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The Adventure of the Malfoy Animagus, Part 1 of 2 - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
The Adventure of the Malfoy Animagus, Part 1 of 2

The Adventure of the Malfoy Animagus



From the Memoirs of John Hamish Watson, Healer, MD (Muggle), Unspeakable



The year ’95 was a memorable one for Muggle-baiting, and it called upon all the reserves of my friend, Mr Sherlock Holmes, to meet it.  Fortunately, such events put him always upon his mettle, and I have never known my friend to be in better form, both mental and physical, than when challenged as he was in that year.  His arrest of Wilson, the notorious canary-trainer, who charmed fwoopers to pass as canaries and sold them to unsuspecting Muggles when paid to do so by Wizards with a taste for assassination and a preference for methods that did not point unerringly at themselves, removed a plague-spot from the East-End of London; and his famous investigation of the sudden death of Cardinal Tosca – an inquiry which was carried out by him at the express desire of His Holiness the Pope – conclusively established that the cardinal had been done to death by an Avada Kedavra cast by a Dark wizard concerned to weaken the hand of the Roman Curia in dealing with the renascent knights of Walpurgis.  Then, too, he had but lately saved the life and reputation of the weak young Squib, a solicitor named John Hector McFarlane, the publicly acceptable and purely Muggle elements of which case I have recorded as ‘The Adventure of the Norwood Builder’, not without discreet elision. When I remind my Wizarding readers that the individual who passed under the names of ‘Mr Cornelius’ and ‘Jonas Oldacre’ was, as I have faithfully described him, a bachelor and a ‘ferret-like man, with white eyelashes [and] keen grey eyes’, and that the preservation of the public decencies did not permit that I elaborate upon precisely how far Mr McFarlane – also a bachelor, and young, whom, it is well to recall, was flaxen-haired and handsome in a washed-out negative fashion, with frightened blue eyes, a clean-shaven face, and a weak, sensitive mouth – was not in a humour to refuse his benefactor ‘Jonas Oldacre’ anything that he might ask, and that ‘all Mr McFarlane’s desire was to carry out his wishes in every particular’, it will readily be understood that from that moment, there was a deadly quarrel between Sherlock Holmes and an adversary far more malignant and dangerous than the unlamented Professor Moriarty of Hogwarts.


The position that Mr Sherlock Holmes occupied appeared to the Muggles unique.  He was quite outside the run of the common or garden private enquiry agent, and, if his relation with the official force was unique, it was especially so in that he had at all times the whip-hand of them.  He was in fact responsible for making the position of the Auror Liaison to the Muggle police what it has since remained, and my duties at Mungo’s were contingent upon my being available as his humble second at all times, both by ministerial prescription and, what was far more to me in my post, the direct orders of my superior, the Chief Unspeakable.


Even by the standard that my friend had set as an Auror Commander and that which the Department of Mysteries expected of me, however, a duel to the death with that Abraxas Malfoy whom we had first encountered in the character of a retired builder at Norwood, had been something out of the ordinary way.  That the contest in which we found ourselves enlisted was to be revealed as something yet more inward, was one of the most curious episodes of a career celebrated for its curious and outré episodes.


The Malfoy family were not of the first rank.  Indeed, their pride of blood was the more exaggerated by their utter lack of other distinction: they possessed some money, some land, and a valuable connexion with the Blacks, but little else.  The family’s obsession with what was called blood-purity was proportionate to its want of other claims to public distinction, and this was redoubled by the straits in which they had found themselves in the preceding generation, when it appeared that the family would become absorbed in that of whomever took the hand of the Malfoy heiress, later the mother of Abraxas Malfoy. The elder members of the family in their counsels had fixed upon the expedient of wedding the heiress to a cousin who should take the Malfoy name by deed-poll and continue the lineage, and there were several candidates for this equivocal honour.  The Darker members of the family had preferred a potential suitor of equally dubious character, but were to be disappointed in him.  The circumstances that deprived them of their hopes I am not at liberty even now fully to reveal; I must pray myself excused if any Muggle-born readers, who have encountered the expurgated and Muggle-worthy account of the Baskervilles of Baskerville Hall and the Stapletons of Merripit House, should think themselves ill-done by in finding that the Grim that haunted that West-Country family was in sober fact not the natural instrument of a Muggle criminal, but the Animagus form of a Dark wizard with designs upon the Malfoy as upon the Baskerville succession.


