"Harry, you look like a licked blueberry lollipop dragged up from under the couch. Please tell me that this will not stay." They were not the first words John expected to say this early in the morning. He put down the copy of Daily Prophet next to the newspaper pile and stood up to get Harry his cup. The front door closed quietly, bare whisper of material and light thumps succeeded in announcing that Harry managed to leave his jacket and shoes somewhere close enough to where they were supposed to be.
"Mistakes of my past self…I was lucky. Archie got magenta and he is blond." John winced. He watched yawning Harry make his way toward the kitchen table, pushing down his bag on the chair before he seated himself, making grabby hands at the sight of coffee.
"If you want to dye your hair we will do it properly not...what did you use?"
"Spray. Lotta has a lime green highlights. She looks like Grinch. How bad it is?" John did a quick search for words as he hid his twitching mouth in his cup before throwing a glance at his watch.
"What do you prefer, Cookie Monster or Stitch?. " John snickered at Harry's playful 'ouch'. "Blue is good colour on you but you look like you are wearing crusted over toupee. So…are we keeping it?" Harry hesitated and John prayed that it was not the case. Because he knew that decisions like that were usually followed with decisions about piercings and tattoos and he was simply 'not ready' for any of that.
"Maybe next year." Oh, praise the Lord for small mercies. " I need to wash it out. Errr...did Lestrade call you?"
"Harry…" Where was Sherlock when he was needed? Asleep. That's where. A man who claims to never sleep. As if. At least Kit is with him, probably keeping her small smelly feet on his face, so there is that. Maybe he will even decide to share why he was in a such a strange mood yesterday after John came back from the walk in the park. It's not every day…no, scratch that. It was not that often that John would find him sitting on the floor a bit disheveled and clutching at his violin looking so utterly baffled. And then he continued on the day switching between endearingly elated and terrified, jumping from one to the other in one leap like a mountain goat. If that will keep, Harry would catch on and probably be understandingly confused before thinking it was his fault, so…nope. They need to talk. Pronto.
One day was truly enough for whatever life crisis he was having. No need to overindulge.
"It's nothing! I mean, we only went to walk dogs, and it turned out that they…" Harry slid his hand through his hair, pulling it out immediately with disgusted look. John passed him a paper towel and let him fibble for a moment, pouring himself more coffee." Lotta goes twice a week, yeah? She dragged Archie and me there too, and last week we've been here, yes? There was that older labrador she liked to walk every now and then, Mikah. You've met her." John nodded, remembering very clearly his slobbered hands and Sherlock on one knee getting his famous coat covered in sandy and grey fur, too busy scratching the dog behind her ears to care about scowling pedestrians. To this day there were only three ways to distract Sherlock when his mind was on the case. Unexpected 'I love you's', shoulder kisses and dogs. John found he was kinda alright with that since he figured on that list twice. "So yesterday we went back and she wasn't in her cage and there were things not adding up, so we kinda…"
Harry brushed hard against his bristly chin and then tugged on his sleeves with both hands. Powdery blue spray dye smeared on his wrist. He blinked at the remains confusedly, before raising his head and pinning John in his place with the eyes that looked far too sharp.
"Finally! I thought we would never get here!"
"Archie, darling, the light of my life, the bane of my existence…we would get here earlier if we didn't have to stop to feed you at that Thai place." Lotta threw her keys at Harry, and he was smart enough to not comment about the fact she had her own pockets. She was very outspoken about the virtue of pockets. Especially lack of those fulfilling their proper function in her own wardrobe.
"And the pizza on the way." Harry opened the door to the animal shelter they were trying to invade, letting Lotta and Archie slip under his arm. Skilfully ignoring Archie's offended look and the fact Harry himself had partaken in sharing said thai and pizza and…
"Ice cream, too." Yes. That. It was rather bad moment to mention that he was craving a chicken sandwich so, wisely, he resisted from announcing that fact. He discovered a black hole in his stomach and while it was convenient at restaurants crawl Sherlock led him through so he would not suffer subpar food, it was stupidly insistent on being filled. He probably still had a whole box of coconut Laddu in the bag. Probably. If Sherlock didn't eat them all before he packed it.
"I'm a growing boy in need of sustenance and I will not hear your hurtful words you heathens."
And then Archie marched straight past them toward the cages and let the small bouncy fluff ball that could generously be called a dog slobber all over his fingers.
