"Here we are, mate," the taxi driver said.
Dudley nodded his thanks to the man and handed him the fare. Why the department couldn't pay for his trip across the country when these people he'd gone to meet had actually asked for him was beyond him. He'd try to talk his boss into a reimbursement later; it shouldn't be that difficult.
He stepped out of the cab and into a flurry of blinking lights and yellow tape. Not surprising from the descriptions he'd been sent. He sighed. They'd been waiting for new information on this case for almost three months, but he couldn't help wishing that cases didn't get these kinds of breaks.
Showing his ID to one of the policemen keeping the general public out, he slipped under the tape.
"So, you're the guy Hal sent over," a good-looking, dark-skinned woman with curly hair asked as she walked towards him. Her expression as she looked him over seemed particularly severe.
"Yes," he said confidently, unwittingly throwing a bit of the cold welcome back at her for a few moments before he shoved those old habits aside and forced a warm smile to his face. At least he hoped it was warm as he stuck out his hand for her to shake.
"Inspector Dudley Dursley," he said.
She looked at the hand as if it might be a hornet's nest instead of an offered appendage. After a moment, though, she took it and shook it firmly. "Sergeant Donovan," she replied finally.
Dudley raised an eyebrow as he let his hand drop to his side. "Do you always greet people so willingly?"
She closed her eyes and let out the barest sigh of frustration. "Long day with the freak will do that to anyone."
This time Dudley blinked. That slur brought on more difficult memories than he'd care to admit. He also couldn't help it when his heart leapt into his chest. "Who?"
The woman shook her head grimly. "You'll find out soon enough. Detective Inspector Lestraude is over there." With that she thumbed off to the side and then turned to speak with someone behind her without another word.
Dudley had to wonder if everyone in London was that rude.
Still a tad miffed and more than a little curious at her reaction, he hurried over to where a group had gathered around a pair of worn shoes.
"You've been sitting there for ten minutes," the older man with graying hair and the detective badge was saying to the man who squatted on the ground, peering at the shoes with what Dudley could only describe as a rapt fascination.
"It has to be some kind of record," the third man, a shorter, stouter blond muttered.
"If you can't shut up, then leave," the dark haired, squatting man said distractedly.
"Er, excuse me?" Dudley asked walking up to them.
"Who are you?" the gray-haired man whose badge said 'Detective Inspector G. Lestraude' asked irritably.
Before Dudley could even open his mouth, the man squatting on the ground spoke up. "He's the policeman from the north that you sent for."
DI Lestraude did a double take at the man while their blond companion began to rub the bridge of his nose.
"How did you know that?" Dudley couldn't help but ask.
"Don't get him started," DI Lestraude said pleadingly.
The dark haired man glanced up at him, then looked over at Dudley, not bothering to hide his unimpressed expression. "Please. The inflections in your voice are hardly difficult to pick up. You recently came from the north, on a train and then in a cab. And you're rather upset that the company hasn't picked up your tab. Now while you live in the North, just south of Yorkshire to be precise, you haven't always lived there. Today you were on vacation, looking for a lost cousin you had a falling out with, when you got the call to get over here. Now will you all leave! I need to think!"
"B-but…How did you know?" Dudley couldn't help but be flabbergasted. He'd never met the man before in his life.
The dark-haired man, looking more frustrated than ever, stood up to his full (rather tall) height and advanced on Dudley so menacingly he couldn't help but step back.
"I already mentioned your accent. Distinctly from the North but only enough inflection to suggest less than a decade spent there, thus you cannot be a native. Your wallet is sticking out of your coat pocket at an angle which suggests you recently took it out and put it back; thus you paid the cab driver on the way here. You couldn't have gotten here from Yorkshire in the time it took for your office to inform you, so you had to be much further south and you are wearing particularly informal clothes so you were not on duty. When you stopped walking, your jacket flipped open, revealing the worn corner of a card in your breast pocket that says 'I'm Sorry', which means you want to apologize to someone, but haven't been able to track them down for some time. Such persistence would be common for at least a close family member such as a cousin; could be a brother but you probably would have tried harder to find him had that been the case.