The father of Abraxas Malfoy was cut of different cloth: very nearly a Squib, engaged in trade across the Muggle-magical bounds, and plucked from obscurity amidst his suburban aspidistras to take the name and headship of the family.  His son, all too well aware that his father, a mild enough Wizard until his head was turned by the glamour of his new position, was regarded as a mere counter-jumper, cloaked himself in the habiliments of a young sprig of the aristocracy as he conceived them.  (This Abraxas Malfoy’s son in turn, also named Abraxas, bids fair to be more like his grandfather was before he was taken up by the Malfoys and pumped full of conceit: biddable and decent enough.)  An unfamiliarity with the actual upper orders of Wizarding society and their manner did Abraxas in his pretensions no favours, yet his reaction was simply to brazen it out the more.  By ’95, some six years after the death of the abominable ‘Stapleton’, Abraxas Malfoy, although regarded with general distaste and no little contempt by the better classes, cut nonetheless a Darkly glamorous figure in the demi-monde of Wizarding society.


He also regarded any insult to the Malfoy connexions, either side the blanket, as a personal affront.


It was the Honourable Glandria Withers, the daughter of Lord Newmarket, who first had occasion to complain of Abraxas Malfoy to the Aurors, when he, disguised as a respectable middle-aged Wizard of means, attempted first to seduce her and then to blackmail her.  No Aurors of that time were of my friend’s calibre; those who, carelessly or from some darker motive, so bungled the investigation as to make it bootless, were beneath even the common run of stupidity.  The good Inspector Lestrade could not have put up such a black.


It was from that time that Holmes marked Abraxas Malfoy, as once more when he heard rumours – stopped, it seems, by a liberal application of Galleons – of a criminal assault upon a young lad in his final year at Hogwarts, again by a Wizard glamoured to appear a gentleman of middle-years, and suspected of being in fact Abraxas Malfoy.  My old Mungo’s acquaintance, Stamford, had gone on to specialise in diseases of the mind and intellect: indeed, of the character: and his analysis of a Wizard who was presentable and indeed fair of form in his own guise, yet whose cravings required that he upon occasion disguise himself as a fatherly figure before ravishing such women and lads as he could entice, was so shocking that I could scarce credit it when, I having put the case to him in confidence, he first pronounced his opinion.


Although Holmes spoke of this oddity of Abraxas Malfoy’s with the same cold disgust as that which he directed upon all the man’s doings, it was too much to expect that he, the detached and incisive reasoner, should feel quite the same revulsion as did I.  In his way, my friend was an incarnation of the virtues, and indeed the defects, of his old House, Ravenclaw, quite as much as I am of mine (and I need hardly point out to the public that, although it is neither cowardly nor dishonourable to follow an order to retreat, it is rather the part of loyalty than of dash to be in a position upon one’s horse in which one may be first pinked by a Ghazi’s jezail bullet in the arse, however creditably one may stress that the same bullet passed on to shatter the bone in one’s shoulder and but narrowly miss the subclavian artery).  Much as my sense of loyalty was outraged by this repellent habit of Abraxas Malfoy’s, however, I knew as well as did the super-rational Sherlock Holmes that the obsession it spoke should sooner or later deliver him into our hands.


In April of that year, Oscar Wilde, the Muggle wit and playwright, was arrested and charged with buggery – ‘sodomy and gross indecency’ – of which crimes he was convicted at the end of May.  Lord Randolph Churchill having died in January and Lord Rosebery having been defeated on a confidence motion, it was the new premier, Lord Salisbury, who – with a general election imminent in August – descended upon us at Baker Street in early July.  I had often observed that Holmes took refuge in an infernal facetiousness and irony when dealing with Muggle statesmen; I was equally aware that his opinion of the Minister for Magic, the appalling Spavin, was as low as mine own. 


‘The Minister for Magic alone, I might perhaps have withstood,’ said he.  ‘But when the Muggle Prime Minister also condescends to dignify our humble digs with his presence!’


Inspector Lestrade, who stood well behind the two statesmen, shot me a commiserating look.  Like most of those official detectives who commonly dealt with my friend, he was a Squib, fulfilling for the Muggle police the same function of Liaison that Holmes filled for the Aurors.  When my readers shall have recalled the frequency with which the epithet ‘ferret-like’ has been applied to Lestrade, it will be understood that the case was assuming already the dimensions of a family affair.