Harry had ambivalent feelings toward dogs. He liked them all in theory, but in practice he avoided the smaller breeds. He didn't delusion himself in thinking it didn't have anything to do with Aunt Marge and her prised monsters. Knowing that it was not a dog's fault that their owner was a bitch didn't make him any less weary of those ankle biters. The bigger ones on the other hand reminded him of Sirius and with this in mind he went in search of Atmo, a rather sad looking labradoodle blind on his left side he'd met thanks to Lotta.
It wasn't there.
It was only a second time he ventured into this shelter. Loretta had been lobbying for his company since forever, and so had Archie. It took him embarrassingly long to just admit he had problems with overly enthusiastic jumpy dogs that didn't reach his knee, has been promptly called an idiot, hugged and dragged along to walk with stoic old labrador named Mikah, labradoodle that didn't leave his side and pushed his head into Harry's hand at every opportunity and floppy eared massive bernardine who pulled Archie along like a roadkill.
He liked that dog. But instead of it there was a blue-eyed mutt with bright orange fur sitting behind bars, listless and incurious.
"She is not there. Mikah." Lotta paced along the row of cages and finally stood next to Harry. "Atmo, too?"
"Yes. Lets check the board." They backtraced, passing the door with orange dots and the empty coat rack.
It was strange. Both Mikah and Atmo were, what Jess- another volunteer that was there the last time and helped Harry with filling papers -said life-timers. So long in the shelter that they became more a fixture in a background then available choice. People rarely searched for dog veterans with scars or achy joints, instead picking up puppies without thinking what they would do with them once they grow up.
The board was just to the right of the entrance door. Pinned to the cork by colorful pins were pictures of the recently adopted dogs and cats sometimes with their new owners, sometimes by themselves with only a paper heart with 'found a loving home with' filled with names.
Neither dog was on the board.
"Is that unusual?" Mouthed Harry, his instincts already screaming wronwrongwrong." Do they put them the pictures later on? The hearts look like they were signed by many different people." He didn't even blink when Lotta circled him, putting herself out of sight of the passing worker and tapped some random picture with her finger with a fake smile plastered on her face.
"They have instant camera. It's the owners who put pictures and sign."
"Hey." Archie slipped between them, his eyes flicking at the board as he sprawled on Harry's side, his hand digging hard into his forearm. " Come on, there are new puppies!" His voice lowered to tense whisper as he curled his arm around Lotta's and tugged them forward. "Frog and Amor aren't in their cages. I checked the other room too."
Well, it was always nice to know that he wasn't the only one who sniffed mystery where others would see coincidance.
They followed quietly until they sat themselves in more open area, Harry's back to the desc shielding Archie who instead of a puppy was cradling his phone, tapping on it insistently, leaving Lotta on the lookout, sitting sideways, cooing at the brown balls of fluff and promising bloody murder with her eyes when the two people sitting in the dark corner filling some papers weren't paying them any attention.
"They didn't have any event. There is nothing in social media or the main page except…ah, here it is." Archie put out his phone like he was sharing cute picture, but kept it up long enough to get the gist. It was time to meddle.
"We need the red key." Harry scratched the puppy on his lap after he scanned the text. "And then the light blue and black."
"What?" Lotta looked over her shoulder at the pinned row of keys above the desc of a woman somewhere in her fifties. Her co-worker flitted over her, his short bleached hair making him look like he missed his time to shine by a decade.
"Room behind me, on my left."
"When the hell did you figured it out? I've been looking at that damned keys since forever."
"There is fifteen keys." Harry mentally thanked Sherlock for his 'practice observation where you don't need it' offhanded advice. He had been doing it everywhere he went now, picking on small things and congratulating himself when he was right. (And trying to figure out what went wrong when he wasn't.) It was absorbing game. He had counted the keys when he was there for the first time. Matched some of them to doors they opened. Was close enough to see the scratches on the surface and their sizes and differences in nail polish colors applied to them. It was very long twenty minutes at the desk where the computer system was mulling over his phone number, but it looked that it was not ill spent. " Unmarked with five on hoop is likely for entrance, reception, outdoor run area, storage and the gate. That leaves adoption office, isolation room, treatment, four rooms with animals, management and inner yard. Yellow for office. It's still in the lock. Dark red and orange for dog rooms, blue and violet for cats. Those are marked. Two plain silver ones are for isolation, one for dogs and the other for cats, I think. So that leaves us with lighter red, black, light blue and pink. The pink hangs on the opposite wall to others, kinda out of the way? If it was me it would be the key to where I keep meds - so treatment room. The guy is new. He keeps getting the reds mixed and trying to open that door with the dark red. So we need the other one. The management office. Light blue is larger, and it wasn't here last time we came by. I want it. "
"And the black?"
