Sherlock felt one of his eyebrows rise as he opened the door to see an impatient wizard standing on his step.
“Harry,” he said with some surprise. “John is not here.”
The man nodded. “I know. I’m here to see you.”
“Well, then please come in.”
Sherlock stepped back, opening the door wider to let Harry Potter come inside. The wizard was moving with a focused energy, like a coiled spring—contained but ready to explode if he relaxed that control even a little.
“How may I help you today?”
Harry looked at him, eyes burning. “Why did you never tell me you had a sister?”
Sherlock felt the words like a blow.
Harry shook his head. “Don’t lie to me, Sherlock. Having a witch in the family changes everything. The statute of secrecy doesn’t apply, which means you have to have known—about all of it. All those years of playing dumb. Why didn’t you say?”
“Harry, I don’t know what you’re talking about. The only sibling I have, thank God, is Mycroft. I’m sure I would never have survived a second one.”
He stopped pacing. “You’re trying to tell me that Eurus Holmes is not your sister?”
The name was not familiar, but it sent a thrill up Sherlock’s spine like it should be familiar.
“I have to confess that it sounds like a name my parents would have chosen, but, no. To my knowledge I’ve never had a sister.”
Instead of settling Harry, this made him suddenly turn on Sherlock, stepping closer, his eyes intent as he peered into his Sherlock’s.
“Harry, what are you …?”
“Have you ever been obliviated?” Harry asked, eyes searching. "I mean, other than Mary?"
“That is such a nonsense word,” Sherlock said, feeling more off-balance than he liked, trying not to retreat, but pushed back by the heat of Harry’s intensity. “Why would my memory be modified?”
The very thought was abhorrent. That someone could reach into his head and alter his mind palace was unthinkable. Even as he spoke, he was prodding at the walls, looking for hidden doorways, missing passageways.
If he had had a sister and had been forced to forget her, that would have to be an entire wing, surely?
Harry plopped down in John’s seat, and pushed his hand through his riotous hair. “Because you have the most impressive memory of anyone I’ve ever seen, and I can’t imagine you forgetting this. You, of all people! But it’s the only answer. This woman has to be your sister.”
He pulled a photo out of his pocket and handed it over.
Staring at the unfamiliar face, Sherlock had to admit, there were similarities. “What does Mycroft say?”
“I haven’t asked him. I came to you first.”
Trying to force his brain into productive thought, Sherlock studied the photo, awed as always at the way wizarding pictures moved. “You say you only learned of her today. This is in connection to your job as Head Auror?”
Another nod. “I had to visit Azkaban prison today, and … well, it turns out there is a building used not for prisoners but …”
“The mentally ill,” Sherlock finished for him, noting the lines of hidden strain on the woman’s forehead. “Including this woman?”
“Yes. The highest of high security. It shouldn’t surprise you that we don’t exactly have mental healthcare in the wizarding world. Those who have … issues … tend to be taken care of at home or just ignored unless they do something truly criminal. However, there are a few—very few—cases where they are locked away for their own good.”
“And this … Eurus … is one of those cases?”
“Exactly. Even without a wand, without training … she is remarkable. Very much a danger to herself and others. So much so, that they felt they had no choice but to isolate her entirely.”
Iso … When had the room gotten so cold?
“At what age?”
“Young.” Harry looked like he wanted to be on his feet again. “I’ve come to accept that much about the wizarding world is backward, in relation to the non-magic world, but knowing your family? This …”
“It shocks you,” Sherlock said, trying not to think of his own shock.
“Yes. Your family is well off, well-connected, with all available resources. And you are all so gifted at solving impossible problems.” Harry pushed back his hair again, a sure sign of nerves for a man so well-acquainted with stressful conversations. “So what must have happened to drive your parents to lock away their daughter—and presumably alter your memory at the same time?”
“Something … terrible.”
As he said it, Sherlock could feel a pressure in his head, as if someone was knocking at a wall, seeking entrance … or an escape.
“You said Azkaban?”
“The wizarding prison. It used to be guarded by dementors which … honestly, I can’t imagine what they would do near anyone with mental health issues. They forced a person to relive their worst memories, forget all happiness. They regularly drove people mad. I can only hope they were kept distant from the building housing people like your sister.”
Watching his face, Sherlock recognized the signs of a person trying to fool themselves. “But you don’t believe that.”
“No, I don’t.” Harry was on his feet, not quite pacing, but clearly unable to sit still. “I don’t know what to make of this. To be at Azkaban, she had to be a witch, a powerful one, but you didn’t know about magic until you found out about John a few years ago. Neither did Mycroft. How is that possible? Unless … do your parents know, do you think?”
Sherlock tried to imagine his parents—brilliant people in their own way, but not remotely observant—keeping any such secret from both him and Mycroft. (Because, say what you would about his overbearing brother, Mycroft was smart. Annoying, overbearing, and insufferable, yes, but definitely intelligent.) Perhaps their parents had unseen depths.
“I don’t see how that’s possible. A secret of that magnitude? But … would the wizarding world have been willing to obliviate an entire family?”
Surely that had to be unthinkable?
“Since you were just muggles? I don’t think they would have hesitated, though …” Harry’s voice trailed off as he thought. “Obliviation is usually for something specific, almost always something recent. If a non-magic person sees a wizard apparate right in front of them, for example, or they see a spell, or pick up a set of keys spelled to disappear … basic muggle-baiting. An obliviate spell is simple. That one memory is removed or redirected, and they go back to their regular lives, none the wiser. It’s minor, like bandaging over a paper cut, or cleaning up a stain. A little scrubbing and your carpet is as good as new—you’re not redecorating and recreating the entire rug. Instead of the witness worrying over their sanity or trying to figure out how something happened, they are given another memory, a rationale to believe instead.”
“Exactly. It’s easy enough for a single event, and when done responsibly, there’s no harm.” He shrugged. “There is some debate about whether multiple obliviations cause long-term damage. Hermione has a theory that the surging number of dementia cases are linked to the growing number of obliviations the ministry is having to perform these days—with so many cameras and recording devices. Wizards and witches aren’t careful enough and are being seen too often. There is speculation that repeated memory spells affect the brain’s capacity to record properly …”
“But that would be an exception, for someone to need multiple obliviations?”
“Definitely … though there were obviously more during the war … like when we had to make people forget that a dragon had flown over London. I think they used the filming-a-movie excuse for that one. I don’t really know. That was the day we had the battle, and I wasn’t really paying attention to the news.”
“A dragon ...? No, never mind.” Though that was a tangent he definitely was asking John about later! “Still … that’s quite different from forgetting a … sister.”
By the fireplace, Harry had the grace to look ashamed. “I know. I can’t … I can’t even imagine that. Family … The wizarding world has always considered that important. I can’t imagine they would have just … taken your sister away. And … how do you block an entire person, their entire life, from a memory? That’s not as simple as a single incident. That’s presumably … years of intertwined memories. It’s not like she was taken away as a newborn! I can’t imagine how they would have dared …”
“Because we don’t have magic and are therefore not important,” Sherlock said, trying to keep the bitterness from his voice.
He laid his fingertips together, visualizing forging connections with each physical contact. “You say you were at Azkaban today, and that you hadn’t realized there was a mental ward. What made you go there today?”
“There had been several odd blips in the wards. I’d call them glitches or bugs if they were a computer feed. I brought a team of wards experts to investigate and found that this entire building existed that I hadn’t known about. We removed the dementors after the war and shored up all the wards, but this one building was so well protected, we didn’t even see it. Not until today.”
“And what happened?”
Harry looked at Sherlock, eyes firm. “The wards malfunction that drew our attention. It acted like … do you know what a Fidelius is?”
“The spell that hides a secret?”
“Yes.” There was a moment of silence, then he continued, “After I arrived, I was looking at the records for the last time the wards had been upgraded, and found reference to some work that that had been done about thirty years ago. So I started cross-referencing and looked for patients that had arrived around that time—for anything that could explain it.”
“And you found my sister.”
“A patient named Eurus Holmes who had two brothers, both of whom were, quote, ‘no longer in the picture.’ She’s been there since she was about five.”
Sherlock was barely able to suppress a shudder. If this sister was anything like him or Mycroft, she must need mental stimuli, and being completely isolated since age five?
If she hadn’t been mad before, she certainly would be crazy now.
He said as much, and Harry nodded. “That’s what I’m afraid of. Going by the reports, she’s a natural legilimens … what non-magicals call a mind-reader. She’s kept isolated because her natural gift is to be able to get into a person’s head and …”
“Manipulate them,” Sherlock finished. He wondered how much simpler his life would be if he could just will people to do as he wanted them to do. No wasting time being polite and asking nicely. No idiotic people doing the wrong things all the time. They would just do what he needed. Simple.
Except … he liked to think he had learned a few things since Moriarty. He knew himself to be brilliant … well, he was … but he was also human. Given the comparison between the mad, psychopathic mastermind, and the occasionally infuriating but very decent, human John Watson, Sherlock would pick “boring human” any day.
But would he have chosen that when he was younger? He had been so sure that he knew best about … everything. And, honestly, wasn’t that the primary conflict between himself and Mycroft? Both of them so certain they were right, always, and neither with a gift of compromise. Imagine with a younger sister, just as determined, added to the mix? He had a sudden image of a young girl stamping her foot in frustration. If he had been infuriated with Mycroft’s condescension throughout his entire childhood (life), how much worse would it have been to be younger sibling to both of them?
Especially if said younger sister was a witch in a non-magical family.
How easy would it have been for her to manipulate all of them to get her own way? How dangerous?
As much as Sherlock hated to admit it, he was a better person for the limitations John had always insisted on—basic courtesy, an awareness that other people had needs, rights, desires … He might never be a warm, caring person, but Sherlock had grown to appreciate the good parts of humanity (even if the bad parts seemed more prevalent).
But Sherlock had had the advantage of growing up. He had gone to school, to university. He had made friends and enemies, and learned some harsh lessons about his own infallibility, along with the miraculous ones about the power of friendship.
If he had been locked away behind walls as a child and left alone …?
“My best guess right now is that we missed seeing that building because … Eurus didn’t want us to see it. The fact that there are … fluctuations … now is what worries me.”
Racing though it was, Sherlock wasn’t sure his brain could keep up with the calculations it was making.
“So … a young girl, mentally unstable, with the ability literally to influence the minds around her, was sent basically to solitary confinement on a prison island in the middle of the ocean—next to a prison filled with equally insane death eaters, and guards that eliminate all possibility of happiness?
Harry nodded. “That’s what it looks like.”
“Unclear,” Harry said. “I don’t know what she knows, or if she is aware that you now know about the wizarding world.”
“But I’ve known about magic for years—since before my … absence. Why now?” He took a sharper look at Harry’s posture. “What aren’t you telling me?”
“It’s just speculation, but … the more I think about it, the more I suspect that you were never obliviated in the ordinary sense. I think that it was your sister that made you forget. Maybe she didn’t want you to remember her being mad. Maybe she was hiding something. Maybe she just didn’t want you to miss her. But now she’s changed her mind.”
“Maybe she’s jealous and wants a resurrection of her own?”
“It’s turning into something of a specialty, isn’t it? Coming back from the dead, or near-dead. You, John, me …”
Naturally that was when his phone buzzed with a text telling him to turn on the telly, where he saw a face from his nightmares repeating “Did you miss me? Did you miss me? Did you miss me?”
He looked over at Harry. “I’m blaming you for this.”
Harry looked like he wanted to protest, but just held up his hands. “The timing is interesting, isn’t it?”
“That’s one word for it,” Sherlock said, grumbling as he typed a reply.
“I wonder if she was involved with Moriarty?”
“Not romantically … or, Merlin, I hope not! But this coming up just as we are having this conversation?”
Hmm. That was a good point, and Sherlock didn’t believe in coincidences.
“It looks like we’re going to Azkaban.”
Thank you for the encouragement! I definitely write better when I've got a cheering section. I hope you enjoy chapter two.
Sherlock said he wouldn’t go without John. He said it was because John understood human nature better and that would be useful—which was true enough—but down deep he knew it was because he wanted his best friend to be there.
He didn’t know what to expect. His brain was still struggling to come to terms with the idea that he had a sister, much less one who was magical and had lived in near-isolation on a remote island for thirty years. How was he supposed to cope with all that?
He had thought learning about magic was enough to shake the foundations of his world. Having to fake his death to chase down the remnants of Moriarty’s network had stripped much of his preconceptions down to the bare minimum of what he truly needed. But this? The idea that he had had a sister who had been stripped from his memory all those years ago?
He needed John there because he could think of nobody sturdier to have nearby when the world was shaking off its foundation.
As always, John was almost unflappable at learning the news that Sherlock had a long-lost sister, but that was one of John’s gifts. After a second or two of assimilating unexpected news, he just accepted it and moved on, and so here they were, travelling via a portkey (an execrable means of travel but efficiently fast) to the world’s worst prison.
Or, it had been. Harry had assured him that the dementors were gone, but even so, this outcropping of rock in the middle of the ocean was practically uninhabitable. The wind was constantly gusting off the water, and there was nothing to see but for variations of gray, grey, and the occasional black. It was cold. It was hostile. It was foreboding.
“Who would even think of putting a mental hospital here?” John asked as they caught their balance.
“That’s your first mistake,” Harry responded. “The word hospital implies trying to heal. This was just a place to lock up crazy witches and wizards where they were far enough away from other people to contain any damage.”
“Probably lucky Azkaban prison is in one piece, then.”
“I don’t know,” Sherlock said. “If wizards can make their nightmares real, having the mentally ill right next to the prisoners probably aided the punishment.”
“Not exactly humane.”
“No,” Harry agreed, mouth turned down. “I should probably tell you that we’re expecting someone else today…”
He had barely spoken the words when another portkey arrived.
Honestly, Sherlock wanted to be more surprised to see his brother. Wasn’t this just typical? An interesting mystery comes up and Mycroft had to show up to spoil it. Except, his brother looked just as surprised. “Sherlock? John? Mr Potter? What are you all doing here?”
Harry’s expression didn’t change, but his jaw tightened slightly. “Waiting for you, but you were prompt, so all’s good.”
“There must be some mistake. I’m here to visit a source. She helps me with calculations and problem solving—she’s brilliant.”
Harry nodded. “Code name East Wind.”
“You know her?” Mycroft asked, but then he caught himself. “But, of course. I hadn’t realized she aids the wizarding government, too.”
“Wizarding … Mr Holmes, tell me, do you often arrive at meetings within your government via portkey?”
“Well, no, I … are you telling me that she is magical?”
Harry nodded. “What do you know about her?”
“Just something about her being mentally unstable, but that has never stopped pure genius, of course. In fact, they often march hand-in-hand.”
Sherlock was glaring at his brother. “Have you already met her? You couldn’t let me be first at anything, could you?”
Mycroft just looked confused as Harry continued, “We’ll come back to that, shall we? I need to know how much you know about her, Mr Holmes.”
One brow raised, Mycroft nodded, but looked back at the door. “Perhaps it would be better to move this inside? This island is frightfully windy.”
Harry waved his arm, twisting his wand up and around, then suddenly the gusting wind was redirected around them, as if they were in a glass dome. Arms folded across his chest, he just waited. “We need to discuss this now, please. And do bear in mind that we are in Wizarding territory right now, so at this precise moment, I outrank you.”
Sherlock began to feel as if it were Christmas.
“I don’t know what has you on edge, Mr Potter. This is a fairly straightforward arrangement. East Wind has an exceptional, if troubled, mind, but is nevertheless useful to Her Majesty’s government. She has limited personal interaction, however. I was frankly surprised to get the request to come … but I gather that is thanks to you?”
“You don’t know who she is?”
Mycroft was beginning to look miffed, and Sherlock couldn’t have been more delighted. At least this was something he had known first. His brother was glancing at him now, his forehead wrinkling into a frown as he looked back at Harry.
“You’re about to tell me something entirely unbelievable, aren’t you?”
Harry gave a short laugh. “You’re learning, Mr Holmes! But yes …”
“She’s our sister,” Sherlock said, interrupting in his eagerness to say it first. “Apparently she was some kind of magical prodigy and had to be locked away for her safety.”
Mycroft just looked at him in that way he did, from under his brows as his forehead stretched upward so that he appeared to be looking down his nose at the world. “That’s not possible, Sherlock.”
“You’re saying we don’t have one?”
“I’m saying that, if we had, she could not be here, no.” Mycroft glanced at Harry. “Though I confess to wondering why Mr Potter would be spreading falsehoods.”
“The fact that you had a younger sister who died young? That is not a falsehood, Mr Holmes. Or, at least, not all of it.”
Mycroft’s gaze was intent and … was that concern? “I need to know exactly what you have told my brother. Now.”
Sherlock had seen his brother in over-protective mode countless times (and it never failed to irritate him), but the last time he had seen this level of menace had been directed to the drug-dealer who had sold Sherlock his first hit of cocaine.
Harry did not look at all cowed though. If anything, he just looked amused. “Nothing to harm him, Mr Holmes, I promise you.”
“You have no idea what you are messing with. I don’t care if you are the saviour of the wizarding world or of the entire planet, you are not a psychiatrist, Mr Potter. You do not understand the risk you are taking, exposing Sherlock like this.”
“You are worrying about the wrong thing, Mr Holmes. It wasn’t a mental break that made your brother forget your sister. He did not forget Eurus because of the trauma … or not his own, at any rate.”
Sherlock was trying not to look delighted at Mycroft’s discomfiture. It happened so seldom.
“I don’t understand.”
“Sherlock doesn’t remember your sister because when she was about five, she had an episode of accidental magic of such force that she killed your family dog.”
“Redbeard,” Sherlock murmured, the name forming unconsciously on his tongue. He did not miss Mycroft’s shooting glance of concern at the name.
But Harry was continuing. “She was so distraught, at that moment, because her beloved brother was so upset, she decided it would be better if he didn’t remember what she had done. Except, she was so young, the magic was uncontrolled. Instead of making Sherlock forget she had hurt the dog, she made him forget her. Entirely.”
Mycroft was staggering slightly on his feet. “No. That’s not …”
“That was bad enough,” Harry went on, after conjuring up a chair for the shaken man. “But a few months later, she had another bad tantrum and burned down the family home. It was an accident, but she was devastated. At that moment she believed that you would all hate her, that she didn’t deserve you. That you would all be better off without her. So, she wished as hard as she could that she had never been born.”
Mycroft sank into the chair, staring as he tried to reconcile what Harry was saying with his own knowledge.
“No, that’s not what happened. After the unfortunate Redbeard event, yes, there was a fire, but Eurus was killed.”
“Not quite. She couldn’t literally make herself disappear, but she managed to make you all believe she was dead. It was a truly remarkable display, honestly.”
He glanced in the direction of the hospital building. “When the Accidental Magic squad arrived—within ten minutes—they were faced with you and your parents unconscious, an utterly destroyed house, and a catatonic little girl. She was completely in shock. It apparently took several months before she started responding.”
“I do not understand,” repeated Mycroft. (Really, it must be Christmas.) “She’s alive?”
“And she made Sherlock forget? It wasn’t him?”
Sherlock couldn’t help himself. “Disappointed to hear that I didn’t have a mental breakdown, brother?”
“Relieved would be a more accurate description, Sherlock. But, to think that Eurus had … is it removed the memories, or just hidden them?”
“Good question,” Harry said, “I believe obliviation actually removes access to them, though in Eurus’ case … she didn’t use a spell, just made a hugely costly wish, so … who can say? Does it matter?”
A grimace. “The Holmes family is … intelligent, Mr Potter. We are masters at mental organization and recall. To blast magic through our minds, causing damage like from an explosion is one thing. But to meticulously comb through our memories to remove just her? In a fit of emotional pique as a child? It simply doesn’t seem possible.”