Mr Spavin was evidently prepared to take Holmes’ words at their apparent value, and to justify his bye-name by dilating upon the subject, but the great premier quelled him with a glance.  It does not do to argue with a Cecil, nor has it done since the first half-Goblin of that name had become Lord Burghley.  His great, massy, shaggy descendant, whose presence testified eloquently to the countervailing dash of Giant blood introduced when the Wicked Earl, his great-grandfather, married the low-born Miss Keet or Keat, dominated the room in a fashion Spavin could never match.


‘On general grounds,’ said he, ‘I object to any great interference of the State in the private lives of the subject.  Yet a gill of experience is worth a ton of theory, and yours, Mr Holmes, is extensive.  I cannot command an investigation into the purely private morality of any subject, Muggle or magical.  You have yourself, however, amply demonstrated from what little causes great effects may grow: your masterful chain of deductive reasoning that led to the capture and – disposal – of Sir Herbert Varney, your very able, nay, indispensable assistance with the Cleveland Street affair –’


‘Your lordship does me too great honour.  If your lordship would be so good as to state precisely what concerns you, I should be humbly obliged.’


‘Malfoy, Mr Holmes.  Young Abraxas Malfoy.  We have reason to suspect that he has once again acted in accordance with his character – and such a character!’


‘An assault?’


‘No, alas.’  The Premier held up his great hand.  ‘Do, please, understand me: I should reprehend the occurrence had it befallen.  Had it done so, however, you will realise at once that either our authorities or your own should have reason to detain the scoundrel.  And yet you will be aware that I am asking, in effect, that you pry into the private morality of several individuals.’


‘Pray go on, Prime Minister.’


‘You will be aware, my dear sir, that there is a house on Guisborough Mews, just off Dye Urn Alley, that corresponds to 19, Cleveland Street, of evil memory – in all points save one.  No money is known to change hands.  It is not, strictly speaking, a brothel, merely a place of sodomitical debauch.  You must also be aware that, so long as it is not a brothel, it remains upon the windy side of Wizarding law, although of course, as Wilde has learnt to his cost, Muggle law is different to Wizarding.’


‘I am aware of it.’


‘Adjacent to this low haunt, then, is another, devoted to similar dissipation, save that it is reserved to the use of abandoned women, with one another or with men – Wizards and Witches, rather, to speak with due precision – owned and managed by one Rosier.  Again, no money can be proved to have changed hands, and no charge of prostitution and the keeping of a disorderly house can lie.’


‘I have had occasion, my lord, to rescue a minor Continental monarch from it.’


‘I am not in the least surprised.’  The Premier’s tangled growth of wild beard moved in a fashion that suggested he might be smiling to himself.  ‘I rather think I could give the name, if pressed.  Very well, then.  A clever young lad from Hogwarts –’ and here the Prime Minister bowed in my direction – ‘one of your old House, Doctor – became concerned for his cousin, a young Witch a few years his senior who had left Hogwarts the year before, and tracked her to this place.  It was a relief to him to find that she was not entangled in any villainy, nor had she allowed her honour to be stained.  It was rather less a relief to find that she had gone as a supplicant, seeking to save the honour of her mother.’


‘That’s very bad.’


‘It is not so bad as the bald recitation may cause it to sound.  Young Mr Brown, who is remarkably astute – ought to have been a Ravenclaw, really – was able to determine what is at the bottom of this.’


‘Brown; Brown….  My dear Watson, if you would reach down the volume –’


‘I shall spare you the time.  They are a recusant family, of the minor gentry, of Denver in Norfolk.’


‘Ah.  I think I know the family.  It is as you say unlikely in the extreme that any of them should take to evil courses.’


‘It is.  Malfoy would ruin a woman and bugger a boy for the pleasure of it –’ and here the Minister for Magic drew breath to interrupt, even as Lestrade screwed his face up in disgust at the grim fact – ‘but Rosier, although a man as given over to sensual vice as he, must have some financial gain out of these two centres of debauch.  It was when Inspector Lestrade, here, observed that Abraxas Malfoy seemed to have regular and willing business with one Charles Augustus Milverton that a possibility suggested itself.’