"Now if you're done being boring and normal and getting in my way, leave!"
He felt a hand on his arm and looked up to see the blond man shaking his head. "No use sticking around when he's like this."
Definitely a London thing, Dudley thought, annoyed and more than a little offended at the man's comment that he could have tried harder to find Harry. "What are you, his assistant or something? Or are you two together?"
"No, we're not…" the man started, then looked at his face, and then at someone behind him (probably DI Lestraude), then shook his head as he sighed. With that, the trio stepped away, leaving the rude man to his own work.
"So I'm assuming that's the, er…person Sgt. Donovan mentioned?" Dudley continued, not bothering to hide the scowl.
"Afraid so," the man behind him muttered. Dudley felt his heart sink. He hated getting his hopes up like that. But of course, why would Harry ever decide to come back around here? And Dudley had no idea how to contact anyone magical.
He'd been looking for Harry for years, and despite what the prat they'd left behind had said, he had tried his hardest. Turned out that a non-magical person looking for and finding a wizard—any wizard—was practically impossible.
He'd realized long ago that he really shouldn't be surprised; didn't stop him from being disappointed.
"So, you're the inspector DI Jones sent here? Apparently this is a case of yours?" DI Lestraude asked, suddenly sounding tired.
"Yes," Dudley nodded, pushing his personal thoughts to the back of his mind and focusing on the task at hand. "I specialize in abuse cases, particularly child abuse. We got several calls on one woman—a Ms. Brighton—who supposedly beat her daughter, but while we could take her away for a short time, we could never find the conclusive proof necessary to keep the child from the mother. A few months ago Ms. Brighton disappeared and took Margaret with her."
"And this is the child?" the detective asked, handing Dudley a digital camera. The picture on the screen had been hastily taken, but showed a plainly frightened child with dark, scraggly hair and breathtakingly blue eyes.
"Yes, that's Margaret," Dudley confirmed. "Where is she?"
Dudley stopped short. "What do you mean?"
"She got away after we arrived on the scene, somehow, without us seeing her." The detective inspector refused to look at Dudley.
"But," the blond man spoke up, "there are police crawling all over the place. How could she escape?"
"Wait," Dudley said firmly, shooting a glare at both of the men. "Why don't you tell me what happened from the beginning."
John Watson couldn't help but feel for the man in front of him. Inspector Dursley could only blink as Lestraude finished explaining the case. John sympathized with the man as he'd felt much the same way when he'd heard. Even Sherlock seemed to be having a difficult time with this one.
The doctor had been flatmates with the genius consultant for over a year, and had begun to pick up a few habits. One of them happened to be watching people and their reactions a little more closely. Something seemed just a bit off from Dudley's reaction. Instead of horrified confusion, he seemed almost excited. Happy even.
"So you have witnesses saying both Margaret and Ms. Brighton were walking through here," he gestured to the underground parking lot they stood in. Lestraude nodded and Dursley continued. "Then Ms. Brighton started yelling at Margaret to stop doing something—even threatened to kill her—and raised her hand to hit her," here Dursley paused, a shiver running over his slightly plump frame as his hands balled into fists. Then he continued. "Then she just vanished?"
Lestraude didn't look happy. Of course, he rarely looked happy in John's opinion. "In the words of one of the witnesses," the gray-haired man confirmed, "'one second she was there then the next she wasn't.'"
John smiled a bit at the edit. He'd been there when they'd questioned the witness. Her exact words had been, 'then poof! She was gone'.
"So what happened to her?" Dursley asked.
"We don't know," Lestraude said with another sigh.
John caught it again; the excitement flashed across the new inspector's face for the barest second, and then it vanished again. Before he could open his mouth to comment on it though, Sherlock interrupted with his usual brilliant timing. Note the sarcasm.
"You'll find the woman you're after at the bottom of the dumpster on the east end of the lot."
Everyone in the group turned towards him.