"No idea. Let's find out, shall we?"
"They killed her. And Atmo. A lot others. There was whole container full of black plastic bags in the yard. So we broke in, got pictures and called places. More or less receptive places...Greg might call. I know you have me on the pinglist."
"What was that story that tipped you off?"
"A pair adopted a Border Collie. Three days after that it got very sick so they had called the vet that was supposedly the one who had signed health check, except he didn't even worked with that shelter, you know? So we knew that there was something wrong with papers, Archie is a perfect distraction all by himself, Lo stole the keys and I got to the documents. They didn't even hide it, the orders for was smack on top of the pile. From three different places to cover up how big the order was. I guess that it still was cheaper than the meds and upkeep of sick and old and unwanted."
John tipped forward and wound one arm around Harry's shoulders, bending him sideways and kissing the side of his head, feeling his rigid pose melt a little.
"Proud of you. Very much. " Harry squeezed him back before he stood up and stretched to his full height. His eyes were wet. John pushed him gently forward. "You go wash that Smurf from your head. I'm going to wake up Sherlock and will make you a sandwich, hmm?" And John didn't need to be a detective to notice that even as Harry nodded, he looked nervous. Shifty. Well, so maybe he knows a thing or two that John doesn't. Time to grill his partner." You have the most lackadaisical luck in the world, kid."
"Don't I know that. Where is Kit?" They both raised their heads at the sound of feathers, watching as Hedwig, her beautiful white feathers dyed with henna into milk chocolate brown, squeezed into a window's opening and barking indignantly, pecked at the rolled up paper firmly clasped in her talons.
"Still asleep." John picked a leftover piece of bacon from his plate and waved it till the owl made her way from the sill onto the back of his chair, daintily taking the offering and dropping off the 'New Scientist' in Harry's hands along the way. It never got boring. How many no-maj people could say they have an utterly lovely smart owl that can fetch your post and steal one-hundred-pound-per-half-a-year periodics from your neighbours? He moved his hand, sliding his fingers over the fluffy head. Even the occasional sight of a rat's tail disappearing in her beak couldn't make Hedwig any less then absolute queen. "She discovered that Miss Bee is still in the washroom. We promised that she could see Sherlock doing operation on her wing and let her watch 'Little Mermaid'. She kept asking where is her tail."
Harry started to laugh, startling Belle from her nap, making her slide from her perch on the top shelf where she dangled precariously a moment ago tucked away among books. John had long ago stopped being unnerved by the fact that Hedwig could and did laugh, her barks loud as her head trailed the indignant cat wobbling through the room toward kitchen.
"Do you want me to make her one?"
"God Harry, how we lived without you?" Harry pulled out a bottle out of his bag, his blushing face barely fighting a smile that crept in the corner of his mouth. "Is that Kitty's shampoo? Well,…once more unto the breach?"
Harry send him a smile that said everything about how much he failed in his fake enthusiasm. Harry sipped on the dregs of his coffee and rolled his shoulders as he stood up.
And when John heard the sound of bathroom door closing shut behind Harry's back and made a beeline on the balls of his feet toward the bedroom, eh, nobody has to know, yes?
"Ooof, not sleeping. " Garbled Sherlock when the pillow smacked him in the face. He opened one mercurial eye to glare. It lost a lot of its usual effectiveness when paired with mussed bed-hair and pillow-creases on his cheek. "And is it the way to greet your partner, hmm?
John bent down and kissed his forehead, barely restraining the snicker at Sherlock's offended face.
"Yes it is when said partner is lazybum. And don't wake up Kitty." They both threw a look to where their child somehow gravitated toward the other end of the bed, slobbering on high thread cotton in her sleep. "Now spill, why you and Harry are so shifty. You have fifteen minutes and those hands are not to be involved in the talking."
John rolled his eyes at Sherlock pouting mouth when he took his hand from under the hem of John's shirt where it rested low on his spine and put it behind his own head. He supposed he could give this ridiculous man something as a consolation prize and kissed off that mullish expression.
"Alright. But on one condition…How bad Harry looks in blue hair and did you take any incriminating pictures?"
"Bad. And sadly no. Did Greg contact you?"
Sherlock waved toward his phone not moving an inch from his pillow to reach it.
"And what did he say?"
