July 3, 2002
It was a beautiful summer day. Remus paused in the lane and took a deep breath. The roses twining through the hedgerow were at their peak of bloom, and their scent lay heavy on the summer air. Severus had dead-headed some for petals and was letting others die so he could harvest rose hips for medicinal teas and cordials ("Vitamin C - don't look at me like that, your immune system needs all the help it can get"). Less explicable as good medical practice was Severus' announcement that he wanted to try putting up his own rose hip jam, and maybe some wine jelly using the fall grape harvest.
Who would have thought it? Severus Snape, Handy Housewife. Remus waved to the across-the-lane neighbour and laughed to himself as he opened the gate. One would never have guessed that Severus would be house-proud after nearly twenty years of having the Hogwarts elves see to his every need. Then again, after Spinner's End -
A sparrow fluttered skywards as Remus passed the butterfly bush, followed by a flash of yellow from a goldfinch. He had put out a birdfeeder last winter to see what would happen, and the local songbirds had evidently liked the menu well enough to stay after the snow melted. Severus had snorted and mumbled something about "let them fly south," but Remus had caught him bringing home sunflower seeds one night. And what other reason was there for him to render his own suet and "casually" hang it in the back yard once Neville had finished redoing the pleasaunce?
I have your number, love. You're just as sentimental as the next person. Not that I'll tell a soul.
The house was dark enough after the bright noon sun that Remus had to take a moment for his eyes to adjust. Severus waved vaguely to him from the parlour. "How did it go?"
"Well enough." Remus dropped his briefcase on the sideboard and nodded to Aurora Sinistra. Severus had warned that his Deputy would be over to review their Slytherins' disciplinary and academic records, with an eye to selecting the best candidates for prefect and possible Head Boy/Girl. "Hullo, Aurora. How is it going?"
Sinistra flicked a stray lock of hair over her shoulder. She was not a large woman, and the stack of paperwork on the coffee table looked enormous next to her. "Well enough. I don't envy Anais and Hagrid - "
"They're Gryffindors. They should expect that they'll have twice as many detentions as the rest of the school." Severus, in a loose green t-shirt and a pair of jeans too old for hiking, spoke without heat. "Reckless little beasts."
Remus shook his head. Severus would never let him forget that Gryffindor courage frequently translated to risk taking and rules breaking. "I'm sure they've been gold as good." He made sure to brush his hand across Severus' shoulder as he made his way to the kitchen. "Lunch?"
"Potted meat in the pantry, or tea and toast. We're been working, you know." Severus had to raise his voice over Sinistra’s discreet giggle. "I suppose I should ask how things went in London."
Remus checked the cooler, which was bare except for a single slightly limp cabbage. He wondered if Minerva would mind them showing up without warning for dinner. "Fine. Harry and Pongo were playing chess and swapping lies about their school days when I left." The breadbox yielded two slices of whole wheat bread, and as promised, there was potted meat next to the jam and a jar of cocktail onions. It was too bad Remus hated potted meat.
He snapped his fingers at the toaster (a housewarming gift from his mother, and charmed to work without electricity). "Anyone want tea? We have that, at least - "
"Yes, please. And don't worry about lunch. Minerva sent over a hamper." Sinistra, looking slightly smug, levitated a large wicker basket from the foyer. She made a complicated gesture, and the basket unpacked itself on the dining room table. "No wine, alas, but plenty of everything else. She said we'd need the provender."
Severus ran his hand back over his hair. It was tied back in the summer heat, and already limp and somewhat sweaty. Remus couldn't wait to get a good, long sniff. "And the elves being bored had nothing to do with it, I'm sure."
"Of course not," said Sinistra. She waited for Severus to pull out a seat for her - she was not old, but her manners were from another era - and contemplated the selection of pates, cold meats, vegetables, and breads. Minerva had even sent two carafes of sparkling juice and a bottle of balsamic vinegar for the salad. "Remus, there's more than enough for three."
"Rather." Remus unpacked his briefcase and unshrank the contents. "I hope you don't mind if I read. Harry asked me to look over something for the aurors. Their Dark Arts specialist is on holiday in Corfu."
"Muggle magazines?" Severus picked up a copy of Journal of the Royal Mathematics Society for January 1885. "What are the aurors doing with these?"
Remus made himself a sandwich with rye bread, baked ham, Swiss cheese, and a coarse brown mustard that smelled exactly like the wonderful stuff his Oncle Gil served to his tour groups. "Not sure. Harry said they were in the subject's house." It was the same mustard, and it was several minutes before Remus spoke. The rest of the food was equally good, if the way the others were stuffing themselves was any guide.
"May I ask who was the subject was?" Sinistra was on her second glass of sparkling raspberry cider when she finally spoke. She picked up a magazine at random and flipped through the soft old pages. "If you're at liberty to talk, that is."
"It's all right, I suppose. The arrest should be hitting the wireless any time. It was Penthesilea Fentiman,” said Remus. “One of the last remaining Death Eaters, or at least so strongly associated with Voldemort that she fled the country after Harry finally ended him.”
"Her?" Severus nearly dropped a spoonful of truly excellent fruit compote onto his lap. "I thought she was in Ulan Bator!"
"That's what Harry said. Supposedly she returned to Britain a few months ago under a glamour and set up housekeeping on the Sussex Downs." Remus watched as Sinistra, intent on the magazines, nearly impaled her cheek on a forkful of chicken salad. "Anything interesting? I confess that I don't understand half of what's in these. I think Harry wants me to check them for curses, but the articles are Greek to me."
"Hm?" Sinistra chewed absently. "Thought you took a NEWT in Astronomy."
"That was me, Aurora. Remus was too busy revising his Dark Arts exams and covering for his friends when they broke curfew and tried to raid the Slytherin girls' dorms." Severus raised his chin just enough to look smug. "Pettigrew never did get over his fear of knickers after - "
"It was the closest the poor bugger ever came to a real bird." Leave it to Severus to bring up one of the Marauders' least successful pranks. Sirius had had to dye his hair back to his natural colour after the Blackstone girl chucked a cauldronful of Mrs. Claireau's Never-Fail Automatic Blonding Solution at his head. "And I didn't even try to cover that time. Sirius and James got what they deserved. I swear, Lily nearly broke up with James for good that - "
Sinistra had dropped her fork onto her plate with a sharp clatter. Severus sat up straight and reached for her hand. "Aurora? Are you - "
She batted his hand away and shoved the magazine across the table at Remus. "This article - are you absolutely certain the aurors didn't look at this already?"
"Quite. It was still sealed when Harry gave it to me." Remus had to hold the journal out at arm's length to read more than the title. "'On the Dynamics of an Asteroid?' What's so special about this? It's all equations."
"Here." Severus stood up and peered over his shoulder. "Good God. I see what you mean, Celeste. Is that really Dee's Conjecture?"
"Yes, and look how it's being applied." Sinistra's fork stabbed at the page. "I've never seen anything like this - "
"And well you shouldn't. I can't believe the Ministry let this go into print at all."
"Would the two of you make sense? Not everyone is a mathematical genius, you know!" Remus glared up at Severus, who ignored him completely. "Dee's Conjecture? Isn't that arithmancy?"
"Yes, and very advanced. Add in astronomy and you - " Severus paged through the article, pointer finger tracing the equations, lips moving silently as he worked out each one. Remus, appetite vanished, folded his arms across his chest and waited.
"Aurora?" Remus had never heard quite that tone in Severus' voice. "Please tell me I'm wrong. This can't possibly be what I think it is."
"I'll have to check the equations in my office. But - I very much doubt that you're wrong." Sinistra moved around the table and appropriate the magazine. "Whoever this - 'James Moriarty, Professor of Mathematics, University of Leeds' was, he was no Muggle."
"He was playing with fire. I'm amazed no one picked it up on it at the time. The Ministry - "
"Would someone please tell me what has your knickers in a twist?" Remus spoke more harshly than he'd intended. Sinistra jumped, and Remus braced himself for a scathing comment about not scaring the guest. He was not prepared for what Severus said next.
"This article is nothing more than the spell formulae for a ritual that was banned sometime in the fourth century." Severus ran a hand back over his hair. "It was developed in Thessaly and used extensively by Greek witches. The magical authorities suppressed it after Christianity became the state religion because it was so dangerous."
The hot room was too cold. Remus shivered and looked up at his lover. "This article is about asteroids. You can't possibly mean - "
"I still need to check this over, but I can tell you this much. It's not about asteroids," said Sinistra. She was much too pale under her summer tan. "And I could be wrong. But this - "
Severus took up the phrase as she turned away, eyes closed as if she could deny what was on the yellowing paper. "We have to test it, Remus. But it looks very much as if this paper is describing someone's efforts to reconstruct the ritual known as Drawing Down the Moon."
Drawing Down the Moon - Ancient and extremely dangerous spell once practiced by Greek witches. It was reportedly used to disrupt the Persian fleet at the Battle of Salamis; assist in the construction of Emperor Nero's Domus Aurea; break the spirit of the defenders at Masada; avenge the destruction of the Roman army at Teutoburger Wald; and possibly break Emperor Darius' 10,000 Immortals at Gaugamela.
Its last recorded use was against the Emperor Constantine's forces at Milvian Bridge, when the ritual was interrupted by a Christian priest. The priest was killed by the witch channelling the spell energy, but the failure of the ritual to grant victory to Maxentius over Constantine was widely seen as the judgment of God against Constantine's enemies, and was a factor in the eventual conversion of most of European wizardry to Christianity.
The spell involves invoking the magical and gravitational power of the moon onto a single person, almost invariably a woman, who then uses the power as a sort of battery in working some powerful piece of ritual magic. Records are fragmentary, but it is believed that the ritual was usually performed during the new moon, when the moon was weak enough to be controlled, and was initiated by a man who acted as a conduit for the power transfer to the woman. The failure rate was high (one side effect is reportedly the creation of the first group of werewolves sometime before the first century of the Common Era), and the spell was used only as a last resort.
Drawing Down the Moon was suppressed soon after the Council of Nicaea made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire and the Wizarding World began its initial withdrawal from the Muggle world....
From The Encyclopaedia of Obsolete Spells, by Anderton Goshawk.
So much for a quiet summer day. Remus stared at the encyclopedia entry until his vision blurred despite his reading glasses. I>Next time say "no" if Harry asks for help, or charge enough to make it worth your while.
Sinistra had been so upset over the magazine article that she'd insisted that Remus make her a copy to show to Minerva (and probably Filius, who had a second cousin at Gringott's whose grandmother had worked in Spell Research for the Ministry back in the Zulu Wars, and certainly Binns, who might have met a Victorian Moriarty, or at least an Irishman or two). Severus had then made a second copy for himself and settled down with a notepad and a pencil to make notes despite Remus feebly protesting that it really wasn't necessary. Evidently an obsolete spell appearing in a hundred year old magazine took precedence over school business, yard work, and a quiet supper in the garden with one's lover.