"What?" Lestraude asked.
Taking up his familiar 'put upon' expression, Sherlock turned towards a dumpster at the back of the lot they'd found the shoes in. "Over there."
"How do you know?" the head inspector challenged. "We already checked it."
"Surely even you're not pathetic enough to not hear her banging on the inside?"
Lestraude blinked and then turned towards the bin. Surely enough, faint, metallic thuds reached their ears. Swearing under his breath, the gray-haired inspector took off towards the bin, calling for others to assist him.
"I saw them check that bin," John commented off-handedly.
Sherlock dismissed them with a wave of his hand. "They were just being more incompetent than usual. Shall we?"
John blinked and walked after his friend, hurrying to keep up. "Wait! So there was no crime?"
"How did she get into the bin then?"
"Obviously the witnesses were rather excitable and didn't see her duck behind the pillars."
"Why would she?"
"Some perceived madness I suppose."
John grabbed Sherlock's arm and held him back. Annoyed, Sherlock immediately jerked him off, but didn't continue.
"This isn't like you. You don't explain things away, you have an explanation for them! Now what really happened?"
Sherlock raised an eyebrow. "Nothing. This ended up to be a normal, boring case."
He noticed just the barest twitch of amusement from Sherlock's mouth. "Am I? Then please, Doctor, explain the situation for the rest of us?"
John scowled. He hated it when Sherlock did this to him; toying with him and humiliating him simultaneously. He glanced over at the bin to see them helping the shaking woman out from under many bags of garbage.
"Why is she at the bottom of the bin, then? It doesn't seem like she was just dumped there, or that she fell in. Did she just appear there?"
"What," Inspector Dursley interjected with a strangely eager tone, "you mean like magic?"
John seemed to be catching all sorts of subtle nuances today. The look Sherlock shot their new acquaintance seemed almost surprised, but it was only fleeting. Then the annoyed superiority took over and Sherlock rolled his eyes. "Please."
"And what about the shoes?" John continued. "Why would she just leave her shoes there?"
Sherlock glanced over at him again and…wait, did he just roll his eyes? John's scowl deepened as the dark-haired man explained. "When I arrived, the shoes were still warm, warmer than they should have been had she given the time of disappearance. It would suggest that she had been running or otherwise exerting herself in some way. That would obviously make the shoes uncomfortable to wear. I also found a small pebble inside.
"So, after one too many painful steps, she stops to take off her shoes and the child took off running towards the bin—probably a joke of some sort, or perhaps trying to get away. The girl threw something into the bin, something important, and the woman dove after it, hitting her head on the side and knocking her unconscious as she searched."
John could tell from the disappointed slump of shoulders that Inspector Dursley found the story to be all too plausible, but John knew better. Too many details had been left out. Sherlock never left anything to the imagination.
The only conclusion that John could draw was that Sherlock had figured out exactly what had happened and was purposefully leaving everyone else out.
Not that that wasn't usual, but it was rather maddening.
"Then where is Margaret?" Dursley asked. All traces of excitement were gone, replaced by worry. John relaxed a bit at that. Whatever the man had been excited about it wasn't the child's harmful situation.
"Hiding, undoubtedly," Sherlock commented with a disdainful scoff. "If she's even somewhat intelligent, and she seems to be."
"Actually," a new voice said, causing all of them to turn towards the yellow tape where two men were being let in, "she's right here." Both of the new arrivals were tall, thin men. One of them had short, black, unruly hair that almost hung into his green eyes, tickling the top rim of the glasses he wore. The other man (who looked far more uncomfortable in the crowd around them judging from the furtive glances he kept shooting everyone) had a thick head of red hair and some of the strangest, most mis-matched clothes John had ever seen. Between them, a little girl with curly, black hair clung to the dark-haired man's trouser leg, eyes red and puffy from crying.
"Marg—" Dursley started, then froze. John looked over at him to see an expression of absolute shock on his face as he stared at the two newcomers like he'd just seen a ghost.