"Well, from what I remember we were busy and you threatened bodily harm if I pick up my phone, so no idea." John opened his mouth and then choose to remain silent, putting the phone in Sherlock's hand. Any argument would fail flat like he did last night after they were done. He was asleep long before his higher brain functions returned. No regrets on that one, except perhaps abandoning his yoga practice for too many days in the row. Sherlock smirked like he knew exactly where his thoughts had wandered, the smug bastard. "How it is that Harry can't go anywhere without finding ways to complicate his life?"
"Are you asking me this?"
"So, what happened yesterday? Was it about the letter?"
Sherlock fell silent for a long moment before he lightly tugged him closer. He thought of resisting, having just ironed the shirt half an hour ago but instead lay down, feet still on the floor and let Sherlock put his head over his chest, ear pressed to John's heart. He curled his arm over the tense shoulders, breathing in the smell of Sherlock's hair.
"He called me dad. Said 'bye dad' and then dashed off and realized that before he went down so I played for him and watched him go and then kind of…"
"Got overwhelmed." Finished John feeling strangely breathless. It was one thing to wish for it and completely different to finding out that it happened. Bloody fuck, he is not going to cry. Ah…too late.
"Yes." Sherlock raised his eyes and nothing could cover the fact that they were wide and misty.
"Sweetheart…" John kissed him and didn't care whose tears he tasted. Sherlock moved, hovering slightly above him and then gently putting their foreheads together as they breathed the same air. "We are adopting him. For real."
"Yes." Sherlock nodded against his head, eyelashes wet but smile wide and happy. "Yes we are. It's just so…"
"I was going to say unreal, but yes. We are going to be dads...Again!"
John couldn't hold it any longer. He laughed. He laughed so hard tears were streaming down his face and he laughed even more when Sherlock peppered his face with kisses, trying to pin him down to the bed. He jumped up and nearly brained Sherlock when a small weight landed hard across his legs and then his daughter crawled up demanding kisses and cuddles.
…and he was late for job.
Oh, screw that.
"Harry! Mount a rescue mission! I've been abducted!"
"It's not much of a case...more like irregularity." Explained Harry in the late afternoon, having somewhat hesitantly called them both after an hour of walking around, clearly mulling over whatever he should or not. Well, that opening certainly would explain why he was so keen on selling Catherine (and Bella, much to the Kneazle's disgruntlement) to Mrs Hudson after dinner. Harry made his way to the sofa, sitting with Sherlock right next to him and John leaning behind them both from behind. The poor man, having just crawled back home some time ago, regaled them with abbreviated story of his day and didn't exactly kept himself from snarking at people being sick in damned August.
"We went through John's emails and something jumped up." Sherlock snickered. Still not a Fort Knox. " Lot of those crimes were situated less then five minutes walk from each other. We looked up the police records and the crime map. Those are only from the beginning of June. There are pdf's with articles if you want them, Lotta helped us quite a bit by ordering them according to date and Archie made a graph, here. " Harry showed them laptop screen, but not before somewhat flustered scrambling to close the message window. Sherlock took it from his hands catching a website in the background about...Albania? And the tail of conversation.
He is not my boy.
You lick his tonsils an let him have the last naan and sleep in a cuddlepile. He wears your bloody football jersey… U have no ground to stand on mister
He snorted. Inwardly. Archie and Harry were friends. Only friends, if taking romantic relation as some sort of end game. (Which was stupid, because before they became partners John was Sherlock's friend first and foremost and should it have always stayed that way, he would not be poorer for it.) But they were lonely and hurting and young, searching for somebody to connect with. That, and Sherlock was pretty sure that part of their fluid exchange was a bit of experiment in 'do I like it or do I not'.
It was 'friends with benefits' if benefits were emotional support and cuddling…Sherlock personally couldn't imagine coming home to someone he didn't like, so from observation alone, they had more functioning relationship then most married couples he had met in the line of his work.
They clicked together just right with the same dry humor, inquisitive minds and few scars hid under charisma and charm.
And baring all that…it was blindingly obvious how terribly lonely they were, no matter the size of the crowd.
Harry was cut from his friends more then ever. Not to mention how absolutely alien the world he left bare four years ago was to him. He threw himself into unknown with a heavy baggage. It was work and half to convince him that while he had problems, he wasn't a problem.
Archie…Archie was still heartbroken when his best friends left school less than two months before the end of school and were whisked all the way to Austria. Not to mention all the reasons for that move and why he once again appeared in Sherlock's life, the poor kid.