Remus had finally given up on the article after an hour of annoying Severus with very basic questions and decided to concentrate on the magazines themselves. He had barely passed Basic Arithmancy despite tutoring from Sirius, Lily, and an officious Ravenclaw prefect, and it was clear that Severus had forgotten more about the subject than Remus would ever know.
He took the bundle into still room and ran through the usual battery of diagnostic and detection spells. Two frustrating hours later, he was certain that the magazines were completely free of curses, portkeys, horcruxes, hidden text, or anything more dangerous than dust mites and old ink. Harry had said something about working late, so he scribbled a very brief report, shrank the journals and tucked them into his briefcase, and sent Kleopatra winging off to London.
Severus barely looked up from a thick, crumbling tome clearly borrowed from the school library as Remus shut the door and shuffled into the dining room. Parchment and notepaper covered the table, and an advanced spell dictionary, something in arithmantic Hebrew, and a slide rule lay discarded on the ceramic plate they used for a centrepiece.
"Anything?" Remus took a seat next to him and began paging through the spell dictionary.
Severus grunted. "Not much. Only the usual warnings about it being dangerous, can only be used by women, abandoned after Milvian Bridge, etc. I could have said as much after Binns' lecture on the late antique."
"In that case we can probably relax. Clearly no one in the 19th century understood it."
"Maybe, maybe not." Severus shoved the Hogwarts volume toward him. "Here. I thought the name 'James Moriarty' sounded familiar, and I was right. His entry in the DNB says he was sacked right after that article was published, no reason given. How much would you bet that he figured in one of those late Victorian scandals Binns drones on about?"
"You paid that much attention? You're a better man than I am." Remus rested his chin on one hand and began to read. Like so many mathematical geniuses, James Moriarty had produced superb work at an early age. He had been appointed to a university chair on the strength of a single article, written several fine pieces on various abstruse problems (had he really come so close to solving Fermat's Last Theorem?), and had what looked to be an enviable career. No wife, a brother in the military, various nieces and nephews (a suffragette who went on to take a degree at Cambridge, an officer at Jutland, a miniature painter who stunned Edinburgh when he went Fauvist, etc.)....
It was the portrait of a solid, unexceptional late Victorian academic who had fallen afoul of internal university politics, and there was not the slightest hint that James Moriarty, MA, had had any exposure to the Wizarding World.
"I wonder how he sussed out the spell in the first place? I don't - can't believe this is a coincidence." Remus, intrigued despite himself, pulled his reading glasses down his nose to look at Severus without squinting. "It's too specific."
"Agreed. There's also no other reason for a respected academic to be sacked for a paper on celestial mechanics, especially since his contemporaries admitted they didn't understand a word of it." Severus shoved another volume at Remus. "There's more. Here's the entry on the Fentiman family. Note that Penthesilea came from a long and respected line of Muggle soldiers, not scientists. How did she even know about the spell, let alone where to look? The only Muggleborn I've ever seen with that sort of intellectual curiosity is Granger, and believe me, Miss Fentiman was not in the same league."
"Muggleborn?" Remus dropped the book with a soft thump. "You're certain?"
Severus made a disgusted sound. "Of course I'm certain. She was a few years behind us, so I had the dubious privilege of teaching her for five years. She was definitely Muggleborn - Hufflepuff, of course - and was so unfamiliar with the Wizarding World that she initially thought the Fat Friar was a 'hologram,' whatever that is."
"Not what one would call prime Death Eater material."
"To say the least. I was shocked when she turned up beside Draco Malfoy to be Marked." Severus shook his hair back from his face; as usual, some of the front portion that was too long to be a fringe and too short to tie back had swung into his eyes. "No one quite knew what she was doing, or why the Dark Lord accepted her in the first place. I scarcely knew her."
Remus skimmed the FENTIMAN FAMILY entry in the DNB. Severus was right. Not a single Fentiman had been a Wizard or Witch before Penthesilea, and based on the family's history, he wondered if she had been destined for Sandhurst before that Hogwarts letter appeared. And why would a Muggleborn who had arrived at Hogwarts a decade after Voldemort's first defeat even want to be a Death Eater? None of it made sense.
Remus had originally planned to stop by the grocer's after lunch, but the shops were long closed by the time he looked at the clock. Thank God Sinistra had left the picnic hamper before they added to the stack of takeaway boxes in the dustbin. They had a tab at the chip shop and the Indian storefront as it was, and it wouldn't be long before the Chinese place that had taken over from Madam Puddifoot followed suit.
They worked steadily as evening faded into true night. Remus concentrated on historical background (surely Moriarty had known someone with Wizarding connections?), while Severus filled page after page with notes and arithmantic calculations. The only sound was the scratching of quill on parchment, and the soft rush of wind through the trees.
Severus looked up as the bell from St. Simon Magus struck 11:00. He rubbed at his eyes and undid his ponytail. "I'm done. Nothing makes sense."
"Agreed." Remus yawned till his jaw cracked. "I think I've read this paragraph at least four times. Did you know Anna Sprengel made up the Golden Dawn as a joke?"
"It doesn't surprise me. The only one of that lot who had any talent was Yeats, and he was too busy freeing Ireland to do more than dabble." Severus dropped his hair elastic on the table and pushed his chair back. "Bed. We need rest if we're to make any sense of this."
"Oh God." Remus yawned again and waited for Severus to finish setting the nightly spells on the house. The windows swished shut and locked themselves, and the lamps automatically dimmed to an orange glow. "You're looking for sense? I swear, Harry will laugh himself sick at the way we're going on. Penthesilea probably bought these at a jumble and was planning to make gun cotton."
"She barely scraped an Acceptable in Potions. She wouldn't know gun cotton if she had it for elevenses." Severus was surprisingly light-footed on the stairs, likely from training for his summer hikes. Remus followed slowly. His eyes had started to water from fatigue and too much reading.
They washed and dressed and crawled into bed without a word beyond the usual carping at how awful Severus' tooth powder tasted and how vain Remus was about his hair, and would Severus please stop hogging the sheets even if it was a warm night? Neither was awake enough for sex, so they settled down after a brief kiss and a murmured "g'night."
"We can't get out! It's going to cave in!"
"I should have listened to Mum and gone to uni! Tin mining sucks!"
"You're all a bunch of nancy-boys!"
"Draco, I'm female. Now be quiet and start rapping. Someone's bound to hear us."
The water was past his knees, and rising fast. Remus grabbed a shovel and banged on the ceiling beams. Three of the local pixies had grabbed Neville by the hair and were waltzing in mid-air about a horizontal Draco (thank God he'd brought the flying carpet into the mine!), while Hermione and Poppy chipped away at the ceiling. Severus was somewhere up there, waiting with the picnic hamper, and -
"Remus! Open up!" The whole house vibrated as someone banged on the front door. Remus woke with a gasping cry and flipped over so violently he nearly bashed himself on the wall.
"Sev - what the - "
"Whoever the hell it is, they're dead." Severus, naked, angry, and already reaching for his wand, swore at the alarm. The salamander in the hearth squeaked and withdrew behind the coals as he yanked on Remus' favourite pair of joggers and pounded down the stairs. "It's two in the bloody morning - "
Remus sat up with a gasp. The banging at the front door was louder, and he could almost make out words. "I'm coming, don't hex anyone - "
He pulled on Severus' dressing gown and summoned his wand. The garment was several inches too long, and he nearly tripped at the head of the stairs. Severus, hair sticking up in a strange pouf at his hairline, scowled up at him.
"It's Potter. What he thinks he's doing at this ungodly hour - "
"Snape! Let me in!" Harry sounded near panic. His shadow was a dark blur through the defensive field on the front door. "I need to see Remus! It's about Fentiman!"
Remus cursed and half-ran down the stairs, belting up the garment as he went. Severus scowled at the door and yanked it open as he reached the hall, and Harry was through and locking it behind him before either man could react. His eyes were wild, and his hair was slick with rain and sweat.
"Harry. What is going on?" Remus, still muzzy from the dream, dashed sleep out of his eyes. Severus' mouth had opened slightly. "Did Fentiman commit suicide?"
"No such luck. Did you find out why she wanted those magazines? They were warded tighter than a Gringott's vault." Harry said a word, and the moisture vanished from his clothing and glasses with a quick puff of steam.
"No, we're still working on it. But we think it's - "
"Drawing Down the Moon, right? That's what our arithmancer thought. Scared the piss out of him." Harry coughed and threw out his hands. "We had her in the toughest cell at the Ministry. She's not much of a witch, but Kingsley wouldn't take any chances - "
"You could have owled us this, or floo'd in the morning." Severus curled his lip. "You realize what time it is, Potter? We were asleep after spending most of the day on your work."
"I know, and I'm sorry. But this couldn't wait. I apparated straight here, no time for a broom." Harry looked from one to the other. "We're still not sure how she did it, but she broke out of her cell an hour ago. Two dead aurors, one in St. Mungo's - "
"Did she get out of the Ministry? Do you know where she's headed?" Remus went cold at the thought of someone powerful enough to bull her out of a Ministry holding pen. "She's on her way here, isn't she? She wants her magazines - "
"Here?" Harry started to laugh. It was not a pretty sound. "Oh, I wish. At least we'd be prepared. No such luck."
"Then what the hell are you doing here?" Severus bared his teeth. Remus' joggers were a good two inches too short in the leg, and his ankles were ridiculously white against the dark fabric. "Just because you lost your prisoner - "
"Shut it, Snape," Harry snarled. "What I'm trying to say is that she's not headed anywhere, at least not that we can get to. Do you know where the women's holding area is?"
"In the basement." Remus edged closer to Severus before there was a full blown eruption. "Near the Department of - oh. Good God. Not that."
"Oh yes. There hasn't been a shift yet, but - "
Severus started to curse, low and steadily. He turned toward the living room and made a slashing gesture. "You let prisoners near the Time Turners? Dear God, this government deserves everything it - "
"I know that!" Harry yelled. "I wasn't there! Dawlish was watching her, and they're going to question him as soon as he's conscious - "
"Harry." Remus swallowed. "Do you mean that she took a Time Turner?"
"Yes." Harry took off his glasses and scrubbed at his eyes. "She stole a Time Turner set to the 19th century and was gone before anyone could stop her. The only thing we can think is that she's trying to find the man who wrote that article so she can try Drawing Down the Moon."
Excerpt from headline in The Daily Prophet, 5 July 2002
EXPLOSION AT MINISTRY OF MAGIC
Two dead, Department of Mysteries damaged
...when asked, Ministry spokesman Percy Weasley stated that the explosion was the result of an experimental spell gone horribly wrong. "We are sorry beyond measure for the families of Miss Hereward and Mr. Sackville. The spell in question was designed to decontaminate hospital wards, and clearly needs more work - "
Excerpt from editorial in The Quibbler, 5 July 2002, printed on the page opposite the monthly game of Broom-O
...the lack of accountability by the Ministry is intolerable. One would think that they would have learned lesson from the ineptitude of the Fudge and Scrimgeour governments regarding the handling of the late unpleasantness with You-Know-Who, and it is most disturbing that a disaster of this magnitude could take place in such a delicate area as the Department of Mysteries.
