment, then he clears his throat. “Yeah,” he says. “A Death Eater.”
“I can fix it. I’d love to. Would you like to do it now?”
“Not while you’re a bit pissed,” John says.
“I’m not pissed!” Sherlock says, but the way he’s melted into his chair says otherwise. “Anyway, I can make a sobriety potion,” he adds petulantly. “It’ll only take a minute. I just need to get some leaves from one of my plants.”
“You have plants?” John asks.
Sherlock hesitates, unsure how to proceed. He’d forgotten John doesn’t know about them in his haste to fix his leg.
“Is that what you keep in that magic room?” John continues.
John rolls his eyes. “I’m not an idiot,” he says. “I know you have a hidden room. I was an Auror. I keep telling you.”
“Lestrade’s never noticed it,” Sherlock says, eyeing him suspiciously even while his heart beats a little bit faster.
John rolls his eyes. “I’m not Lestrade,” he says.
“Clearly,” Sherlock says. He pauses, eyes John for a moment. “Why haven’t you said anything?” he asks.
John shrugs. “Figured you’d tell me if you wanted to,” he says.
“Really?” Sherlock asks. “I could have anything in there. It could be dangerous.”
“Yeah, well, I’m not you, you git. I don’t have to get to the bottom of every secret anyone’s ever had,” John says. The words could be harsh, but they don’t feel that way, and Sherlock can’t help but smile.
“Show me your secret room,” John says.
Sherlock’s heart skips a beat in his chest; he’s never shown this to anyone. For some reason, though, something about John, something about the way he always says, “brilliant,” makes him think it will be okay. “Alright,” he says quietly. He stands and sets his drink down on the sidetable, pretends his hands are steady. John stands and follows.
Sherlock’s overly aware of the sound of his footsteps as he walks towards the hallway, of the sound of John behind him, of John’s breath, of what’s about to happen, but he pushes the anxiety that is trying to rise inside of him down and stops in front of a familiar, blank stretch of wall in the hallway. He closes his eyes and takes a deep, shaky, determined breath before moving his hand in a complicated pattern, visualizing the magic in his mind and manipulating it with his hand. The door appears, which he carefully reaches out and opens, only hesitating for a moment. He takes another deep breath and steps inside, gesturing for John to enter.
“Sherlock,” John says when he steps inside, a touch of awe in his voice. “Sherlock, this is beautiful.”
Sherlock looks around, blinking. The natural light from the window is gone since it’s nighttime, and it should be dark in the room, but everything is warmly illuminated by the hundreds of small magical lights that are suspended throughout the room like stars. The little butterflies and birds glow as they fly amongst the plants, stopping to rest on the brightly colored flowers and leaves. It’s quiet, save for the gentle sound of the waterfall.
He remembers right before John moved in, how it had been barren, full of nothing but dark and dying plants he shouldn’t have, but now, there are colorful flowers blooming everywhere, gentle light twinkling through the room in every color of the rainbow, and he realizes that his room has developed a warm atmosphere that feels gentle and welcoming. His face reddens a bit, and he absently straightens his shirtsleeve, thought it wasn’t crooked.
“What’s out there?” John asks, voice hushed, gesturing to the windows, where it’s mostly dark outside, save for moonlight reflecting on water and grass.
“They don’t open,” Sherlock says. “But they overlook the brook near my childhood home. I spent a lot of time there.”
John turns to look at him, and there’s something on his face Sherlock doesn’t usually see. One of the little birds of light flies over and lands on John’s shoulder, rubbing its head against John’s cheek. Sherlock flushes, though he’s not sure why, and John smiles softly. He holds out his hand and the bird perches on his finger, and he holds it in front of his face and examines it with a soft smile as a butterfly comes and flies around his head.
“They seem to like me,” John says in amusement, glancing up at Sherlock.
Sherlock’s flush deepens, and he doesn’t know what to say, so he says nothing.
“Sherlock, these flowers are beautiful,” John says again. “This whole room is… it’s gorgeous. Is that a waterfall?”
Sherlock doesn't reply as John walks over to the corner of the expansive room, the bird and butterfly following him, and stops where the small waterfall flows over some rocks into a tiny pond. John steps closer and awkwardly leans down to splash his fingers through the water, then looks up at Sherlock with an incredulous laugh. “This is brilliant!” he says.
Sherlock feels like he can’t speak, watching John splash his fingers in the pond while the birds and butterflies he’s made circle around him. His heart is pounding, and he doesn't understand how he feels.
“Alright?” John asks, straightening and turning to face him.