“I’m not a healer, Mr Holmes. I can’t begin to answer that. I’m just trying to tell you what happened.” Harry drew in a deep breath, turning slightly toward the building. “The Ministry did what they could. They couldn’t repair your house, but helped you believe it had been destroyed in an explosion … which it basically was. Once awake, according to the report, the four of you were all well enough. Some headaches, some bruising, but remarkably whole and with your intelligence and sanity intact—except, you believed that Eurus Holmes was dead.”
He paused. “I should warn you that some of the healers might want to study you, if they find out who you are. Usually that kind of large-scale obliviation leads to permanent disability.”
“But … what I don’t understand is why they took her away,” John said. “Just because a traumatized five-year-old thinks her family is better off without her, that doesn’t mean she’s right. They could have explained things away, couldn’t they? Claimed to have found her alive after all? I’m sure her parents would have been happy to have her back.”
“Maybe,” Harry said. “But considering the Ministry’s belief that they know best and that non-magical people are little better than animals, they might have ‘taken pity’ on you and decided it was kinder to save you the heartache of a child who had caused so much harm. Or maybe they were just afraid of more accidental magic that might be even worse—not unreasonable, considering. It looks like they made a unilateral decision.”
He held up his hand as they started to protest. “I’m not condoning it, not at all. I wasn’t there, and it’s not in the report. Believe me, I would be happy to investigate this for you. But … this comes first. We can find out more details about what happened then, but right now … you can start moving forward from where we are.”
For once in his life, Sherlock was sure that Mycroft was just as frustrated as he was.
“But what happened to her next?”
“They tried placing her in a wizarding home, with the belief that they would be better able to cope with her accidental magic, but … she burned that house down a year or so later, and at some point they decided she needed to be put someplace a little more … isolated … for her own safety, of course.”
“So they basically sent a child to Azkaban,” John said, his voice flat and hard.
Harry gave a small nod. “I know what you’re thinking but it’s really not as bad as you expect.”
Mycroft had regained his feet. “I need to see her.”
“That’s why you’re here.”
Harry apparently decided they’d had enough time to absorb this new information. “You have to remember that Eurus is … fragile. The last time she saw either of you, she had just destroyed the family home and caused your entire family to think her dead—which she believed she deserved. She has spent the last thirty years trying to save what she could of the family she remembered. Being a rather remarkable witch, she … well, you’ve heard the expression, “living in a fantasy?” That’s more or less what she has been doing. I strongly urge you, all of you, to not tear it apart and risk destroying what sense of healing she has achieved.”
He gave a brisk nod. “This way.”
He strode off with John in pursuit, Mycroft lagging behind.
Sherlock followed, his instincts prickling at the back of his brain, tickling with a feeling of doom. He tried to tell himself that was ridiculous, to apply his usual sense of logic, but … this was a magical problem. He had already seen that magic did not restrict itself to any sort of rational order, so the odds of it doing so now were slim.
Rationality was a hallmark of the Holmes family, though, his back-brain whispered. How would a Holmes steeped in magic and illusion for her entire life have coped?
But then, wasn’t that practically what he had done with cocaine? In the absence of mental stimulation, disgusted with a boring reality, he had let drugs lull his mind instead of dealing with boredom. Who was to say his sister hadn’t done the same thing?
Actually, it was a chilling thought. Sherlock knew he was reasonably mentally stable—more or less—and he had nearly destroyed himself. His sister was legitimately insane … what had years of isolation done to her?
“Sherlock,” his brother was saying. “You can’t really believe this?”
“Harry wouldn’t lie about this, Mycroft.”
A scoff. “You don’t think so?”
“You’ll be accusing Mrs Hudson next. Harry discovered this and thought we should know.”
“Mmm. It seems a little too pat, don’t you think? Very tidy.”
Mycroft was supposed to be the suspicious one, he supposed. “You think this is tidy? We have a sister, Mycroft, and not just any sister, but one who is a witch powerful enough to wipe her existence from our memories. There is nothing tidy or convenient about any of this. If you want to worry, I would pull your mind away from political plots involving Harry Potter and think instead about what you would be like if you had gone completely mad as a child and been able to literally shape the world into any horror you could imagine. Worry about the person we’re going to find inside that door, brother.”
The look of stark fear that quickly flashed over Mycroft’s face would have been so much more satisfying if Sherlock hadn’t been feeling rather terrified himself as he hurried along after Harry and John.
John followed Harry, but shamelessly eavesdropped on the two Holmes brothers sniping at each other behind them. From the way Harry’s mouth was twitching, he was listening, too.
“You’re sure this was a good idea, bringing both of them?”
“It didn’t seem right to only tell one of them.”
“Sherlock is going to claim bragging rights at being first.”
Now there was a definite smile on Harry’s face. “What can I say? He’s your friend, so I can’t help but think of him first.”
“Plus you like him better.”
“Remarkably, Sherlock has actually grown as a person since his fake suicide. Spending years actively trying to save lives because he cares, instead of it simply being an intriguing mental exercise that happened to also be societally beneficial? Of course I do.”
“He finally understands your helping people thing.”
“Exactly. He’s more human than he used to be, while Mycroft is as …”
“Robotic?” John suggested.
“…As ever.” Harry agreed, glancing back. “At any rate, I’m the last person to hide family secrets from someone. Better that they know.”
They walked quietly for a moment, but paused at the door for the other two to catch up.
“How bad is this going to be? I mean … she’s been locked away since she was a child. That must have had some effect on her mental development.”
“I’m not a healer, John. I don’t know the answers. What I do know is that she has all the intellectual gifts her brothers have, but instead of spending years studying hard science and cold facts, she’s studied magic and all its possibilities.”
“Christ. Like Hermione on an intelligence boosting potion.”
“Exactly. Eurus is brilliant, and if she’s been under-stimulated by the outside world …”
“She’s made up for it from the inside?” Mycroft’s voice finished.
“Something like that.”
And Harry opened the door.
Walking inside, the lobby was much more cheerful than John had expected. Going by the atmosphere at the prison end of the island, he had expected this to be grim and grey, utilitarian at best, but he had been bracing himself for horrific. Once in the building, though, the relentless wind was immediately muffled, and the reception area was bright with magical sunshine streaming in the windows.
John glanced back to see Sherlock’s reaction and was slightly disappointed when he didn’t miss a step. “What, John?” Sherlock said, as he noticed. “It’s magic.”
“Very true.” John couldn’t contain the grin, but it faded quickly. “So. You okay?”
John just looked at his friend, practically feeling the scepticism etching into his skin.
“I’ll admit to some trepidation, and this is certainly an unusual situation, but … I am well enough.”
“That works for me,” said John. “And Harry did give you a heads up, which is more than he did for your brother.”
Sherlock smiled. “He did, didn’t he? Maybe he’s forgiven me for the …”
“We’ve gone over this. I did not abandon you, John. I was just … out of touch.”
“Sure, Sherlock. You keep telling yourself that.” He nodded up ahead to security checkpoint. “Looks like they’re waiting for us.”
The less said about the security screening, the better. He didn’t object—far be it for him to complain about security—but it had been years since he had experienced magical security procedures, and he found it both easier and more intrusive than the mundane kind. The memory of the look on Mycroft’s face when they prodded him with the probity probe was one he would cherish.
Eventually, though, they were all cleared to go onward and paused in the hallway.
“I don’t know what to expect,” Harry told them. “I’ve visited Azkaban a number of times over my career, but never a wizarding mental hospital. It’s warded so well, I didn’t even know it was here.”
“Have you met her, Mr Potter?” Mycroft asked.
“Briefly. I wanted to know what to expect. I would have told you either way, but I wouldn’t have subjected you to a visit with no warning if I had been worried.”
John felt his eyebrows lift. “And you’re not worried? She hasn’t seen them in decades and has spent all this time in a mental ward and … you’re fine with this? Her healers are fine with this? There could be repercussions!”
“She’s a Holmes, Dr Watson,” Mycroft began, but John cut him off.
“I don’t care what her biology is, Mycroft, there are mental health issues to keep in mind. Just because the wizarding world is hopeless, doesn’t mean that we,” he gestured to their group, “aren’t aware of possible damage to an already fragile psyche.”
But, again, Harry was nodding. “It’s alright, John. Her healers feel she’s prepared for this.”
“She knows we’re coming?”
Before Harry could answer, a robed healer strode around the corner. “Good. You’re here. You are Eurus’ brothers?”
He did not wait for a response, but just turned and started leading them back down the corridor and into a room equipped with stiff wooden chairs set around a table.
“I admit, we’ve all been curious about you for years. One of you is Sherlock?” He glanced at them as they took their seats, then nodded. “It’s you. I’d recognize the hair anywhere.”
“My hair…?” Sherlock said, voice confused.
“Yes. Well, it’s obviously different, you’re a grown man, after all, but still. She hasn’t forgotten you, you know.”
Sherlock made a small huffing noise. “How very ironic.”
The healer gave the merest hesitation, and then nodded. “Of course. Because you don’t remember her, it said so in the file. Is that still true?”
Before Sherlock could answer, Mycroft stepped forward. “Perhaps you could answer some of our questions, doctor …?”
“Healer Michaels,” the man replied. “And you must be Mycroft.”
Mycroft met the man’s eyes, not giving anything away. “And what makes you think that, Healer?”
There was a hint of amusement. “The hair colour matches … though you’ve filled out nicely. Grown into yourself, as it were.”
“That’s fairly oblique. You say that why, exactly?”
“Let’s just say your sister is as gifted as she is troubled, and that she remembers her brothers well.” He turned back to Harry. “We did tell her they were coming, but she doesn’t know exactly when. We have time to discuss the case. Eurus has been with us since she was seven—the youngest person we’ve had here.”
“Surely, Healer Michaels, this isn’t the best place to put someone of such a young age?”
“There was not much choice. It was not just her own safety at risk. At any rate, it’s not something that can be changed. What matters now is that you know what you’re getting into.”
Well, that was ominous, thought John, as he glanced at Sherlock. “Getting into?”
“Mmm. The most important thing you need to know is that Eurus is … very gifted. The fact that she is … troubled … does not change the fact that her magic is really rather extraordinary.”
John watched Mycroft preen at the compliment. “I’m not surprised,” the man said. “She was always brilliant. We were told her gifts only came along once in a generation.”
The healer nodded. “I would agree—and add that her magical gifts are equally impressive. Eurus has an enormous aptitude for mental magics. Mind-reading, I believe you muggles call it. Most witches need training and a wand to cast legilimens, but Eurus can do it instinctively, gaining access to a person’s thoughts and emotions … and she is unfortunately quite good at manipulating them for her own gain.”
“Gain?” Sherlock asked. “In what way … extra biscuits for tea? You have her locked up here …”
“We do, but our facility is not draconian in the way you seem to be thinking, Mr Holmes. Eurus has … we have … many amenities. I promise you she is not suffering, locked away in a barren cell without even a blanket. But it is true that not everything she wants is to her benefit. That’s one of the reasons she has been her since such a young age. Outside this facility, people were … unable … to deal with her in ways that were in her best interest.”
John had not seen his friend’s face lock down so tightly since the last conversation with Moriarty.
“Indeed,” Sherlock said, rising abruptly to his feet. “Fascinating. May I see my sister now?”
“Oh, er …” Healer Michaels stumbled to his feet, glancing at Harry as if expecting the Boy Who Lived to protest, but Harry was just looking at him calmly, waiting for him. “Right. This way … er … all of you?”
They were a fairly large group, John thought, as Sherlock and Mycroft almost rushed to be first through the door, especially if Eurus had been so isolated. He caught Harry’s eye. Should they wait?
Harry’s mouth twitched with a flicker of a smile. “Maybe, but I’m curious, aren’t you?”
John felt his own mouth stretching into a grin. “It’s not like the healer said we couldn’t come.”
“We should really go to protect him from Sherlock.”
“Mycroft’s even worse,” John said, agreeing. “It’s really for everyone’s benefit if we go.”
“Her suite is this way,” Healer Michaels was saying, and it was all Sherlock could do not to run past the man. (Really, could the man walk any slower?)
Nothing he had heard had made him feel any less nervous about any of this. The idea of the troubled, gifted sister he couldn’t remember was bad enough, but knowing she had spent most of her life in a mental institution on an inhospitable island (understatement) in the middle of the north Atlantic, surrounded by people terrified of her … because, of course he could read the healer’s body language. The man was putting on a brave front in front of Harry, but obviously wanted nothing to do with Eurus Holmes.
He fought the picture in his head of his sister locked in a sterile room, without warmth, without companionship, and could barely repress a shudder. Michaels had said that was not the case, but still … he was well aware that high-security mental institutions were not about comfort so much as keeping people safe—most often from the inmates.
No, what he found most curious were the healer’s personal comments about Sherlock and Mycroft. How could he know what Sherlock’s hair looked like? Or that Mycroft had been plump when younger? Were there photos in his sister’s file? But, if so, why? What possible good would that do?
Luckily for his runaway thoughts, they stopped in front of a closed door. Then the healer tapped his wand in a distinct pattern on the door and, much like the entrance to Diagon Alley, the individual panels moved and shrank into themselves to open the entrance, just the right size for a grown adult to walk through.
Sherlock didn’t hesitate. Without even glancing at Mycroft, he plunged through the doorway, barely registering the beleaguered sigh from his brother. What did he care about Mycroft? He had a sister to meet.
He had just taken two steps in the door when he ground to a halt, not caring that Mycroft had almost run into him as he just stood and stared in shock. Instead of a barren isolation cell, or a sterile hospital room, or … anything else he might have possibly been expecting …
This was something else.
He knew they had not left the drab mental facility, and perhaps he should have been warned by the unexpected sunniness of the lobby, but … how could he possibly have expected this?
Healer Michaels had referred to Eurus’ “suite,” but this … what he saw was a lush garden and a massive, ancient home, heavy with brick and history that made the back of his brain twitch. Off to the side was a sunlit lake where a young boy with riotous dark curls ran circles around an older ginger-haired boy immersed in a book.
“Play with me, Mycroft!” the child yelled, waving a pirate sword as he leapt from rock to rock.
Sherlock felt his blood freeze into spiky bits of ice in his veins as he realized how the healer had known him by his hair, had known Mycroft used to be plump.
“But … how?” he wondered aloud, even as his brain filled in the capabilities of magic and wizarding space.
He glanced at his brother and was floored by the heartbroken look of longing on his face.
“It’s remarkable, isn’t it?” Healer Michaels said, after giving them a moment to absorb the scene. “I did tell you your sister was gifted. She spends most of her days here, reliving this afternoon, this day, over and over.”
“The day before … Redbeard,” Mycroft said, a quaver plucking at his throat.
Sherlock was still speechless. He thought he had understood how wizards could fool the mind with illusion but this? He nudged a rock with his toe, flipping it over to show the damp bottom where it had nestled in the moist soil. How was that even possible? This wasn’t an illusion, not really. He had expected images, yes, but not a whole different reality inside his sister’s hospital room.
Worse, this felt so … familiar. He had no memory of this place, and yet there was something about the house and the yard that felt so comfortable.
He supposed that made sense. Harry had told him that Eurus had made him forget her very existence, and that the family home they had shared had been destroyed. It made a certain amount of sense that his subconscious would remember it, though.
Behind him, Harry and John had entered, both looking around with a certain amount of surprise, but not the jaw-dropping amazement that he and Mycroft were feeling.
“This is remarkable,” John said after a moment, “but this can’t possibly be good for her.”
That, right there, was why Sherlock would always need John Watson in his life, he thought. He might not observe details and piece together facts and scenarios like Sherlock, but he always saw the human aspects of any story. Instead of being distracted by this incredible illusion (was it an illusion?), he went straight to the question of whether it was good for the woman who had created it.
“Maybe not, doctor,” a cool female voice came from the shoreline. “But it doesn’t seem to have done me any harm.”
Heart suddenly pounding, Sherlock turned to face her—not knowing what to expect.
The woman standing there—and she is a woman, not a little girl to match the two illusory brothers sitting suddenly frozen by the water’s edge—is calm and contained. She wears a simple white robe, with her brown hair hanging long to her waist, feet bare in the cold sand. There is no effort at displaying a certain look or demeanour. No attempts at style or fashion, just … herself.
Considering she has surrounded herself with illusion and trickery, she is as close to a blank slate as Sherlock has ever seen.
There was a tickle at the back of his head, like a memory was trying to reassert itself at the sound of her voice, but that didn’t make sense. He had never known this voice. Even if he could remember his sister, he had never heard her adult voice.
And yet, something about the timbre of her voice plucked his heartstrings in a way he had not expected. Indeed, he had not even known his heart had strings that could resonate this way. He had had a loving childhood with indulgent parents …
His brain stuttered on the thought. Parents who had apparently been dealing with the heartbreak of losing a child all that time, and he had never known. He hadn’t noticed. Had they been that good at hiding their loss? Or had he just been so self-involved that he hadn’t bothered to notice?
It was one thing for a seven-year-old to take his parents for granted, but how had Sherlock never looked at them since, to see that?
How much, he wondered as a fresh pang clawed at his heart, had they suffered during what John called his “hiatus,” believing they had lost another child?
Being left with just Mycroft.
Now there was reason for pity, he thought, feeling the corner of his mouth twitch.
The woman … Eurus … his sister … met his gaze. “Poor things. And him such a pompous prat.”
Had she just …?
“No, I didn’t read your mind. How dull,” she said. “If you want to keep your thoughts to yourself, try to keep them off your face. Really, Sherlock, you were always so obvious about your emotions.”
Behind him, he heard John snort, as if trying to contain a laugh.
“You … you have the advantage over me,” glancing again to his younger self with his pail and shovel. “I’m afraid I don’t … remember you at all.”
It was really appalling how difficult it was to say those words. Not because of wounded pride at the failure of his memory, but because this woman was his sister, and he could not remember her. He wanted to remember her.
Regal and calm, the woman before him tilted her head to one side. “Do you really?” she asked, answering the unspoken question.
Behind her, the image of Sherlock as a little boy was now watching him, focused on him as if he were real and not just an illusion pulled up by a bereft woman’s imagination.
“What are you doing?” Mycroft’s voice was sharp. “Eurus…”
“Be quiet, Mycroft,” she said, eyes not moving from Sherlock’s. “I’ve thought about this a long time. How to atone. How to fix what I’ve broken, but I needed to be sure you were ready.”
“Ready for what? This is ridiculous!”
She waved a hand and, even though Mycroft’s mouth continued to move, he was silent. Sherlock had never been so jealous of a magical person.
“I said be quiet.”
Nobody else was moving, and Sherlock wasn’t sure if it was because they were stilled in place like Mycroft, or if Harry and John were merely holding back to respect the moment. All Sherlock knew was that he could not tear his eyes away from his sister. They might as well be strangers, but she felt like family in a way he could not express. As if his DNA was resonating with hers on a frequency only their blood could feel.
Or was it hear? If anything was a sign to how at-sea he was feeling at this moment, it was this—his brain was waxing poetic, for heaven’s sake, and he could not even settle on the appropriate metaphor.
That was fair, he supposed. All that mattered was that this moment was significant, even if it was in ways he could not quite comprehend. His sister was here. It did not matter that he couldn’t remember her, or that she might well be entirely mad. He didn’t care. His little sister was standing in front of him, and he had never in his life so wanted to wrap someone in his arms to hold them safe.
He had a brief flicker of realization at that—that this might be how big brothers were supposed to feel, and didn’t that explain Mycroft in ways Sherlock did not want to consider.
As if reading the thought, Eurus’ mouth curved into a smile.
“Sisters care, too, Sherlock. Even when we’re little and disregarded because our big brothers are too busy for us. It doesn’t mean we don’t want to take care of you.”