We at the Quibbler demand a full list of the areas damaged and the possible danger to the Wizarding and Muggle populations....
This past was much better than Nazi Germany, even if Remus had walked directly into a large, steaming pile of horse dung. He made a face and muttered abstersi under his breath. "Welcome to 1891."
Severus, every inch the gentleman in a black suit and hat, rolled his eyes and positioned himself slightly in front of Remus in case a Muggle noticed the spell. They'd materialized on a side street across from Hyde Park on a quiet spring afternoon, but there were enough people about that public magic was not a good idea. "You really need to look where you're going," he said.
"No one warned me that the streets were full of - horseshit."
"Really, Lupin. The automobile is a small and inefficient device chugging through parks in Germany right now. All they have are horses. Did you expect the beasts to wear nappies?" A hansom cab drawn by a scrawny chestnut clattered past. "Do be more careful. We don't know how long it's going to take to find Miss Fentiman, tracking spells or no."
Tracking spells. That's why we're here in the first place. Remus had no idea how, or why, Harry and his Muggle friends at MI-6 had decided to send two middle-aged professors back to 1891 instead of, say, the most powerful wizard in Europe and a squad of trained professionals. Minerva must have told Harry about their journey back to 1938, though how pretending to be a tourist in Nazi Heidelberg would help in Victorian London was a good question.
Regardless, they were here. And so, if the Ministry time analysts were correct, was Penthesilea Fentiman. She had to be brought back to 2002 before she did irreparable damage to the timestream (like casting Drawing Down the Moon on the Queen? Assassinating the PM? Starting the Great War twenty years early? And why?), and it was up to Remus and Severus to do so.
No one so much as glanced at them as they took their place on the sidewalk. W division had given them surprisingly authentic and appropriate clothing and money, and one of their consultants, a stunning dark-haired woman whom everyone called "Mam'zelle," had found a pensioner from Major Boothroyd's office who was old enough to remember Victoria's Golden Jubilee. They'd both viewed the man's pensieve for background on the late 19th century, and Severus had spent two hours closeted with the cheerful old armourer just before they'd gone through the time portal. If they didn't pass for respectable provincial businessmen visiting London, they had only themselves to blame.
Severus paused to buy a copy of the The Illustrated London News from a small, shabby boy. Remus took a long, open-mouthed sniff of the London air (coal smoke pollen grass sweat dirt wool horseshit water brine dust garbage) and concentrated on the tracker stone Harry had slipped into the breast pocket of his jacket. Mam'zelle had charmed it to bring them to the general area of London where Penthesilea had arrived, and it would pulse slightly whenever they were near a place she'd visited.
The stone was warm, which meant they'd found her arrival point. Remus glanced up and down the street and pretended to check his watch. Most of the foot traffic was in the park, which was just starting to green up after the winter, and it was primarily female and middle to upper class. Remus wondered why until he remembered that Victorian women by and large did not work outside the home unless they were in service.
"Geroff, ya savage!" Severus swatted an urchin with his newspaper and joined Remus. He snarled something thick and unintelligible at another child, who was sucking her hand and looked close to tears. "Go on, there's none for ya here!"
Remus blinked. Severus had spent years smothering all trace of his working class Yorkshire accent, reportedly with the help of a dialect coach hired by Lucius Malfoy. "Severus? I don't - "
"Little fools. They tried to pick my pocket." Severus, once more speaking the Queen's English, curled his lip at the children and herded Remus down the sidewalk. "Serves them right."
"Built into our clothing, thanks to Major Boothroyd." Severus dodged two City types in immaculate black suits and glossy beaver hats. "They probably wouldn't understand proper English if Henry Higgins devoted a year to them, so don't look at me like that. Not everyone was raised in the Home Counties."
"True." Remus had spoken French better than English when he was a child. It had become something of an issue in dame school when the teacher turned out to be the daughter of a combat mage killed at Dunkirk. He'd used nothing but English at school after that. "Poor things, they're probably orphans."
Severus shook his head. "They're probably professional thieves. London is not a particularly safe place in these times." They were opposite the Marble Arch now, and he paused to watch a young, wild-haired man appear on the Speaker's Corner to harangue a crowd on the virtues of Anarchism and No Government while a pale young woman shoved pamphlets at anyone who paused for more than five seconds. "Any sign that we're on the right track?"
A beefy fellow in a checked shirt and battered felt hat had begun trading insults with the anarchist. The crowd seemed to be enjoying the show. "She was here - let's see. The further we go, the stronger it gets. Toward Bond Street, I think."
"Hm. The men's shopping districts." Severus looked thoughtful. "One would think she'd be heading for Harrod's if she hadn't transfigured a dress as soon as she arrived. Interesting."
"She'd have more freedom of movement in trousers. Any chance she might try to cross-dress?" The stone pulsed a bit faster as they crossed Gloucester Place and headed toward Mayfair. Some of the men could have passed for middle aged wizards, but he hadn't seen a woman in an ankle-length skirt and corset since Augusta Longbottom's death two years ago, and Remus had to remind himself not to stare.
"Not a chance. She has what that ridiculous movie with the cocoanuts would describe as 'vast tracts of land,' unless she's spent most of the last four years slimming." Severus paused at the corner to let a horse-drawn omnibus lumber past onto Oxford. Traffic had picked up considerably, and without street lights it was an incoherent tangle. "She'd need to blend in as much as possible - "
The pulsing abruptly sped up as they crossed a side street, then cut out once they'd passed and continued down Oxford Street. Remus tapped Severus on the arm and gestured. "I think she went that way."
Severus frowned down at him, then up at the street sign. "Baker Street? That's mainly residential. The DNB never mentioned Moriarty living in or near London, let alone an address. Why would she head there?"
"No idea. I'm following the stone. Maybe she doesn't know where she's going." Baker Street was mainly Georgian row houses, respectable and solid and dull. The foot traffic was almost entirely middle class, with a slight edge toward elderly women (landladies or cooks doing the shopping?) and nannies with prams. A few men, almost all solid citizens (or those trying to pass for solid citizens), strode through the lesser folk as if they were the personal owners of the sidewalk.
Severus made a rude noise and stepped over a crack in the pavement as they neared Marylebone. "At this rate we'll find her in Madame Tussaud's. I wonder if they've put up the Jack the Ripper exhibit yet?"
"Dear God, I hope not. That was what, in 1888? One wouldn't think they'd exploit it quite that quickly." Remus took off his brown wideawake and rubbed at his forehead. "I know they loved penny dreadfuls, but that seems a bit much."
"With our luck she's living in sin with Spring-Heeled Jack." Severus made a face as they crossed Marylebone. "There's Madame Tussaud's, just as I - "
Remus stopped. The pulsing had vanished as they walked past yet another row house. "Severus? I think we've found it." He turned and took a cautious step backwards. The vibration was strong enough that it was almost visible through his clothes, and he laughed at how easy it had been. "This one. She was here, and it wasn't too long ago."
"Well, well. It looks as if Potter and his friends aren't completely incompetent." Severus joined him at the front door of the building. "I wonder which - dear God! If this is someone's idea of a joke - "
"Joke? I don't understand." Remus squinted at the small brass plaque next to the house number. The sunlight bleached the engraving at the right angle to make it unreadable. "What does it say?"
"I'm going to strangle Potter with my bare hands." Severus nearly bruised his index finger stabbing at the plaque. "I knew there was a reason he sent us here instead of going himself!"
"Would you please make sense?" Remus muttered a light-dampening charm and began reading the plaque aloud. "221b. S. HOLMES - "
"Consulting Detective. Yes, I see it very well." Severus glared at the name as if he could destroy it simply by looking at it. "And I do not believe for one minute that Miss Fentiman came back in time to speak with Sherlock Holmes."
Footsteps creaked on the stairs inside the house. Remus grabbed Severus and dragged him back to the sidewalk seconds before the door opened and a sturdy middle-aged sort stuck her head out. She looked up and down the street, sighed, and withdrew, the door clicking faintly behind her.
It was madness. Utter madness. And yet -
"You know, Anthony Hope based his novels on a real political crisis in Ruritania." Remus pitched his voice low enough that he had to clear his throat.
Severus clenched his jaw. "I know about the Elphburg scandal. Remember that the Malfoys live in Strelsau."
"And you know that the Duke of Denver's grandfather was an amateur detective." Remus glanced up at the door. The woman - Mrs. Hudson? - was a vague shadow behind the glass. "If they were real, why not Sherlock Holmes? I'm sure the stories are an exaggeration, but why couldn't they be based on a real man?"
"Then why isn't he in the DNB? Why would there be something about an obscure professor and not a fashionable detective - " Severus' face went blank. "Professor Moriarty. Dear God. No wonder the name sounded familiar."
"Exactly." The door to 221b opened again. Mrs. Hudson - she couldn't be anyone else - poked her head out and beckoned to them. "Besides, this isn't Harry's style. He'd call you a bastard to your face."
"He's already done that, more often than I care to remember." Severus straightened his jacket and strode up the walk. "Point taken."
Mrs. Hudson waved them into a small foyer. She looked about Molly Weasley's age, with iron grey hair and a comfortable figure. "Here to see Mr. Holmes? I'm not surprised. Most folk are nervous. I've told Dr. Watson that his agent does him no favours, but of course he won't pay me no mind." She gestured at the stairs. "How should I announce you gentlemen? Mr. Holmes is in for visitors, which is a mercy considering the hours he keeps."
Remus thought for a moment, then said, "Mr. Prince and Mr. Cunningham. We're here on a rather delicate matter, so we'll count on his discretion."
Mrs. Hudson started up the seventeen stairs to the first storey. She said something that might have been "of course it's delicate, when is it not," but the stairs creaked a bit too loudly to be sure. She led them down a short hallway, knocked on a polished door, and stuck her head into what appeared to be a sitting room.
"Two gentlemen to see you on a delicate matter, Mr. Holmes. Mr. Prince and Mr. Cunningham."
The reply had the faintest touch of a smoker's rasp. "Of course. Please send them in, Mrs. Hudson."