But, if Sherlock would wager an educated guess, what cemented that friendship was more born of shared trauma before they'd even met.
Like called to like, Sherlock would knew that very well.
The way Harry met Lotta, while amusing, had happened after less than ordinary circumstances and yet turned into friendship pretty quickly once Harry spilled his explanations. She was such an interesting person that it did something funny to his stomach when he thought of all the reasons why, after years of coming to London for summers, she would find friends only in two boys who were so obviously not interested in her at all. Not interested and so very, very protective, each in his own way. (He wondered if all Harry friends and family were shrouded in background drama.)
Both of those friendships was one of the reasons that Baker Street was nearly permanently out of food on most days, (that's a lie, they were never consistent about it and became only slightly more so after Harry despaired over the lack of something as basic as flour in their cupboards ) a pair of crimson jeans (Archie's) was drying in the bathroom along with one pumpkin covered sock (that belonged to Loretta ) and one black studded fingerless glove (Harry's, but god only knows where he got those from) which lost few studs along the knuckles but gained bloodstain in mysterious circumstances. The teens couldn't quite give clear enough explanation as to the what, why and the how or even the where. Sherlock puzzled this little story together but decided to not to share it with John. Yet.
At least they had enough of common sense between them to call Lestrade.
He nearly pitied that man.
In the wake of…whatever had happened then, Harry swore to never go for a dance again in the spirit of "one time it turning into disaster is coincidence, a second one is universe trying to tell you something". Sherlock was deeply aware of Harry's particular brand of luck and decided to teach him how to dance in the near future. Just in case. And that it was too long since he and John danced vertically.
Bearing that in mind, he focused on the screen and started scrolling through results. Some of it was already familiar. Fairly common thefts, domestic violence, shops robberies... all noted when he went through the laptop history few days before…Only, the kids were right.
The outbreak of crimes and frankly ridiculous amount of notes that consisted of - 'things disappearing and appearing again" lost keys, mysterious somebodies 'making a mess in the garden by planting weeds in circles on my meticulous lawn, the villains", too many cats, too loud birds, stolen…spoons?, neighbours children laughing after dark and missing pets - centered in only one place and, if the dates were right, in a space of around two and half months was staggering. Nothing that would interest either him or John, no gruesome murders, no million pounds thefts. The was no mystery in an idiot setting fire to a few trash cans. The only part that caught his interest was disappearance of three people that lived in the area, - their names, rough description and few other details along with assumed time of disappearance noted on different page - and four dogs found dead and mauled close to the river bank.
No wonder that the bobbies were so unwilling to check up when the Cowell's case came up, swamped with work as they were.
If not for their quick trip to Germany or more specifically to Hannover (which Harry and Catherine sadly had to sit out since Harry was sick as a cat even if he didn't want to admit it),
Harry writing down everything he heard (his recorder barely registered any sound, bar quiet tapping of his fingers, but enough to hear two men talking) from the car plates, to Billy Boe (which was about the worst nickname ever, but it did led then to William Bolevar and a sack, that smelled strongly of river muck stuck, stuck in the suspiciously clean boot like a particularly damning souvenir,
And completely unlikely story about finding poor Johan just wandering about in the middle of the night,
It would have taken months.
With Sherlock involvement… it was barely a case at all, with all the information provided by a banged up teenager. Harry took the notes John made at the airport when the shaky wife identified her scumbag of a husband's body, added them to his own and arrived as close to solutions as he could, and that without having the police reports on hand.
It was easy.
It was too easy.
Sherlock was not a fan of too easy. Especially when it should be anything but.
Now he wished he actually took more interest in the case. He rarely left any unsolved to their full extent when there were facts still to be found, but it kept sliding off his mind to the bottom of the list like a slippery dream you had once and was able to recall only bits and pieces. He hated that it felt like a loose end that kept dangling somewhere beyond his grasp.
If he only could focus…
Something tickled him off about that particular man finding himself exactly where he shouldn't.
Damien Goldberg, one very shifty shop owner, reeked of guilt.
Jakob and Natalie Ferguson, the famed infamous couple that owned the Oak Inn somehow figured in that too. If only he knew what to look at, but then he was distracted by the truly magnificent heist that happened only few days later and by the horror of spending two whole days with skittish teen and a two-year-old at seaside.