He could feel something pinging in his brain, as if a long-buried memory was struggling to make itself known.
“I’ll have to take your word on that,” he said. “All I know is that we’ve only just met, but you feel like family. I am just sorry I don’t remember you.”
“Do you want to?”
Did he want to remember his sister? What kind of absurd question was that? Disregarding his abhorrence of losing any memory of any kind, this was his family. Familial loyalty was not his first instinct, ever. He’d had too many years of Mycroft telling him what to do, the reflex to forge his own path was well-entrenched. But that didn’t mean he didn’t care.
Of course, there was also the issue that the fact of his missing so many memories meant that the foundations of his memory palace was questionable. What if the whole structure were to collapse, unable to support the weight of his intellect because of the holes ignored at the base?
And yes, damn it, he was aware how pompous that sounded, but if he couldn’t acknowledge his own brilliance inside his own skull … or, was he? How could he possibly believe that his intellectual gifts were superior when he had such obvious gaps and had not even noticed them?
“It’s hardly your fault,” his sister told him. “I erased myself from your memory—it’s not like you had control over it. You were just a child.”
“So were you.”
She tilted her head, as if deflecting the rebuttal. “Just as well, really. If I’d been older I might have believed that it wasn’t possible, and I could have caused much more damage. As it was, I believed you would be better off if you couldn’t remember me, and just made that happen. It’s not a biological or mental flaw on your part, Sherlock.”
He considered that. He could not deny that this had been bothering him since Harry told him the story, but he knew that trying to shift blame just for the sake of avoiding fault was flawed reasoning.
Still … it would be good to have memories of a sibling who hopefully was not as overbearing as his brother.
There was a faint smile on Eurus’ face, and now the image of the small curly-haired-boy had come to stand beside her, pail and shovel forgotten as he gave a shy, hopeful smile. Behind them, the teenaged Mycroft was staring, with much the same expression as the real one—horrified.
Why, though, wondered Sherlock. If Eurus had found a way to restore his memory of her, surely that was a good thing? It felt like it should be a good thing, and John was forever encouraging him to pay attention to emotions. So why was this making Mycroft so upset? Was it just the unpredictability of magic? He was already wary of magic meddling with his brain—wouldn’t this be potentially just as intrusive as making him forget in the first place? Overwhelming like a massive sensory overload?
Trauma, Sherlock thought. The event that caused Eurus to wipe his memory had to have been hugely upsetting. He knew that was the day Redbeard the dog was killed, but … he was no longer a child. How upsetting could that be? This was his little sister, not …
“Moriarty,” he said.
“What?” She sounded surprised.
He waved a hand. “That recording assaulting the airwaves. ‘Did you miss me?’ Why?”
She made a moue, displaying disappointment that he had not embraced her promised cure without question. “Oh, Sherlock. I needed to get your attention somehow, didn’t I?”
He gestured at Mycroft. “Obviously you’ve no trouble communicating with the outside world when it suits you. You could have just called, or written, or whatever.”
“Where’s the fun in that?”
“Fun?” Sherlock repeated blankly. His entire intellectual life was built across this gaping chasm of missing memories, and she thought this was amusing?
“Oh, not your memory loss, Sherlock. Goodness, don’t be so sensitive. You’ve always been so emotional,” Eurus said. Behind him, he heard John trying to stifle a snigger. “Can’t you admit that things have been a little boring without him?”
“Boring? He did his very best to destroy me!”
“But did he succeed?”
“Of course not.”
She all but rolled her eyes. “Well, there you go. Wasn’t it good to get the adrenalin pumping again?”
“That is quite enough, Eurus,” Mycroft said with more emotion shading his voice than usual. Sherlock tried to identify it, even as their sister replied that she hadn’t missed his bossiness at all.
Ah. That was what he was missing. Sherlock was well used to Mycroft sounding like an aggrieved older brother, but not at all accustomed to that tone being directed at someone else. He was talking to Eurus like a brother, not just someone who held a certain amount of government power.
Again, he felt that tickle at the back of his brain as if this were familiar. He looked around again at their surroundings. It was the Holmes family estate, with the family plot nearby. He had been there, of course, but had never spent a lot of time there. The ancestral home had been burned and repaired, yes, but his parents had chosen to live elsewhere. Which, he supposed, he could understand. Sentiment. They would have connected the family estate too much with their lost daughter.
His eyes turned back to Eurus, taking in her calm demeanour—and, honestly, he had to admire that façade in confronting an agitated Mycroft. His brother … well. Mycroft prided himself on his emotional control even more than Sherlock did, but his older brother had never been as successful as he believed. Mycroft was rigid and inflexible, the model of a structured British gentleman. No matter how brilliant he was (Sherlock had never denied his infuriating brother’s intelligence), he was never entirely able to control his emotions where family was concerned.
Which was why Sherlock, now, could see how close Mycroft was to the edge. Maybe Harry had made a mistake, springing this news on his exasperating brother? Mycroft longed more than anything to be in utter control of everything, and this?
Not only was he out of his depth here in a wizarding mental ward, but instead of a hospital, it looked like their family estate, rendered in exquisite detail—even to the young Sherlock and Mycroft. He was also faced with the knowledge that not only had their sister survived, but it had been kept a secret from him. From the man determined to know everything.
Add to that the extra strain of his concern for Sherlock … because (again, as much as he hated to admit it), Sherlock was well aware his brother cared. He was utterly annoying about it, stifling, smothering, infuriating, but it had been a hallmark of Sherlock’s life that Mycroft would be there to protect him (even or especially when it was not necessary). The man had made it his life’s goal to protect Sherlock, and there had been times when Sherlock wondered if Mycroft had performed his stealthy takeover of Her Majesty’s government solely because it would give him more power to protect Sherlock when necessary. Sherlock had no doubt that he could kill a man in broad daylight and Mycroft would get him off.
It was exceedingly odd, he thought, watching Mycroft and Eurus take verbal jabs at one another, noting the strain in his brother’s forehead, the tension in his shoulders. He was actually feeling sympathy for Mycroft.
“You all right?” John asked him quietly. Sherlock looked down in surprise, having missed John moving closer during the verbal sparring. He glanced toward the door (illogically standing in the middle of the lawn), and saw Harry watching the proceedings carefully, hand on his wand.
“I’m fine,” Sherlock said automatically, eyes back on Mycroft’s face.
“You’re worried about him,” John said.
“I wouldn’t go that far.”
A snort. “Yes you would. You profess to hate him—and he’s annoying as hell—but that doesn’t mean you don’t care about him.”
“Please, he’s the only sibling I …”
“Exactly,” John said with a certain amount of sympathy. “Hard to wrap your mind around, isn’t it? God knows I have enough trouble
putting up with Harry—my sister, Harry. I don’t know what I’d do with the sudden knowledge of another sister. But it would still be easier, discovering an unknown sister, than finding that one I knew and remembered—and thought had died—was alive and well. That’s not even counting all this …” He waved his hand to encompass the astounding scenery.
“John, the last thing I need right now is to be forced to feel sympathy for Mycroft.”
Apparently there had been a lull in the conversation at the worst possible moment. “I’m not going to repeat myself. I am just unused to seeing you squabble with anyone but myself.”
“I do not squabble,” Mycroft bit out.
“Oh, no, Myc, I think that you do,” Eurus said, amused.
“Do not call me that!”
“You didn’t used to mind,” she said.
“When you were eighteen-months-old, it was endearing, but I believe you have achieved sufficient control over your verbalizing skills by now, have you not?”
A glimmer of amusement flickered across her face. “You have always been so stuffy. I don’t know how Sherlock has put up with you all these years.”
Sherlock met her eyes and steeled himself against the invitation there. He might feel a certain sympathy, but he found he could not entirely ignore that she had excluded herself from his life, no matter how accidentally.
“What is it that you want, Eurus?”
“What makes you think I want anything? I’m not the one who brought you here?” She glanced significantly at Harry.
Sherlock refused to be deflected. “Harry was very helpful, I agree, but I think we all know that the circumstances that brought us here were not coincidental.”
“Am I not allowed the familial feeling of longing to see my brothers again?”
“I’m certain that, if that’s all this was, you could have asked your healer to contact us. Something could have been arranged. It’s not as if we haven’t known of the wizarding world for several years now.”
“Maybe, but I’ve been unwell. What if my healing has taken this long to get me this far?”
“You still wouldn’t have needed to invoke the name and likeness of Moriarty.”
She drifted a step closer. “No? Even if my healer refused to take a simple message? Even if I needed to be clever to get the right kind of attention?”
At his shoulder, he could feel John’s readiness to get involved if she seemed a threat, but Sherlock was certain she would not be. Not a physical threat, at least. He did not doubt that her slim form would be strong and fast if she wanted to attack him, but he was certain that he was in no bodily danger.
Even now, that tickle at the back of his mind was making itself known, growing bigger, fiercer, and somewhat more akin to pain. He might not have any active memory of her, but his subconscious knew she could be a threat.
He thought back to what Harry had told him, what he had read in the reports. His sister was as gifted with mind magics as Mycroft was with manipulation or Sherlock with deduction. The healer’s note about her being able to read any person within moments of having conversation with them had seemed like hyperbole, but when he considered that she had delicately affected not only his memory when he was just a child … an impressive feat, but considering his own mind had been young and malleable, not entirely outside reason … but also that of Mycroft and their parents? He had no doubt that her mental abilities were staggering—and that his instinctive reaction to her was a mental stagger in an attempt to maintain his balance.
He wished he could tell whether that lack of equilibrium was because she was lying or telling the truth.
When was the last time he had been so uncertain? Mary he answered himself. And before that, “The Woman.” What was it about women that threw him so off his game? Unless … if his sister had caused him to forget her very existence, if she had killed his dog and burned down his home, no matter how accidentally … was it any wonder that he distrusted women?
Not all women, though, he thought. Usually he had no trouble deducting their motives, it was only when he let his guard down and allowed himself to like them. When, after all, had he ever distrusted Mrs Hudson?
No, if he had this instinctive weakness about women he was fond of … it behoved him to rid himself of it.
More, this was something he found he wanted. Not just the removal of a weakness, but because part of him desperately wanted to know his sister again.
There. He admitted it (to himself, at least). He wasn’t saying he trusted her motives, or that he was ready to believe anything she told them … but he wanted to.
And, if that was true, then …
“That’s really what you want, isn’t it? All of this. It was just your way of getting me and Mycroft here.”
Eurus sighed. “I do keep telling you that.”
“Really?” John asked, sounding surprised. “All this is rather elaborate, isn’t it … oh, what am I saying? You’re a Holmes, too. The more complicated a plot, the better you like it.”
She smiled at him, and Sherlock was surprised to see it was an authentic one. “I see why Sherlock likes you, Dr Watson. It’s good that you’re here, too, because you’re the only one who I believe will understand.”
“Understand what?” John asked.
But Sherlock felt a chill as the pieces of this puzzle started dropping into place. “He lost his magic,” he said. “And then got it back.”
There was a depth in her eyes that hadn’t been there before, as she nodded once, slowly and deliberately.
“You can’t be serious,” Mycroft exclaimed.
“Serious about what?”
“That’s my godfather,” Harry murmured, from his place near the door. Sherlock didn’t miss the flash of humour from John at the phrase, and wondered what he was missing.
…But he was getting off track. He found that, for a wonder, he actually agreed with Mycroft.
“You can’t possibly mean you want to give up your magic.”
“You make it sound like a catastrophe,” Eurus said. “And yet you’ve lived your entire life without magic, and you’ve managed well enough.”
“But I never had it to begin with!”
Eurus’ eyes were steady as she met his gaze. “Sherlock, my magic has brought me nothing but sadness. Why wouldn’t I want to see it gone, especially if doing so would restore you?”
“But why?” asked Harry. “There are some exceptions, but for the most part, once a spell is cast, it’s done. It doesn’t rely on a the witch who cast it. Obliviation doesn’t work that way.”
There was a glint of humour as Eurus responded, “Wouldn’t it be fascinating if it did? All those muggles who had been obliviated suddenly remembering the magic they had witnessed because the auror who cast the spell had died? But, that doesn’t matter, Mr Potter. My erasing of Sherlock’s memories when we were children was accidental magic, not a real oblivation. The memories are still there, he just can’t access them.”
“How can you be sure? This is the first time you’ve seen him in thirty years.”
She was watching Sherlock again. “But, as you say, I am brilliant. It’s not false modesty to say so. I’ve studied this in detail. My desire to make you forget is powered by my own emotions.”
“You hated me that much?”
“No, Sherlock. I loved you that much. I wanted so badly for you to play with me, I was so jealous, and I took it out on Redbeard. You were so upset—everyone was upset—my magic lashed out. And then again when I burned down the house.”
She turned her head, surveying the scene playing out behind her, now with the young Sherlock crying in real distress.
“I didn’t do it with malice,” Eurus explained. “It was an accident, but the effects were devastating.”
Now there was a young Eurus, screaming at her brother, “Shut up! Just shut up about Redbeard and pay attention to ME! All you think about is him! I wish you would just forget!”
The illusory boy’s eyes widened and he fell backward, staring up at the sky as their parents hurried out of the house. “What happened?” they asked as the scene played out, but while their attention was on Sherlock, the teenaged Mycroft was staring at Eurus. “What did you do?”
“He wouldn’t play with me,” the girl stated, defiant.
All of them were staring at the scene unfolding, like being in a pensieve. Eurus’ explanation continued. “For days, all anyone would talk about was how Redbeard was missing and poor Sherlock was in bed and wouldn’t wake up. It was even more boring than before. I hated it.”
Behind her, the child Eurus came stomping out of the house in her nightgown, fists clenched, and then … the house caught fire.
There were alarms and screams, as the family rushed outside, the father carrying Sherlock’s unconscious form, the mother clutching her purse. She kept looking back toward the house, even as she hovered over Sherlock. She gave a gasp of relief when she saw the girl standing outside.
“Eurus! You’re out here?”
The frantic mother turned back to the house and screamed Mycroft’s name, even as she started to reach out to embrace the girl, but the house behind them suddenly creaked and a large portion of the roof collapsed.
Both parents yelled in horror, as a soot-covered, teenaged Mycroft came stumbling out, coughing and looking desperate. Their mother waved at him, drawing him over to his brother.
From where the little girl stood, it almost looked as if they were so wrapped up in themselves, they didn’t give her a thought.
The little girl just glared at them as they clustered around young Sherlock on the lawn, and then stamped her foot. Behind them the flames exploded, burning even hotter and brighter before bursting in a wave of heat that knocked them all to the ground.
Shakily sitting up, the little girl looked around, eyes wide at the devastation. She crawled over to her mother, unmoving on the ground.
“Mum?” she said, shaking at her shoulder. “Mummy! Daddy? Sherlock!
“What did I do?” little Eurus whispered as she stared at her unconscious family. There was a smear of blood on Sherlock’s head from flying debris, and her mother looked to have fallen badly enough to break her arm.
The girl crumpled and the tears started. “I’m going to be in so much trouble!” she whispered. “They’re going to blame me, I know it.”
Frantic, she looked up at the house, staring at the flames pouring out of her bedroom window before wrapping her arms around her head and bending over her knees, chanting “No, no, no” for a long moment before lifting her head again to look at the disaster before her. “This is all my fault. I don’t blame them for not wanting me. I wouldn’t want me, either! They’d be better off without me—I wish I’d never been born!”
And, again, another explosion—this time of pure magic—swept across the scene as the little girl just passed out next to her beloved brother.
Then, there were pops of apparition as the obliviation squad arrived, looking professional on arrival, but all of them coming to a halt as they gaped at the scope of the ruin.
“It gets boring after that,” Eurus told her horrified audience. “At first they didn’t realize how bad I was. They thought it was an accident, and tried to fix things … well, not the house, of course.”
She eyed the now-smoking ruin with calm eyes, even as time shot forward to show a blank-eyed little girl being ushered away. “They decided a muggle family didn’t deserve a child as talented as I was, and told themselves that I was neglected and uncared for. They thought it was my family who were terrible, when it was I who was the monster.”
Harry was eyeing her with some extra sympathy now. “Like the exact opposite of me. My family hated me and my magic. I would have done anything to get away from them, but never did. But you …”
“My family loved me, and I repaid them with ruin and disaster,” Eurus said in a voice that was far too calm. “It was only sheer good fortune that the Ministry was able to help them as much as they did—and I think they only did so because I was so distraught, once I woke to the scope of the disaster. They wanted to ‘protect me,’ they said, from the family who hadn’t appreciated me—and chose to let the obliviation stand as a way to take me from them without needing a legal battle—not that there would have been one. Wizards take what they want.”
“We didn’t forget you,” Mycroft said, his voice as close to stunned as Sherlock had ever heard it. “We thought you had died, but we always remembered you—our parents and me.”
She shrugged. “Forgot. Thought I’d died. Same difference, really, from their perspective. Except I wasn’t as biddable as they’d hoped, and more powerful. I accidentally burned down the next home they placed me in despite the wards … but then, wards and I have always had a special relationship.”
Harry stepped forward. “Like the ones shielding this facility. That just happened to drop the day I was visiting the island? The day the Moriarty video was released?”
“Yes—and how did you get that video?” Mycroft asked. “We are quite certain the man is dead.”
She looked almost disappointed that he needed to ask. “Oh, really. That was simple!”
She waved her hand and now there was an illusion of James Moriarty so real, Sherlock couldn’t help flinching.
“All I needed was to make him say what I wanted him to say, and record it.”
Behind her, the Moriarty replica started speaking. “Polly want a cracker? Gottle o’ gear? What shall I make him say next?”
“Right, that’s enough,” said John, whose own face had gone paler. “So you got Harry’s interest by dropping the wards so he would see your records, and then, what? You knew he would tell Sherlock, but you were afraid he would shrug it off, so … to make sure they would consider this important enough to act swiftly, you released that Moriarty video?”
She actually smiled, her face warming. “Oh, well done, Doctor! That’s exactly what I did. I mean, there was more than that, but yes, exactly. I needed to make sure I got everyone’s attention. And … as you see, it worked!”
“All for this? But why?”
“So I can restore your memories, Sherlock.”
He shook his head, certain. “No, that’s what you’re using to tempt me into helping you, but it’s not your real reason.”
Sherlock walked over to her and, tentatively, reached out to touch his hand to hers.
“Why do you want to give up your magic?”
“Want to?” Mycroft scoffed. “Sherlock, she doesn’t want to. She’s just saying that that would be the cost…”
Sherlock didn’t even turn his head, intent on his sister. “No, Mycroft. She wants it gone. Why?”
Eurus’ eyes shimmered with sudden moisture. “Because it has brought nothing but pain and suffering. You were lucky. You didn’t remember. But me? I remember everything! All the loss. All the pain. The loneliness. You haven’t suffered any of that. You’ve been blessed. But me? I want it gone!”
In the distance, the manor house ruins started to smoke.
“You get to prance through your life, spouting half-truths about sentiment getting in the way, and the body is just transport for your singular brain, but that’s all it is, Sherlock. Half true, because you couldn’t even remember the other half of the equation.”
‘Yes.” She hissed the ssssss at him. “Thanks to me, you didn’t have to question whether you were going mad. You didn’t have to wonder exactly how the house caught fire. You didn’t have to wonder why Mummy and Daddy stopped talking about poor, troubled Eurus. You weren’t driven to trying to rationalize the accidental magic you witnessed—not like Mycroft.”
Their brother looked startled. “Me? I don’t know what you’re talking about. I remember you, Eurus—right up until I thought you had died. I have never forgotten you. But you are mistaken. There was no accidental magic.”
She tilted her head, examining him even as flames started pouring out of the windows of the illusory house behind her.