Sherlock nods, not sure he can speak. John comes over and stands in front of him again, and he smiles up at him, a genuine, wide smile, while one of Sherlock’s birds sits on his shoulder, nuzzling up against his jaw. Sherlock’s heart pounds just watching, and he finds himself blinking fast, trying to take this all in, trying to understand what he’s feeling.
“Thank you for showing me this,” John says.
Sherlock nods, eyes flickering over John and the little animals he’s made that won’t leave him alone.
“Alright?” John asks again, still looking up at Sherlock with a warm smile.
Sherlock nods again, still not sure he can speak.
“You sure? You haven’t said anything in a while,” John says, and his eyes are crinkled up in a smile.
“You – Yes,” he says.
John’s smile widens, and another bird nuzzles into John’s neck. Sherlock’s face flushes again, and it feels like the air between them is changing, charging, in ways he doesn't understand.
John reaches up and holds out his hand. The little bird lands on his finger, just like the last one had. “They’re lovely,” John says, eyes flickering between the bird and Sherlock.
Sherlock swallows, and then clears his throat. He opens his mouth to speak, but finds that yet again he doesn’t know what to say, so he closes it again.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you like this,” John continues. He sounds fond, unbearably so.
“I’ve never… no one’s ever come in here before,” Sherlock says, voice rough, though he knows John knows that.
John smiles. “That’s a shame, because it really is beautiful,” he says. “But that only makes me happier you’ve let me see it.”
Sherlock flushes again, and he’s glad for the dim lighting of his soft lights.
“You don’t have to make the potion tonight,” John says. “We’re both a pit pissed. Tomorrow’s Saturday; we can do it then. Why don’t we… do you want to have a drink in here? Is that alright?”
“I want to fix your leg,” Sherlock says after a moment, and he does, really, but something about the way John’s looking at him, something about seeing John in this room, about the way the twinkling lights flicker over his features, the way John strokes the little birds, something about it all makes him not want to move, makes him want to stay there longer.
John smiles at him. “Tomorrow,” he says. “I could… believe it or not, I’d like a moment to take it in that you’re going to fix it, anyway,” he admits. “Is that… alright?”
Sherlock doesn’t really understand that, doesn’t understand why John would need time, but he thinks it’s alright. He smiles. “Yes,” he says.
“Shall we have a drink?” John says. “I can’t summon our drinks in here, can I? How do the wards work? If I leave, can I get back in?”
Sherlock tilts his head and closes his eyes. He moves his hand, thinks about John’s magical signature, weaves it into the wards. The gold of John’s magic makes the cold, steely ward magic glisten a bit, as if it’s grown warm somehow, and he takes a moment to let it sink together, let the magic weave together and settle. A moment later he opens his eyes, and John is staring at him with a look on his face that Sherlock doesn’t know how to interpret, so he looks away, his stomach fluttering.
“What was that?” John asks curiously.
“It will open for you,” Sherlock says. He must be drunk, he knows, because surely there’s no other reason he’d do something like this. “All you have to say is Alohamora.”
“Really?” John asks incredulously. He laughs, his smile widening. “You just changed the wards? Just like that? Anyone can get in now?”
“Of course not,” Sherlock says. “Only you.”
“Oh,” John says after a moment. There’s a small smile in the corners of his eyes, a brightness to them that Sherlock can hardly stand. “Well, that’s alright, then,” John says, and he’s still smiling up at him in a peculiar way, and it has such an effect on Sherlock that a few butterflies spontaneously form behind John’s back. Sherlock flushes, grateful John didn’t witness that rare display of spontaneous magic (he’d refuse to label it accidental).
“Yes,” Sherlock says after a moment, hoping he sounds steady. “Go get us our drinks then.”
John laughs and leaves the little room, and Sherlock takes a moment to breathe, to settle himself, before he remembers that they’ll need somewhere to sit. He looks around frantically, unsure what to do, and then quickly creates a stone bench beside the pond, accidentally creating flowering vines crawling up its legs. He hadn’t meant to go that far. He must be tipsier than he realizes, he thinks.
He freezes, blinking when he feels the magic shift around him as John casts Alohamora on the door. It sends a tingly shiver down his spine, feeling John’s magic trickle through his wards, and his palms grow sweaty.
John comes in, a bottle of wine and their two glasses floating ahead of him. Sherlock swallows, the warmth of John’s magic heavy and lush in his garden. He plucks a glass from the air, not really caring if it’s his or John’s and eagerly takes a sip.
“Oh, you’ve made a bench?” John says cheerfully, heading over. Sherlock follows behind, feeling a bit dazed, and sits beside him.
“Cheers,” John says, holding up his glass to Sherlock. Sherlock holds his own out and their glasses clink, and they both take a long sip.