To be honest, the only obvious difficulty lay in fiding how to tie the mysterious Ariadna without her slipping out from the justice clutches. In the end it was more like the universe worked out its own solution. She, through means still unknown, found out that there was a witness to her henchmen failure and pulled her own noose when she send people after Harry's hide. It was unfortunate decision, as Harry already had half the London's homeless watching over him along with Mycroft's people, ( he found all this about as irritating as Sherlock did,) trailing his every step. A bit overkill to bring MI-5 or 6 - or whatever number they were at currently- into catching petty criminal and walking after bit sullen fifteen year old, but it made a funny story and left the VIP of magical world unharmed and snarking at the lack of proper excitement.
For someone who claimed to be tired of being always the one who has to deal with 'all the world's shit', he was unwilling to just sit around, rest and look pretty. They'd let him. For the most part. As much as they hated it, Harry needed experience, skills and knowledge to live through the new reign of one Tom 'put a fancy butchered french title here 'Riddle. They couldn't teach him spells or magic, not in the way that would make difference. But confidence? Thinking outside of the box? Building his own support web and falling back on it should he ever be in over his head? Nothing taught those skills better than hands on approach. It had an added bonus of somewhat tempering his hotheadedness. Now he would do things out of the sheer bluntheaded stubbornness. So, maybe, they were not exactly the picture perfect role models, but Harry was still alive and had a lifetime of burning his fingers to learn better ahead of him.
For that moment, Harry trusting them with his findings and recognizing that those might turn too big for his hands, was a sweet taste of victory.
Still, how three teenagers somehow got to this point where apparently no one in media didn't even notice?
Sherlock knew of a few things that could make people act in aggressive manner in controlled environment. It was surprisingly easy to poke a hornets nest.
If it was organized crime it should be called 'disorganized' in this particular case. Perhaps the petty crime was just a distraction? But from what? Disappearing people? Were they in any way important? Influential? Did they disappear because they saw something they shouldn't have seen?
Poisoned water source, sect and drugs were in the realm of probability, too, but Harry's research went in different direction.
For some reason he focused on the dogs.
Two middle sized mutts, amstaff and a Jack Russell Terrier died in the last two months, found in the same state. Harry double marked 'Wet, like whatever they fought came from the river' with notes along 'fish scales' 'crup?!' and 'not a dog' on a margin of article that said the authorities were hunting a rabid dog.
"Dog that is not a dog?" Asked John, reading fast over Sherlock's shoulder. They agreed at the very beginning that Harry's cases were his and any theories, conclusions and facts gleaned by either of them will not be shared till he would ask as long as he would not lend himself or others in more trouble then he could handle. It worked well. Well enough that they barely had to intervene as Harry learned what he could safely handle himself. Neither of them expected they would get a detective in the making as a ward, but here he was and already better at it then half of NSY. Perhaps because he had a way of looking at things from angles that even Sherlock wouldn't see. The hardest thing to do was teaching him not to jump to conclusions by fitting theories he liked to only half the facts he had, but in learning those things he proved to be as malleable as he was stubborn in others.
It was as surprising as it was not, that in the midst of crime wave he would focus on a dog instead of a person…it was very him.
"Hmmm. This part I've done myself, Archie and Lo don't know, here. One of the witness reports said 'sleek and very fast in water'." Harry pointed out the part in his printed copies. Whole case of printed copies. Well, well, how fast they grow." She saw it leaving just before she had found her amstaf. I've found her on Twitter and we talked for a bit. Omara Horsh, she lives alone for now, her wife is working in Norway, coming back in September. The dog was engagement gift from said wife, she is horribly upset about it... There was a young amstaff in that animal shelter, you think she might want to adopt it?"
Sherlock, to his eternal embarrassment was half tempted to do it himself. Years ago he would not even entertain the thought that he was capable of taking care of living feeling being when he barely could function himself. Somewhat. It has been so long…so bloody long. Dogs had a very special place in his heart. Redbeard never left his memories, soft supple leather of his collar still hidden among his things ever since his first friend passed away. His insides rolled at the thought of someone's chosen companion being just erased from existence for no good reason. He never had and never will have any love for people who were cruel to animals. It was a fact, that people who hurt animals had little to no problem with doing the same to their spouses or children.
He was terribly fond of Belle and Hedwig and there might be that small domesticated part of him that thought that, maybe, since they were now two plus two, a cat and an owl, dog would be… Maybe he was not a picket fence kind of guy, but two kids, a dog, million bees and mayhem would suit him well. It was a stupid sentiment. One that didn't need to be voiced as John's fingers brushed his hand as he smiled at Sherlock's fleeting glance.