“You really believe that, don’t you? But I remember quite well, Myc.”
She gestured, and they all turned to look at the little Eurus behind them, shouting, “Look what I can do!” just as flames burst from her hands. The teenaged Mycroft gasped and rushed over to try to quench them, but nothing stopped them, even as he dowsed her hands in water, wrapped them in the sandy blanket. Nothing happened except for his burning his own hands until the little girl gave a laugh. “I knew you couldn’t ignore that,” she said. “I’m going to go show Sherlock.”
The image faded as the horrified Mycroft lunged for her, even as the adults stared at the scene.
“I … don’t remember that,” Mycroft stammered, absently stretching out his fingers as if feeling for the pinch of burn scars.
“Which is why you’re lucky,” Eurus said, her voice rising in pitch. “Both of you. You were able to FORGET!”
And with a blast, the manor rose up from the ashes and exploded again into an inferno, even as Eurus covered her head with her arms as if trying to stop herself from flying apart.
As they stood frozen, John drew a breath and stepped forward. “Eurus. It’s all right.”
“I was wrong. You are an idiot,” she said.
“No. I’m just someone who had magic suddenly, out of the blue, with all its wonder and promise … and then was shown its ugliness. How easily wizards use magic for their own ends without even thinking about whether it’s right or wrong. Hexes, curses, manipulating people, taking away their free will. I was fighting a war for magic before when I was seventeen—so were all my friends. Merlin, Harry over there sacrificed himself to win it.”
Eurus had not lifted her head, but the flames behind her had paused like a still photo. John looked up at Harry with an order clear in his eyes.
“I did,” Harry said. “I was told by people I trusted that I had to die to make the world safe, so … I did. It’s only sheer luck that I’m still here.”
“Is it, though?” Eurus’ voice was small as she looked up through her lashes. “Lucky?”
“Most days.” Harry gave a small nod. “I won’t deny that there have been some particularly bad days when I wish I hadn’t come back, that it would have been easier if I had just gone on, but … how do I know? None of us knows what comes after. What proof is there that it’s better? All we can do is deal with what we have and work to make things better here.”
“Better!” she scoffed. “I didn’t think you were so naïve, Auror Potter. People don’t try to make things better. They just suffer through the current state of the world and hope events don’t fall in to complete disorder and chaos.”
“And yet, my oldest friends tell me I have a ‘saving people thing’,” Harry said. “I seem to be fundamentally unable to let an injustice go by without trying to fix it. Neither can Doctor Watson … and from everything I’ve seen, your brothers have tendencies in that direction as well.”
She sniffed. “My brothers aren’t being altruistic. They are simply meddling because they can.”
“Because we can help,” Mycroft corrected her, stepping closer. “We have not set ourselves up as dictators or evil masterminds, despite, I must confess, a natural ability toward that end. The world would be so much simpler if people were to just do what we tell them.”
“Something which Mycroft delights in,” Sherlock put in. “As his younger sibling, I’m sure you are as well acquainted with that tendency as I am, even if your exposure was shorter.”
John was in front of her now, eyes trained on her face, hidden behind her hair. “The point, though, is that—magic or no magic, you do what you have to do. To survive, first and foremost, but after that? That depends on the kind of person you are, and who you want to become. And how hard you want to work at it. Not just anybody is dedicated enough to kill themselves for the better good—like Sherlock did—and Harry here quite literally rose from the dead to save the world. Both of them were determined to do the right thing, no matter the cost. Magic … that didn’t really matter one way or another.”
“How you’re born, how you’re raised—they don’t matter a whit compared to the kind of person you are at core,” Harry said. “We literally fought a war about that.”
Eurus lifted her head, showing a pale but dry face. “You seem to think that I would be a force for good out there.” She waved her arm to encompass the wide world. “But you forget that I am in Azkaban.”
“The hospital,” put in the healer from by the doorway. “Not the prison. We’ve discussed this.”
She ignored him. “Yes, my cell is more comfortable, and includes amenities like heat and good food, but … they would never have locked me here if I weren’t a monster.”
“Nonsense!” John told her firmly. “If you were a monster, you wouldn’t be willing to restore Sherlock’s memories, now you know how.”
She gave him a frankly pitying look. “Really, doctor? I thought you understood. It’s not that the cost of restoring Sherlock’s memories is losing my magic. It’s that stripping away my magic has the side-effect of restoring his memories. I’m not doing this out of a sense of generosity or to right a wrong. It’s just the simple balance my magic requires of the universe.”
Sherlock had to admit that that … stung.
“So you don’t care at all if I remember you?”
She gazed at him with eyes so deep it seemed like there was no end to the pain they held. “If you consider it a boon, that is well enough, Sherlock, because I, for one, would prefer to forget. But no. It is not my main incentive. I just want it all to stop.”
The anguish in her voice froze both Holmes brothers.
In the ringing silence that followed that, the healer cleared his throat nervously and said, “Er, I think we’d better …”
“We’re not going anywhere,” John replied, eyes on Eurus’ face.
“You don’t understand. She’s dangerous when she gets like this.”
“And it’s your job to help her,” John’s voice lashed out. “If you can’t be bothered, than you can leave.”
“You are not a healer …”
“Just because I learned medicine from the muggles,” John all but hissed at the man, “doesn’t mean I didn’t learn the ethics to go with them. It’s my duty to heal, not leave a person in pain … for years.”
Sherlock watched with delight as John pulled out his wand—something he didn’t do nearly as often as Sherlock wished—and with a whirl and a flick, pushed the annoying healer out the door, which closed firmly behind him.
Apologies for the short chapter. My house has been without power since Tuesday because of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Isais, so I have not been able to do any work on this because I don't want to drain my laptop battery. So! You're getting the still-rough first half of the chapter I've got drafted out so you at least have SOMETHING today while I wait for my electricity to come back. Hopefully it's up to par, and even more hopefully I'll get my power back before the weekend!
John pulled in a deep breath, determined to control his temper and not do any worse than push the pretentious prat out the door (“Yes, thank you for your input,” his memory whispered with the image of Sherlock closing the door on Anderson at their very first crime scene together.
He wondered what it said about him, that he was now behaving the same way as Sherlock had at his most arrogant.
Except … what a tosser that healer was! Not only did he stand as close to the door as possible the entire visit, all but telegraphing his fear of whatever Eurus could do, but to want to run away at the first signs of her distress? How could that man call himself a healer? Oh, he might be a fair dab with potions to soothe the senses of the emotionally fraught patients, but what did that have to do with actual healing? Yes, you needed to keep people from hurting themselves and it was easier to heal from a place of serenity rather than pain, but … there was more to medicine than simple anaesthesia!
And, honestly, even knowing that the wizarding world did little to nothing to help with mental illness, you’d think they would have offered this woman—a young girl when they’d brought her here—at least the decency of therapy sessions.
Because this illusion she had crafted for herself was masterful, yes. The attention to detail was staggering and John didn’t know of any other magic users who could create their own virtual reality, even more real than a pensieve—all without a wand or any training.
It was impressive, was what, but it was also deeply disturbing. Had Eurus Holmes never been encouraged to accept the past for what it was, but turn toward making her own personal future better? Had she seriously been left to wallow in her own misery for decades instead of being helped?
He had been an army doctor, damn it, and psychiatry was barely a nodding acquaintance with John’s specialty, but even he could have done so much better than this!
He pursed his lips and blew out one last, slow exhale while encouraging his heartrate to slow back down, and then turned back to … oh. Everyone. All staring at him.
“Right,” he said, trying not to feel embarrassed. “Well, he’s gone.”
“Thank you, doctor,” Eurus said, a gratifying twitch at the corner of her mouth indicating something other than the despair of just moments ago. “I’ve wanted to do that for as long as I’ve known him.”
“Your forbearance is impressive then,” John told her. “I didn’t make it an hour. But then, I’ve always had a temper.”
She was studying him with that laser-like focus he had become used to as a Holmes family trait. “But you use it for the good of others, whenever possible. You shrug away slights to yourself as best you can, and don’t let yourself spend your days thinking about how you’ve been hurt or ignored. But when someone is injured and you can help … nothing will stand in your way. Fascinating.”
“Yes, well…” John gave a shrug. “I shared a room with the wizarding world’s boy wonder for six years.”
“Indeed, but which of you more influenced the other?” she asked, giving Harry the same measuring look. “You are more similar than either of you realizes. You do good for others without thinking, without flinching, never counting the cost to yourselves. It’s remarkable.”
To his left, Sherlock shifted and John glanced at him, noting the way the skin had tightened around his eyes. “Sherlock does that, too—or, well, almost. He can’t help but think through everything, so I wouldn’t say he doesn’t calculate the cost—he just disregards it.”
He didn’t like the way Eurus just let her eyes skim past her brother. When they had first arrived, he had captured her attention, but now she almost ignored him.
“It could be the muggle influence, I suppose,” she was muttering. “It’s not that you both fought in a war—your need to help people predates that…”
“A basic sense of decency has nothing to do with whether you’re born with magic or not,” John interrupted her. “Some things are simply right.”
Eurus smiled. “Oh, doctor, you are so much more interesting than I suspected.”
“Isn’t he?” Sherlock murmured.
John caught Harry’s eye, as they shared their amusement with the Holmes’ fascination with ordinary mortals like themselves. Why they found them so fascinating, John couldn’t understand. The closest he could figure was that their own focus on mental acrobatics kept them from letting their emotions run wild like it did for most people. Mental focus was good, he supposed, but people weren’t meant to be computers. No matter how many billions of calculations you could run per second in your head, what was the point if you weren’t using them for something?
“But, Doctor, that brings in all sorts of ethical conundrums. The more you use your gift, the more room there is for mistakes, and the faster you are going, the worse the mistakes can be—like driving a car on a wet road instead of dry.”
“Greater talent leads to greater responsibility,” John said. “Yes, I know. But that’s where human connections come into play. You’re less likely to risk disaster if you truly care about the outcome, or the people involved.”
“Which is also the way you get hurt,” Eurus said in a flat voice.
John just nodded. “Especially when you’re a kid with way too much power. That car you mentioned? Not only was it driving on ice, it had a Porsche engine and enough horsepower to be its own cavalry. You tapped the engine and it took off for parts unknown at a million miles an hour, and there was nothing you could do. There’s a reason nobody learns to drive with a Lamborghini. And there’s a reason that children at Hogwarts start with small things like turning a needle into a match. You have to learn control. They call it Accidental Magic for a reason. I understand that you had a particularly traumatic introduction to your magic, but I still would have thought they would ...”
He looked around at the fully lifelike illusion around them. “They must have taught you how to control your magic?”
He was surprised to see a flicker of pain cross her face. “But that’s the problem, doctor. Didn’t they tell you? That wouldn’t work for me.”
“When you were that young, certainly, but ...”
“No. You misunderstand,” she told him. “My troubles when I was young were devastating because they were driven by my own unfettered emotions. I threw tantrums and did terrible things, and yes, that can be attributed to my age. In the normal course of events, I would have learned to control my magic alongside learning to control my temper.”
John did not like the “but” he heard coming.
“But while I learned to control my temper and my emotions—I did eventually stop lashing out at imagined slights, you know, and I haven’t even raised my voice in years. Knowing my brothers, it can’t entirely surprise you that I’ve learned a semblance of control over my own mind.”
“Right,” he said, nodding as his stomach began to tighten, just waiting for the penny to drop.
“The problem is not that I haven’t learned to control myself,” Eurus said. “The problem is that I’m not actually a witch.”
“You’re ... not a witch?” Sherlock repeated, “but...?”
Unable to find the words, he gestured at the illusory manor house and yard surrounding them.
“Yes, but that’s not magic,” his sister said. “Not by Wizarding world standards. What you see is just a product of my troubled mind.”
“Eurus,” said Mycroft, stepping forward. “Magic is contradictory enough. You don’t need to add nonsensical statements to it.”
“Don’t come over all big brother, Mycroft. I know of what I speak. The Wizarding world has very specific magic. They use wands to channel it and potions to capture it, but it’s a very distinct ... specialty, shall we say? But it’s not the only kind of magic. Just like chemistry and physics are different types of science, or mysteries and romance are both types of fiction ... the kind of magic the Wizarding world uses to really good effect isn’t the only kind of magic.”
“It’s not?” Harry asked, looking stunned.
“Of course not. Think of all the stories that involved magic that you heard as a child, before heading to Hogwarts.”
“I didn’t hear any stories about magic,” he told her, voice flat.
She blinked for a moment, and Sherlock remembered how Harry had responded to the word “Freak” when they first met.
Then Eurus continued. “There are stories of magic all over the world—different kinds of magic, some great, some minor, some big, some small ... it’s everywhere and nowhere is it as concentrated than in the stories we tell our children. Fairy tales, enchanted forests, witches, shape-changers—and that’s just in our culture. Many of these tie directly into the Wizarding world’s style of magic, but some ...”
Her voice drifted off for a moment, and then she continued. “Not only are there hundreds or thousands of traditions in the world that are not Anglo-Saxon, there are so many little things ... the telepathy between twins that is well documented but not explainable by legilimency. How does a mother know her child is in danger, miles away? True psychic mediums who communicate with the dead? What about perfectly ordinary people who can find something that is lost? No other gift, just that one.”
She looked at all of them. “Magic is everywhere—which makes the Ministry’s belief they can simply control the knowledge absurd, by the way. You can no more contain magic than you can limit life or love. The point, though, is that there are thousands, millions of people with gifts of magic that don’t meet the Wizarding world’s requirements.”
“Like squibs, you mean?”
She shook her head. “No. Well, them, too. But they and their descendants come by their magic through wizards. In that one, small way, the argument for ‘purebloods’ has some validity—there is a genetic marker for magic that some of the old Wizarding families have and pass down. And squibs can pass on the gene, even if they don’t have access to magic themselves.”
“You’re expanding the magic we know about into something even more unfathomable,” Mycroft said with distaste.
“You just hate knowing there are things beyond your ken, don’t you, Horatio,” she responded, mocking.
He tilted back his head to look down his long nose at her. “I prefer logic.”
Eurus smiled. “So do I ... now. But when I was four ...”
Mycroft’s eyes narrowed. “Your favourite book was a compendium of worldwide legends, one written for university students, if I remember correctly.”
“You do. I was enchanted, if you’ll excuse the word, with the idea of magic. I loved the legends and the possibilities of being able to bend Nature’s laws. Like many children, I pretended to cast spells and spent hours imagining myself into a magical world.”
Sherlock was beginning to understand. “You wanted magic to be real so badly...”
“I made it real. For me. I wished for it so hard ... Mycroft, you used to like to say I was remarkable, a once-in-a-generation mind?”
“Yes. You were remarkable.”
Her face did not lighten at the compliment—probably because it was weighted with that disparaging past tense, thought Sherlock.
“Well, in some ways you were exactly right, because unlike every witch or wizard you’ve ever met, I was not born with magic. No. I just wanted it to be real so badly ... and so I made it happen. I willed myself into doing magic because I was desperate enough and gifted enough that my brain tricked itself into believing the impossible.”
She reached over to caress one of the gnarled trees.
“For most people, that would simply have led to a delusion—a type of insanity easily treated. In fact, I believe our parents were already talking to psychiatrists about their daughter’s break with reality. But for me, it was more than that.”
She was leaning against the tree now, resting her head against its bark as if the fact of its existence inside a hospital room was not completely illogical. Sherlock had never heard of a wizarding illusion so solid.
“Unfortunately, I was just as brilliant as Mycroft says, so I somehow made my conviction that magic was real a reality—and thus embodied a type of magic that formerly did not exist.”
“The problem, though, is that doing so ... broke ... something. Understand me. They were delusions. According to everything we knew, my belief in magic was false. Countless children without magic have tried casting spells and waving wands with absolutely no effect. And when you hear about Asian gurus bending nails with their thoughts—whether you choose to believe it or not—that is always the result of massive concentration and years of hard work, which four-year-olds are incapable of. But me?”
She gave a bitter laugh, wrapping her arms around her unbelievable tree. “My little genius mind made my delusions real. And since I was a child, and an indulged one with little enough control to begin with, I … did terrible things.” She looked up to meet his eyes. “I did terrible things to you, all without meaning to.”
Sherlock was speechless. He had slowly been coming to terms with the idea that his sister had wiped his memory by way of a temper tantrum. Much of him was still aghast at the very idea, considering how precious his brain was. John teased him for claiming his body was just transport for the brain, but in a lot of ways, it was true. Sherlock was grateful for an active, fit body that let him chase down clues (quite literally), but even if he had been contained in a chair like Stephen Hawking, he believed his only real regret would be the limitations that would put on his ability to make on-site observations.
He kept telling himself that it was foolish to worry about what young Eurus had done to him all those years ago. Whatever damage there had been, he had obviously not been too limited by them, so he had convinced himself that there was no real harm done at this late date.
Looking at Eurus, though, he realized that he had been wrong.
He had been focusing on his own losses, rather than truly considering what a life in an institution, weighted by guilt, would have done to a sister that was even brighter and more inquisitive than he and Mycroft.
He had even let himself feel a bit of jealousy that, if any of them had been gifted magic, that it had skipped him. He had regretted the chance to go to Hogwarts—meeting John decades earlier—and having a whole new world to learn and analyse. Hearing Eurus weep, just now, over the pain magic had caused her had not made him feel any differently about having wanted it himself.
Sherlock was honestly surprised that his inner child wasn’t railing and screaming over the unfairness that she had been able to will magic into existence for her own use, and that he had never even bothered to try.
And so he gazed at his sister calmly and said simply, “Water under the bridge.”
Eurus looked stunned, and then disbelieving. “You can’t mean that.”
“I never say things I don’t mean,” Sherlock declared, and at the sound suspiciously like a snort from John, clarified, “when it matters. And this does.”
“That doesn’t make sense. You should hate me. I brought you here specifically to give you the chance to tell me so to my face.”
“Nevertheless.” Sherlock shrugged one shoulder. “Naturally, I am sorry to have lived my life without any memory of you—though it seems like it would have been more painful to have remembered you but believed you were dead. But … all that is past.”
He was utterly surprised when she gasped out some inarticulate noise and then flung herself into his arms.
John would have laughed at the look on Sherlock’s face as his long-lost sister clung to him, but the force of her weeping took any humour out of the situation.
They all stood, frozen, until she regained some control over herself. Then Harry said, “So, you’re saying that you’re not actually magical at all, but can do magic ... do they know that?”
He gestured toward the door.
Eurus shook her head. “I don’t think so. My belief is that they think I’m just a muggleborn child whose magic came on too early and couldn’t handle the strain—which,” she added, her mouth twisting in distaste, “of course, a pureblood would have managed with ease.”
“Of course they would,” Harry said, his expression mirroring hers. “But how can you be sure?”
“Well, for one, I’m still here. If they learned that I wasn’t actually a witch, I imagine they would have either kicked me out or would be studying me to see if my magical acquisition could be replicated. Imagine all the pureblood squibs who could benefit if magic could be willed into existence.”
Harry nodded, a thoughtful look on his face. “It’s a risk, though. Back during the war, they claimed that muggleborns had stolen their magic from witches and wizards. Voldemort was doing everything he could to get rid of them.”
“Ethnic cleansing,” said John.
“Exactly. I think you’re right.” He looked at Eurus. “If they had suspected, you would definitely have been treated differently during Voldemort’s reign.”
“Not necessarily,” Eurus said. Then, seeing the question on his face, “The warding. You didn’t see the hospital until I brought the wards down, and, well—neither Voldemort nor his followers ever saw this building.”
“But isn’t there surveillance of some kind?” John asked. “I can’t imagine they let their highly volatile, emotionally unstable magical patients free rein without keeping an eye on them. I would think the magical reversal squad would be busy in a place like this.”