“When it’s daytime, you can see the brook properly?” John asks.
It takes Sherlock a moment to catch up to what John’s talking about, but he realizes John means the window. “Of course,” Sherlock says.
“What’d you do there?”
“At the brook?” Sherlock asks, confused.
“You said you spent a lot of time there,” John says. “Must be important if you made a window just to look at it.”
“Oh,” Sherlock says. “I used to play with the flitterbys and things.”
“Yeah?” John asks. He seems amused.
“It’s not funny,” he says, but his words slur just a little bit.
“’Course not,” John says, and Sherlock hums a little in agreement, taking a long sip of his wine.
“What was your first magic?” Sherlock clumsily asks after a moment, suddenly deeply curious but finding that his words are having trouble traveling from his mind to his mouth. “I mean, accidental.”
John snorts and looks down. “Sent a pan flying at my dad’s head,” he says.
“Oh,” Sherlock says. “That’s not very nice,” he adds.
John laughs, but it’s not entirely mirthful. “Yeah, well, he wasn’t a very nice man.”
“Good,” Sherlock says, then realizes what he’s said. “That you hit him with a pan, not that he wasn’t nice,” he clarifies.
John laughs. “You are a bit pissed, aren’t you?” he asks.
“I’m not,” Sherlock denies, but he knows he’s lying.
“Hmm,” John says. He takes a long drink. “Better catch up,” he adds. “How long have you been working on this room?”
“Long. It used to be different,” he blurts without thinking.
“It used to be full of Alihotsy. And peppermint, for Euphoria Elixir. And billywig colonies, for their stings. And – some other things,” he says. It all comes out of his mouth before he realizes what he’s saying, and then he blinks rapidly as he realizes what he’s admitted. His shoulders tense and he can’t look at John, can’t face him.
“Do you still grow all that?” John asks a moment later, but his voice is carefully neutral, with no trace of accusation.
Still, Sherlock can’t help but swallow nervously. “No,” he says. “I was – It all died. I couldn’t take care of it.”
“Why not?” John asks.
“I was…” He hiccups, then takes a sip of wine. “I couldn’t.” He feels desperate suddenly, eager for the conversation to end.
To his surprise, John reaches out and puts a hand on his forearm, and clasps it. “I’m glad you don’t grow that anymore,” he says.
Sherlock is frozen, his eyes on John’s hand until John removes it. “I was – I’m clean now,” he says. For some reason, he needs John to believe him. He dares a look at John, and is relieved to see John looking at him openly, steadily.
“Good,” John says. And then he smiles, and reaches out his hand. A bird comes to him, and Sherlock frowns.
“Did you use magic?” he asks, words tripping over each other on his tongue. “I didn't feel it.”
“No,” John says, smiling. “I don’t need to.”
“Yes, you do, those are magic birds,” Sherlock says. “I should know, I made them.”
John laughs. “Yeah, ‘course you did,” he says. His eyes are crinkled in the corners, and he’s smiling at Sherlock. He looks fond again, and Sherlock looks away for a moment, a flutter in his heart that makes him feel like he’s floating, like he can’t breathe.
“It’s really a brilliant bit of magic,” John says.
“Yes, I know,” Sherlock says petulantly, voice belying the way he feels.
“But of course it is,” John says. “You’re quite brilliant, you know.”
“You keep saying that,” Sherlock says. He means to sound defensive, but there’s something plaintive in his voice, something he can’t control.
“Because it’s true,” John says. His voice is soft, hushed, and he smiles before letting the bird fly away. Sherlock sneaks a look at him and feels his lips curl into a smile.
“I think I’m pissed,” Sherlock tells John.
“Yeah,” John agrees. “You are. Want another glass?”
A laugh bubbles out of him and he holds his glass out towards John, who has to help him adjust the angle and hold it upright before he can refill it.
“I might be a bit mad,” John says as he refills his own glass, “But it’s a bit scary that you’ll fix my leg, if I’m honest.”
“I won’t mess it up,” Sherlock says, aghast. “I wouldn’t do that.”
“I know,” John assures him, then takes a long sip of wine. “It’s just – you know, everyone always has a bloody opinion about it, always has to put in their two bloody knuts about how it seems so strange a Healer has a leg he can’t fix.”
“Healers don’t heal themselves,” Sherlock says.
“’Course not,” John says. “But, you know, it’s been this way a long time,” he adds. “It’s a bit – I’ve grown used to it. It’s a bit strange to think of being without it.”
Sherlock wrinkles his nose. “Yeah, but it’s a big black stain on your magic, don’t you want it gone? You don’t need that, your magic is nice, John.”