"Why don't you ask her later? Don't be surprised if she doesn't, some people don't want another pet so soon after they lost the one they loved. Think about how you'd feel if you'd lost Hedwig." Harry blinked and then moved his head staring at John like he proposed extermination of kittens. Sherlock found he was sharing that expression.
"Right." Harry's voice croaked with the suddenly tightened throat, scrambling for the notes even if he obviously did not need them, probably just as a way to busy his hands and have a moment to swallow heavily. He coughed and then picked the picture of a lovely puppy, staring at it like he saw it for the first time. "Om…Omara went for a walk around eight in the evening on June twenty fourth, amstaff named Ping on the lash, when he saw black cat, twisted out of his collar and made a run for it. She chased after him when she heard his barks and then a strange high pitched wails. She said that she was never so scared in her life, repeated it twice, and that when she came closer, she saw something in high grass of riverbank, either dark brown or black with strangely short paws, massive head and sleek long body. It jumped in the river and was gone in seconds, leaving her dog in mangled bits." Harry hid the puppy's picture in his bag, they did not comment on that.
"There is something I didn't tell you. I didn't think it mattered back then...and you still didn't know much of anything about who I am or what can I do. So...there was cat Sith in the house where Johann died. They haunt in dark alleys, in city underbelly mostly. Close to the souls of the wicked. "
"What do you mean by that?" Inquired John, brows scrunched in thought.
"They hunt souls of bad people, stay close to worst offenders homes or follow people who catch those and wait for death of darkened soul...and...we don't know what happens next. But there was a cat where I stayed and it took my offering. They are fae. "Sherlock remembered with a sudden clarity the black hair Harry was covered in when he helped him down from the tree in the bolthole backyard. The cat must have slept on Harry's things and their boy was as far from the wicked as they go. Not to mention Hedwig would have not let any creature come close if they meant any harm to her charge. Was it stalking its prey or waiting for Harry to lead it to it?" I have found flowers in places I shouldn't. I think that something is happening, something big and ..."
"And you think that it is somehow tied to the rest." Inquired mildly Sherlock, trying to think of an animal that could match the description. More naturally occurring animal. Nutria? Otter? Just a dog? Maybe smuggled in ariranha Pteronuora brasilienis more commonly known as giant river otter. They were known to be particularly aggressive, and opposite of pretty, but leaving their prey…Quick search did not reveal pictures of the dogs post mortem but it did reveal that Harry searched for them, too. Smart lad.
The cursor hovered over the file, as Sherlock kept staring at the only bookmarked page that wasn't there last time. He clicked, scanned it quickly, slotting Finn Grusenberg arrest and involvement of the mysterious 'englishman' in the 'Hannover pearl brooch case' under the things to look over and closed the page, sharing a look with John. So Harry didn't think that the case was over, either. Sherlock never would admit it out loud but perhaps it would be better for all of them if their boy would be a little bit less…inquisitive and more prone to letting things lie. He was, oh the irony, too much like Sherlock in this even long before they've met. Great characteristic in detective and policeman, not so great in stubbornly protective child with a hero complex.
It was high time to look into things again.
"The second dog was found on sixth of July. Jack Russell. No owner, no chip but it did had a collar, broken in two parts. It had 62442 and RCMC on the tags." Harry looked at Sherlock meaningfully.
"And that means?"
"Magic, John. The older phones had letters under numeric keyboard with assigned letters. When you push 62442 you get…"
Both Harry and Sherlock waited for John as he mentally went through the message. John moved from his place and then sat on the sofa, his head tilted toward the screen, reading the sparse few lines.
"Magic. But, why then it doesn't have an owners address? What is RCMC, anyway?"
"I assume that's department that deals with unusual animals."Sherlock turned to Harry who hummed in confirmation. "You said that many wizard's properties are protected against non magical, so it would be hard to find them, much like that house on Grimmauld. No sense in putting names if no no-maj would be able to return the dog to place they can't see."
"That and the fact that Crups can be quite vicious toward people with no magic. To the point that a household have to have two magically aware people to even keep one. They are category XXX, and have to be registered in Department For Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. Crups have two tails, but otherwise are indistinguishable from Jack Russel, are fiercely protective and unquestionably loyal to their family. They also don't chase cats, don't leave on their own and are more prone to get their owners out of the trouble then fight. So if the Crup is found…
"It returns to the Ministry either so they can fine the owner or as a proof that something happened to its family. They don't claim bodies? Could the tag break when the dog died?" Harry shrugged." So the questions are what happened to his owners and what he tried to protect them from."