“Oh, they are! You can’t imagine.”
John had visited a wizarding care home once and could imagine quite well. If a building full of aging wizards losing control of their magic had been chaotic, he could only imagine how much worse it was when you added mental illness into the mix. Nightmares could truly come to life.
“That’s why you can create such real illusions, then? Because your magic is unorthodox?” Harry asked, following his own line of thought.
“It’s not an illusion, Mr Potter. It is very real. That is, we have not actually travelled to my old home, but the things you see are real and solid because I want them to be.”
“So you could change all this to something else, if you wanted?” Sherlock asked, looking around.
Eurus did not move, but as they watched, the manor house and yard disappeared, leaving a comfortable but rather sterile room with an iron bed and just a few possessions. It wasn’t a cell, or a padded room, but it was barren of inspiration. The only colour coming from the window.
“Go look,” Eurus told Sherlock, when she saw his curiosity. He didn’t hesitate, but strode across the room to see … John did not know what was out there, but having experienced wizarding windows in the past, knew it wasn’t showing the cold North Sea outside the building.
“It’s not … bad,” Sherlock said, turning back to the room, though his face showed how little he approved of the amenities.
“Perhaps something else, then?”
And again, without apparent effort, the room before them dissolved into a luxurious suite, filled with sumptuous fabrics and large comfortable chairs, with overflowing bookcases and a tea tray steaming gently on a table.
She crossed over and poured out a cup. “Tea, anyone?”
“That can’t be real,” said Mycroft, almost reluctantly, as if he had not wanted to be drawn into the conversation.
It was decidedly out of character for him, too, John thought. Mycroft might like to believe he was a person who watched and observed, only speaking when it was necessary to direct the goldfish, but John had never seen him so quiet. He had barely put three words together since they entered the room, and while he knew that learning his sister was still alive was a shock, John wouldn’t have expected it to take Mycroft this long before he was trying to arrange things. To fix things.
Unless he hadn’t internalized it was real? John wasn’t saying he thought Mycroft was in denial or having trouble grasping reality, but … it was a lot all at once. In many ways, Mycroft had barely accepted that magic was real, much less adding in the fact that is dead sister was not only alive and brilliant, but also a witch as well? You could certainly forgive him for having trouble absorbing the new reality.
“Of course it’s real,” Eurus was saying to Mycroft, gesturing with the now full cup and sending it floating across the room to him, like an old Bewitched episode.
“But I thought magic could not create matter,” Mycroft said, gripping the saucer hard enough, John wondered if it might break.
“That’s what I was taught,” Harry said, agreeing with him. “And there’s no question, I have experienced times when being able to create a pot of tea out of thin air would have been handy.”
Eurus passed him a cup as well. “But I told you—my magic works differently. Mass cannot be created or destroyed, but there is plenty in the atoms surrounding us at all times. It’s like capturing wild yeast for sourdough. There’s a limited amount, but within reason you can transfigure it to what you want. Also?” Two more cups wended their way to Sherlock and John as she poured one for herself. “I had this ready. It’s not like I didn’t know you were coming.”
John laughed. “You’re a Holmes, all right.” He sat down in the chair across from Eurus and smiled at her, sipping the tea.
One by one, the others joined them, Mycroft sitting gingerly at the edge of his chair as if he expected it to deconstruct under him.
After a few moments of restorative tea, John looked over at Eurus and asked, “What other ways is your magic different?”
She gazed upward as she pondered the question, idly stirring her spoon without touching it. “There are similarities, of course. And the fact that I was raised by witches and wizards had its effect in channelling my abilities in the direction they would expect. I might not need a wand to cast a lumos, but the conception of the spell and what it does directs my own expectation, and thus I end up with a ball of light and not, oh, blazing sunlight, or a fluorescent lightbulb … or a lightsabre, for that matter.”
“You don’t need a wand?” asked Harry.
“If you want to get truly technical, everything I do is so-called accidental magic. It comes from inside my head and from my own conviction that magic is real. What use would a wand be? And, in fact, they don’t work for me. At all. I can use one to gesture with, but they all might be made of cardboard with a glitter-covered star at the end for the good they do me. In terms of potions, my physiology reacts like a muggle … most of the time.”
She leaned forward, an impish smile on her fact. “To be honest, I don’t think they know what to do with me.”
“Do with you,” Sherlock repeated flatly.
“Well, I’m not exactly crazy anymore. I mean, there were periods when I was young that it was probably … no, definitely … true. The trauma of losing my family and accidentally burning down multiple houses… There was definitely a number of years when I was insane.”
She looked around at the varying expressions of dismay.
“I did say that willing magic to work for me broke something, didn’t I? I meant it quite literally. Unlike a natural witch, my brain wasn’t meant to deal with the flow of magic, and it … warped, I think. I couldn’t tell what was real, what was solid … my childhood … wasn’t the best.”
John swallowed against a nugget of information that was not at all to his taste—and he was not the only one.
Eurus though seemed undismayed. “As Sherlock says, it’s water under the bridge. I wouldn’t want to live through it again, but I survived it and … here we are.”
Mycroft, though, seemed heartened. “You’re saying that you are not insane any longer?”
“I’m not a psychiatrist,” she said, leaning back and wrapping her cup with her long fingers. “I can’t speak to the physiology or the psychosis. What I know is that the … delusion … of those younger years is gone. To the best of my knowledge, I can tell the difference between what is real and what is illusion—even when my illusion is completely solid, unlike any glamours I’ve seen done by other wizarding folk. My belief is that whatever was physically damaged when I was four has healed.”
“And the psychosis?”
“I can’t diagnose myself, Mycroft. And well-meaning though these people are in the care they’ve given me, they have not exactly focused on therapy or recovery. But what I do know is that I knew very early that it was my brain causing me trouble, and so I learned to focus. At first it was to focus on one thing that was real to avoid being distracted or distressed by the fluctuations I couldn’t help. Later it was for mental clarity as a means of control. Then habit. So far as I can tell, I have the most organized mind in the country—and that’s including you, Myc.”
His lips pursed at the nickname, but he did not respond.
“More than just a mind palace then?” John suggested with a hint of a laugh.
“More like an entire city, to keep it all in place.” Eurus gave a small shrug, her shoulders barely moving against the back of her deep chair. “But analysis was important. As my mind cleared and my magical outburst lessened, the witches raising me tried to teach me their magic, thinking that learning control would help … but in some ways it slowed my recovery because things they believed I should be able to do, wouldn’t work for me.”
“Because your magic is different.”
“Yes. For many things it didn’t matter—a fire is a fire, after all. Even Fiendfyre burns oxygen and fuel. So basic things like physical manipulation worked for me just like anyone.”
“Floating teacups,” Sherlock murmured.
She nodded. “Everyone has gifts, too, of course. They just ultimately decided—or so I believe—that my early experiences damaged my gift, so that there would always be magics that didn’t work for me, like potions.”
John heard Harry snort with a stifled laugh. “Sorry,” he said. “I’m just … I’m picturing you getting potions lessons from Snape!”
“Merlin,” John said, picturing it all too clearly. “That would have been a disaster.”
Eurus, though, was serious. “Actually, he tried. I don’t know what leverage they used to force him to try, but he was a potions master, and very gifted, even if his personality was … difficult.”
Harry had sat up straight. “You knew Severus Snape.”
“I did. He came to try to help. Not, mind you, that he wanted to do anything other than brew potions, but when I showed him I’d read the materials …”
“He didn’t ask you about fifth year knowledge on your first meeting, then?” Harry asked, voice bitter.
“Actually, he did. Luckily for me, I’d read every potions book we had in the library before meeting him. I think that was what decided him. The idea that a witch who knew the material inside and out but still could not brew a successful boils potion … he had an inquiring mind, for potions. He should have devoted his life to research. He was absolutely wasted as a teacher.”
“Well, that’s true,” Harry said with a sigh. “I certainly would have been happier without him glaring at me in potions class. But so … your healers never twigged to your not being magical because, well, obviously you’re doing magic, but also because there were enough similarities that they only thing they questioned was that certain things didn’t work because you’d been ill.”
“Yes. And other than exclaiming over my unheard of gift for illusion, they’ve never quite realized that in mental abilities, I’m lightyears away from them. I’m not talking intelligence, but in magical effect. Since my magic and my brain are both unique, there are things I can do that they cannot conceive of … and cannot reverse.”
She looked at her brothers, unusually sitting side by side.
“Unlike most Wizarding accidental magic, there are only so many things the accidental magic reversal squad could put right. Correcting physical effects like fire, they could do, but the damage I caused you was mental …”
“They didn’t decide to let your erasure of our memories stand,” Sherlock said, with that revelatory tone of voice he did so well. “They couldn’t fix it. Your accidental magic convinced our parents you were dead, and so they had to let it be.”
“Almost … I wished I’d never been born, Sherlock. My magic wouldn’t let me will myself out of existence, but it let me remove myself from that existence. It removed me from their daily lives. As I understand it, the accidental magic reversal squad tried to put things right, but no matter what they tried, they couldn’t convince the three of you that I was still alive.”
“But that … that doesn’t make sense,” Harry said.
Eurus’ expression was pitying. “Since when does magic make sense, Mr Potter? Oh, there are some basic rules, and the occasional progression of what you might laughingly call logic in the advancement of certain types of spell theory, but much of what it does is purely nonsensical. In this case, though, since they couldn’t convince our parents I was still alive—and I was somewhat catatonic from shock—they just went with what was easiest. They implanted the belief that I had died in the house fire and took me away. It’s true that they might have tried harder if we had been a magical family, but by their lights, they did the responsible thing. They took the troubled witch away from the muggles who couldn’t help her, and gave the family some closure by letting them believe I was dead … as happy an ending for all concerned as could be managed.”
“That’s … horrible.”
“Worse, it’s unprofessional,” said Mycroft.
“That’s wizards for you—treating non-magicals as sub-human,” Sherlock said, the words sharp-edged as if flung from his mouth.
John could sympathize—he hadn’t grown up during a class- and race-war without internalizing the idea of basic justice. He had sometimes wondered where Sherlock would have fallen if he had been born a wizard. He and Mycroft both oozed class privilege from their pores, but they also lived and breathed a sense of justice. (Yes, Mycroft’s version might be pompous and overbearing as if he knew what was best for the whole world, but you couldn’t deny his dedication to law and order. If he had ever decided to be a tyrant, he would at least have been a fair one—strict but fair, like Professor McGonagall had been.)
“Right,” he said after a minute. “So, your magic is unique and can’t be understood by or entirely reversed by ordinary witches or wizards—because you’re a Holmes and unique in all things. Which is why they were unable to restore your family’s memories, including Sherlock’s, which happened earlier. But … why do you say you have to give up your magic to restore it? You said before that you wanted to, but not why it was necessary.”
Her lips tightened briefly. “I don’t know it for sure, doctor, but it is what my heart feels to be true.”
“Emotions, again,” Mycroft said, scoffing at the thought.
“Perhaps, but my magic is very much driven by my feelings, Mycroft. Even more than standard wizarding magic, I have to believe it will work.”
“But why do you think the cost of restoring my memories is your magic?” asked Sherlock.
That expression flitted across her face again, and John knew. “He’s got it backwards, doesn’t he? It’s not that restoring his memories will cost you your magic—it’s the other way around, like atoning for a sin. You have to make amends for the damage you’ve done.”
“But that still doesn’t …”
“…And you hope,” John continued, not letting himself be interrupted, “that by fixing the damage you’ve done—the damage most emotionally fraught and you feel most guilty about—will be enough for your magic to … let go. You want it gone, but this is the price you need to pay.”
He saw the looks of disagreement on the others, and Mycroft was already starting to protest (“Now, really, John…”), but Eurus just nodded.
A storm of voices were raised, buffeting Eurus as she stood in the middle of the room. She was calm, as she had been most of their visit, but Sherlock could see that she felt assaulted by the noise and chaos, biting her lip against the strain.
He stepped forward, taking her hands in his, even as he marvelled at himself. Such a gesture was so unlike him, but here, something drew him to comfort her. He wondered if it was because she was his sister. He would no doubt have been terrible at being a big brother, but still, he liked to think that he would at least have tried. At any rate, he might not have any memory of the woman in front of him, but perhaps his DNA somehow resonated with hers, recognizing her as family, even if his brain hadn’t accepted the full knowledge yet.
“I don’t think it can,” she told him, even as she gazed with a kind of awe at their joined hands. “I don’t think the magic will let you believe you had a sister.”
Even as Sherlock scoffed, Mycroft was nodding.
“It’s true. After Eurus died … or, we thought she did … we would often speak of her, but nothing we said ever convinced you she had been real. You accused of us lying to you, trying to trick you—of making up a sister because we didn’t think you were good enough. And, of course, we didn’t have any photos since the house had burned—just one Mum had in a locket that was in the safe. We finally … well, we didn’t know about magic, but it was too painful having you accuse us of lying, and so … we stopped talking about her. About you,” he added, looking at Eurus.
“I suppose it was easier to try to forget me,” she said.
“No!” Mycroft snapped. “Not at all. It wasn’t that we did not want to remember you or were trying to ignore our memories of you. It was just …”
“Too painful?” she suggested. Her expression was innocent, but the tone of voice was dry and bitter.
“Not in the way you think. I’m sure you’ve noticed in yourself as well, our family does not shy from painful realities. In a way, we revel in them—it’s part of what makes us so good at analysis and deduction. We don’t favour the optimistic falsehoods over the less savoury truths. Our parents were crushed at losing you, and as brave a face as they put on for us, they never entirely got over losing the daughter they adored.”
“Adored,” she repeated with even more bitterness. “That’s not the way I remember it.”
“Ah, but you remember it from the perspective of the youngest person in the room—a room, I might add, filled with other people who all loved to be centre stage. I know you often felt overlooked and unloved because we all couldn’t dote on you every minute of every day, but you were doted upon—and don’t protest, Eurus. I was there. I saw. We weren’t as close as you and Sherlock were—partly because of the greater age difference—but I can assure you that you were very much adored.”
Mycroft spun his umbrella on its ferrule. “As you would expect, our bereaved parents could not—would never—have forgotten you, given any choice in the matter. It was just that the conversations about you became so difficult …”
“Painful, you mean.”
“No, I do mean literally difficult. Since Sherlock would not accept the fact of your existence, every time we talked about you, it became a fight. It lurked in the corners when we would mention you, like a ghost eager to haunt and twist our stories of you. It became too hard to talk of you, not only because of the very real loss, but because our recollections were being coated, dyed, in additional trauma and stress since every time we spoke of you, there was a fight. If we had continued, it would have swamped our memories of you completely, leaving us with nothing but a bitter taste in our mouths, instead of a remembered sweetness that was too quickly gone.”
There was silence at that, and Sherlock saw a glimmer in Eurus’ eyes that was swiftly blinked away.
“So,” he said after a moment. “You feel that you need to pay for my memories with the magic that you claim to dislike. John—who understands human hearts far better than I ever will—says you are trying to atone for your childhood error by restoring them, but … I have two questions. First, why do you feel it’s necessary after all this time, and second, why you believe it will cost you your magic. Because, I understand that you feel it has blighted your life, but it seems to me that it’s part of you nevertheless. One thing I’ve learned these last few years is that you can’t run from who you are.”
She blinked at him for a moment and then gathered herself. “Your first question—magic took your memories, and only magic—my magic—can restore them.”
“Wh— well. Because they tried!”
“But you’ve already said your magic is different than Harry’s magic. Just because wizards tried to reverse it, doesn’t mean it can’t be reversed.”
“Exactly. It has to be me.”
“Yes. It sounds like that is true. But why?”
For a moment, he thought she looked hurt. “Don’t you want to remember me?” she asked, voice small.
He squeezed her hands. “Of course, but … ignoring for the moment a reasonable concern at magic digging through my finely ordered brain for memories that have been hidden most of my lifetime … is there any reason we can’t just start making memories now and moving forward?”
“But we can’t!”
Sherlock lifted one eyebrow, sighing to himself that even this genius sister could miss the obvious.
“We did just establish, Sherlock, that you were unable to retain memories of her,” Mycroft put in.
“When I was a child, yes. But I’m remembering her just fine right now.” He smiled as a gleam of hope started to lighten his sister’s sad face. “And I have done since Harry popped round to tell me of her. I posit that whatever damage you caused with your blast of accidental magic has healed … much like your own physical brain. I might not have access to those childhood memories, but I can absolutely build new ones—and hope to do so. As much as it frustrates me to know there are memories I cannot access … still, they are not strictly necessary. Certainly not if their restoration could threaten my mind as it is right now.”
He glanced over at Mycroft, who looked gratifyingly flummoxed.
“So—that second question. I understand you may feel a need to fix what you accidentally broke—to atone, and all that. But why do you believe it will cost you your magic?”
Her mouth opened, but no words came.
Sherlock just waited, holding her hands like two fragile birds, feeling her pulse quicken through her fingertips.
“I … need to fix it, what I broke,” she said. “And I need to be sure to do it right. I waited, you know, for years, until I was positive I understood what needed to be done and that I had the necessary control. My magic … it’s wild, often, and can get out of control, which is how all this started. I needed to be sure it was strong enough to do the job, but also that I was strong enough to direct it before I could even propose this.”
Next to him, John’s head lifted. “Strong enough,” he repeated, a look of sudden comprehension on his face. “You think doing this will use all your magic, that you’ll burn yourself out?”
Eyes wide, she nodded.
“It’s worth it, though, don’t you see? I’ll have fixed this … you … and atoned. I can finally let it go. I’ve needed it, all these years, because I knew I had to do this, that it would have to be me. I knew I needed to use it and strengthen it so we would be ready … but now, I can do this and I’ll be finished … I won’t need … and I’ll be free.”
The words came out in a confused rush, but Sherlock knew what she meant. He had occasionally found himself feeling much the same way about cocaine—that it was a burden, but one which allowed him to do great things, and so it was worth it, despite the cost. He still sometimes struggled with that belief, as much as he knew it wasn’t strictly true.
But for his sister to feel that way about her magic?
Even more than for ordinary magic-users like Harry and John, his sister’s magic was part of her, created by her brilliance. Yes, it caused damage when she was young and it was uncontrolled, but now? Wouldn’t being able to do anything you wished give you more freedom than by choosing to limit yourself?
That’s a young man’s perspective, he told himself. When you’re young, you believe anything is possible, that you are immortal and can accomplish miracles. That belief and faith in your own boundless possibilities had led to countless discoveries over the millennia—the curiosity of an unfettered mind mixed with the optimism rooted in all that endless potential was heady stuff.
And he should know. Hadn’t he created his own profession solely by applying his wits and unique viewpoint to the world? He had had utter confidence that he was right, always, and had let nothing stop him in his conviction that he could solve any questions (or, well, ones rooted in science). It was until later that he had learned that he was not the only confident genius with the ability to perform miracles.
He had not conceived of one so like him but with no morals to speak of. Not until they had been grappling like the embodiments of good and evil, leaving disaster in their wakes.
He supposed that Eurus had learned that lesson all too well, all too early, when her own belief in her abilities had spawned literal magic that had consumed her family and everything she had known before she could begin to stop it.
He supposed that he did, possibly, understand why she might want to let it go.
Except … it was hers. And it was no longer out of control. If she chose, she could perform wonders with it, so … why would she not want to?
“Because it’s too easy to convince myself that I’m right and everyone else is wrong,” she answered the unspoken question. (This was a talent that was all too off-putting.) “I could become a monster so easily, Sherlock. I don’t want that to happen. Accidental disasters as a child I can bear because I know they were accidents. But … you see how easily I can pick thoughts out of your head? I could so easily convince you of … anything. Just because I can. It would be so easy to become a monster.”