“Mm,” Sherlock says. He smiles, closes his eyes. “I can feel it in the wards now, it’s warm.”
“Warm,” Sherlock says. He closes his eyes, lets the feeling wash over him. It’s heady, sublime, especially with John sitting next to him in this room, with the wine buzzing through him. “Feels good,” he adds. “It’s like a blanket.”
He opens his eyes a moment later, and he feels a flush of something like embarrassment wash over him. “Why are you looking at me like that?” he asks John. His heart is beating a little bit faster, but he ignores it, takes a sip of wine.
“No reason,” John says. His voice is a bit hoarse. “So my magic doesn’t – it’s not like the magic at St. Mungo’s to you?”
Sherlock shakes his head quickly. “Of course not,” he says. “Don’t be an idiot.”
“Of course not,” John repeats, and then laughs. Sherlock can’t help but laugh with him.
John reaches over with his familiar, steady hand and pats Sherlock’s leg. Sherlock watches in confusion, unsure why he’d do that, unable to stop focusing on the ghost of the touch that remains after John takes his hand away.
“You’re a bit pissed,” John says. His voice is gentle, warm. “You should go to bed.”
“You’re pissed, too,” Sherlock manages, still reveling in the lingering heat where John’s hand had been.
“Mm,” John agrees. “Not as pissed as you.”
“I’ll sleep in the grass,” Sherlock says. He sets his glass down beside him on the bench and lowers himself down to the floor on his loose limbs, and then lies down on his back, feeling the texture of the grass through his clothes. “It’s nice,” he tells John, twitching his nose when a butterfly lands on the tip.
“Oi,” John says, laughing, nudging Sherlock’s long leg with his foot. “Don't sleep down there. You have a bed.”
“Feels good,” Sherlock says, drowsy. “It’s warm. It’s different with your magic.”
Before he knows it, though, there’s a shadow looming over him, and Sherlock opens his eyes to see John standing over him. “Come on,” John says, holding out his hand, smiling.
Sherlock giggles. “My birds are following you,” he points out.
“They are,” John says. His voice is warm. “Come on, let’s get you to bed.”
Sherlock lets John help him up, lets John right him when he starts tilting a little too far in one direction, lets John’s hand on his arm steer him towards his bedroom and send him off to bed.
The next morning, Sherlock wakes up and can’t seem to uncrinkle his nose or unfurrow his brow. He manages to sit up, and then grimaces against the onslaught of dizziness and the splitting headache. He wraps his sheet around himself and forces himself to stand, then staggers out of his room, wincing against the bright sunlight when he gets to the sitting room.
“John,” he says, his voice pitiful and gravelly.
John’s sitting in the kitchen, sipping tea. He looks up at Sherlock with amusement. “A bit hungover?” he asks.
“Hangover draught,” Sherlock manages, wincing.
“A bit melodramatic, more like,” John mutters, but he stands up and goes over to the counter. “Figured you’d be hungover,” he says. “Made this this morning.”
He passes a cup of potion over to Sherlock, who sniffs it suspiciously.
“Oh, honestly,” John says. “I might not be you, but I can manage a hangover draught.”
Sherlock grimaces and knocks the whole cup back in one go, then feels his shoulders relax and his head clear.
“Here,” John says. “I’ll make some tea. Sit down.”
“That was good,” Sherlock says, a bit surprised. “I feel much better.”
“Yeah, I’m not an idiot, you know,” John says.
Sherlock doesn’t reply, just pulls his sheet tight around him. He thinks about the night before, then opens his eyes wide when he remembers that he’d let John into the wards of his room. He can’t help but stare at John’s back as he makes tea, thinking back. He feels his face heat when he remembers the things he’d said to John, the way he’d acted. He folds his arms on the table and rests his forehead on them, squeezing his eyes closed.
“Sit up,” John says a few moments later. “Tea’s ready. Toast, too.”
“I didn’t ask for toast,” Sherlock mumbles into the table.
“I know,” John says. He hesitates, then continues. “You’ll need something in your stomach if you’re going to fix my leg, right?”
Sherlock sits up, and hastily tugs his sheet back into place when it slides down his shoulder. “You still want me to fix your leg?”
“If you don’t mind,” John says.
“I want to,” Sherlock says. He takes the tea from John and takes a long sip, then a big bite of toast. “Let me just eat this.”
“You could get dressed first,” John suggests.
Sherlock looks down. “Oh. Right,” he says, and then they look at each other and laugh, a secret tender mirth passing between them, and Sherlock welcomes the bloom of warmth in his stomach.
A while later, Sherlock is showered and dressed, and John is in the sitting room, reading the paper but obviously not taking anything in. Sherlock’s eyes flicker over him and he draws in a sharp breath, about to speak, when John looks at him.