The room was so close to the "recreated sitting room" at the Whitbread's tourist pub that Remus could almost hear the glasses clinking in the main bar. There was less dust, unquestionably thanks to Mrs. Hudson and the upstairs girl, and a panoramic view of the street that no ground floor pub could match, true, but the deal table loaded with retorts and test tubes and carefully labelled jars, the glowing violin in its velvet-lined case, the worn cushions on the basket chair by the fireplace, the humidor peeking out of a heap of coal in the scuttle -
Not a tourist trap, doesn't smell right. Bacon and eggs from breakfast, Sunlight Soap, cheap tobacco, sulfur and arsenic and metallic salts -
"Professor - Prince, was it? And Mr. Cunningham? Pray, sit." Mrs. Hudson started to withdraw as an impeccably dressed man stepped forward from the corner and gestured at two chairs. He waited for Remus and Severus to sit before flipping the tails of his jacket out of the way and positioning himself in the basket chair. "You must be exhausted, coming all the way from Scotland and then tracking your quarry past Hyde Park and its cabs. Would you care for tea?"
Severus smirked just enough to Remus to see the corner of his mouth twitch. "Of course you noticed the - sidewalk debris on our shoes, and I assume one or both of us is wearing something distinctly Scottish, possibly a twig or bit of vegetation. May I ask how you knew to address me as Professor? Term is over and I don't recall any chalk on my clothing."
Remus did his best not to react as Severus calmly dissected Holmes' statement. The man himself - tall, balding, thinner than Severus but broader through the shoulders - cocked his head to the side, then chuckled softly. "Clearly you are familiar with my methods. I shall have to tell Dr. Watson that his little foray into publishing has travelled much farther than his sales figures might indicate."
Mrs. Hudson, shaking her head, entered with a tea service. She set the tea service on a small table before the fireplace, poured three cups, and exited. Holmes waited for the door to click shut behind him to continue.
"You are indeed correct, Professor. There are traces of gravel from the Speaker's Corner on your instep, and although he's done an admirable job of cleaning his boots, the trained observer can discern the evidence of Mr. Cunningham's encounter with a cab horse." Holmes steepled his fingers as Remus added three sugars to one of the cups and handed it to Severus. His eyes narrowed slightly. "You both bear signs of fatigue indicative of a long journey, and since 'Cunningham' is a Scottish name, clearly you began in the far north - Highlands, perhaps? - and came south, possibly on the overnight train.
"As for addressing you by your correct title, I will not insult you by mentioning how deeply a life in the classroom may alter a man's mannerisms, posture, and speech. I was quite certain of your profession before your companion convinced you to cease vacillating on the sidewalk."
"Indeed." Severus sipped at his tea and carefully replaced the flowered cup on its saucer. If he thought it was a joke now, he was keeping it well hidden. "You more than live up to your reputation for observation. One trusts that your reputation for discretion is equally deserved."
"A consulting detective must needs be discreet, as I have had to remind Dr. Watson and his agent on more than one occasion." Holmes' eyes were indeed grey, a dark metallic colour instead of the clear grey one might have expected from one's childhood reading. "Now, you have travelled a long way - a very long way, it seems - to seek my counsel. I cannot begin without facts."
Severus tapped his fingers against the arm of the chair in the old Order code - your turn. Remus reached into his breast pocket and pulled out a school photograph of Penthesilea Fentiman, carefully altered to freeze the image and give her a Victorian hairstyle and frock. "We're looking for this young lady. She's the daughter of an old associate of ours, and unfortunately has suffered a nervous collapse."
Holmes accepted the photograph. The corner of his mouth twitched as he studied the painfully average face. "Continue."
"Her name is Penthesilea Fentiman. She disappeared about three days ago - "
The rehearsed story was close enough to the truth: Miss Fentiman had been confined to a secure facility while specialists were consulted, had managed to escape, and had headed for London. They had traced her as far as the city and lost the trail in this vicinity, and were seeking assistance in finding her before she did herself a mischief. Remus had to improvise a bit - Miss Fentiman had hardly been a brilliant student preparing for exams when her brain gave way from overwork and a hopeless passion for one of her tutors - but he could not tell a 19th century Muggle that they were time travellers seeking a deranged witch.
Holmes did not react until he had finished. He then tossed the photograph on the tea table and stood. "I cannot help you without facts, and you have given me none. Unless and until you decide to unburden yourselves, you have wasted my time, and yours."
The stone pulsed slowly in Remus' pocket, a warm, steady beat that had not changed since the moment they had stepped inside the building. Remus leaned forward in his chair. "We have traced Miss Fentiman to this block, sir. She was seen entering this building. Her condition is grave, and - "
"When precisely did our universities begin admitting women for degrees?" There was a steely note in Holmes' voice that had not been there before. Severus sat up and stared directly at him. "They may attend lectures, certainly, but no more than that, for all the agitation by discontented feminists. Your story is nonsense, and I am a busy man."
"Perhaps Cunningham misspoke. His time in American may have coloured his view of female education." Severus was almost too calm. Holmes turned his head at the words. "Miss Fentiman is not unintelligent, but I would scarcely describe her as 'brilliant.' However, she is certainly a threat to herself and others. Her recent obsession with this Professor Moriarty - "
"Moriarty?" Holmes leaned forward slightly. His eyes narrowed as he looked directly at Severus. "Professor James Moriarty? Indeed. A harmless academic, by all accounts."
"I've never met him. However, I have seen his influence on this unfortunate young person, and I must regard it as pernicious." Severus tensed slightly, then relaxed. His eyes wandered to the hearth, then to the work table and gleaming equipment. "One might almost call it erotomania."
"De Clerambault's syndrome." Holmes turned to look at Remus. Remus smiled and took another sip of strong black tea. "Perhaps you would be best served by an alienist. I have neither seen nor know Miss Fentiman."
A coal tumbled forward on the hearth to rest against the fire screen. Remus wrinkled his nose at the smell. He liked a cozy wood fire as well as anyone, but this was like living in a giant barbecue pit. "You're quite certain? She - "
"Quite certain. I regret that you gentlemen have wasted your time." Holmes stood, one long hand extended toward the door. Severus nodded to Remus and followed suit. One finger traced a pattern on his trouser leg as he brushed himself off: lie.
The stone began pulsing again as they made their good-byes and headed back to the street. Remus waited until they were back at the corner of Marylebone and Baker to speak.
"What the hell just happened? Of course she was there, we both know that! Why didn't you - "
"Try to read him? That's exactly what I did." Severus' voice dropped to a near-whisper even though he'd cast muffliato as soon as they hit the sidewalk. "I didn't get a thing - not even surface memory. Either he's spent most of his life studying with a yogi, which he clearly hasn't, or he knew what I was doing and countered it."
"Knew? That's not - "
"Of course it's possible, it just happened!" Severus removed his hat and raked his hair back into place. It was much worse than usual thanks to the hair oil he'd combed into it for the perfect Victorian touch. "I don't know why he's living as a Muggle, or how much he uses magic in his cases. But that man, whoever he is - "
"I don't care if he's Prince Albert come back from the dead!" Severus must have shouted over the muffliato, because a thin man with an overpowering moustache stared at them as he passed. He took a deep breath and continued.
"He's a wizard, Remus. And I'm all but certain he's made us as wizards, too."
The rest of the day was as much of a wash as the fiasco in Baker Street. They'd checked every Wizarding area in London and the Home Counties, then taken turns apparating each other to the magical sections of York, Edinburgh, Helston and Canterbury, and even Hogwarts itself. The tracking stone hadn't so much as wiggled, let alone pulsed, and by the time Severus nearly splinched them at a Muggle hiring fair in Ravenglass, it had been time to admit defeat and take lodgings for the night.
By some miracle Diagon Alley had scarcely changed in a century: Ollivander's wand shop, Quality Quidditch Supplies, Flourish & Blotts, even Eeylops, were all exactly where they'd be in 2002. The Leaky Cauldron was as dark and slightly ominous as ever, with a stout little woman who was probably Tom's mother pulling pints and serving gluey pea soup. Even the rooms were similar, although there were chamber pots and washstands instead of bathrooms.
The bedroom was clean fortunately, and the bed was big enough for two. Remus ordered dinner, changed into a dressing gown and his modern briefs (no woolen underwear, not this time!) and ate. Severus unshrank their luggage, exchanged his suit for a nightshirt and dressing gown, and appropriated the one truly comfortable chair in the room. He'd barely picked at his meal, and now sat staring out the window into Diagon Alley, legs propped up on the sill, brows knotted in a nasty scowl.
Remus swivelled in his chair after the fourth time he'd asked whether they should use the Time Turner to contact Harry was answered by a grunt. "You know, brooding can only go so far. We really do need to decide where to go from here."
"I'm not brooding. I'm thinking." Severus shifted in place. A team of house elves hauled a pushcart of imported fruit down the street toward Zabini's Wholesale Greengrocers, Only British Source for Fresh Courgettes. "Why did he lie to us? He's not in league with her, or Moriarty - "
"You're certain of that?"
"Don't be ridiculous. At this point we have to assume that the Conan Doyle books are at least partially based on fact, and those describe Moriarty as 'the Napoleon of Crime.' Holmes wouldn't help anyone seeking Moriarty, especially not a Death Eater."
So much for the average Victorian academic. "True. But Holmes doesn't know about Death Eaters. At most, he'd figure Penthesilea was the wife or daughter of one of Moriarty's agents."
"She has no training in legilimency. The Dark Lord didn't believe in it for women, except possibly Bellatrix Lestrange. An occlumens powerful enough to stop me would have known the name of her childhood teddy bear in five seconds, let alone all about the Dark Lord's plans for wizarding Britain." Severus rubbed one calf where a sock garter had pinched him. "He must know what she is and what she wants. So why lie to us? One would think we'd be natural allies."
Remus pushed his chair back from the desk and crossed the room. He leaned down and began massaging the hunched shoulders. "He probably doesn't know we're allies. If you couldn't read him, I daresay he couldn't read you."
"But he could read you." Severus wriggled in place and hissed slightly as Remus dug his fingers into the knot that always appeared under his right shoulder blade. "Especially since we weren't expecting a legilimens. He probably knows everything, and that we're here without permission from the current Ministry. We'll have to follow him, and it won't be easy."
"Follow him? Whatever for? Shouldn't we be trying to find Penthesilea?" Remus pushed Severus forward, lightly kissed his hair, and started in on his lower back. The scar left by surgery from the teenage accident at the Muggle carpet factory always gave Severus trouble when he was under stress. "I can't see that tailing Sherlock Holmes will help us with that."
Severus grunted at the pressure on his back. "We don't have a choice. Remember the date, Remus: April of 1891. Holmes is our only lead, and we haven't much time."
"Haven't much - what are you talking about? I know there might not be much time on our end, but we have no idea why Fentiman's here, or how long her plans will - "
Severus swiveled in place, hair flopping over his forehead in brilliantined locks. "You really don't know? My God. How could you not remember? That story - "
"Which one?" He'd read the Holmes stories, of course - who hadn't? - but the bloom had been off the rose after he'd realized that Moony could have taken the Hound of the Baskervilles with one paw tied behind his back. "I read them thirty years ago, love. What's so important about April of 1891?"