Mycroft laughed. “That has nothing to do with your magic, sister dear, but everything to do with being a Holmes.”
“We all feel that way. It’s just to Britain’s benefit that, for the most part, we choose to use our powers for the benefit of the Commonwealth rather than for selfish gain.”
Sherlock was nodding. “As much as it pains me to agree with him, Mycroft is right in this instance. You’re suffering from the Holmes complex, just with the added benefit that you could take over the world that much more easily because of your magic. We just have to work a bit harder.”
John was laughing under his breath, and Harry was looking far too amused.
“Need I remind you of Moriarty?” Sherlock snapped. “Or Voldemort? I’m sure they both felt they were entirely reasonable when they first started out. Just a simple, ‘things would be so much easier if people just listened to me’ and then next thing you know … world domination is the plan … for the world’s own good, of course.”
“Yes,” Eurus said. “Which is why I need to get rid of the magic.”
“No,” disagreed Sherlock. “You will be every bit as capable of world domination whether you have magic or not. You just need to divert yourself from your tendencies toward controlling everyone around you. You’ll be surprised when you do, and it makes things much more interesting. John never fails to astonish me in his unpredictability. And, I confess, he would not be nearly as rewarding as a friend if he did not.”
“Thank you, I think,” said John, voice wry. “But he’s right. Magic doesn’t change who you are, it just gives you a skill set you wouldn’t otherwise have. When I lost my magic … well, I was seventeen and had been living the last year in the non-magical world, so I’d kind of re-adapted to things like light switches and cars. I’d grown up with them, too, so in a lot of ways, the adjustment wasn’t terrible.”
He pursed his lips, the way he often did when he was thinking particularly hard, as if tasting the words before risking them out in the air.
“But at the same time,” he finally continued, “It hurt. Not physically, but … like the phantom limb amputees talk about, where they can feel the part that’s missing? I missed my magic, like part of me was missing. I felt hollow. It was like the worst kind of depression, when there’s no cause, nothing you can do, you just feel … empty.”
Sherlock risked a glance over at John, seeing a real concern on his friend’s face.
“You think you can just let this go, as if magic is foreign to you because you weren’t born with it, but … Eurus. You’ve grown with it, spent time working with it, training it. No matter how it began, it’s part of who you are. …”
“I know that, doctor,” she said, cutting him off. “That is exactly the point. I don’t want to be that person anymore. If I can get rid of the magic, I can return to the person I was meant to be! And, if that’s not possible? At least minimize the damage I can do. It would just be … easier.”
By the door, Sherlock saw Harry’s head lift.
“There is a difference between what is right and what is easy,” he said, as if quoting someone. “Just because you think it will be easier, doesn’t mean it will … and it definitely doesn’t mean it will be the right decision.”
“But I want it gone,” she said. “And I need to restore Sherlock.”
“Why?” Sherlock asked her again. “I’ve lived this long without those memories, and we can build new ones with you in them. You don’t have to do this.”
“But, it was wrong of me…”
Sherlock tilted his head in a half shrug, half nod. “I’m not saying you should do it again, or that I wouldn’t mind if you erased my memories now. But … this is long past, Eurus. We’ve both lived on and adapted. One thing I have learned is that you can’t go backward, only forward. So … let’s just go forward, doing our best at being the Holmes siblings who do not want to rule the world.”
He glanced at their brother. “And Mycroft can come visit from time to time and bring us up to date on how his campaign is going.”
Eyes bright, Eurus smiled. “I think I’d like that.”
“So, that’s it then? No scary spells on Sherlock’s brain?” John asked, unable to stop himself from beaming.
“It seems unnecessary,” Sherlock said, with just a bit too much relief shading his voice.
Eurus looked at him, tilting her head as her eyes narrowed. “You don’t believe I can do it.”
“I didn’t say that.”
“You didn’t have to.” She put her hands on her hips, like she was bracing herself for a good scold. “You do know that I wanted to help you. I wouldn’t have told you I could do it if I was unsure.”
“Do you? Because you sound altogether too relieved for someone who has faith in me.”
Mycroft stepped forward, eyebrow lifted. “He has only just met you, Eurus.”
She turned her glare on him. “Don’t you start, Myc. I’m well aware of the facts. How many times do I need to remind you? I would not have brought you here if I was not sure I could fix this. Look.”
Eurus held her hands in front of her and then opened them, like opening a book, allowing an image to form of a brain.
“There are two possibilities,” she said. “One is easily fixed. The other … not so easily. I won’t know until I have a chance to look to be certain, but … here.”
She gestured at the image as parts of the brain lit up, synapses firing in a multi-coloured web of activity.
“Memories are not saved in one place, like a file folder or a book, but they are … tagged … shall we say, so that your brain can find what it needs to. What I believe is that I did not so much erase your memories, Sherlock, as block them. If I had removed them …”
All the blue lights in the image went suddenly out, leaving dark gaps where there was no activity.
“It’s true that if they are completely gone, there’s not much I can do. I can’t restore something that’s been ripped out and doesn’t exist. But … think. All those memories you had of me. I flatter myself that a decent proportion of your childhood experiences included me, so damage on that scale would have been quite noticeable, going well beyond a few days of unconsciousness.”
Now the darkened areas of the brain lit up again with blue, only this time, they were cut off from the network. They were there, but inaccessible.
“However, if they are all still intact but just blocked? I can restore that. I believe all I need to do is tell your brain to start accessing memories attached to a specific protein chain again. It should be simple.”
“But overwhelming,” Mycroft said. “Last time, as you say, he was unconscious for over a week while his brain recovered. Having them all released …”
She nodded. “And it would be harder for an adult, yes. Their brains aren’t as flexible. But I can … soften the block so that it breaks apart instead of tearing it all down at once. If the block dissolves slowly, he should have no trouble reabsorbing the memories. It will just be a matter of mentally tagging them in his mind palace. It might take a few days for him to absorb them all, but it shouldn’t be traumatic. I believe … and, of course, this is all speculation … that a minor headache and a good night’s sleep—maybe two—should be all you need.”
John could see that Sherlock did not look convinced. “But you say it knocked him out for days, when you blocked them?”
Eurus nodded. “I think that the effort of tagging each memory and hiding it took time. And, of course, he was quite young. His brain was more flexible which is good, but it was also still developing. It would have shut unessential services down to prevent him causing an injury for himself.”
“Wouldn’t that be a danger now, then?” asked John as his mind raced. He wished he knew more about how brains worked, or how magic affected them.
“I don’t believe so. As I said, I’ll need to perform an examination to be sure, but I believe that a gentle resurfacing of the memories should not be overly traumatic. Except for the day we lost Redbeard, most of the memories should be fairly straightforward ones of a brother and sister being affectionate and annoyed by turns as is normal. As I recall it, our childhood together was a happy one up until that last day.”
Mycroft made a sound of agreement. “That is how I remember it as well. The two of you were quite close—your trotting after Sherlock adoringly certainly didn’t hurt. He does so appreciate an audience.”
“No truer word,” John murmured to himself as he tried to think through the ramifications. “What do you think, Harry?”
“Me?” The other wizard looked surprised at being asked. “I’m not a healer!”
“No, but you know more about mind magic than the rest …”
John stopped as Harry’s laughter cut him off.
“Me?” he said again, this time face alight with amused wonder. “You must be joking. You remember my occlumency lessons with Snape. I was complete pants at it.”
“I know, but that’s because Snape was a terrible teacher. But didn’t you need a certain minimum level of skill as an auror … not to mention the head auror?”
“So you should at least be able to give an opinion, right?”
Harry’s shoulders tensed, as if carrying extra, invisible weight. “This is a private health matter, I’m really not qualified…”
“Oh, please do give your opinion, Mr Potter,” said Eurus. “Tell Sherlock how foolish he’s being, letting a little honest nervousness interfere with his healing.”
Harry levelled his gaze at her. “That’s quite an understatement. I’ve had bad experiences with mind magics in the past, and know of some unfortunate souls who were left with unfortunate permanent side effects—though, yes, that was the result of curses, not a careful treatment, but still. It’s a delicate area and worth some caution.”
“This coming from Harry Potter,” John said. “Not exactly the most cautious person ever sorted into Gryffindor.”
“Look who’s talking,” Harry said with a grin. “But this isn’t the kind of bravery Gryffindors are famous for—and it’s not our brains at risk here, for lack of a better word.”
Sherlock was wavering again, John saw, a rare display of uncertainty. Even on such short acquaintance, John could tell that his friend wanted to trust his sister, but this wasn’t a simple healing with room for error. This was Sherlock’s brain.
He saw Eurus glance at him as if she had heard the thought, and he wondered if she had been listening to this entire conversation on two levels the whole time.
The corner of her mouth twitched as he thought it, but all she said was, “Transport” in the teasing, sing-song voice known to every younger sibling in the world. “Come on, Sherlock. Don’t you trust me? I’ve spent so long working on this for you. I promise, I wouldn’t offer if I wasn’t sure. And if I look and my magic worked differently than I believe, I will stop, I promise. Think how happy Mummy will be if she can see all of us together again.”
John almost felt a jolt at the thought. Their parents! He hadn’t given them a thought this whole time.
“I believe we’ve already established that we can build a relationship moving forward,” Sherlock said somewhat stiffly.
“But then we’d miss out on all that lovely nostalgia and happy childhood memories.” Her voice was coaxing. “We can bring her sunflowers. You know how she loves them.”
At the mention of the flowers, the uncertainty in Sherlock’s face faded away. “No. She hates them.”
“That’s true,” Mycroft said. “She refuses to have them in the house. She has ever since …”
“Because I used to bring them to her,” Eurus said, cutting him off with a gesture. “After, well ... my guess is they reminded her of me. But think how lovely it will be when we bring them together, like we used to!”
Sherlock’s eyebrow arched and John saw he was considering this madness.
“It’s not mad if it works, doctor,” Eurus shot at him, not taking her eyes from Sherlock.
John looked over at Mycroft, surprised he was not objecting, but the older man was standing frozen, as if too caught up in memories himself to interfere.
In front of him, Eurus held out her hand. “Trust me,” she said, voice soft and eyes pleading. “Let me fix this for you.”
Slowly, Sherlock reached out his hand. “Very well. If you’re sure.”
“Oh, very sure,” she all but purred as a look of triumph spread across her face. Then there was a flash and the room’s illusion fell, leaving John, Harry, and Mycroft in the plain hospital room.
But Eurus and Sherlock were nowhere in sight.
I'm not entirely happy with this chapter, and I know it's short, but at least it moves the story forward!
“What just happened?” demanded Mycroft, head turning sharply as he looked around the bare room. “Where did they go?”
John blinked, feeling a bit dazed, like waking from a deep sleep in a brightly lit room, everything looking just a little too bright, too sharp to be seen.
“They were right here.”
“Yes, doctor,” Mycroft said, voice sharp enough to cut. “And now they are not.”
John looked around the room, straining to focus his eyes, his ears, trying to hear anything that would give a clue as to where Sherlock and Eurus had gone.
“I didn’t hear anyone apparating,” Harry said, no longer slouching near the doorway, but at full alert. “There was no noise, no displaced air.”
“Are we sure they’re actually gone? We’ve already seen how well she can hide things. Maybe they’re still here but we just can’t see them?”
“Don’t be ridicu...” Mycroft started, but Harry cut him off.
“With her skills? Definitely possible. She made it clear she can make us experience whatever she likes. And these rooms are supposed to be completely escape-proof. So they could definitely be here, but just invisible.”
“Right. Then how do we make them reappear?”
Carefully, John edged forward, feeling ahead with his hand and his foot, hoping the illusion was only visual, that he would be able to find them. He had been only inches away from them when they disappeared. How could they have vanished so thoroughly?
Harry, meanwhile, was casting exploratory spells, muttering under his breath as the results came back. “Only three life signs. No other heat signals. Ward on the door intact. Floor solid. No active spells that I can detect...”
Mycroft was scanning the room, brows lowered as he looked around at the simple room, laid out like countless of hospital rooms—a bed, a table, a chair by the window. Utterly generic, with no signs that it was lived in. Although, John supposed, if she regularly filled her space with surroundings more to her liking, why bother decorating? Who needs personal mementos when you can create them in full technicolour anytime you like?
Mycroft had peered into the en suite bath and was now approaching the wardrobe in the corner.
“No, don’t!” Harry said just as Mycroft reached for the handle.
“Why ever not?” he asked, his tone the perfect upper-crust blend of superciliousness and rudeness.
“It’s the only thing in the room other than the wards around the door and window that shows a magical signature,” Harry told him, wand pointing at the handle as he cast another scrying spell. “It seems like a straightforward warding spell, but with her creativity, I can’t be sure.”
“Then you don’t know that it’s harmful,” Mycroft said, head tilted as he studied the door. “Where would she have learned such a spell?”
John couldn’t help himself, and let out one bark of a laugh.
“She’s a Holmes, isn’t she? Whoever said she needed to be taught to understand anything? She created an entire branch of magical study entirely on her own, and you want to risk tripping whatever trap she might have on that thing? Oh, it might be mostly harmless—she might want to deter the staff from rummaging through her things, but I doubt she would actually kill them, but ... no, Mycroft!”
He and Harry both yelled a warning, but it was too late. The older man had apparently decided that Eurus wouldn’t dream of hurting her brother, and laid his hand on the doorknob and pulled it open.
There was a flash of light that, even as he was blown off his feet, threw John straight into his worst memories from Afghanistan.
Startled as the room faded around them, Sherlock started and tried to pull his hand back, but his sister held it tightly.
He wondered at his inability to pull away. Perhaps, he thought slowly, fighting against the sudden sluggishness of his thoughts, she wasn’t actually holding tightly. It was more as if he was unable to move at all.
She’s a witch, remember? he reminded himself.
It was possible that Mycroft had been right to be so suspicious of her. Ever since their arrival on Azkaban, Mycroft had been pricklier and more stubborn than ever—which said a lot, considering his lifetime of being the eldest sibling and forever certain he knew best about everything, that everyone else on the planet were mere goldfish compared to him. He was infuriatingly overbearing. Always had been. But Sherlock had to concede that his brother was very often correct when he applied his intellect toward things and trends and security.
He might joke that Mycroft was the British Government, but it was mostly only a joke because it was such a ridiculous thing to consider, that any one man could be so capable and yet so selfless that he was willing to do all that work for no personal glory at all, just for the mental exercise of it. (Because, again, to be fair—much as Sherlock hated it—Mycroft had never been interested in glory.)
Where Mycroft failed, though, was in understanding people.
Now, Sherlock was willing to admit this was not his strong suit, either, but where Mycroft looked at most people as no more interesting than goldfish, Sherlock thought people could be fascinating. Not as individuals, or not most of them. There were exceptions in people he was fond of, like John and Mrs Hudson. Lestrade, too. They might be occasionally boring with their mundane worries and lives, but they were still interesting in their way. Not puzzles, but ... comforting to have around.
And, really, had he found all people to be boring, would he have become a detective? What would have been the point, without all those delicious puzzles? Puzzles that needed people acting like, well, people to exist.
If people were all boring and simple and the same, they would never act so irrationally or unexpectedly as they did, and he would have nothing to do. He revelled in the fact that even boring, ordinary people could do fascinating things. He had spent too many years disregarding them, thinking that the Work and the people involved were separate, but he had been wrong.
John had showed him that. John, with his care for normal people that was backed by his skill as a doctor. (And don’t ever try to tell Sherlock that a good doctor didn’t relish a hunt for clues and the challenge of finding solutions to save lives.) To John Watson, it was the people that were important, and Sherlock had learned from him. A sense of kindness and decency went a long way.
He had learned that John’s instincts, where people were concerned, were not always reliable. He often missed clues that proclaimed a person was a murderer, or that they were hiding things. He was so often caught up in his need to help people, to comfort them, that he missed that the hand he was holding belonged to a murderer.
And unlike Mycroft, John had trusted Eurus.
Those two things together—Mycroft’s reliable mistrust and John’s endearingly blind assumption of trustworthiness together seemed to conclude that Eurus could not be trusted.
The fact that she had ... what? Abducted him away from the others? Hidden him? Swept him away? He wasn’t sure what the term was. It looked like they were in the same room, but the other three had disappeared, or appeared to. With magic’s inconsistency, Sherlock wasn’t sure how exactly whatever had occurred had happened, other than that Eurus had made it so.
Either way, their separation from the others seemed like an act of bad faith. She had promised to fix his memory, not take him away. This could be seen as a betrayal—something Sherlock had grown too familiar with.
Except, John had trusted Eurus.
And ... God help him … so had Sherlock.
The question was whether Eurus was sincere in her desire to help, or whether she had acted with ominous ulterior motives. (He was sure she had some hidden motives because she was human, and everybody did. Everybody lies. Everybody hides secrets. The crucial question was always what the motivations at any given moment were rising to the top.)
He forced his eyes to blink, slowly again, as if moving through a sticky honey, slowing everything down. He couldn’t tell whether all those thoughts had passed in a millisecond or if his sister had been waiting patiently in front of him for twenty minutes.
In all that time, though, she had not shown any impatience. Nor had the expression on her face changed from one of benign interest.
That, at least, was a start, he thought.
“What are you doing, Eurus? Why are we here?”
A slow smile. “Why, Sherlock, you should know that already. Nothing really has changed. I just finally have what I’ve always wanted.”
“Having you all to myself, of course.”
“Having you all to myself, of course,” said Eurus.
Sherlock was unaccustomed to feeling so taken aback. “So ... this talk of healing me was ...”
She frowned. “True, of course. You don’t think I would lie about that, do you? Really, Sherlock! I have been nothing but honest since you arrived. All I’m saying is that now that we’re together, there’s really no need to rush, is there?”
“Eurus,” Sherlock said carefully, still aware of his hands held firmly between hers, “I can’t stay here.”
She laughed. “Of course not! I know that. Don’t be absurd. If nothing else, can you imagine how Mycroft would react?”
He couldn’t help but chuckle. “He always hated when we were off together without his supervising, as if he was the only person who could stay ahead of us. I honestly don’t think he believed our parents were capable of changing a lightbulb.”
“He forgets that they are our parents,” Eurus said. “Where does he think we all got our intellect and adventuresome spirit from to begin with?”
“That’s because Mycroft was born old. He even looked serious in his baby photos. Obviously we don’t know what our parents were like when they were younger, but one tends to believe they had more taste for adventure than he does.”
“No sense of levity in him,” Eurus said, agreeing. “Though I can’t really talk, I suppose, since I am much the same.”
“Circumstances...” he suggested gently.
There was a lengthening silence, which Eurus broke.
“Did Mummy change much ... after?”
He looked at her, considering. How was he supposed to know that, when he didn’t remember their parents before Eurus left them in such a dramatic fashion? A fact of which he knew she was aware.
“There was never much laughter in our house,” he said. “I think we spent too much time in our own thoughts. I do remember our mother buried herself in her maths. She was extraordinarily productive during my childhood. I think it was a relief when I went off to school and stopped performing experiments in my bedroom.”
“You should introduce her to John. They’d have so much in common, don’t you think?”
“He certainly tries hard enough to get me to eat more, though I think he’d have more in common with Father.”
“Either way, he’d like them.”
Something in her tone caught his attention. “You speak as if you know them.”
“I do ... or, well, a bit. They just don’t know me.”
“I thought you couldn’t leave the island?”
“Not ... officially.”
For a woman with very little sense of levity, she looked quite coy, almost blushing.
Sherlock thought to look around him, only now realizing how intangible their surroundings were. They weren’t standing in a cloud or some other cinematic nonsense used for dream sequences, but it nevertheless felt undefined. He could feel the floor solid beneath him and could make out the room surrounding them, but ... not. Eurus, though, was distinct in front of him, all sharp edges, even her flowing hair.
