Terry sat at his usual table in the far corner of the Leaky Cauldron, a steaming cup of tea and the Daily Prophet in front of him, and tried not to think about how normal his routine had become. He’d been in 1863 for barely a week, but already he’d gotten to know a few of the regulars. He’d figured there was no point lying, and told those who bothered to talk to him that he was here as a result of a time travel mishap. Many wanted to know what the future was like, and, knowing that foreknowledge was dangerous, Terry had tried to keep his comments as ambiguous as possible, but when an eleven-year-old boy came in with his father and introduced himself as Percival Dumbledore, Terry had to force himself not to react.
Percival Dumbledore, father of the greatest wizard Terry had ever met. Everyone knew the story of Percival Dumbledore – how he’d attacked three Muggle boys who’d assaulted his daughter, and ended up dying alone in Azkaban. Terry watched the boy disappear through the wall into Diagon Alley, forcing his tea past the sudden lump that had formed in his throat. All these people – living, breathing people – were dead and gone in his world, their lives erased away by time. It would happen to him, as well. How long before he started fading away from his friends’ memories?
Terry turned the page of the newspaper, not wanting to look so obviously brooding, and scanned the headlines. He’d always dismissed the Victorian era as one in which nothing much happened, but now that he was here he could appreciate the fact that there was a quiet revolution going on here. Nearly one hundred years after the Statute of Secrecy, and no one alive had memories of persecution at the hands of Muggles. This was the time when wizards began marrying Muggles; the beginning of a new age of tolerance and integration, and subsequently the rise of the blood purism movement. Terry had talked to some like this, and yearned to tell them what their views would lead to in a hundred years’ time. But he couldn’t talk about the future.
A young woman with long blonde hair and deep blue eyes took her place at the table across from Terry’s, and he turned his attention all the more firmly to his newspaper. He’d seen her before – several times, in fact, but had never spoken to her. Terry was useless when it came to women – he hadn’t changed much since his Hogwarts days, and had decided long ago that it was his fate to stare longingly across a room at anyone who caught his eye – while she wasn’t looking, of course – and never attempt conversation. However, his long-held plan was thwarted when this particular woman caught his eye, smiled, and sat down next to him.
“Good morning,” she said in that careful, prim accent Terry had come to recognise as Victorian. “Forgive me if I seem impertinent, but are you Terry Boot, the time traveller?”
Terry choked on his tea. “Yes,” he managed in a strange, strangled voice once he’d recovered. His eyes were watering. “Yes, I am.”
“My name is Aristeia Blackmore,” she told him, offering a delicate, gloved hand for him to shake. “I’m researching time travel for the Magical College.”
The Magical College, Terry knew, was the official name for the Department of Mysteries. It was a very exclusive, university-style institution that specialised in magical research. Terry had been there a couple of times, owing to his special status as a time traveller. Established after the Statute of Secrecy had been signed, it was an elaborate 18th century manor house donated by a member of the magical aristocracy and hidden by the same charms as Hogwarts. Terry had no idea what had happened to it between now and when it became assimilated into the Ministry of Magic, but considering the impressiveness of the campus, he couldn’t help but feel saddened at its inevitable loss.
“I can’t tell you much,” Terry warned her now. “It was entirely an accident, I have no idea how I got here—”
“I’m working on a theory,” she replied, cutting him off. “Very…sensitive information. Can I trust you?”
She stared at him expectantly, and Terry had to pull himself out of those deep blue eyes to answer the question. “Yes. Absolutely. Of course you can.”
“Will you accompany me to the College, Mr Boot?”
Though the request was voiced far more politely than anything Terry was used to, he also knew it was in no way a question – Aristeia had an air of confidence and authority about her that both unnerved and intrigued Terry. She seemed as though she would be more at home in the 21st century, but he knew even as he thought it that it was simply his uninformed modern bias coming through. He drained his tea, folded the newspaper, and followed Aristeia into Diagon Alley.
Sherlock was annoyed. This was hardly new, but for once the cause of his annoyance was not the incompetence of others around him, but rather their competence. Specifically, the Doctor’s. Sherlock’s only intellectual equal until now had been Mycroft, and their tenuous relationship was testament to how much Sherlock loathed being equal to anybody. Now, however, the Holmes brothers were united, at least partially, by their annoyance at the Doctor’s taking charge of the entire operation.
“I have, of course, heard a lot about the Doctor from Torchwood,” Mycroft began, carefully stirring his tea. His tone was matter-of-fact, but Sherlock caught the slight smirk that showed Mycroft was enjoying rubbing his superior knowledge in his brother’s face.
“Shut up, Mycroft.”
“You’ve always been so mature,” Mycroft responded. “As I was saying, I have heard of the Doctor. Never met him, of course, until now. I didn’t expect him to be quite so…domineering.”
Sherlock grunted. “It is my case.”
“It’s Detective-Inspector Lestrade’s case.”
Sherlock just looked at him. “No, it’s not.”
“No, I suppose not,” Mycroft conceded. “Though in this case, dear brother, you may have to…bow to superior knowledge. Aliens are certainly not your field of expertise.”
“It’s hardly an issue that comes up often in the criminal underworld. What are you doing here, anyway? You’re supposed to be catching a flight to Auckland in an hour.”
“Oh yes,” Mycroft responded, pulling out his phone, tapping a few keys and returning it to his pocket. “Better cancel it.”
“So what else is going on?”
“What do you mean?”
Sherlock gestured towards the phone. “You booked that flight to Auckland less than forty-eight hours ago. Don’t try to convince me it’s a routine trip, you usually book those at least three weeks in advance. It’s important, you wouldn’t cancel it for just anything. You’ve essentially just told me the Doctor is the ideal person to be handling this case, but you don’t trust him enough to leave him to it. What’s going on, Mycroft?”
“Do you know the history of the Time Lords, Sherlock? The Doctor is the last one, he killed the others during the Time War. To other alien species, he is known as The Oncoming Storm or the Destroyer of Worlds, to name a couple. No, I think it’s fair to say I don’t entirely trust him.”
“And what are you going to do? Babysit him so he doesn’t do anything naughty?”
“Essentially, yes.” Mycroft smiled. “You’ll be working with me in this case, Sherlock. Won’t that be fun?”