Severus sat up straight and began lecturing as if he were delivering a lesson on rare and poisonous insects. "'The Final Problem' - remember that one? Holmes sets out to destroy Professor Moriarty for good and all, then fakes his own death and disappears for three years."
"Oh!" Remus had read those fateful words about the Reichenbach Falls just before he went to bed. He hadn't slept until he'd managed to slip downstairs and steal the next book from his mother's bookcase so he'd know what happened next. "April 1891?"
"Late April and early May." Severus smirked, just a little. "If the chronology in the story is remotely correct, Professor Moriarty, whether harmless mathematician or criminal mastermind, has less than two weeks to live, while Sherlock Holmes will disappear and be presumed dead. Since they are the only clues as to where Miss Fentiman might be - "
"We need to follow Holmes to Moriarty and hope one or both of them leads us to her. Point taken." A shabbily groomed elf in a threadbare tea towel appeared with a soft pop, gathered up their trays, sniffed at the uneaten portion of chicken and greenish mush that was supposedly peas, and disapparated. Remus did not speak until it was gone. "I assume you want us to start tomorrow morning?"
Severus nodded. "The story was vague about exact dates, but the general chronology is clear: first the police raid Moriarty's headquarters. Some of the leaders, including Moriarty himself, escape. Holmes and Dr. Watson then go to Europe, ostensibly to let the bobbies do their work. Moriarty follows and attacks Holmes in Meiringen, Holmes kills Moriarty - "
" - by chucking him into a waterfall." Remus had vague memories of a memorial plaque next to a tall but not overly frightening cataract - had his parents taken him to Switzerland for a cure at Einsedeln, or was it Grandmere? "I think I've been there. They have a museum and a statue."
"Lovely. We can visit during winter hols." Severus made a vague gesture at the window. "I suppose it's too much to ask if you remember the coordinates? If we can wait for them - "
Remus yawned despite himself. It had been a long, exhausting day, and the warm fire and heavy food were putting him to sleep. "I was eight or nine. Be glad I can still remember the plaque." He cast scourgify dentes on his mouth and stood. "I'm sorry, love, but I'm barely awake. We can suss it out tomorrow. Bed?"
Severus grunted. Remus splashed water on his face, draped his dressing gown over the foot of the bed, doused the light on his side of the bed, and crawled under the calimanco quilt and herb-scented sheets. It wasn't their home or their bed or even their time, but they were together, and he knew he'd sleep well.
"Scourgify capillus." Severus, hair blessedly free of grease, climbed in beside him. He had shucked off his nightshirt along with his dressing gown. "Fortunately we have some time before the final confrontation. Holmes and Watson take a little river tour, and - "
"That's nice." Remus rolled onto his side and nestled against the warmth of a bony shoulder. "Wish we knew what she was doing here. Doesn't make sense."
Severus shifted in place and began stroking his hair in a slow, soothing rhythm. "Assassinate the Queen? Wipe out the Potters and Longbottoms before their descendants can threaten the Dark Lord? Kill Albus before he starts teaching? The possibilities are endless."
Remus shuddered at the thought of James and Frank never being born, or what his own life would have been like if Albus hadn't been at Hogwarts to ensure he went to school. "Surely she wouldn't - "
"Remus. That spell uses the moon as a power source. She could level half of Edinburgh if she cast it correctly." Severus rolled away and sat up. He stretched his left arm and rotated it back and forth. "Damn. I must have pulled something in Helston, why they had to practice that ridiculous Morris dancing now when the Furry isn't till the 8th - "
"It's not Morris Dancing. That's something completely different." Remus automatically began to massage Severus's forearm. He didn't need to be alert to work on the lump just above the major veins. The skin was slightly warm, as if Severus had strained a tendon, and he was glad they'd brought a few first aid potions and a small pot of arnica gel for emergencies. "Mum was in a folk dance troupe for a few years after she moved to America. She said - "
Severus cursed and yanked his arm away. Remus, suddenly not sleepy, sat straight up. "Severus? Did I - I'm sorry, I didn't mean - "
"Lumos!" Severus sounded almost frightened as the lights came back on. His eyes were riveted on his lower arm. "It can't - no. No. No! Bugger all, he's dead! This can't - "
Remus automatically cast a privacy charm on the room, then cautiously turned the sinewy arm toward the light. Severus had just enough of a tan that he felt rather than saw the familiar, horrible sign bloom on the inner arm.
The snake hissed and slithered through the skull's eye sockets. Severus had closed his eyes and turned his face toward the wall, breath a harsh rasp. "How? Potter killed him. I was there. This isn't possible."
"Oh God." The Dark Mark blazed for a moment, then faded to a bluish outline over the pulse point, as if the ink had been bleached somehow. Remus had to force himself not to drop his lover's arm. "She must have found a way before Harry destroyed Ravenclaw's quill. Another horcrux, a bit of skin or hair - "
"I don't give a bloody damn how." Severus scratched at his skin as if he could somehow erase the ugly shadow. "How do we stop her? She's already revived him enough that it's back - "
Remus swallowed. "I haven't the foggiest." He grabbed Severus's right hand before he could tear his skin open. "Severus, don't."
Severus nodded. He opened his eyes, stared down at the Mark, and made a sound that was halfway between despair and rage. "Get the Time Turner. This is more than we can handle." He shuddered as the Mark flared again, then disappeared completely.
"Agreed,” said Remus, and accio'd the tiny gold hourglass.
"I'm glad you checked in," said Harry. He stood in the circle of the Time Turner chain, outline flickering slightly from the stasis field that kept him from contaminating and being contaminated. "We have more information on Fentiman."
"Lovely." Severus sat cross-legged on the bed, his left arm cradled to his chest. Harry rubbed his forehead and made a face. "Don't tell me. She had a horcrux concealed in a jar of complexion cream - "
"Shut it and let me talk," said Harry. Severus' head snapped up. Remus laid a hand on his shoulder and gave him a gentle squeeze. Severus curled his lip but complied.
Harry folded his arms and visibly counted to ten. "All right. Most of this was in a potions lab downstairs at her digs. Almost all of it was pretty standard - you know, Culpepper's Herbal, Moste Potente Potions, that sort of thing. There was a lot of pennyroyal and false unicorn root, so the auror who inventoried the cabinets thought she might have had, well, female problems."
Severus made a rude noise. Harry rolled his eyes. "We're not completely stupid, Snape. We had an outside consultant review the list as soon we saw some of the ingredients."
"Who? Belby? Halliwell?"
"Slughorn. I know you can't stand him, but he's the best we could get on short notice," said Harry. He rubbed the area under his fringe again. "He took one look and turned into a chair."
The mattress bounced as Remus sat down rather harder than he'd intended. "Horace turned - "
"Coward. The man has all the intestinal fortitude of a rabbit." The Dark Mark had faded, but Severus hadn't stopped massaging his left arm.
"I said shut it," Harry all but snarled. "Here. Tell me this doesn't put your knickers in a twist!" He held up a sheet of closely written parchment.
Severus rose, still hugging his arm, and came close enough to the stasis field to make his hair crackle slightly. His lips moved as he read through the list, brows drawing together as he neared the end. "Bloody hell," he whispered at last. "She didn't."
Remus leaned over his shoulder. Most of the terms made no sense to him, but one word made his guts clench. "Homunculus?"
Severus closed his eyes and slumped onto the blanket chest at the end of the bed. "I'd heard rumors she was his lover. He was barely human by then, but she didn't seem to care. That might be why she seems to have created a homunculus instead of a normal baby." Remus had to strain to hear the next words.
"I'd wondered why she wasn't there at the end, but if she was pregnant with what, in essence, was his clone - "
"That can't be. One can accelerate a pregnancy, but delaying it?" Remus felt sick at the thought of anyone, at any time, willingly falling pregnant by Voldemort. "She would have given birth years ago. Besides, why would she need Drawing Down the Moon? Or to go back in time?"
"She could have removed the embryo and cast a Time Lock spell," said Severus. His voice fell into its lecturing tone. "It's been done a few times when a mother is gravely injured and can't carry to term. Of course the fetus won't survive forever, so eventually one must either reimplant it or construct a nutrient jar. Both procedures need to be done in a proper medical facility or laboratory if there's any hope of success."
"That's what Slughorn said." The containment field about Harry flickered slightly until he made a gesture that looked almost casual. "Would Drawing Down the Moon compensate for her doing it alone?"
Severus looked grimmer than ever. "Of course it would. Actaeon botching the spell created the first generation of werewolves, or so Binns claimed. For all we know it could bring an embryo to full term in a few hours, or even adulthood. It's not as if anyone's been fool enough to try it in over a millenium."
Remus stared first at Severus, then at Harry. "This can't be. Voldemort's baby? In Victorian times? Voldemort's father wasn't alive yet!"
"Why not? Professor Dumbledore wasn't on the faculty at Hogwarts at that point, so no interference from that direction. If she had the money, she could move to Russia and send him to Durmstrang." Harry looked thoughtful. "Then use the Turner to bring him forward when he was an adult. Or kill one of my grandparents or - "
"But Moriarty. What would he get out of this? It doesn't make sense!" Remus scrubbed at his eyes. "He's almost a squib. Why would he agree to help?"
Severus rolled his eyes. "That should be obvious. The man spent most of his life a cloistered academic in Muggle institutions. Learning that his pet magical theory was correct would be the thrill of a lifetime." He conjured light and scrutinized his lower arm. "Who knows? The spell could be used for his benefit as well as hers. Power for power - he works out the equations and guides the casting, and she rewards him by killing Sherlock Holmes, or knocking over the Bank of England. We don't know, and we won't until we find at least one of them."
"Right." Harry's image started to waver. "Damn, can't hold the field. Let me know if things go pear-shaped. Good - " A golden flash, and both he and the Time Turner vanished.
"I hope that last part was intentional." Severus set his jaw. "We'll leave for Switzerland in the morning."
"If it wasn't, we'll all find out soon enough." Remus had the feeling he should have been much more upset at the prospect of a time shift, but he was so desperately tired. Was it the new moon next week? "What was he trying to say? Good luck? Good God? Good - "
"Good night, Remus." Severus gave him a gentle push and waited for him to flop back to the mattress before dousing the lights. "We need to sleep if we're going to do anything useful."
"Right. Night, love." He was out before Severus could settle down beside him.
"Did you know that Meiringen was the original home of meringue?" Remus looked up from the cheap little pamphlet. "It was supposedly invented by an Italian chef in the seventeenth century."
"An Italian chef goes to a German-speaking canton and invents a French dessert. I think not." Severus glanced out the window of their hotel. The Parc Hotel du Sauvage was new, luxurious, and boasted truly spectacular views of the Alps. The staff all spoke English, and Severus thought it the most likely candidate for the "Englischer Hof" where Holmes and Watson had stayed. Remus had argued in favor of a small, quaint chalet, but after seeing that "small" and "quaint" translated to "cramped" and "overpriced," had let Severus have his way.