He tried focusing beyond her, but immediately started to feel a headache begin to pound.
“Don’t do that,” she said. “You should try to give your brain as much of a break as possible for the next 24 hours, to lessen the strain of your healing.”
“Very well, though since you haven’t done anything yet I don’t see why I can’t look around.”
He stopped, cut off by a peal of laughter. Surprised, he looked up at her face, consumed by mirth. “I’m already done, Sherlock.”
How could he have missed that? Had there been some form of anaesthetic he had not noticed? Surely she must be joking. They hadn’t been here long enough, and obviously her magic was still working.
“No, not at all. I can prove it, if you like.”
She smiled at him, and this time there was no hint of a smirk or anything other than pure joy. “You already proved it yourself a moment ago—talking about how Mycroft used to hover over us as if expecting catastrophe at every turn. Over us, Sherlock. Together. You remembered it.”
“I ...” He stopped. He had effortlessly brought up that childhood memory of him and Eurus together, hadn’t he?
In fact, now he thought of it, he could remember the house they had lived in when he was small, the one that had burned. He had never seen the façade of it, except in a few photographs from his grandmother’s album. (And, really, how had he never wondered as a child why there were gaps in those careful pages? They must have held photos of Eurus, removed to prevent aggravating his own trauma.)
Now, though, he could remember their old house very clearly. He remembered the maze of unused rooms where he used to play on rainy afternoons. He could bring up the view and the distinct pattern the tree branches made outside his window. He remembered the layout of the kitchen, where he would sneak in to steal cookies, especially when they had ginger snaps, because they were Eurus’ favourites.
His mind ground to a halt as he realized ... he remembered his sister.
The memories didn’t feel complete, and there was a haziness to them that was unlike his usual memories, the ones he had sorted into his mind palace properly. But still ... the impression of them was there. What was that insipid line from that tune they used to play on the radio when his mother would drag him to the store? “Misty water-coloured memories.” They were just like that—vague and fuzzy around the edges.
But they were there.
He stared at her, unable to form words for the flood of emotions. He had understood that he had a sister, that there was a memory block preventing him from recalling her, but the actual experience ... his head was filled with recollections of playing pirate together, of running experiments in the bathroom, chattering at their mother as she served them dinner, an indulgent smile on her face while Mycroft sat behind his Machiavelli, or whatever tome he was reading.
How had he not realized how grey and drab his memories were without his sister?
They were close in age, much closer than he and Mycroft, and so they had spent countless hours together. And Mycroft was right—she was brilliant. She had had almost no trouble keeping up with Sherlock despite his two years’ lead in age. They had been a team, doing almost everything together, until ....
He felt his forehead crinkle into a frown, as the memory tried to surface. Something with ... school? He had gone off to school and Eurus had felt lonely and abandoned, especially when he started bringing friends home.
His breath caught on one persistent memory. He looked at her—she was so tall he barely had to look down at all.
It was almost physically painful to say, his voice catching as he forced out the words.
“Eurus. I … I remember Redbeard.”
“John? John? Wake up!”
John forced his eyes open, and, groaning, tried to sit up, blinking away the after image of blinding light dancing at the back of his cornea.
“What was that?” he asked through gritted teeth, looking over at Harry, who seemed to be kneeling on the floor.
“Mycroft chose to disregard our very clear warnings and tried to open his sister’s private wardrobe,” Harry responded, his voice just as hard.
John levered himself to his feet, leaning heavily on the wall until his ears stopped ringing. “Is he still alive?”
“Luckily for him, she appears private, not homicidal. He’s unconscious. The ward threw us all backward, and he hit his head on the table.”
That wasn’t good, John thought, waiting for his head to stop spinning. “Is he bleeding?”
“No, but it wouldn’t hurt for you to check him out. I’m not a doctor.”
“Right.” John moved across the room, trying not to stagger too badly. “How about you?”
John was already next to Mycroft, checking his vitals. “I shared a dorm with you for six years, Harry. I know what you mean by ‘fine’.”
Harry gave a small chuckle. “Fair,” he conceded, “but I’m also an Auror. You’d be amazed how often I get thrown across a room. A cushioning charm is second nature at this point.”
John accepted that information with a nod. After fighting dragons, trolls and the worst dark wizard in decades multiple times before he was old enough to shave, he could believe that Harry could take care of himself. He focused instead on Mycroft’s skin tone and steady breathing, already feeling reassured before taking out his wand to cast a quick diagnostic spell.
“He’ll be fine,” he told Harry. “Should be waking up any minute now.”
Harry nodded, attention on the wardrobe. “I wonder what she has hidden in there?”
“I’d say that she shouldn’t even be able to ward it without a wand, but …”
“Yeah. This family, huh?”
Harry’s wand was in his hand, casting a practiced spell as casually as John’s diagnostic—obviously a spell used daily, like Lumos. His green eyes were intent on the results. “That’s interesting. It’s almost like …”
He reached for the knob even as John started to shout a warning, but … nothing happened. The door opened easily, showing a cardigan and some spare robes along with a pair of shoes, and a stack of narrow drawers up the side.
“How did you do that, some Auror trick?”
“I wish I could take credit for it, but no. The ward was specifically blood-keyed—it doesn’t care that I opened the door; it only keeps out family.”
John was staring. “Why would she do that?”
Before Harry could answer, Mycroft groaned and shifted on the floor. “Some nefarious reason, I’m sure. I haven’t known her since she was four, but I can attest to a certain sense of secretiveness. At the very least, she was always very adept at keeping her brothers out of her things.”
Helping him sit up, John asked how the older man was and Mycroft waved him off. “There must be something that has more relevance than her clothing. What else is in there?”
“I assure you I am not trying to pry into her privacy for no reason, Mr Potter. She has taken Sherlock. I have not been able to determine what her motivations are—but apparently she felt it was important to keep me from seeing what she had in there—“
“Which is why you need to see it,” Harry finished for him, turning back to the wardrobe. He considered a moment, and then started with the top drawer, glancing briefly inside before moving down to the next one, and the next. He paused as he opened the bottom drawer though, making an “oh” of discovery.
“What is it?” Mycroft’s voice was sharp.
“Just one thing,” Harry said, holding it up. “A dog collar.”
John looked at Mycroft in concern as his skin paled.
“Is there a name?”
“Just a minute,” Harry said with a nod, turning the tag in his fingers until he could read it. “No family name, no address, just the dog’s name.”
Mycroft’s voice chimed in with his, laden with a tone of resigned dread.
Yes, it's finally time to find out what happened with Redbeard.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Eurus. I … I remember Redbeard.”
Before him, Eurus was perfectly still. “I knew you would. I know you can never forgive me. It’s why I can’t complain about losing my magic to atone for the …”
“You’re being ridiculous,” Sherlock said. “First of all, your magic is obviously still intact since—”
He gestured to their indeterminate, definitely magical surroundings.
“And second,” he continued, voice stronger, “you were four years old. It was a mistake.”
She shook her head, expression creased with pain. “No. I mean, yes. It was an accident, but he still died, Sherlock. He trusted me and then he died.”
“It was a tragedy, I agree, but …” He frowned slightly. He did remember that … vaguely … but the details were unclear. Bright sunshine and laughter, with a redheaded boy running ...
Her eyes cleared slightly as she looked at him, as if comforted that his recollection was so annoyingly fuzzy.
“I told you the memories would return gradually. I’m just glad you remember me at all … before you remember that you hate me.”
“I don’t hate you,” he said automatically. And it was instinctive, saying that, no thought required, just the immediate impulse to comfort his little sister.
“That’s not what you said then.”
“When Redbeard died? That’s not surprising. I was, what, six? Seven? Not exactly the pinnacle of mature behaviour. Whatever I said …”
“No, you meant it.” Her eyes were liquid with moisture. “And I knew you did … You were right, too. I deserved to be hated for killing him. That’s why—“
Her head lifted, as if listening to something. “No, no ... Mycroft found it.”
The tears in her eyes had spilled over, tracing down her cheek, even as her expression stayed frozen. “I can’t tell you. It will be bad enough when you remember on your own, but ... I can’t.”
Without thinking, Sherlock stepped forward and took her hands. “Eurus. Whatever it was, it was a mistake, and you were a child. You didn’t mean to kill anyone …
“But I did!”
He already knew that. It explained the feeling of shock and horror looming around these memories. But she had been a child. And even more, his sister. (And wasn’t that remarkable, how strongly he felt the need to protect her, as if the part of him that was her brother had just been waiting all this time to spring into action?)
Sherlock started to tell her it didn’t matter, that none of it mattered, but she had turned her head away. “What did Mycroft find?” he asked again.
“Collar? But … what do you mean?”
“You’re not remembering everything.”
“Then tell me,” he said, giving their joined hands a shake to catch her attention.
“I … Mycroft … he’s going to tell the others, but he wasn’t there and he doesn’t know …”
Keeping his voice coaxing, Sherlock said, “Then maybe it would be better if we were all together for this? Especially if Mycroft is wrong? I want to see his face when he realizes. It happens so seldom, you know.”
“This isn’t a joke, Sherlock!”
“Of course it’s not. But if you’re this upset, we should have John. I know he’s not your best friend, but I can promise he’s more sympathetic than I am—and it would be best if he heard the correct story up front, don’t you think?”
He tilted his head to catch her eyes, stricken and molten. “Come on. Let’s go back to the others and tell them my memories are back, hmm? They’ll be worried.”
A short nod and then around them the hospital room re-formed itself. He and Eurus were standing in the exact same place as before (Sherlock wondered if they had even been somewhere else at all, or if she had just kept the others from seeing them). The others, though, were all by her wardrobe in the corner. Mycroft was on the floor, leaning against the wall looking more wearied and dishevelled than Sherlock could remember seeing, while Harry stood at the open wardrobe.
John was kneeling next to Mycroft, but started to his feet when he saw them. “Sherlock!”
The other two quickly focused on them, asking where they’d been.
“We were right here,” Sherlock told them, trying to inject as much calm into his voice as possible. “Everything is fine.”
“It doesn’t look fine.”
“Where did you go?”
“We didn’t go anywhere,” he said again, “But Eurus heard … felt? … you find something of someone named Redbeard?”
“Redbeard was the family dog, Sherlock,” Mycroft said. “I thought you had actually remembered that? You said his name earlier.”
“The name, Mycroft, but no memory of what it meant. But that I don’t remember,” he gestured toward the dog collar in Harry’s hand. “I remember him being a child.”
“You remember …?”
Another wave of his hand. “Yes. They are a bit fuzzy, but I can now remember exactly how overbearing you were when I was learning to walk—though since you also tried to make sure I didn’t fall down the stairs, well done on your over-protective instincts kicking in so early.”
“But, Sherlock,” Mycroft’s forehead was creased in puzzlement. “What do you mean, a child? Redbeard was our Setter that Eurus accidentally killed. I wasn’t there, but came across the two of you right after the event. You were both distraught. I still don’t know exactly what happened, though knowing what I do now, I gather now that it was accidental magic, but all I knew then was that he was dead. You both adored him, so I have no doubt that it was a terrible mistake. I went to get a shovel to bury him, and when I came back …”
“What?” John asked.
“Sherlock was unconscious and Eurus was in hysterics, crying that she didn’t mean to, over and over. It was just a few days later that our house burned and we thought Eurus died.”
Sherlock looked at his sister. “But … I know my memories are still confused, but I distinctly remember playing Pirate with a boy named Redbeard, and then … something …?” His voice trailed off.
With a sigh, Eurus pulled her hands from his, drawing herself up as if wrapping her sins around her. “I can see you won’t be satisfied until you have the whole story of my shame. So be it.”
Once again, the hospital room dissolved around them, and they were again outside the Manor house.
Young Eurus was sitting on the ground with a red setter next to her, nudging at her with his nose as she petted him, face set in anger.
“He’s too busy to play with me, so fine! I don’t need him. I’ve got you, Redbeard, and I know you still love me. In fact,” The little girl turned toward the dog. “I bet you’d be even more fun than Sherlock! You’re already so much better because you don’t argue and try to correct me all the time. But it’s hard to play Pirate as a dog ...”
She reached out to rub at the silky ears, face thoughtful as she ran her fingers through the thick fur.
“It would be so much better if you were a real boy, wouldn’t it? You’re smarter than any of those stupid friends Sherlock made at school. You’re already a member of the family, you’re just stuck being a dog. Wouldn’t you rather be a human person? Even just for the afternoon? Mummy would ask too many questions if you weren’t home for tea as a dog, but ... who says you couldn’t be a boy until we have to go in?”
Sherlock could feel himself freezing somewhere at his core as he watched the scene in front of him. He didn’t know how, but he already knew this was the starting point of a tragedy for his whole family and he wanted nothing more than to stop it.
The little girl took the dog’s face in her hands and looked deep in his eyes. “You’re already practically my brother, Redbeard. Don’t you want to look like it?”
As the watchers all held their breath, the dog’s shining coat started to pull back and his whole shape blurred and shifted, until instead of a dog, there was a naked boy with the setter’s bright red hair kneeling in front of little Eurus.
The girl laughed. “No, silly, human boys need clothes!”
She concentrated again, and the perfect outfit for playing Pirate appeared. The boy bounded forward, clumsy on his hands and knees. With another laugh, the little girl reached over and helped him stand up. “Humans walk on two legs,” she told him, holding him steady while he struggled for balance. He took a tentative step, then another, and soon was rambling along the coast with her.
The group in the hospital room were as speechless as the little boy as they watched the two play. Young Eurus was obviously delighted to be in charge, and Redbeard equally happy just to be there enjoying the sun with his favourite girl.
If it weren’t for the feeling that this was all terribly wrong, Sherlock thought, it would be idyllic.
It seemed Eurus felt the same way, for the images in front of them had paused, frozen as the two children ran through the water, drops suspended in mid-air, broad smiles on their faces.
“What happened next?” Sherlock asked gently.
Eurus’ jaw tightened, and the memory continued, showing a young Sherlock bursting out of the house, pirate hat on his head, waving his toy sword. “Eurus! I’m home! Prepare to surrender!”
She and the boy stopped in their dash along the beach, turning to look. Then Redbeard made an inarticulate cry of joy and went running toward him, every muscle infused with joy at seeing Sherlock.
Young Sherlock, on the other hand, looked almost terrified as the boy charged at him. His sword point started to rise, but Redbeard was already there, tackling him to the ground in glee, making noises that sounded like he was trying to say “Sherlock,” over and over again.
“What? Who are you ... get off!”
Sherlock managed to push Redbeard away and stumble to his feet. He glared at Eurus, even as Redbeard knelt, face stricken at the rebuff.
“Who is this?” Sherlock demanded.
Eurus stepped forward, standing between him and Redbeard. “You weren’t here to play with me, so I invited my friend … Victor … instead.”
“Victor?” Young Sherlock looked around, even as the ginger boy wriggled in place, as if barely able to contain himself.
“Yes!” Eurus pointed at the boy. “This is Victor. He’s very enthusiastic, but he doesn’t talk. We’ve been playing Pirate.”
“Well, you weren’t here. And Victor can climb trees now—you should have seen him chasing a squirrel a little while ago. He went right up the tree after it! He was so happy!”
Sherlock was staring at the boy, and kept returning to his hair, so like the colour and texture of their dog’s fur. “He was?”
The boy nodded, face looking hopeful now that he wasn’t being scolded.
“Yes. Because sometimes he also likes to pretend he’s a dog, and they like to chase squirrels.”
Redbeard gave a bashful nod, even as he half-turned back toward the water, and then stiffened to alert.
“I think he saw a fish!”
The three children all rushed back to the water, Sherlock lagging behind, clearly having doubts, but soon enough he was caught up in the joy of running and playing in the sun.
Beside him, the adult and too-wise Eurus gave a sigh. “Everything was going so well until it was tea time and I went to change him back.”
In the living memory, Eurus was explaining things to young Sherlock.
“What do you mean, this is Redbeard?”
“You weren’t here and I needed a playmate,” Eurus told him, haughty as a queen. “I asked if he wanted to be a real boy for an afternoon, and here we are.”
“Eurus, that’s not possible,” Sherlock said, face pulled into a frown of concentration, as if exploring his mind palace for any references to people turning into dogs and coming up empty.
His sister just shrugged. “Seems like it to me, and you’ve been playing with us for hours. Don’t be boring about what’s possible, like Mycroft?”
“Eugh,” Sherlock said. “That’s a terrible thing to say. Does Mummy know?”
She shook her head. “I don’t think she’d like it. I told him we would change him back to a dog for tea. I think he misses having his fur, anyway. He keeps pulling at his clothes as if they itch.”
She turned back to the boy, waiting expectantly, eyes watching her with absolute faith.
The girl frowned, concentrating, clearly needing to put more of an effort in now, after an afternoon of hard playing, but in a moment, he had shrunk and morphed into a red setter with fur gleaming in the sun. Sherlock’s eyes were wide with the wonder of it for a moment and then Redbeard yelped and collapsed.
Both children stared, horrified as the dog started writhing on the ground, whimpering in pain, while Eurus screamed in distress.
“No, no!” Young Eurus was in tears as she knelt by her friend, distraught at his obvious agony. “Stop, stop!”
For a long, horrific moment, nothing happened, just the wails of the dog in pain and Eurus’ heart-wrenching cries, and then with one last agonized arch, the dog’s body went limp and silent.
There was a pause, all too silent, marking the absence of the agony.
Eurus leaned forward to touch Redbeard, tentative at first, and then more firmly. Then she was shaking the dog’s body, hands deep in his curling fur. “Redbeard? Redbeard? No, no, nononoo...”
In the background, Mycroft was running toward them. “Eurus? Sherlock? What happened?”
He skidded to a stop as he took in the scene. Sherlock was glaring at his sister, who was flung across the dog’s unmoving body, distraught.
“Step aside, let me see,” he told her, but she barely moved, even as he touched the dog, leaning down to listen for a heartbeat, doing what he could to check for vitals.
After a moment, he leaned back. “I’m so sorry,” he told them, and his voice was gentle and soft—an older brother lending comfort to his younger siblings. “He’s dead.”
“Noooo,” wailed Eurus, even as Sherlock’s hands closed into fists.
Mycroft reached out to touch her shoulder. “Do you know what happened?”
She shook her head, and when Mycroft looked at his brother, Sherlock didn’t respond.
“Accidents happen,” Mycroft suggested, keeping his voice gentle, even as his own hands ran through the dog’s fur, as if he couldn’t control them.
“Okay, then,” he said after a moment. “I’ll just go get ... that is, I’ll be right back.” And with a few backward glances, he went off in the direction of the shed with the gardening supplies.
There was a pause, all too silent, and then Sherlock turned at his sister. “What did you DO?” he hissed at her.
“I just made it stop. He was hurt, or something. I just wanted him to stop!”
“Because you made a mistake. You did something wrong and you killed him!”
“No, I would never!”
“But you did,” the boy shouted. “You had to mess with things you didn’t understand, and now Redbeard is dead, and nothing can ever bring him back. You killed him, and I’ll hate you for it forever!”
If anything, her face looked even more distraught, tears running down her cheeks. “What? No! Sherlock, I didn’t mean to!”
“It doesn’t matter. He’s still dead, and it’s all your fault,” he said, face unforgiving. “You’re not my sister anymore.”
“What?” Eurus looked even more desperate. “No, Sherlock, you can’t! Of course I’m still your sister! I didn’t mean to!”
Ignoring her, he turned and started to walk toward the house, dropping his pirate hat on the ground as he went.
“No, Sherlock ... stop!”