"Interesting." John started and whirled around to look at Sherlock with wide eyes. Sherlock, for himself, was also staring at the men with a sort of hungry gleam in his eye, like he'd just found a key to a puzzle. John looked back at the men, utterly confused. Sherlock never thought anything but unsolvable murders were interesting. Well, perhaps there were a few other things as well, but rarely other people.
"Allow me to introduce myself," the dark-haired man said with a light grin. "My name is—"
"Harry!" Dursley exclaimed.
Startled, the man turned and looked at the shorter inspector, surprised. He tried to take a closer look at Dursley, but didn't get the chance to as the man almost ran him over trying to shake his hand.
"I thought I'd never see you again!"
Sherlock swore. John turned to look at him again. "What?"
"I got it wrong."
"Got what wrong?"
"It seems he was looking harder than I thought."
Just then, the dark-haired man blinked, eyes widening in shock.
The excitement Dudley had been feeling on and off since he'd arrived at the crime scene suddenly came back with a vengeance, and he found it difficult to keep his exuberance down. "This is such a coincidence!"
"Wait…Dudley…you…" Harry looked more than a little flustered and Dudley couldn't help but laugh.
"Yeah, I look different now. I'm not surprised you didn't—" pain suddenly exploded in his jaw, cutting his sentence off. The world whirled around him, and then he found himself sitting blankly on the ground, holding his jaw.
Looking back up, he saw the red head glaring down at him angrily. "How dare you even come near him after what you did to him?"
"What is going on here?" Director Lestraude yelled, coming up to the group, glaring at the men. "Exactly who are you?"
"It's alright, Director," Dudley said, struggling to stand again. "I kind of deserved that."
"That doesn't explain just who they are and what the—" He stopped when he saw the cowering girl behind Harry's leg.
"We found her hiding in an alley way behind a bakery just down the street," Harry interjected, obviously trying to do damage control. "My friend and I are policemen as well, in another district, of course," at that he flashed what looked like an ID. Dudley couldn't quite see from his position. "We were on break and staying here, so we thought we'd drop by."
"Fabulous," Lestraude said dryly. "Why don't we get all of England in on it while we're at it, hmm?"
"You don't have to put it that way," the red head muttered. For the life of him, Dudley could not remember his name. He'd only seen him once, with the others that came through the chimney that one time…he shuddered at the memory and pushed it back before focusing on the conversation at hand.
Lestraude rounded on the unnamed wizard. "And why, pray tell, did you suddenly attack this man?"
"Director," Dudley cut in. "That would be my fault. You see, Harry here is my cousin. We grew up together and had…a bit of a falling out." He glanced at the tall man—who still hadn't introduced himself either—thankful for the words he'd used earlier. It raised fewer questions.
"I regret to say that a good deal of the problem was my fault," he said. "And I haven't seen Harry in years because of it."
Lestraude didn't look appeased, only more weary as he glanced at the red head. "So why did he punch you?"
"Because Harry wouldn't have. He's my best mate after all," the wizard said defensively.
A loud scream behind them had them all turning and looking towards Ms. Brighton. Apparently she'd just caught sight of Margaret because several policemen were holding her back as she struggled forward, enraged.
"There she is! That little freak! How dare you? How dare you! Your own mother! Just like your no-good father! When I get my hands on you…"
"Well," Dudley broke in, turning back to the group and smiling, despite his rapidly swelling cheek. "Between that and the other witness statements I believe we have more than enough proof to get Margaret away and safe. Shall we, gentlemen?" he asked, nodding towards the yellow tape.
"Oh no you don't," Lestraude cut in. "I'm going to have to take him in for assault," he said, pointing at the red head.
"Oi, just a minute you," the accused started, but Dudley cut in.
"Director Lestruade. I won't press charges. Could you look this over? Please?"
The Director ran his hand through his hair and glanced around at the motley crew of people (which, for some strange reason still included the two unnamed men Dudley had met earlier). "Alright," he said finally. "But I'm still making you fill out a report form. And I'm giving you a citation." He shot a glare at the red head. "Don't leave before I get back."