“Don’t,” John says.
Sherlock’s brow furrows. “Don’t what?”
“Comment on my state of mind, or whatever it is you’ve figured out since you came in the room,” John says.
“Actually, I was only going to ask if you’re ready,” Sherlock lies.
John snorts. “Yeah, alright,” he says.
“Lie down on the sofa,” Sherlock requests, eyes travelling over how tightly John’s holding the paper, how square he’s holding his shoulders, how rigid and tense his jaw is. “If you’re ready,” he adds, not unkindly.
John sets his paper aside and puts his hands on the arms of his chair for a moment, and lets out a loud breath, then nods his head once and stands up, his shoulders stiff. He hobbles over to the sofa with his cane and sits down, then lifts his bad leg up with his hands and follows through with his other leg easily.
“You’re sure you can do it?” John asks before he lies down.
Sherlock nods, confident and certain, and they look at each other for a moment, a long moment in which John seems to be assessing Sherlock’s confidence, before John nods once, lets out a breath, and lies down, looking up at the ceiling, and Sherlock is left feeling grateful, pleased that John is letting him do this.
“I’ll just be a minute before I start,” Sherlock says, voice quiet. “Just lie still.”
“Okay,” John says. His voice is strong and self-assured, and Sherlock is reminded yet again of exactly the kind of Auror John must have been.
Sherlock holds his hands over John’s leg, right over where the curse lies. Gently, he probes with his magic, feels the shape and contour of it. It’s cold and steely, and makes him shiver when his own magic comes too close to it. He knows he can remove it, but it will certainly take concentration and effort. He’d told John it was like a knot, and it is, but it’s like an intricate knot of steel, one he’ll have to work very hard to untangle.
“I’m going to start,” he murmurs to John. “Try not to move. I don’t know if it will hurt.”
“Alright,” John says, voice steeled, eyes focused on the ceiling, brow furrowed.
Sherlock focuses his magic and uses it to grab hold of the end of what feels like a knot of magic, but it doesn’t budge. He tries this for quite some time, sweat forming on his temples, before he realizes it’s no use.
“John,” he murmurs. “Do you trust me?”
“Yes,” John says, voice tight.
“I’m going to manipulate your magic. It might feel strange,” Sherlock says.
“You – what?”
“Lie still. Don’t move. Just relax. It will work, I know it will,” Sherlock says, eyes not wavering from John’s leg.
“Alright,” John says. He doesn't sound relaxed, but Sherlock ignores that. Instead, he focuses on John’s leg once more, on the way John’s magic surrounds the knot. Carefully, gently, he nudges John’s magic with his own, winds them together to pull on the edge of the curse. It’s working, he realizes, but it’s difficult and slow going, and the further he gets into the knot, the worse it feels for him. He works without stopping, using his own magic to manipulate John’s, to slowly unfurl the cold, disgusting curse. The magic is foul, making his mouth dry and his head ache, but he pushes through, ignoring the nausea in his stomach and the icy cold feeling that’s swept over his body.
Time passes, though he’s not sure exactly how long, until finally, with hands he doesn’t realize are shaking, the last of the curse is gone, the last of the stain has left John’s magic, and there’s nothing but John in his leg, nothing but warmth and gold and strength.
“Finished,” Sherlock says after a moment, surprised by the faintness of his voice.
“Sherlock,” John says, his voice wavering, full of awe. “My leg doesn’t hurt.”
“I’m glad,” Sherlock manages, feeling as if he might collapse forward onto the couch, as if someone is hammering his forehead with an ice pick.
John sits up, a radiant smile on his face, but then immediately narrows in on Sherlock. “Oh Jesus,” he says.
“You swear like a Muggle,” Sherlock says weakly through chattering teeth.
John swings both legs over the couch easily, but doesn’t take time to dwell. Instead, he stands on his own two legs without his cane and doesn’t even take a moment to rejoice (Auror, Sherlock thinks), and pulls Sherlock up to carefully get him on the couch instead. He pulls the blanket from the back and wraps it around him, then goes to his own chair and takes the blanket from there to wrap that around him as well. He casts a gentle warming spell.
“Alright?” John asks. He holds fingers up in front of Sherlock’s face. “How many fingers?”
“Three,” Sherlock says, attempting to scowl at John. “I’m fine.”
“Like hell you are,” John says. “You’re shaking and you’re bloody freezing and sweating at once.”
“Cold,” Sherlock says.
“You don’t have a fever,” John says.
“Curse was cold,” Sherlock says. He closes his eyes, furrows his brow. “Cold and dark.” He shivers, the feeling of the magic still too close to his.