The boy kept walking. Behind him, the girl looked from him to the dog lying dead beside her and then chased after her brother, grabbing his arm and babbling in her desperation to convince him.
“No, Sherlock, you can’t... you just need to, to forget this! It wasn’t my fault that Redbeard died. It wasn’t me at all. You have to forget!”
For a moment, the boy’s eyes went blank, and then he collapsed to the ground.
Beside him, the girl screamed. And she kept screaming as Mycroft and her mother came running.
She was still screaming as the manor faded and the five watchers were left standing in Eurus’ hospital room, silent, with tear marks on their faces.
(Patting myself on the back for a Redbeard angle that takes the dog, the boy, Sherlock's memory loss AND the magic and combines all of it into a backstory that fits the tragic facts.)
“I know you’ll all hate me now.”
Eurus was facing out the window, shoulders stiff as she held her arms tightly around her. She wouldn’t meet their eyes, but kept her eyes on the artificial view outside the window, sunshine carving her features in high relief.
John looked from her to Sherlock, waiting to see what his friend would do. Sympathy was never one of Sherlock’s best skills, but he had shown himself concerned with his sister’s well-being several times today, despite the personal shocks. He deserved a chance to step up—hopefully giving his sister a hug.
To his delight, Sherlock was already starting to move toward Eurus, when Mycroft spoke.
“Don’t be silly, Eurus.”
Sherlock turned to glare at him, but Mycroft was watching their sister, his eyes soft instead of showing their usual calculation. Eurus didn’t move, but something about her posture shifted so that you could tell she was listening.
“Sherlock has already told you he forgave you, that this was a terrible accident,” Mycroft said, not moving, but his eyes measuring the impact of each word. “Having seen this, I have no reason to consider it otherwise.”
“But nothing,” he said. “You have suffered enough for this tragedy. We have already told you this. I am glad to finally know the details of what happened that day—and yes, you made a grievous error—but it was not done with malice. I remember how much you loved Redbeard—and have no doubt that he knew it, too.”
Silent tears were streaming down her face, and it warmed John to see Sherlock still holding his sister’s hand.
It was a wonder to John to hear such compassionate words from Mycroft. He had known the man for years now, and while he had great respect for his intelligence and analytical abilities, he had never seen such evidence of his heart. Even at his most caring, his concern for Sherlock usually came across as fierce and protective.
John had known since the very first day that the two brothers were entrenched in sibling rivalry that was so caustic because neither of them knew how to express affection and concern in a meaningful way. But this?
Every line of his body was showing careful concern—not because he was afraid of her, like he had seemed earlier, but because he cared.
The people who had saddled Mycroft with the nickname of the Ice Man had no idea, he thought.
Overbearing he might be, but one should never forget that Mycroft’s highhandedness was rooted in an early career of older brother to two very precocious children—children who one day met with tragedy that changed everything. He spared a moment to think of the days following the tragedies they had witnessed today. Their house burned to the ground, the family dog gone, one child comatose for unknown reasons, and their youngest child dead in the fire.
Any of those would be a blow, but all at once?
From the glimpses he had just seen, the Holmes family had seemed fairly normal in this distant childhood of theirs. Yes, all three children had been supremely intelligent, and he was sure they would all have faced issues trying to socialize with … what was it Mycroft called them? Goldfish? But they had had each other.
Then, in just a few days, they had lost their cohesiveness. With Eurus gone and the traumatized Sherlock unable to bear hearing her name, Mycroft and their parents would have necessarily drawn back to grieve in whatever way they could discover for themselves. Instead of clinging together as the surviving family unit, they became distant with each other. And after? They would have each grown accustomed to coping on their own.
All this would have been easiest on Sherlock in his blissful ignorance. But Mycroft? He had been, what, thirteen or fourteen? And with his over-accomplished gift at being Protective Older Brother, he would have taken this tragedy personally.
He had probably spent his entire lifetime since trying to never let anything happen to his remaining younger sibling … who happened to be Sherlock, a man prickly enough to rebel against any and all form of restriction.
But now, with all the events of that terrible afternoon explained at last, and with his living and breathing sister standing before him in tears, Mycroft did what any big brother would do.
He did not scold her, as John might have expected. Instead he reached out and wrapped his arms around her and started whispering … what that a nursery rhyme? … in her ear.
Eurus’ silent tears shifted from silent to great, tearing sobs as she clung to him, fingers digging into his wool jacket as if he were a lifeline—which was all too likely true, John thought. He wondered how long it had been since anyone had dared give this woman a hug. He wondered if they had dared even when she was a child.
He glanced at Sherlock and saw a slightly heartbroken look on his face, a blend of wistfulness and envy that Mycroft had got to comfort Eurus first.
John caught his eye and tilted his head toward them. Join them, he told him silently.
Sherlock stood frozen as if unsure if he should, and then Eurus reached out a hand to him without even lifting her head, and then Sherlock was pulled into the hug, all three Holmes siblings wrapped in one cathartic embrace.
John moved around to Harry, nodding at the door with lifted eyebrows. He didn’t think Mycroft would have them murdered for witnessing a moment of emotional familial weakness, but it didn’t seem worth risking it.
In the hallway, John and Harry paused, both glancing back at the door.
Harry nodded. “Probably a good idea. It’s not like they can leave without us.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure,” John said with a laugh. “Eurus seemed pretty capable.”
“Restricted to the room, though.”
John navigated the hallways with long experience of hospitals and a sure instinct for a caffeine fix. He had only ever been in one wizarding hospital before, but in his experience, tea and coffee were never far away from medical staff. It wasn’t long before he and Harry were sitting at a table with cups warming their hands as they looked out a magical window at a tropical deep blue sea blazing in the sun.
“Yeah. So.” Harry took a sip of his tea, eyes not leaving the window. “That was interesting.”
“You can say that again. It’s going to take a while to absorb all of that.”
Harry frowned slightly and then pulled out his wand, performing a quick Muffliato. “We can’t let these details get out.”
“No, I completely agree. We’d suddenly have wizards experimenting on young geniuses and Voldemort’s crazy theory about muggleborns stealing magic will just come roaring back. We can’t let that happen.”
“I think the Holmeses will be on board,” Harry said after a moment. “They’ll want to protect their sister. Merlin knows she’s suffered enough. Can you imagine?”
‘I don’t know how she’s sane at all.”
“Assuming she is.”
“Good point.” John lifted his tea to his lips, and then set the cup down without sipping. “She still had her magic.”
“I guess she was wrong.”
He trailed off, seeing one of the staff members standing beside their table, waving his hand. Harry lowered the privacy spell with far more patience than John could have mustered and gave a polite nod at the man.
“I’m so sorry to bother you, Mr Potter, but I just wanted to … I mean, I’ve never had a chance to … you’re …”
Harry gave another nod and smiled graciously, as if the man had managed to express something resembling complete sentences. John was struck by the difference in Harry’s demeanour and what he was sure Sherlock’s reaction would have been … but then, patience was never Sherlock’s strong suit. He hadn’t been the hero of an entire world, either.
“It was a long time ago, Mr …?”
“Barrington. Healer Basil Beeswater Barrington. I work here in the Cursed Emotions department. Are you here on a case?”
“Just here with a friend,” Harry replied civily.
The other man gave John a sidelong look. “It’s very nice of you to buy him a cuppa,” he said, and then facing John and speaking extra clearly. “The canteen makes good tea, doesn’t it?”
John was dumbfounded. He was used to people thinking he was crazy for spending time with Sherlock, but nobody had ever mistaken him for a mental patient before!
He could tell Harry’s polite patience was under strain, because his voice had edged toward icy as he replied, “This is my friend and colleague Dr John Watson. He fought with me at the Battle of Hogwarts and went on to join the army as a doctor. He holds both a muggle and a wizarding medical license, and was good enough to accompany me here today.”
“Oh! Oh, I mean … that is … it’s a pleasure to meet you, too, Healer … Wattley, was it?”
“Watson,” John said, keeping his voice level. “Nice to meet you, Healer Barrington.”
The healer was already looking back at Harry, expression avid. “Are you here for a case, then? The two of you? It must be something juicy to get you up here, Mr Potter.”
“They’re visiting Eurus Holmes.”
John turned his head to see Healer Michaels approaching, carrying his own cup of tea.
“Oh, Merlin!” said Barrington. “It probably is a murder then, probably a gruesome one.”
The two healers laughed. John was well aware of his profession’s tendency toward macabre humour and a leaning toward the ghoulish (not the kind Ron used to complain about haunting his attic). Aurors had it, too, but neither he nor Harry were amused.
“You’ve met Ms Holmes then, Barrington?” Harry asked. His face was calm and his tone was even, but John knew the danger signs when Harry was close to losing his temper.
“Just the once, but—you know how it is. She’s been here forever, so there are stories. And you can never see into her room properly to check on her. It’s not natural.”
“Exactly,” said Healer Michaels. “She’s not volatile like she was in her younger years, but there’s something unnatural about the way she uses her magic. It’s …” He glanced at John’s stony face, apparently remembering his remonstrance earlier. “Well, I hate to sound unprofessional, but it’s creepy.”
“Is that why you’ve neglected to help her?” John asked.
“I take offence at that, doctor. I have given her every medical aid necessary for her condition.”
“Keeping her calm?” John suggested. “Keeping her happy?”
“Exactly. You probably don’t have as much experience with mental patients, being an army doctor—not exactly proper credentials for our kind—but in my experience it is crucial to keep the mentally unstable as calm as possible.”
John could feel his own temper starting to seethe. He was the first to admit that he didn’t exactly specialize in mental problems, and his emphasis had always leaned more toward non-magical medical care, but that didn’t mean he was an untrained idiot.
“It’s true,” he said after a moment, making his voice thoughtful, “Magical patients can cause more trouble than muggle patients can. And certainly it’s easier to heal from a place of calm.”
“However,” John continued, his voice sharpening on the word, “That assumes that an effort toward healing is made by licensed professionals. I don’t doubt that you have more experience than I do, but—and I believe we touched on this earlier, Healer Michaels—don’t you have an obligation to try to actually heal what’s wrong, rather than just treat her with sedatives to save yourself the trouble?”
Michaels drew himself up. “Why, doctor!”
Across the table, Harry shifted—just the smallest adjustment to his position in his chair—but enough to put the other men on alert. “It’s not their fault, John. They just never learned any better. I think I’ll mention that to Hermione—that we haven’t properly addressed mental illness in our world. Merlin knows after Voldemort we should have thought of this years ago!”
He ignored the flinches at Voldemort’s name and stood, vanishing his tea cup with a flick of his wand.
“It was a pleasure to meet you, gentlemen. John and I should really go check on our friends—all three of our friends.”
With a polite nod, he led the way out of the tearoom, with John marching in step a half step back.
They were barely through the door before they both bent over, unable to hold back their laughter.
Sherlock wasn’t sure when John and Harry left, he just knew that when he, Mycroft, and Eurus broke apart (he was trying not to think about the fact that he’d been hugging Mycroft), their friends were gone. He imagined they were trying to be discreet and allow the siblings some room, but wished they hadn’t left, if only to ease the awkwardness.
The Holmes family was not exactly known for its hugs, after all, though it seemed like that had been different.
Still, watching Mycroft awkwardly tug at his waistcoat was amusing.
Eurus seemed to think so, too, for there was just the hint of a gleam in her eye, which made Sherlock happier than he would have expected.
“That was, er, good,” he said after a moment.
“I’m glad to hear it, Sherlock, because it seems unlikely such an event will happen again—nor should it need to, if Eurus is past her quite justifiable emotional release?”
She nodded, sniffling a bit until Mycroft handed her one of his embroidered linen handkerchiefs.
“Thank you,” she said after a moment. “I still can’t believe you aren’t angry. It used to feel like you were always angry with me!”
“You were a precocious four-year-old and I was a socially disadvantaged teenager who had a hard enough time relating to our parents, much less to younger siblings. My temper wasn’t at its best.”
Sherlock laughed. “I can definitely attest to that. It hasn’t gotten much better, either, even if he’s better at controlling it these days. If you watch carefully, you can almost see the steam rising under his collar.”
“And whose fault is that?” Mycroft asked with a sniff.
Sherlock made a face, and then said, feeling mischievous, “That’s an interesting question. Usually you like to blame me, but now I’m thinking that, really, it’s Eurus’ fault. Her absence left half of that big brother protectiveness with nowhere to go. I say we blame her.”
Beside him, Eurus’ eyes grew wide, and her expression looked faintly hurt.
Mycroft, though, surprisingly picked up on Sherlock’s intent right away. He had an actual twinkle to his eye as he responded, “That’s a good point, Sherlock. I do believe you’re correct. My temper would no doubt have been more sanguine had we still had our troublemaker with us. Clearly, we’ll have to take her with us when we leave.”
Now she looked altogether stunned and staggered slightly on her feet. Sherlock quickly put a hand under her elbow and helped her to sit on the side of her bed. “Eurus?”
“I just … you can’t mean that.”
Mycroft’s forehead was creased in a familiar concern that Sherlock didn’t find nearly as annoying when it was focused on someone else. “And why wouldn’t we? You can’t possibly believe we would leave you here now that we’ve found you again?”
Watching her face, Sherlock said, “That’s exactly what she thinks. She expected to restore my memories, lose her magic, and then waste away here in a barren hospital room for the rest of her days.”
“Nonsense,” their brother said.
“But it’s not,” Eurus said in a small voice. “Even if you’re not angry, it’s still not safe for me out there.” She gave a general wave of her hand.
“Why on earth not?”
“Because of my magic,” she spat out.
“The magic you said you would lose after helping Sherlock?”
“YES! I … oh. If my magic is gone…”
“Exactly,” Mycroft said with that not-as-annoying-as-usual smile. “If you no longer have your magic, you no longer need a magical mental ward.”
“I … I hadn’t thought of that.”
“I didn’t think so.”
Really, it was remarkable how little Sherlock was finding Mycroft’s high-handed smugness annoying when directed at someone else.
He watched something resembling hope blossom on Eurus’ face as she realized that not only did her brothers not hold her past sins against her, but were willing to move forward to reclaim what they could of their old relationship.
“And it’s exactly the same,” he said as gently as he could. “if you still have you magic.”
“But, I don’t…”
“Are you sure? You did just recreate that last afternoon quite brilliantly—after you restored my memories. I think your magic is still intact, Eurus.”
She shook her head, eyes even wider now. “But it can’t be. That was the price…”
“I think you’ll find that the price you think you need to pay is not the one your heart is charging,” Sherlock told her. “You were so sure that your magic was blocking the memories, you thought the only way to remove them was to release the magic, but you forgot one crucial detail. Your magic isn’t like a normal witch’s. It’s not witch-magic; it’s wish-magic.”
“I know that,” she said. “I’ve spent years planning this, Sherlock, going through every possibility …”
“Yes, but you also blamed your magic for your woes instead of just realizing that you were a child who made a mistake. It wasn’t your magic that caused this, and no matter what your brain believes is necessary, your magic knows better. It’s here to enrich your life, not make it worse.”
She let out a bitter laugh. “Better!”
He sat down next to her, taking her hand in his. “Not in the way you would have expected when we were children, and I’m not saying you haven’t suffered, but … look around, Eurus.”
She did, eyes touching on the sterile room, decent enough but barren of any real comforts. It was nothing like the plush suite she had shown them earlier.
“Do you really think your magic would abandon you to a life of this?”
“It’s not sentient, Sherlock. It doesn’t think. It’s not even real!”
“Oh, I disagree,” Mycroft put in. “It has been quite clearly proven that your magic is very real.”
“That’s not what I mean. It wasn’t natural. I should never have had magic in the first place.”
“And so you don’t deserve it?” Sherlock asked.
A headshake. “It’s not about deserving it. It’s just … it’s like something that was loaned to me. It never belonged to me in the first place, and it’s time I gave it back.”
Sherlock could see the edges of the room distorting, as if they were being twisted by an invisible wind.
“I don’t think it works that way,” he told her. “Even if it is a loan, it’s one for life. Your magic might not have been inborn, but it’s very much a real part of you now
“But I don’t want it,” she said, voice breaking.
The swirl of distortion, like heat shimmering over the pavement on a summer day, edged closer, brushing her toe.
“Don’t you?” Mycroft asked, as gently as Sherlock. “That seems a little ungrateful, when it’s been your only companion all these years. Hasn’t it kept you from being to lonely?”
She turned to stare at him. “How could you know that?”
“Because your room is comfortable.”
Eurus looked blank, uncomprehending, so he explained. “Your magic has taken care of you. It has kept you warm and protected. It has provided you safety and what companionship it could. You might have wished it into existence, but that doesn’t make it any less real now that’s it here.”
“That’s illogical, Mycroft.”
Sherlock couldn’t contain a laugh at that. “To think I should live to see the day,” he murmured, but he was smiling at his sister. “He’s doesn’t stretch outside logic’s boundaries very often, but that doesn’t mean he’s wrong. Can’t you feel it? Your magic is still very much here, Eurus.”
He could see it twining up her legs now, and could feel it exuding a comforting warmth, but she shook her head. “No. It’s supposed to be gone. I don’t need it anymore.”
The flow of magic stopped, and suddenly grew cooler.
“Don’t you, though? Just because you no longer need it to restore my memories, doesn’t mean you don’t need it. It just means that now you are free to use it for whatever you want—even if that is to choose not to use it at all.”
“But I …” she paused.
Her voice was almost a whisper as she said, “If I still have magic, I won’t be able to leave.”
Sherlock didn’t have to think, he just automatically reached out to put his arms around her. “Magic or not, you can’t possibly think we’d leave you here.”
“But I’m dangerous.”
“So am I,” he told her, “and Mycroft is probably more dangerous than either of us. If he didn’t so hate getting his hands dirty, he would be ruling the world properly by now, instead of just in the background.”
“But that’s different! Look at how much damage my magic has done already!”
“Eurus.” Mycroft’s calm voice stopped her. “I know you’re distraught or you wouldn’t need this repeated so many times. You were a child. I suggest that your diligent preparations for helping Sherlock has more than brought your magic as well as your intellect under control. Your magic could only be a danger if you let it, and I propose that you are strong enough not to let that happen without cause.”
She just stared at him in disbelief as the band of distortion around her pulsed with heat.
“There’s no need to be melodramatic,” he told her calmly. “Today is an emotionally fraught day, of course your control would be off a bit—but it was still solid enough that you restored Sherlock’s memories almost effortlessly.”
“But I had planned for that, and knew what to do. I don’t know to do anything else.”
“That’s what learning is for,” Mycroft told her. “I’m not saying that a good therapist wouldn’t be advisable—you deserve some treatment that will actually help you rather than having to spend all your energy keeping secrets from healers who are clearly uninterested in doing anything to help you actually heal. I’m not saying I think you should leave here and immediately take up a professional life in London, but you’ve been stuck in one place developmentally for long enough.”
Sherlock sighed. “This is one of the most confusing days of my life, I think. Not only have I met a sister I didn’t believe existed, but I am actually agreeing with Mycroft.”
He leaned against his sister, arm tightening around her shoulders. “Because he’s right. We’re definitely not leaving you here. Not for a minute longer than necessary.”
Mycroft nodded. “And … did you know? Our parents are still alive, and I can guarantee they would be thrilled to learn you are still alive.”
Eurus looked absolutely stunned, as if she had never given their parents a thought.
“Yes, they have a lovely cottage in Sussex, with a huge library and a big garden. They even have their own bees. Or we’ll find you your own place. We’ll help you figure out what to do next, but, Eurus … the point is you have options. You and your magic can be free to do anything you want.”
“Except taking over the world,” Mycroft said. “That’s my job.”
Beside him, Eurus started to smile, and all around her, flowers blossomed up out of the floor, turning the room into a meadow as sun poured down.