"I didn't notice you turning it down at tea yesterday," said Remus. They had arrived late previous afternoon after spending several days on Muggle trains and coaches. The train service hadn't been bad, but Remus had dozed off in the post coach and had a ferociously stiff neck. Fortunately the bed at the Parc Hotel was comfortable enough that he was able to sleep without wincing. "I'm amazed you had an appetite after that."
"One of us has to keep his strength up." Severus pulled a waterproof package out of his suitcase, tossed the contents on the bed, and unshrank them with a wave of his hand. "I'll be out hiking most of the day and need the carbohydrates."
Remus sat back in a reading chair and watched as Severus donned the 19th century equivalent of his hiking boots and woolie-pullie. "Hiking? We aren't exactly on holiday."
"This isn't for pleasure, Lupin." Severus shook his hair free of his collar and slicked it back with brilliantine. "If our quarry plans to perform the spell, she needs a venue, and somewhere near the Falls if at all possible. Water is influenced by the moon, especially running water, and whatever she's planning will be enhanced if she can channel the water's energy as well as the Moon's."
"And we only have a few days. Point." Remus pushed the remains of breakfast away. The croissants had been excellent. "In that case I'll see if I can suss out where Moriarty is staying. I assume I should avoid Holmes and Watson?"
Severus nodded. "I would, if at all possible. Stay away from Holmes at least. We don't want to distract him and queer the whole deal." He picked up a sturdy walking stick and tapped it lightly against the floor to test the tip. "I'll be back this evening."
"You'd better." Remus stood, glanced over his shoulder to make sure that no one could see in their room, and gave him a long, thorough kiss. "Take care of yourself. I don't want to go back alone."
"I could say the same," Severus murmured. "Good hunting."
Remus gave him half an hour before brushing his teeth and heading downstairs. Meiringen seemed a pleasant enough town, and enough people spoke English and French that he wouldn't end up on the train to Zurich by mistake. There was no reason he couldn't sightsee a bit while he looked for a time traveler and a crime lord.
Several hours later he'd toured the Romanesque church in excruciating detail, strolled up and down the main street, and heard about the origins of meringue from at least a dozen eager locals, all of whom seemed to own restaurants. There were almost as many English tourists as on an average day in Blackpool, most of them hikers, and not a single other wizard in the lot.
That included Penthesilea Fentiman and Sherlock Holmes.
Remus groaned slightly as he lowered himself into an overstuffed Biedermeier chair in the hotel lobby. Quaintly cobblestoned streets and damaged cartilage did not mix well, and he leaned forward to rub at his left knee. Severus had the pain potions, of course, and he was happily tromping about the woods near the Falls.
"A bit more than you were expecting? That's only to be expected when middle aged men fancy themselves athletes."
The voice was cold, educated, and tinged with the faintest trace of an Irish brogue. Remus took a moment to gather his thoughts before looking up. "Not quite, I'm afraid. It's an old war injury."
The speaker, a stooped, balding man in a neatly cut black suit, raised the corner of his mouth a fraction. "War. An utter waste of men and materiel."
"Agreed. However, it is sometimes necessary." Remus lowered his leg to the ground and sat up straight in his chair. "Evil must be fought when it threatens the innocent."
"If one can define 'evil,' perhaps. Philosophical nattering." The bald man took the seat opposite Remus and unfurled a copy of yesterday's Times. "Men are neither good nor evil. They are either successful or unsuccessful, nothing more."
"You clearly haven't met true evil," said Remus. Bellatrix Lestrange killing Sirius...Voldemort striking down children...an oath forcing Severus to watch Albus die.... Oh yes. The Death Eaters had been evil, unless one defined "success" as leaving a swath of destruction that ruined two generations of youth. "I have."
The bald man lowered his paper long enough to fix Remus with a gaze that was almost reptilian. "Indeed."
He went back to his paper. Remus bit back an angry reply. You're not here to start a fight with a stranger in a hotel lobby. Let it be.
"Indeed," he said, and picked up a copy of The Strand.
He'd barely skimmed the table of contents when the pulsing began in his breast pocket. Remus froze for a moment, then took a deep breath and opened his mouth slightly to analyze the scent.
Tobacco perfume sweat food newsprint macassar algae flowers polyjuice hair -
Slowly, very slowly, he lowered his magazine enough to view the whole lobby. She was there. Not wearing her own face, but somewhere.
Wet musty flowery -
That one. A thin, short man standing by the front window, middle-aged, with a salt and pepper beard and long, slicked back hair. She'd doused herself in cologne to mask the polyjuice scent, but it was there, oh yes, unmistakable -
The balding man stood abruptly, straightened his clothes, and strode between the chairs and guests toward Penthesilea Fentiman. Remus drew in a sharp breath as he realized that he'd been sharing a cozy corner with Professor Moriarty, then took a good, hard sniff of the newspaper to fix the scent. He ignored a staring porter and started after his quarry.
They were talking in low, urgent tones - had they spotted Holmes and Watson? Or Severus? Fentiman at least knew him from school. Remus himself was probably safe, unless Fentiman had known Greyback and -
Moriarty turned as Remus approached. The stone was pulsing hard enough that Remus wondered if the other man could see it. "Sir, I - "
"You forgot your newspaper," said Remus. He thrust the Times into Moriarty's hands. "Sorry about that! I - "
"We really must be going." Fentiman's new voice was surprisingly deep. Remus turned and gave her - him? - a charming smile.
"John Cunningham. Are you on holiday, too? I just had the most fascinating conversation with your - brother?"
"Colleague," said Moriarty. He gave Remus a long, steady look. "If you'll excuse us - "
"Oh, surely you'll have time for dinner? My friend Prince should be back from his hike soon enough, and - "
"Not possible." Moriarty nodded to Fentiman. "We have plans."
"It's not as if there are all that many Englishmen in - "
"I daresay you'll find a dinner companion readily enough," said Moriarty. "If you'll excuse us?"
"Cunningham? What's going on?" Severus, disheveled and ruddy from his hike, set down his walking stick. He nodded to Moriarty and Fentiman. "Who are your new friends?"
"Two more Englishmen on holiday. Isn't that a lovely coincidence?" Remus made a scooping motion toward the others: quarry. "Are you sure you won't join us, gentlemen?"
Severus lifted his chin a notch, then nodded. "We have room at our table, Mr. - "
Fentiman drew in a sharp breath. She had blanched noticeably as Severus joined them, and actually grabbed Moriarty's arm. "James, we can't. We really have to go."
Severus shifted his cane to his left hand. His right hand began to curl into a casting position. "Surely you could spare a few moments to advise as to the nearest restaurant? We've only been in town a day and Cunningham has been babbling of nothing but meringue. If you could recommend somewhere - "
"The hotel dining room is adequate," said Moriarty in a voice that could have frozen boiling lead. "If you'll excuse us?"
"Really, there's no need to - "
Fentiman's mustache began to retract, and her eyes had gone from brown to muddy green. Severus raised his hand and pointed directly at her. "Immobu - damn!"
A woman looked up from tending two small children at the faint crack as a beardless Fentiman grabbed Moriarty by the arm and disapparated. Severus began to curse, low and angry, fist clenched in rage.
Remus clapped his hand over the stone. It quivered slightly and went dead.
She was gone. And she knew that the Order had followed her into the past. What in God's name did they do now?
Severus slammed the door to their room and threw himself into a chair. He hadn't stopped cursing since they'd obliviated the nanny and her charges, and Remus cast a sound muffling charm on the room before anyone heard him. He also spell-locked the door.
"Should we consult Albus?"
"He may not even exist at this point if she’s truly decided to disrupt the time stream. Bugger, damn, and blast!" The bedside carafe shattered as Severus threw his walking stick down on the bed and buried his head in his hands. "Why didn't you grab her? She was right there! I can't believe - "
"I didn't know it was her until just before you arrived!" Remus smacked his hair into place. "The lobby was full of Muggles - what was I supposed to do, cast a Veritas and disapparate?
"And why didn't you cast a glamour on yourself when you left the bloody hotel? She knew you, and - "
"I didn't think of it! We were all masked!" Severus bared his teeth, and Remus took a step backward in case he really lost control. "They could be anywhere by now! Damn, damn, damn!"
"You said they'd stay until the 8th - "
"They're supposed to, but who knows? We might have changed history here as well as in the future!" The window glass rattled. "I can't believe this happened."
Remus stared out the window. It was a lovely evening, with the legendary alpenglow softening the early spring landscape. "Well, it did. The question is, what do we do now?"
"I don't bloody know! Find them, but how?" Severus breathed through his mouth until he had a grip on himself again. "How long till the new moon?"
"Two days." Remus cautiously laid a hand on the rigid back. "And we can always use the Turner to - "
"No. Too risky. We're walking a high wire as it is." Severus folded his arms across his chest and inhaled. "The only thing we can do is keep looking for a suitable venue."
Remus waited for his breathing to even out. "What about your arm?"
"What about - oh. That." Severus pushed his left sleeve past the elbow. There was the faintest shadow of a skull on the pale skin. "It hasn't changed in a week."
"Which means she's still in the area, polyjuiced or not," said Remus. "At least we don't have to leave Switzerland"
Severus straightened, almost in slow motion. "Polyjuiced. Of course - she's polyjuiced!" He turned and grabbed Remus by the shoulders. "She hasn't implanted the homunculus yet - polyjuice destroys or damages a fetus, especially if one changes into the opposite sex!"
"Which means that there's still time." Remus carefully disengaged the long, graceful hands from his shoulders. He gripped them for a moment before letting go and moving to the writing desk by the window. "Any possibilities? Or would you like me to take a shot?"
"One or two, and yes, you probably should join the hunt." Severus ran his hands back over his hair, then transfigured a pouf into a chair and joined Remus at the desk.
This was it.
Severus had spotted the grove on his first hike near the Falls. It was small, and unnaturally quiet, probably from a pre-cast silencing spell. Remus walked out into the middle and stared directly up into the afternoon night sky. It would be like ink in a few hours, only a handful of stars visible through the canopy -
"What do you think?" Severus, all in black with his hair pulled into a severe ponytail, emerged from the woods. Remus opened his mouth and sniffed to get his exact position.
"I think you're right." The grove had that faint but unmistakable thrum of magic. "I wonder if she's marked the circle yet?"
"Maybe, maybe not." Severus walked to the center of the clear space and slashed his wand in a circle. The grass and duff did not react. "Not yet, but probably not much longer. I wish I knew where they were staying. Laying an ambush blind is - "
"If wishes were fishes, we'd have salmon," said Remus. "We'll get them tonight, love."
Severus nodded. He held out his wand and began to pace the edges of the magic field. "I'm going to see if I can trace her magical signature. The more we know, the better we'll be prepared."
