It was before dawn when he barrelled through the door, his usual reticence absent. I'd expected the disturbance, though not this early, but my calm demeanour, my casual yawn, and my polite offer of a seat stopped my companion in his tracks.
"Watson!" he exclaimed. "You were expecting me."
"Indeed, Holmes." I turned down my blankets and swept my wand from under my pillow. "Did you think the details of this case wouldn't pique my interest? Why it's being discussed from one end of the castle to the other. I insist on accompanying you on your mission."
Holmes' sharp, eager face, framed in his ear-flapped travelling cap, broke into an amused grin. "My dear Watson, you would confer a great favour upon me by doing so. Come! To the kitchen!"
I extracted my Invisibility cloak from the trunk at the foot of the bed. "The kitchen?"
Holmes brandished his pipe with a flourish. "Yeah. I'm famished. Hurry up, Al!"
"I am!" I threw the cloak over our shoulders. "The kitchen, Holmes? Haven't the mysterious events in question been centred round the greenhouses?"
"All paths lead there, yes, but sustenance first, my friend. And… there is another matter in that vicinity I must attend to."
"May I enquire?"
"A foolish gaff, my dear Watson. My apologies in advance for the delay, but I must retrieve a document of the utmost importance."
My eyes rolled so far back, I tripped on my cloak. "Not again, Scorpius! You do know that at some point Professor McGonagall is going to realize those aren't your essays you're turning in."
"That will never happen." We arrived at the kitchen and Scorpius – Holmes – played his fingers over the pear. In short order, we were enjoying a satisfying fare of ice cream and hot fudge.
"The fact is, my friend, our most remarkable professor is so blind that I could arrive to class in nothing but your sister's knickers and it would likely escape her notice. She'll never suspect that Christine Bell and I are sharing the same brilliant deductions about Transfigurations. Madness!" Holmes drew circles in the air with his spoon.
I nodded sagely. "As you say, Holmes."
Nigh an hour later, after two more helpings of ice cream, we were edging along a damp wall near the entrance to the dungeons. Our associate, concealed behind a suit of armour, soon came into sight, but I could see she was quivering with agitation.
"Where have you been?" Miss Bell hissed. "I've been waiting since half-eleven!"
"The delay was unavoidable, my dear lady. Your safety is my utmost concern."
"Bollocks, Scorpius Malfoy! Neither you nor Albus would care one whit if I were caught and expelled."
"That's not true, Christine. I'd care. Who'd write my History of Magic homework? And Albus thinks you walk on water."
I hid my smile. A peculiarity which often struck me about my friend's character was his ability to be honest and lie through his teeth, all in the same breath.
Appeased, at least for the moment, the fair Ms. Bell relinquished the essay and returned to her dormitory.
"And now, Watson. The greenhouses." Holmes pocketed his pipe and off we went. He spoke over his shoulder in a whisper as we ascended from the dungeons. "I searched hour after hour yesterday, hoping to stumble upon the answer, to no avail," he said. "And yet, I do not count it as time squandered."
"Indeed." I lifted the edge of my cloak as we climbed the stairs. "You have a theory?"
We darted through the main doors into the courtyard. "Indulge me, Watson, while I analyse the evidence."
"Glowing lights, regular in their manifestation, like clockwork, some say."
"Yes, yes," I urged him.
"Then last night: noises. Voices. Screams, if the gossip has a drop of truth." He gripped the pipe between his teeth.
I nodded. This was information well-known.
Holmes stopped outside the greenhouse door and withdrew a small drawstring bag from his pocket. He upended it into my hands and out spilled a scrap of black velvet, a terra cotta pot shard, a small empty tube (cap missing), and a crumpled, but stiff, handkerchief.
"Well, my friend, what do you make of this lot?"
"I should be obliged if you would enlighten me."
"My pleasure." Holmes pulled his earflaps down over his blond hair and lifted his pipe from his pocket. "Our greenhouses are playing host to no poltergeist, my dear Watson, as some have put forth. Do you not recognize that fine material?"
"I'm afraid not."
"It's from my father's cloak."
I gasped at this. "Surely you don't suspect your father in some foul scheme."
"Not at all. He's a respected member of this school's faculty, nothing more." Holmes directed his wand at the items in my hand. "Attend the evidence, my boy. A soiled handkerchief, a pot shard, an ointment – undoubtedly of a healing variety – and a ripped cloak. It's all very obvious."
I waited, quite breathless.
Holmes drew his twelve-year-old body up to its full height. "Someone has smuggled a crop of Venomous Tentacula onto the school grounds."
"How do you deduce that?"