No sooner had he left than the red head looked over at his friend. "Harry, can't we just—?"
Harry shook his head. "No, Ron. We have to do this legally; the mu—uh legal way."
"Very interesting," the tall, unnamed man said.
"And you are?" Harry asked suspiciously, patting the girl's head as she still clung to his trousers like her life depended on it.
"Oh, forgive our manners," the blond said, stepping forward and holding out his hand. "I'm John Watson. This Sherlock Holmes."
Dudley did a double take. "Sherlock Holmes? As in the same man from the blog? From 'A Study in Pink'? And…did you really not know—"
"Oh please," Sherlock said again and began to walk away muttering something under his breath about his wonderment at the collective lack of intelligence concerning the world at large and how they couldn't even see an entirely different nation that apparently had its own government right under their noses…
Dudley raised an eyebrow. Did he know about people like Harry?
"Right mental, that one," Ron muttered.
Dudley shook his head with a laugh. "You have no idea. I'll give you the address to his blog."
Ron shot a scowl at him. "What's a blog?"
"Oh," Dudley said, suddenly realizing that he probably didn't know. "It's kind of like an online journal."
Another pause as Dudley realized just how much information they lacked. Then he smiled. "I'd be happy to explain it to you further, but first," he reached into his pocket and pulled out the card he'd taken to carrying around with him just in case such a situation occurred. "Harry, I'd like you to have this."
Blinking first at Dudley and then at the card, Harry took it unsurely and opened it. He read the contents for a few seconds, although it felt like an eternity. This was it. Yay or nay, it would all be decided here. Finally, shaking his head, Harry looked up at his cousin with a tentative smile.
"I can't say I'll simply get over what happened when we were young, but I'm willing try."
Dudley grinned in relief. For now, that was more than he'd dared hoped for.
"Alright," Lestraude said, coming back with some clip boards and pens. "I need both of you to fill these out." He handed a clip board to Dudley, Harry and Ron. "Just tell me what happened, I'll get the citation, and we'll be done."
"I'll be taking Margaret," Dudley said. "And I'm sure that Mr. Potter and…" he paused, looking over at Ron.
"Weasley," the man muttered.
Dudley nodded. "Mr. Weasley would be more than happy to accompany me. I'm sure we can straighten this out."
"I don't think that's a good idea," Lestraude said hesitantly.
"No, it will be fine," Harry spoke up, insistent. "We just need to get her out of here as soon as possible…"
The gray haired man rolled his eyes but took the hint. "Alright. Get going," he said, snatching the clip boards back. "But I want your information at least. If anything happens because of this…" he threatened.
"Oh, no sir," Ron said, a little too quickly. Lestraude narrowed his eyes at him, but tore a piece of paper off of the clip board and shoved it at Ron.
"Actually, here," Harry said, giving Lestraude a card.
Dudley couldn't see what was on it, but apparently the director found it satisfactory, because he took the clip board back for a second time, and turned to walk away without another word.
"Lousy muggle," Ron muttered. Harry glared at him.
"You did happen to almost make his whole day far more complicated," Dudley remarked. Ron glared at him icily before turning and stalking out.
"You comin' Harry?"
"Yeah," Harry said, glancing at Dudley. "You?"
"Of course," Dudley replied then knelt down before Margaret. She hid behind Harry's legs again and Dudley couldn't help but wonder how Harry had gotten her to be so attached to him.
"Margaret," he said softly. "Do you remember me?"
The girl peaked out from behind the clutched material and nodded, but she didn't say anything. Fabulous. Now they had shock and trauma to deal with on top of the abuse. He felt a flash of anger towards the girl's mother. Sadly, he could understand Ms. Brighton. She reminded him all too much of his own parents. Didn't mean he liked it.
"Well," Dudley continued softly, "we're going to go with Harry here and discuss trying to find a good place for you to go while your mommy gets better."
The girl gulped and looked down. "Mommy's sick?" she asked softly.