"Right. Good hunting," said Remus. He watched as Severus disappeared into the trees, then found a comfortable log and sat down. His bad knee was aching a bit from tromping about the woods, and he sighed with relief as he stretched out his leg and rubbed the painful spot. The air was thinner than he liked here in the mountains, and the waning moon had dulled his senses enough that he wanted nothing more than to apparate back to their hotel and sleep for a few hours.
He yawned and took a drink from the hip flask that every proper Victorian male seemed to carry. The water was bitingly cold from being charmed to maintain a refreshing temperature, and he splashed some in his face to stay alert. It was a clear day, warm in the sun but chill in the shade, and it would likely be frigid tonight. He'd ask Severus if he'd brought a spare cloak when he came back, no sense in freezing while they waited and -
Something long and glittering whipped across the open space and wrapped itself about his left leg. Remus barely had time to realize it was silver when the rope tightened and yanked him to the ground. He gasped at the sharp burn spreading up his calf past his knee, the poison eating into his skin despite his clothes.
"I thought it was you. Filthy creature." A small, stocky woman in a man's woolen traveling suit glared down at him. "Oh yes, Our Lord had pictures of all of you, from Dumbledore on down to that pathetic Longbottom boy. I don't know how you got here or what you think you're doing with Snape, but whatever you were planning, you've failed."
Remus forced himself to concentrate. His wand was in his sleeve, all he had to do was twist his lower arm and -
"Accio wand." Penthesilea Fentiman smirked as the rod of ash wood flew into her hand. She studied the worn grip for a moment before tossing it over her shoulder into the woods. "Amazing. You actually can use it like a human. Do you tie it to your tail during the full moon? Wave it about and cast tarantellagra on the other beasts?"
She made smiled, and the cords tightened enough to cut completely through his trouser leg into his skin. Remus dug his fingers into the ground. He wouldn't scream, wouldn't give her the satisfaction, wouldn't give her a reason to kill him before Severus came back -
"If you think - " The wire hissed slightly as his blood began to trickle over the gleaming wire. He shuddered and forced himself to keep talking. " - won't get - away with it - "
Her laugh was nearly as mad as Bellatrix Lestrange's cackles. "I already have. The Dark Lord is alive, and by the time Potter's spawn kills His first body I'll have His second ready and waiting." She pulled a stoppered alembic out of her breast pocket. Something small and pinkish-red floated inside. "All I need to do is wait for nightfall, and then I'll be the most fortunate of mortals. 'Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb - '"
Bile rose in his throat from the pain working its way up his leg. "You're mad. Utterly - "
"I'm LUCKY!" Fentiman leered down at him. "Bellatrix hated me, hated me because I had what she'd always wanted. He gave me His seed, His most precious seed, and I kept it safe until I could fulfill my last mission."
Her laughter echoed in the quiet grove. "No prophecies this time. No Harry Potter - his grandfather will never be born! My Lord will grow up safe this time, no interference, no meddling from that foolish, foolish old man - I'll send him to Castelbruxo, to a place where they will nurture his glory and his talent. He will be the mightiest wizard in Europe, and all shall bow to him!"
"Severus - have to deal with him - "
"He's gone soft!" Fentiman all but spat the words. "The Snape I knew wouldn't have balked at killing in front of Muggles. You've ruined him." The rope tightened, and Remus convulsed as the silver finally hit his bloodstream. "I should kill you now, but a werewolf during the new moon - I wonder if I can use the spell to turn you? No Wolfsbane, so you won't even recognize him when you tear his throat out - "
She was leaning forward, snarling, shaking him until the pain was bone-deep and his leg hung limp. Remus swatted at her hand, snarling weakly despite the cold ache spreading up toward his heart.
Wand - had to get her wand -
"Penthesilea. You need him alive." The cold, calm voice was familiar, and as hateful as ever.
"James. He - "
"Put him down, my dear. We need him if I am to summon the moon." Moriarty spoke as calmly as if he were addressing a lecture hall. Remus gasped as she dropped him onto a rock, then cast a jerky mobilicorpus that yanked him upwards and sent him spinning toward the center of the grove. "Do you levitate him to the center of the circle - yes, right there. A werewolf during the new moon should influence the spell in the appropriate way."
"You - never - mad - you can't - control - "
Moriarty loomed over him. His tongue flicked over his lips like a snake scenting the air. "Mr. Cunningham - excuse me, Mr. Lupin. Miss Fentiman and I are very much in control. You are not." He nodded to Fentiman, who pulled a sack of white crystals out of her pocket. She cast the crystals upwards, murmured a spell, and watched as a perfect casting circle floated into place.
The ground was hard and cold, and a rock dug into his kidneys. Remus clamped his jaw shut against a sudden flood of bile at the first touch of poison in his vitals. "Spell - control - Squib - "
"Not quite. I do not have enough magical talent for Hogwarts, but I do have enough for this." Moriarty drew a stubby wand that looked almost new and moved it in a slow, careful pattern. "Conjunctio lupus."
The wind rustling the trees stopped. Remus tried to move, tried to roll out of the way, but there was a sudden wrench and if the pain had been bad before it was ten times worse now, worse than fire, worse than falling, worse than acid and salt and death as his magic poured out of him and into Moriarty and -
He didn't have the strength to scream before darkness claimed him.
" - strip him - "
" - unnecessary - "
" - new moon - "
Footsteps. Words. Pain.
"- say you're not hurt, for God's sake say you're not hurt - "
It was much later, almost dusk. Wool that smelled vaguely of Severus scratched his cheek and covered his lower body. Remus took a deep breath and started to open his eyes at the crunch of salt and stones under footsteps. He gave up at the first swirling rush of vertigo.
It sounded like Severus, only with a tense, half-hysterical note to his voice that Remus hadn't heard since he'd been dragged from Hogwarts after the War.
"Dead. I have non-magical means of defense which he lacked." The other voice was higher pitched, almost metallic. There was a puff and a muttered incendio before a flare of light that made Remus wince. "I put an Unplottable charm on the body so he won't be found until Watson is safely back in England."
"Wearing my clothes and transfigured to be my twin." Another puff. "I can retrieve the corpse if you need it to prove that she's dead, but - "
"Not necessary." Remus counted to ten and tried opening his eyes again. He waited until the dizziness had passed before turning his head enough to see them silhouetted against the dusk: two tall, beak-nosed men, one in black, one in tweeds. "A pensieve report should do it."
"Good." Holmes - yes, Holmes, Severus didn't smoke, at least not now, back in school he'd lit up often enough - took a long draw on a cigarette. "I assume your contact is a legilimens if that is not sufficient?"
Severus snorted. His forelock had come loose and hung in his eyes. "He likes to think he is."
"Well then. You and your friend should be fine." Holmes flicked ash into the circle and glanced over at Remus. Remus quickly shut his eyes again. "How long do you have before you return to your own time?"
"No deadline, but we'll be returning as soon as Remus can be moved." One long hand swiped the loose hair back into place. "The silver poisoning - "
"It was a bad case. Fortunately I was able to transmute most of it to iron." Holmes gave a mirthless laugh. "He may need to be bled to avoid hemochromatosis, but I do not anticipate any further difficulties beyond those common to all his type,"
Transmuted? Remus slowly moved his left leg. It ached slightly around the tear in his trousers but otherwise seemed intact and useable. What had Holmes done? And what had happened?
"Thank you. I'll keep that in mind." Severus rubbed his eyes. "I owe you a life debt. Not that I can ever repay it, but - "
Holmes waved dismissively. "You owe me nothing. Your assistance in defeating Moriarty is more than sufficient. The man's influence was pernicious." He walked to the center of the destroyed casting circle and spoke a few words. The salt turned brown, then sank harmlessly into the loam. "Less than that of your 'Dark Lord,' it would seem, but no less foul for Muggle London."
"Lupin is alive because of you. You know what that means."
Holmes glanced up. "Indeed." He took another pull on his cigarette, then snapped his fingers and watched as it disintegrated. "I knew about your intimacy - come, sir, it was quite obvious. Sugaring another man's tea to perfection is rather too obvious."
The wind was from the east, and cold. Remus shivered under his makeshift blanket. Severus, used to hiking on Ben Nevis, did not seem to notice the chill.
"Noted, should it be necessary in the future." Severus paused. "I assume you read him during our first interview."
"Quite correct, which is why I did not trust you until I had a chance to consult an oracle of my acquaintance. I normally eschew such means, but given that no one who could vouch for you was available, I made do." Holmes folded his arms and contemplated Severus. "Your shields, on the other hand, are most impressive. Whoever trained you did an excellent job. I assume that the laws have changed by your time?"
Severus gave up on his hair and shook it until it hung loose. The brilliantine made it unnaturally glossy. "Laws - oh. Yes. Homosexual activity was decriminalized when I was a child. The Board of Governors still don't approve of unmarried couples living at the school, so officially - "
"You downplay your connection to Mr. Lupin in public to keep your job. I see." Holmes, face unreadable, pulled out his watch and checked the time. "I need to leave before the searchers Watson has unquestionably summoned arrived. Moriarty may be dead but his chief lieutenant is very much alive, and I'd rather not provide him with a ready target."
Severus nodded. "We'll try to leave before they find us. We've likely stayed too long as it is."
"Indeed." Holmes turned and started for the path. He paused, then turned and looked Severus directly in the eye for the first time.
"If you see Watson - " A muscle twitched in Holmes' lower jaw. "He has a wife. Do whatever you must to ensure that he returns to her. She is a remarkable woman."
Severus cocked his head and returned the steady gaze. "It is the least I can do."
"Of course." Holmes drew a slim birchwood wand from his breast pocket. "Thank you." He disapparated without a sound.
Remus drew a shaky breath. Severus whipped about at the sound and was there on his knees next to Remus before he could finish. "Severus - what - "
"Don't try to talk. If Holmes weren't an alchemist you'd be dead." He raised Remus to a sitting position. "I'm losing my edge. I didn't even think she'd recognize you, I should have brought an antidote - "
"Not your fault, love. None of us thought of it." Remus breathed deep of his lover's scent sweat wool fear dust water rock air as Severus pulled back, drew his wand, and started muttering diagnostic spells as he traced patterns up and down and over Remus' body. "They're both dead?"
"Yes." Severus murmured a few words and the vertigo receded. "Here - Holmes found this in the woods."
Remus managed to smile his thanks at the sight of his wand, dusty but intact. "Thank you, love. What happened? I don't remember much."
"I arrived as they were starting to cast." Severus finished his examination and lifted Remus's face. "Fentiman was naked and had uncorked the alembic. Moriarty was using some spell - "
"It was a variation on conjunctio, I think."
"Yes, that would make sense. Regardless, I could see the magic leaving you and entering him as he started to gather power for the spell, even though it's not dark enough yet to call on celestial bodies." There was the merest flash of remembered terror in his eyes. "I knew he wouldn't be able to control your magic for long, especially with the lycanthropic taint. So I attacked the alembic and that thing inside it.."