"I think I recognize what might have attacked him and those other dogs." Harry stood up, making his way toward stack of books wrapped in fake bindings. While 'Genealogy of Britain tomes A-B and O-P' and 'Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them' would pass the casual glance as history/fantasy combo, it wouldn't do to let all the world to see the 'Standard Book of Spells Volume V', 'Magical ways of travel' or 'Sacred twenty eight history of Wizengamot.' laying around. Especially as Sherlock was not the kind of person who would say no to magic books, so there was close to eighty tomes in stacks and additional shelves bearing the misleading names like "Agriculture of Bithynia in times of Julius Caesar. Overview" and "History of bicycle" while housing things like potions and herbology. Harry opened the already worn cover citing "Greenland subglacial drainage evolution regulated by weakly connected regions of the bed", sifting through the pages, before making his way back toward the couch. He put the book with an open page facing them. Most of the page was dominated by a drawing of a creature. Head closely resembling mastiff snout, short stout neck changed into elongated stocky corpus, long enough that its spine curved like a twisted 's'. Stubby, strong legs ended with unproportionally big, flat webbed paws with sharp knife-like claws. It had a long flattened tail. In fact, it looked much like an unholy offspring of a dog and otter, splattered randomly with patches of fish scales.
"Well, isn't it pretty." Snarked John, letting Sherlock read the rest. "What class XXXX means?"
"I eat dogs for dinner, piss me off enough and you might be next. Quite nasty little buggers. They do have something that would explain the unreasonable aura of fear, long before you see them."
"This…Dobhar-chú, you think it's responsible for the dogs. What about the rest?"
"I am just…not sure. "Admitted Harry, trying and failing to not be disappointed."The flower circles are pretty much a proof that there are fairies around, but…Too much is happening in this place and I fear that's my world problems spreading over yours. I tried to think of a way that this can happen without magic aspect but…there is not many things that can kill a Crup. Nothing ah…naturally occurring that lives in Britain, anyway and that isn't amazingly fast. But the magical side has plenty of dangerous creatures…King Otters rarely ever come out of nowhere but when they appear it means that other Fae follow too. They are territorial, so one this close to any city is a bad news either way."
"What tipped you?"
"Kitty." Harry grimaced slightly. "You remember when she stared at the trees couple days ago? I thought I sensed something waking up from slumber. Now I know I did. It's been there for a while but nothing I could put my finger on. Like the feeling you have when you are looking at two identical detailed pictures and the more you stare at them the more you are sure that either your brain is trying very hard to trick you or that something is wrong with them. Something small. Lacking pupil or fingernail, vase millimeters to the left. Shorter fridge on the curtain. Now I am nearly one hundred percent sure - there are fairies in the London."
"So you think it might be only one of many agglomerations. Like infestation." John stared at the picture of King Otter for a second before turning a page. Eash Uisge-shapeshifter class. Ellén Trechend- extinct, if found kill on sight. How can you find something that's already proclaimed extinct? Fauth, class XXXX creature. Gwartheg Y Llyn…magical cattle protector? Like Cows? Kobold. Portune. Wight. John opened the first page of an inch thick volume to read the title. 'Creatures of Britain and Ireland. Chosen examples' He looked at Harry. Their Harry was a perfectly normal looking boy, he wouldn't look twice at him if they just passed each other on the street. But, dear god, how? How the magical world hides all those…dragons and three headed snakes and owls traveling by day? Unicorns. John still couldn't get over the fact that those were real. Cameras and satellites and all the technology in the world and they still walk unseen. Magicals have at least four different kinds of flying horses alone (Harry might have mentioned it two or twenty times) and they fly on brooms (too many miles per minute for John's poor heart), how no plane or helicopter never picked them up?
It somehow felt different when Harry was entertaining Kitty with light blooming on his hand or when he switched his porridge into potato mash and got horribly embarrassed, because accidental magic was for kids half his age. (At least now they knew that while he would eat nearly anything, he hated porridge and plain milk with passion, too bad-he needed calcium.) It did rammed it home, that when Harry means wizards, he means a whole world that was not theirs to touch. Except…they did. At everyday basics and that was a privilege that not many mundane people could claim, looking through the keyhole into workings of another world. It seemed like they just might come that bit closer to it very soon.
There were fairies…actually existing. Just there.
He just wished they would turn out to be more 'I'll shit on your carpet if you don't feed me' then 'I'll fuck you over so hard your grandchildren will limp."
Just for a change.