“Come on,” John says. He pulls Sherlock up by the arms.
Sherlock gives a pitiful groan. “Where?”
“To your plant room,” John says. “You said it’s warm there. Come on.”
Sherlock staggers beside John, holding the blankets as tightly around himself as he can, allowing John to help him walk the short distance to the hallway. “You’re not using a cane,” he manages, ignoring the pain in his head.
“No,” John says. He pauses outside the blank stretch of wall. “You did a perfect job,” he says warmly, and a flush of something pleasant manages to work its way through Sherlock, though he still feels weak and horrible, but it’s worth it, he thinks, just for that moment. John then casts Alohamora and opens the door, and pulls Sherlock inside with him, ushering him over to the bench.
“You’re clever,” Sherlock says, because the warmth of John’s magic in his wards really does feel good. He closes his eyes, lets it wash over him as he sits down.
John stands in front of him and casts another warming spell on him, and Sherlock feels his shoulders relax as it trickles over him, warm like sunlight, gentle like a breeze. He feels something soft on his face, and he opens his eyes, sees John gently dabbing the sweat off his brow with his handkerchief. He watches, keeps his tired eyes on John, who’s standing in front of him without a cane, and can’t help but think how long it’s been since anyone’s taken care of him, how cold and miserable he still feels, how the darkness of that curse felt. The darkness is still lingering in the corners of his mind, cloying and nauseating. He feels uncharacteristic pressure in his sinuses, and John starts to get blurry. He closes his eyes, feels his brow twitch upwards involuntarily, feels his lips twist.
John steps closer, though, and pulls him into a hug, Sherlock’s face pressed into John’s stomach. John rubs his arms up and down Sherlock’s back over the blankets, spreading warmth over him, and Sherlock pulls his arms out of the blankets to wrap them around John. His heartbeat is picking up, but his headache’s starting to go away, and he’s starting to feel warm. John, he thinks.
“You did such a good job,” John tells him, voice soft and warm. “Christ, you’re brilliant. You’re so brilliant, Sherlock. Thank you.”
Sherlock doesn’t think he can reply. He presses himself closer to John, feeling oddly vulnerable, but John only holds him closer.
“You’re brilliant,” John murmurs again. Oddly, Sherlock feels his shoulders shake, feels something he refuses to call a sob rise in his throat. Shame trickles over him, but one of John’s hands comes up to weave into his hair, fingers warm and gentle. “It’s alright,” John says. “It’s all done. You were – you were incredible, Sherlock. Thank you. It’s alright.”
They’re quiet for a moment, and Sherlock focuses on keeping his breathing steady, on trying to relax, on the warmth of John surrounding him, on John’s magic and his physical presence. John’s fingers are stroking through his hair, and he still occasionally tells him it’s alright, and Sherlock thinks he should feel embarrassed, but somehow, he doesn’t. He takes a few deep breaths, tries to get himself under control, breathes deep until his breaths no longer stutter, until his eyes feel dry, until the cloying darkness of the curse is just a memory.
“Alright?” John asks him.
Sherlock nods, but doesn’t move. “Your leg?” He manages once he feels a bit more composed, his voice quiet and muffled against John’s shirt.
John laughs, and Sherlock feels the vibrations against his cheek. It’s wonderful, he thinks.
“It’s alright. It’s more than alright. It’s perfect,” John says.
Sherlock smiles into John’s shirt, relaxes against him further. “Good. It was cold,” he tells him again. “It hurt.”
“Feel better now?” John asks, something gruff in his voice.
Sherlock nods against him, doesn’t want to move his head away, wants to keep feeling the vibrations of John’s voice.
“Didn’t realize it’d affect you like that,” John says, still stroking his fingers through Sherlock’s hair. “Should have.”
Sherlock shakes his head. “It’s fine,” he says. “I’m fine.”
“Yeah,” Sherlock says. “I’m tired.”
“Stay like this a while, then,” John says, and his voice is still a little bit gruff, quiet, hushed.
“You’ll get tired,” Sherlock says.
“I won’t,” John says. “I promise.”
Sherlock smiles, feeling flushed and drowsy, but warm and safe. John continues to stroke his hair, continues to rub his back. Sherlock shivers at the sensation.
“Alright?” John asks.
“Feels good,” Sherlock admits, his voice barely above a whisper. His heart is beating fast, and he knows that this is different, that this is new, but surrounded by John like he is, having spent the past few hours with his magic deeply intertwined with John’s, sitting in his secret room that’s dripping with John’s magic, he can’t bring himself to move, to deny himself this.
“Good,” John murmurs.