Dudley almost melted in relief at her words. Just having her speak was a good sign. "Yes. That's why she was acting the way she was. It wasn't your fault, alright?"
She didn't look as if she really believed his words, but she nodded in any case.
"Come on, Margaret," Harry said, reaching down and picking her up despite her size. She was almost seven, and as such made a rather large bundle, but Harry didn't seem to mind. Dudley fell into step beside him as they ducked under the yellow tape to join Ron who stood impatiently on the other side.
"Now tell me, Margaret" Harry said soothingly, "have you ever heard of magic?"
"So, that was your cousin?" Ron asked as he watched the man leave the café, little girl in tow.
Harry sat back, running a hand through his hair. "It seems so."
"I expected him to be…different."
Harry shot Ron a look.
"Good coffee, by the way," the red head said, looking down at his cup. "For muggle coffee, that is."
Harry rolled his eyes. "Ron, he was different. He used to be two or three times that size and 'prat' doesn't even come close to describing how…insufferable he was."
Ron raised an eyebrow. "You've been hanging around my wife too much."
"Oh?" Harry asked with a teasing grin. "Jealous?"
It was Ron's turn to roll his eyes, but Harry didn't miss the twitch of his friend's lips.
"So, you really think he's changed?" Ron asked after a moment.
Harry glanced out the window in time to see the cab and its two passengers pull away. "Yes, actually. I do."
The other wizard shook his head. "I dunno how you can trust him. I mean, they locked you up, kept you from eating and probably beat you until—"
"No," Harry interrupted. "They didn't."
Ron turned an incredulous eye at him.
"Beat me, I mean," he said. Ron still looked skeptical, so Harry decided to expound with a sigh. "They were too afraid of me, Ron. You know what happened with the girl."
"Brilliant piece of work there, accidental apparation," Ron shook his head thoughtfully.
"Of another person, no less," Harry added. "She's going to be pretty amazing, I think. But that's just the point. A witch or wizard's natural magic will protect them as best it can. I can count on one hand the times they tried to beat me. Those instances weren't pleasant to say the least, and I will gladly admit that they went all too far, but bad things happened to them when they turned violent." He shot Ron a wry grin. "And despite their stupidity, they learned."
"And just figured they could work or starve the magic out of you?"
Harry shrugged. "That wasn't so bad. I could sneak food when I cooked for them. It was more important and convenient for them to have a servant than it was to lock me up and throw away the key."
"Not that anyone would have cared, or even known," Ron grumbled darkly.
Harry smiled in spite of himself. It was nice to hear how much his friend cared for him.
"Anyway," the red head said, changing the subject. "So who was that muggle we met. Have you decided to have him obliviated yet?"
"Oh, you mean Holmes?" Harry asked, grateful for the lighter turn of conversation. "I've heard of him before. Apparently he's already been obliviated several times because he's discovered Magical Brittan through sheer logic on multiple occasions."
"How?" Ron asked, shocked.
Harry grinned sardonically. "We're not always exactly discreet, Ron."
"Yeah, but the rest of the Muggles—"
"Are looking for an explanation and will accept anything that puts their fears to rest. This man finds his own conclusions and isn't afraid of the truth."
"Should we have him obliviated then?" Ron repeated hesitantly.
Harry sat back, tapping his chin thoughtfully. "Nah. I don't see much of a point. He'll probably just figure it all out again. Besides, if he does decide to say something about the Wizarding World, do you think anyone would believe him?"
Ron cocked his head, then scoffed, conceding the point. "That prat? Not unless they were more loyal than a Hufflepuff."
Meanwhile, on Baker Street in room 221 B, John Watson sneezed.*
*In some cultures, it is believed that if you sneeze, someone is talking about you.
Well, this was a birthday present for KuroiAtropos. She basically told me what she wanted (had to be Dudley redemption story, he needed to be involved in the police and specalize in abuse cases, and it had to be a crossover with Sherlock). I'm pretty happy with the result. :)
And for her next b-day she wants another chapter, so we'll see where this goes. ^^;