The Case of the Blown-Up Cottage

Part 12

by Cyberwolf (wolf at mydestiny.net)
5/16/03

Excerpt from the Daily Prophet, December 26,1869:

'Christmas Day Massacre'

Instead of Yule festivities, numerous households were greeted to horrific scenes of violence and murder yesterday. Several wizards discovered members of their families either dead or severely injured, in their domiciles or nearby. All of these attacks seem to have been carried out within a specific time- frame, during the early evening, and mostly when wizards were not nearby.
Several factors link the incidents to each other. Most victims bore the mark of having suffered through the ‘Doleo’ and ‘Patior’ spells, several times, and many of the murder victims were killed through use of the ‘Digladio’ spell. Also, small cards made of cream-colored parchment were left at the scene, each with nothing but a stylized black crossbones engraved on the front. Most tellingly, each of the victims were Muggles.
There have been several incidents these past two years involving anti-Muggle violence, most notably the Woodsfield incident last July, and the burning of a London neighborhood that was known to house several activists for Muggle rights last September. However, the Ministry has insisted time and time again that these are the works of scattered, fragmented anti-Muggle groups, not powerful enough on their own to be any threat. This Christmas Day Massacre seems to prove otherwise.
Our condolences go out to all the victims of this tragedy, which include the Whitebee family, the Grey family, the Summers family, the Holmes family, the Pendragon family....

Hogwarts Castle was a very tense place to be for a few days. The very air was charged with an atmosphere that made everyone feel as if they were walking around with their skins turned inside-out, their nerve-ends crackling at the slightest disturbance. It was a very uncomfortable way to live, so everyone was almost relieved when the tension finally came to a head and exploded, in most spectacular fashion. Further, the manner of the explosion was so unexpected that the gossip it would generate would serve to slightly distract the students.
When school started after the winter break, the student-body was divided into three groups. The first, and thankfully the smallest, were those students who had directly suffered a loss. These tended to cope in different ways -- being more snappish or maniacally lively, throwing themselves into work or withdrawing into themselves. The second group were those who trod carefully around the members of the first, wanting to give comfort or at least avoid giving pain, but -- never having experienced the like -- not knowing what to do. The third group was composed of those who didn’t seem to care much about the recent events.
Caradog Lewis was one of the third group. A hefty sixth-year Hufflepuff, Caradog was not exactly a popular boy. He seemed to embody all the negative stereotypes about Hufflepuffs -- he wasn’t brilliant, nor brave nor witty -- without really getting any of the positive. Lacking skills or traits to be proud of, Caradog took refuge in the one thing he could -- his pureblood status. Holding that viewpoint had gotten him several friends, mostly in Slytherin House.
It was on a surprisingly bright day, warm and sunny for early January, that matters came to a head. Caradog was visiting at Slytherin table for breakfast, holding a conversation with his group of friends. They were one of the louder groups in the Great Hall, which was an easy title to obtain seeing as how most students spoke barely above whispers. And even this quiet murmur of conversation was silenced for a brief moment -- one of those accidental silences, where everyone stops talking all at once, coincidentally.
In the midst of this silence Caradog’s voice rang out like a hammer struck against the side of a great bell. "Anyway, they were only Muggles, not anyone important."
The silence that draped over the Great Hall after his words was in no way accidental, and its presence screamed shrilly in the mind. Teachers were on their feet at the Head Table, but all they could do was stare wordlessly at where the voice had originated. Those who weren’t staring in shocked disbelief at Caradog were flicking anxious glances or moving closer to certain students. No one could mistake what Caradog was talking about, or the point of view he held on it; and no one could make any reaction.
Until a tall blond boy, in rumpled robes and with strange fire in his blue eyes, stood up at the Ravenclaw table.
"For your insult," Lock Holmes breathed in a voice that was shaking, horribly quiet but heard clearly in the electric silence that had filled the room, "I challenge you to a duel. The time and place will be decided later." Because, even more lost in rage than anyone had ever seen him before, Lock knew that the teachers might choose to interfere if they knew where and when the duel was to be.
He stared very hard at Caradog for a second before sitting back down. He glared at his barely-touched plate with eyes as sharp as knives, and sat very still for several long moments while a rushing flow of conversation rose around him, the babble sounding like tide coming in at the shore. He abruptly grabbed his book- bag and strode out of the Great Hall.
***
He swept down the halls to the Charms classroom -- his first class of the day -- like a barely leashed whirlwind, his robes billowing and his shoes clicking loudly against the stone floor. He looked a little dramatic -- a talent he would cultivate in later years -- but he was hardly aware of it now. Anyway, there was no one here to see him.
His hands were fisted, tightly, so tightly that he’d crescent- moon wounds on his palms. He flung himself into the classroom, throwing himself almost violently down in his accustomed seat near the front of the room. The minutes passed and all Lock did was glare straight ahead at the still-deserted blackboard. He could hear the hushed conversation of his classmates outside -- but apparently they weren’t going to enter the room until they absolutely had to.
Fine by him.
He only noticed that his hands were still fisted when his muscles began to twinge. He opened his fists up, with more of an effort than he thought it would take. He saw the small wounds on his palms, and the red-black droplets of blood that spotted his skin.
It surprised him, how dark blood seemed to be. It wasn’t the bright-red of scraped knees and banged knuckles -- no, real wounds wept red so dark it was almost black. Like when he had seen...
...Sherrinford.
Lock shook his head, once, hard. Don’t think about that, don’t think about finding your little brother in a room that used to have blue walls, don’t think about the way the walls weren’t blue anymore, don’t think about Mycroft screaming that it was your fault, that it was Mother’s fault....
Just think about class. And seeking and finding. Think about the upcoming Ravenclaw-Gryffindor Quidditch match.
The students finally began to enter the room, following Professor Ducaine. Lock allowed himself to relax his frame as his classmates began to slip into place around him -- not because he felt any better, but so that he didn’t attract the teachers’ attention. They were watching him -- and others like him -- very carefully now. Especially after that stunt of his in the Great Hall earlier.
But I needed to do it.
Lock felt someone poke him in the ribs -- not hard, just a way to get attention. He twisted around in his seat to meet the eyes of Michael Pendragon, a Gryffindor fifth-year. Pendragon was pureblood, but lived with his aunt and uncle because his parents were abroad...his aunt who was Muggle....
"Lock, about that duel...do you have a second?"
***
Caradog had laughed off the incident at breakfast, laughed in the faces of the teachers who had pulled him aside for a talk, laughed when his friends came up to him. But everyone noticed that his laughter had a thin edge to it. And then the Gryffindor fifth-year, Pendragon, asked in a formal tone who Caradog’s second was, and Caradog froze so that Robert Janson had to speak up and offer himself. He wasn’t laughing then. He wasn’t laughing when Pendragon handed a small folded note to Robert, or when he bowed shallowly to the two of them -- the dueler’s bow -- and walked off. He wasn’t laughing when he read the note. And he wouldn’t laugh again for a very long time.
***
The card read, ‘Wednesday night, 11:45. At the Rheidyr Room. Bring your second.’
*I’m going on the assumption that Holmes was born on January 6 1854, and so he is fifteen years old at the time of this overly- long flashback.
**'Doleo' and 'Patior' mean, roughly, 'to suffer' in Latin. 'Digladio' means to run through with swords. My Latin teacher truly sucked, so I had to pick this up from an online Latin- English translator, so this isn’t really very accurate.

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