He’s not sure how long they stay like that, but he thinks he could stay like that forever and it would be alright. He doesn’t want to move, doesn’t want John’s fingers to leave his hair, doesn’t want John’s hand to stop moving up and down his back and shoulders. He sighs, though, and lets his tired arms drop to rest on his knees and then circles them loosely around the back of John’s thighs.
“Alright?” John asks him again.
“Mm,” Sherlock says.
“Are you hungry?” John asks. “It’s gotten a bit late. You should eat. We could order a curry.”
“I don’t know,” Sherlock says, which isn’t strictly true, but he doesn’t want to leave this room, doesn’t want to leave John. He feels as if once they leave, none of this will have happened, as if the spell will be broken.
John chuckles, though, and Sherlock shifts his head and dares to look up at him.
“Hello, you,” John says when they make eye contact, smiling in a way Sherlock hasn’t seen before. There are birds on his shoulders again, and Sherlock can’t help but flush. John shifts his hand and brushes Sherlock’s hair off his forehead, lets his thumb linger on his temple. Sherlock shivers again, but neither of them comments on it this time.
“Thank you,” John says, looking at him in a way that makes Sherlock feel as if his heart is going to leap out of his chest. One of the birds nuzzles against John’s jaw.
“You don’t need to thank me,” Sherlock says. His voice surprises him in its softness. He doesn't know what else to say.
“I do,” John says. He brushes his thumb against Sherlock’s cheekbone this time, and Sherlock doesn't mean to, but he leans into the touch, feels his eyes drift closed for just a moment.
“You’re so brilliant,” John murmurs again, his voice quiet. “And so – you’re so handsome,” he says, voice turning to something just above a whisper.
Sherlock looks up at him, his heart pounding. John leans down a little bit closer, and somehow, Sherlock finds himself stretching up to meet him, and before he realizes what’s happening, John’s lips are pressing ever so gently against his, soft and sweet. They stay like that for just a moment, a perfect moment in which it feels like time stops, in which Sherlock thinks his heart will beat out of his chest, in which the feeling of John surrounding him is overwhelmingly strong, and then John’s lips slide off of his, but he doesn’t go far.
“Alright?” John asks, his thumb still stroking over Sherlock’s cheekbone, his eyes shifting over Sherlock’s face, impossibly warm, impossibly real.
Sherlock swallows, lips parted, unsure he can speak. He manages a nod, unable to take his eyes off of John. John smiles, his eyes crinkling, his thumb still sliding over Sherlock’s cheek. He leans down again, and this time Sherlock knows what to expect, but that doesn’t make it any less perfect, any less brilliant. His hands find John’s back again and curl into the back of his shirt, and John kisses him a little bit longer this time, shifts the angle of his lips just so, cradles Sherlock’s head in his hands.
“You’re brilliant,” John tells him again when they part, voice hushed.
“John,” Sherlock says, unsure what else to say, unsure how to proceed.
“Do you realize how much you’ve done for me, even before my leg?” John asks. He’s still smiling, still talking to Sherlock in that quiet, intimate voice that’s making Sherlock feel like he’s melting.
“I haven’t done anything,” Sherlock denies.
John shakes his head. “You’ve done so much,” he says, and he sounds so sure that Sherlock almost feels like he can believe him. “I was so – I don’t think you know how miserable I was before I moved in with you, but I couldn’t keep being miserable around you, not when you’re so… so bloody you all the time. You’re – I know I say it all the time, but you really are brilliant,” John tells him. “I’m not usually – I’m rubbish at this, at talking, but you really – after today, after what you did for me today, I can’t just – I can’t just not tell you that you’re –“ John’s voice cuts off, sounds a bit choked. He looks away for a moment, then looks back, and when he speaks again, it’s with resolve, his voice determined. “You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me. You saved my life, even before my leg. You’re brilliant.”
Sherlock doesn’t know what to say or how to respond. There’s something fluttering in his stomach, something warm. He feels as if he could cry, though he’s not sad, and he can’t help the sting that forms once again behind his eyes. His fingers curl further into the back of John’s shirt, and he looks away for a moment, manages a shaky breath.
“Alright?” John asks, voice gentle.
“I –“ He finds that he has no idea what to say next, and he looks up at John helplessly, feeling a rush of emotion he doesn’t know what to do with.
“It’s alright,” John tells him.
“John, it’s – what you said–” He takes a deep breath, looks away for a moment, and makes himself start again. “I’m not very good at this, either. Talking. I’m sorry. You’re – I didn't think anyone would ever… I’m not used to having even a friend, let alone… let alone you.” He can’t make sense of the words that just came out of him, can’t imagine there’s any way John can, either. He feels frustrated, embarrassed.