Holmes pointed at the items in turn. "The scrap of cloak. I happen to know this garment went missing from my father's wardrobe some weeks ago. Stolen, obviously. Some nefarious individual realized he'd be free to roam the school whilst wearing it. The ointment. This man was stung by the plant, but being a resourceful fellow, kept a potion at hand for such occasions. The handkerchief. Used, I'm sure, to apply the ointment to the wound, then left behind as our perpetrator fled—" He pointed his pipe at me with a cunning smile. "—tipping the pots in his haste.
"And the mysterious lights?"
"Were necessary to attend to the plants until they could be set loose upon the unsuspecting students."
"Amazing!" I cried.
"Elementary," said he.
"And far from resolved, I would venture."
"Quite so," Holmes agreed.
It was not very long before our prediction was fulfilled.
A loud din startled us. From within the greenhouse, a chorus of moans met our ears. I drew back, cautious (not afraid), but Holmes' crowed with glee. "Come, Watson," he declared. "The game is afoot!"
He dashed ahead, but I paused, uncertain. "Scor—Holmes! Perhaps alerting a member of the authorities is the wisest course."
"Courage!" Scorpius bellowed, charging ahead. "Holmes was a Gryffindor. Are you a man or a mouse, Albus?"
We rushed down a narrow aisle, past rows of bubotubers, Holmes preceding me in the half-dark. Hot upon a trail, he was transformed, hardly the quiet thinker I normally knew him for. Face flushed, pale brows drawn down over bright eyes, my urging for caution fell unheeded upon his ears. We burst through the door at the end of one building and stumbled into the next, Holmes an animal on the scent. He halted so suddenly, I slammed into him and his purloined Transfigurations essay flew from his pocket.
The tangle of limbs sprawled across the first long table, writhing amid a tangle of ivy, separated and reformed into….
Holmes clapped a hand to his heart. "Father?"
My father righted his disheveled vesture and turned, obscuring Professor Malfoy with his cloak (black velvet, if I wasn't mistaken.) "Ah," he said, flushed and breathless. "Holmes and Watson. And with the devil's timing, as usual."
"This is indeed a mystery," I remarked.
"Irregular! That is the word," Holmes chimed in.
"Scorpius!" Professor Malfoy shouted from behind Mr. Potter's cloak, his hands working furiously on his buttons. "Detention! All week with Filch." He then scooped up the Transfigurations essay and gave it a cursory inspection. "I stand corrected. Detention for a month. With me," he growled after rolling it up again.
Unperturbed, Holmes waved his pipe back and forth. "What's happening here?" he demanded.
For myself, I was deeply interested in my father's explanation. For though it was beset by none of the ominous details which were associated with the crimes Holmes had suggested, the nature of the situation disturbed me. "Mum didn't say you were seeing someone new," I accused.
"Well," my dad said. "Well."
"He is," Professor Malfoy said. He took Holmes in one hand and me in the other and led us out of the greenhouses and up to the castle.
Holmes looked distinctly put out. "Nobody told me either."
By this time we'd reached the Great Hall and Professor Malfoy endeavored to send us on our way. Holmes was having none of it. "But…the pot shard. Your ripped cloak. And what happened to what's-his-name with the funny accent?"
"Michel," my father spat.
"He's gone. For months now, Scorpius."
"It's been you and Mr. Potter in the greenhouse at night?"
Their lack of an answer was proof enough.
I felt ill at ease with our missteps. There was something in how Holmes worked, how he grasped, instinctively, the whole of a situation that made observing – indeed, studying – his methods a keen pleasure. The possibility of him erring had never entered my mind. "No Venomous Tentacula?" I asked.
"Impossible!" said Holmes. "The evidence!"
Professor Malfoy's gaze lost its piercing anger. "No Venomous Tentacula. Scorpius, listen. Albus, you as well. You saw, but you didn't observe. You twisted your facts to suit your theories, instead of your theories to suit your facts – just as Holmes once accused Watson of doing, by the way. You were wrong. What's more, you're now privy to something Mr. Potter and I would have preferred to keep private for a while longer. You've altered the logistics of what was already going to be a difficult conversation between the four of us, but perhaps that's for the best. We'll discuss it more in the morning." He touched us both on the shoulder. "Harry, have you anything to add?"
"Not at the moment."
We hung our heads, and our fathers patted them, then sent us to the Tower with promises of a consequence-filled morning, breakfast notwithstanding.
"Our dads are…together," I mused as we gave the password and settled ourselves in the common room.
"Quite so." Holmes reclined into his armchair and put his fingertips together against his lips, as was his custom when in deep thought. "My dear Watson," said he, then broke off and shook his head.
"What is it, old man?"
"It makes no sense. The pot shards and ripped cloak I understand." He turned to me, hat askew, eyes lit by the fire. "But what in Merlin's name was the purpose of the healing ointment?"
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