"I remember that. She screamed."
"They both turned on me - a homunculus can't survive more than a second or two outside a nutrient jar, and I made sure it went straight into the salt ring. Purification and all that.
"Moriarty tried to cast a spell, but you must have been awake enough to keep him from draining you completely. He dropped his wand and started for me with bare hands, and then Holmes arrived."
Holmes. If the greatest detective of his time had to be a wizard, naturally he would be a skilled and powerful one. "Of course," Remus murmured. "It's his story, after all."
"It's our story now, too." Severus held out his arm. "Do you think you can stand? We really shouldn't stay any longer than necessary."
"I'll try." Remus let Severus bear most of his weight as he forced himself upright. "Did you - "
"No. Fentiman took off down the path for the Falls, shrieking incoherently about losing her Lord. Moriarty saw Holmes pull his wand and ran after Fentiman, God knows why - maybe he knew he didn't have a chance against a real wizard. Holmes caught them at some point, but I'm not sure what happened at the Falls." The steady mask finally cracked as Severus pulled Remus close and buried his face in his hair. "I dispelled the ropes and tried to heal you, but there was so much silver you were going into convulsions and I knew I'd never get you to a mediwitch in time. Your leg was turning grey from the silver in your skin - "
Remus waited for the long body to stop trembling. "We'll go straight to Poppy when we're home. Harry won't be happy that she's dead."
"Sod Potter. He can find someone else to do his dirty work next time." Severus relaxed his grip and gave Remus a once-over before raising his wand. "The hotel first so we don't leave any trace of our presence, and then back to our own time. The longer we're here, the greater the chance of temporal backlash."
Remus closed his eyes against another wave of dizziness as Severus apparated them to an alley outside the Parc Hotel. Severus glanced around to be certain they were alone and unobserved, then handed his Remus his walking sticking and offered his arm as they slowly started for the nearest entrance. "You hurt yourself hiking, if anyone asks."
"It's close enough to the truth," said Remus. "I hope Poppy doesn't keep me overnight, I can't wait to sleep in my own bed - what's going on?"
A stocky, dark haired man with a mustache dashed out into street, waving to a group of local men. He was too far away for Remus to make out more than the occasional word in English, but he was clearly upset about something, and the language barrier was not helping as he gestured at the bewildered Swiss.
Severus watched for a few seconds, then helped Remus to an overstuffed horsehair settee. "Here. Sit down and don't move. I'll be right back." He took a moment to pull his hair back again, then walked briskly outside.
Remus watched as he nodded to the Englishman, listened for a few seconds, then turned to the leader of the Swiss and began speaking in rapid German. Whatever the news was seemed to stagger the Englishman, who turned an alarming shade of greenish-white. Severus was about to continue his impromptu translation when the desk clerk ran up to them and took over.
Severus gripped the Englishman on the shoulder and said something, then released him and came back inside. Remus waited until they'd limped to the elevator and hobbled to their room to speak.
"That was Dr. Watson, wasn't it?"
"Of course it was. He'd been duped into returning to the hotel by a false report of a sick woman who wanted an English doctor." Severus flicked his wand and watched as clothing and toiletries folded themselves and burrowed into their luggage. "Holmes was right about the search party. They've just come back from the Falls and found signs of a struggle, and the leader had Holmes' cigarette case and a note for Watson."
Remus let out a breath. The Time Turner was starting to glitter as Severus finished packing. "Poor bastard."
"He blames himself for leaving Holmes alone, not that he would have had a chance against Fentiman if she got the drop on him. She wasn't the most powerful witch, but she had no qualms about using Unforgivables." The tension was back in Severus' voice. "I reminded him that he should trust the locals and go home to his wife. He doesn't want to, but I - added a bit of reinforcement to the suggestion."
"You - please tell me you didn't use an Imperio." Remus caught a glimpse of his own reflection and recoiled. Severus hadn't been exaggerating about the greyness - he looked almost as bad as the Spanish werewolf he'd met at a conference who had taken colloidal silver for years before he was turned.
"Of course not. Potter's bound to check our wands." Severus picked up the Time Turner and looped it over their shoulders. The hands swung into position for the 21st century. "Legilimency has more than one use, you know."
"Right." Remus closed his eyes and hung on as Severus tapped the hourglass and the room began to spin.
Harry hadn't been happy when they materialized without Penthesilea Fentiman, but after Severus had snarled out a few choice words about refusing to emulate Barty Crouch when it came to transfiguring corpses into inanimate objects, the younger man gave up and debriefed him via pensieve. There had been no temporal disruptions beyond a possibly apocryphal report of several old issues of The Strand disappearing from a book stall near Portobello Road, and even Harry couldn't sense any trace of the Dark Mark on Severus' arm.
The Ministry healers had taken one look at Remus and sent for Poppy while Severus argued with Harry, and soon enough he'd been in the familiar Infirmary at Hogwarts, dozing in a strange twilight sleep as she modified a chelation spell to draw the remaining silver from body. He didn't ask if she'd used leeches to bleed off the extra iron in his blood, and truly didn't want to know. Some things were best left unsaid.
It was just after lunch on their second day back when Severus, in the summer weight teaching robe that meant he'd attended a Governors' meeting, came for his afternoon visit. Remus set down his book as Poppy and her assistant slipped out "to check the inventory." "How did the meeting go?"
"Dunderheads approved that American for the DADA position." Severus sat on the edge of the bed and carefully gave Remus' hand a squeeze. "I did tell them you were available, but Pickingill blocked it, of course. Says you're 'too controversial,' which is probably his way of saying he doesn't want any political repercussions from hiring a werewolf rights activist."
"Not to mention encouraging gayness. Imagine, if we actually spoke to each other at High Table." Remus gave him an affectionate smile. "Poppy said I can go home tonight. Nothing strenuous for a week or so, but she thinks I'll be fine."
"I expected nothing less. She's far better than those idiots at St. Mungo's." Severus leaned over for a light, almost chaste kiss. "We should have Pickingill over for dinner sometime. Let him see our shocking and immoral lifestyle."
Remus laughed. "We'd have to borrow a set of bondage leathers for you, unless you'd prefer to wear drag? Or maybe we could simply have that Hawthorpe book on the coffee table - "
"Having him keel over dead on the hearth would not be good," said Severus. He picked up Remus' book and opened it to the place Remus had marked. "’The Final Problem?’"
"I thought I should reread it. It might have helped if I'd known the story." Remus pointed at a contemporary illustration of Holmes and Moriarty toppling over a ledge into the Falls. "Watson changed a few things."
"Of course he did. Finding the note himself is far more dramatic than having it handed to him by a corpulent Swiss named 'Heinrich Zitwitz.' I'm simply glad that he left me out of it completely." Severus traced the outlines of the drawing. "I read this for the first time when I was nine. I never suspected it was real."
"No one did," murmured Remus. "I have one question, though. When Holmes left, and he asked you to make sure Watson returned to England - "
Severus wet his lips, then carefully closed the book and laid it on the starchy blanket. "Isn't it obvious? He has feelings for Watson. Who is married to Mary Morstan, and will marry at least one more time during the series after he’s widowed."
"And Holmes – “
"Read the rest of the stories, Lupin. The closest Holmes comes to marriage is when he's undercover and persuades a housemaid to let him court her. Irene Adler was a worthy opponent, not an object of lust." The deep voice was soft, almost regretful. "That's why he mentioned the laws in our time. We can do what he can't, even if we have to let Pickingill and his faction think we're simply good friends."
"What about Watson? Surely he suspects - I read that story about the Garridebs, you know."
"He almost certainly thinks of Holmes as a friend, nothing more. Remember, being gay was considered a mental illness at best, with most experts believing it to be a profound moral failing." Severus shook his head. His fingers were warm as they closed over Remus' hand. "Watson is a loyal man, but I didn't see anything in Holmes' memories to suggest that he’s anything other than painfully straight."
"And a Muggle. Which probably meant a good deal more then than it does now."
"Absolutely. There were considerably more Purebloods a century ago, and the level of bigotry among most of the Sacred Twenty-Eight evidently made Walburga Black look positively mild." Severus looked up as Poppy's assistant entered with a lunch tray and three small dosing cups of potions.
"Mr. Lupin? It's time for your meds." She colored when she realized the Deputy Headmaster was holding hands with her patient. "Oh, Professor! Let me get a tray for you! It won't be a minute!" She fled in a click-clack of heels on stone, her skirts billowing stiffly behind her.
Remus picked up the first dosing cup and grimaced at the chalky scent. At least he knew Severus had brewed this one himself. "I wish I didn't have to take these with food. Nothing tastes right."
Severus sniffed the milky fluid and handed it back. "It's a blood purifier. Has to be taken with food unless you want to risk magic-resistant leukemia." He watched as Remus held his nose and swallowed. "Now, eat your - dear God. Milk toast?"
"I had that for dinner last night. At least today there's - toffee pudding. And greens." Remus lifted what had once been spinach out of its dish with the tines of his fork. It dripped salty fluid onto the tray. "Please tell me I can eat normal food tonight."
"I'll ask Poppy." Severus curled his lip at the smell. "I wouldn't feed that to a lab rat."
"Disgusting," said Remus. He contemplated the toffee pudding. At least it was sweet.
The assistant bustled back in with a second tray, which extruded its own legs as she set it down in front of Severus. Mouth watering smells of meat and rich sauces floated up as she removed the cover. "Here we go, Professor. Chicken piccata, fresh courgettes, riced potatoes on the side. Is that all right? The elves apologize if it's not to your taste."
"Tell the elves not to be so paranoid. It's not as if they don't know my tastes by now." Severus nodded in dismissal and watched her flutter out. He scraped sauce from a portion of the chicken, cut off a chunk, and held it to Remus' lips. "Here. Poppy may not like it, but you're not eating that cack. How she expects anyone to recover eating like this I'll never - "
Remus all but moaned at the taste and texture. Severus looked absurdly pleased. "It's wonderful - oh, Severus - "
"Keep that up and she'll think I'm buggering her patient." Severus cut off a second piece of chicken and coupled it with a slice of veg "Besides, you sugared my tea. The least I can do is share my lunch."
"I'll sugar your tea any time you want," said Remus. Normally he didn't fancy courgettes, but after two days of milk toast and beef tea it was exactly what he needed. "Even if we get a bit more strenuous than Poppy would like."
"In that case I'll have to feed you enough to rebuild your strength." Severus reached out to wipe a stray bit of juice from Remus' cheek. "Nothing wrong with that."
"Or illegal," said Remus. He carefully reached over the food trays and drew Severus into a long, thorough kiss. "Can't wait to get home."
"Neither can I - "
The school clock tolled the hour. And if Poppy had an opinion over how much chicken and how little milk toast was consumed at lunch, she never said a word.