“You have me,” John confirms, voice soft.
Sherlock feels like he can’t breathe, like his brain has gone offline. “I do?” he asks.
John leans down, kisses him again. “Yes. Always,” John murmurs, right next to his lips. Sherlock shivers, and John kisses him again, closing the scant distance between them easily, pressing their lips together gently, sweetly, perfectly. They stay that way for a moment, John standing on his own two legs, Sherlock leaning up to meet him in a kiss, surrounded by the soft lights and flowers.
“Shall we get a curry?” John asks a moment later, smiling.
Sherlock smiles back, feels as if his world has been turned upside down, feels a lightness in his chest that’s new and so wonderful that it scares him. “Yes,” he says.
John helps him up and herds him back out to the living room, hands lingering on him more than before, body so close that Sherlock feels like all his hair is standing on end. John settles him on the sofa, and makes sure his blankets are still securely around him, then kisses him again and goes to the kitchen for the takeaway menus. Sherlock pulls the blankets close and lays down, a smile he can’t control blooming on his face, sure he’s never smiled like this before. He curls towards the back of the sofa and holds his fingers out, makes soft lights and weaves his fingers in the patterns he’s known since he was a child. His smile grows as watches them, and he finds them beautiful.
John comes back a moment later, menu in hand, and sits in the little space between the edge of the sofa and Sherlock’s back. He peers over and sees the lights, and smiles. “That’s lovely,” he tells him.
Sherlock keeps moving his fingers, keeps letting the lights swirl. “I’ve always thought so, too,” he says.
John leans down and kisses him on the temple, and when Sherlock turns his head to look up at him, John kisses his eyebrow and his cheekbone, the corner of his mouth, and finally his lips, gently.
“Thank you,” John tells him, voice quiet and intense. “Thank you so much, Sherlock. So much. This is – I didn't think I’d ever be able to walk normally again, I really didn’t. You’re incredible. Honestly, I don’t think it’s even hit me yet, what you’ve done.”
Sherlock’s lips curl into a tiny smile, his cheeks flushed. “Thank you,” he tells John.
John tangles their fingers together without taking his eyes away from Sherlock’s. “What are you thanking me for? I just laid there,” he says.
Sherlock shakes his head. “You’ve done so much more than that,” he says.
John hesitates, then brings his free hand up again, strokes his thumb over Sherlock’s cheekbone once more. “Is this really alright?” he asks, voice quiet.
Sherlock nods, heart clenching. “I – it’s hard for me to believe it’s really happening,” he admits, making him feel vulnerable, exposed, raw, but somehow, he thinks that’s okay.
“Why’s that?” John asks.
“I don’t know,” Sherlock says, voice barely above a whisper. “It’s – I’ve never… I don’t know what it means.”
John smiles. “It means I love you,” he says, and Sherlock swallows, feels his heartbeat lodge somewhere in his throat, feels frozen in time. “It means I want to be with you. If you’d like.”
“I’d like,” Sherlock blurts immediately, then blinks, realizing what he’s said. John begins to laugh, high-pitched giggles, and then he’s kissing him and laughing at the same time, and Sherlock thinks he’s melting into the couch.
“You’d like?” John says a moment later, mirth gleaming in his eyes.
“Very much,” Sherlock says, smiling. He takes a moment, gathers his courage, thinks about the warm fluttering that’s been in his stomach since John’s moved in and realizes what it means. “I love you,” he says, voice barely above a whisper.
John’s face stretches into a soft, tender smile. “Brilliant,” he says.
They kiss again, warm and gentle and sweet. It’s quite some time before they manage to call for the takeaway, and when it comes, John trots down the stairs to get it on his own two feet, and Sherlock watches him go with a smile.
Later on, lying in the grass together in what has now become their secret room, Sherlock smiles, his head resting on John’s chest, John’s fingers stroking through his hair. He thinks of how this room once was, how he once was, and for the first time in his life, he feels like he belongs, like he’s worthy.
“You’re perfect,” he murmurs to John, overcome with emotion and gratitude.
John chuckles, slow and warm, and Sherlock feels it underneath his cheek and nuzzles into it. “Nobody’s perfect,” John says, his voice light.
“You are,” Sherlock says. “To me.”
“So are you,” John says. There’s a smile in his voice. “To me.”
Sherlock lips curl into a small smile and deep in his heart, he believes him. To Sherlock, who sees all magic, a new and different kind of magic is born. Around them, more flowers bloom as the butterflies gently flap their twinkling wings, and in the center of it all, Sherlock realizes he’s found something more beautiful, more precious, and more magical than anything around him, and he smiles.