Sherlock Holmes, who had thus far attended to this information with his customary appearance of languor, sat up very straight in his chair.


‘With Mr Milverton I have a score to settle, although as yet no way of doing so.’


The Premier chuckled.  ‘Lady Randolph will be but one of the ladies who shall have cause to thank you.’


‘You suspect blackmail, then.’


‘I do.  It must necessarily be more remunerative than running a ring of whores.’


‘And yet you accept that Mrs Brown is herself innocent of wrongdoing, although threatened with blackmail.  Is her husband, then, an unreasoning man, who would judge by – and put a dubious construction upon – some innocent but highly-coloured appearance?’


‘I think not.  Your Auror colleagues have established, in their own jurisdiction, that Rosier and Malfoy – of whom the latter at least is no mean brewer – have purchased a considerable quantity of knotgrass, fluxweed, bicorn horn –’


‘In short, Polyjuice.  But surely the regular force of Aurors are capable of –’


And here, the Minister for Magic did succeed in interrupting.  ‘The Department of Magical Law Enforcement have advised, sir, that no criminal statute is infringed by, ah, consensual congress in which either, or, to be sure, both parties, chooses to take on the physical characteristics of another – and indeed, as I have always said, it is a fundamental, nay, a sacred principle of the law-magical that –’


‘Quite so,’ said the Prime Minister, hastily.  ‘As you always say.  The point, Mr Holmes, is that it is the intersection of the Muggle and magical worlds, in the persons of Malfoy and this Milverton person, that at once promises the best means of resolving this matter, and justifies your involvement, with Inspector Lestrade and Healer Watson, if he would be so good, in addressing this jurisdiction-crossing criminality.’


‘I am of course at your lordship’s service,’ said Holmes.  ‘One final question, if I may.  Have the Aurors any clew as to how the final element of the Polyjuice is obtained?’


Lord Salisbury did smile then, visibly and wryly amidst his great thicket of beard.  ‘Not in the least, my dear fellow.  Indeed, in several instances, involving wary folk in well-ordered and well-guarded households, they’ve proven it to be utterly impossible.’




In the course of our long association, I have seen Holmes at a loss but rarely; on two occasions merely because there was nothing he could possibly say.  The first of these was when Stanley Hopkins, in the course of our investigation of the murderous assault upon Sir Eustace Brackenstall, rather too openly and incautiously declared, ‘I believe that you are a Wizard, Mr. Holmes. I really do sometimes think that you have powers that are not human’; the second, when poor Mrs Ferguson, against whose husband I had played for Club when he was three-quarter for Richmond, credited my austere friend with the ‘powers of magic’; yet never had I seen him so taken aback as by that grim joke from that august statesman.  It was evident even to me that, when the Prime Minister asserted that ‘wary folk in well-ordered and well-guarded households’ had been proven not to have been susceptible to a theft of hair or skin sufficient for the making of Polyjuice Potion, he had meant precisely that.  A well-warded Wizarding household has means to prevent such depredations.


How, then, amongst families who did not, as many Wizarding families do not, ventured out in public, and who warded themselves against such personation, could what we all suspected have been compassed?  I could but hope that my wiser friend could solve the riddle.


When the great statesman – and our own meagre excuse for a Minister – had departed, Lestrade sat down with evident relief.  ‘I suppose,’ said he, ‘that you will wish to proceed immediately to these two houses, Cribb’s and Molly House?’


‘I believe I shall be better employed in going first to Denver,’ said Holmes, negligently.


‘Well, Mr Holmes!  I see it is to be done in quite the usual fashion, then, with you taking your own line whilst I and my men chase up the routine work.’


‘My dear Lestrade, it is most unfortunate that it should be your lot to establish the negative possibilities – and impossibilities.  Nevertheless, it does close off any prospect of an alternative speculation’s being put by learned counsel at trial.’


Lestrade nodded.  ‘And you’ve always been generous in allowing the Muggle Force to have the credit of the arrest.  Yet I cannot fail to give you a word of warning, Mr Holmes.  Although Abraxas Malfoy and I are what you might call professionally enemies, we are connexions, however distantly.’


‘All the more reason you should go first to Guisborough Mews,’ said I.


‘Yes, Doctor, that’s so, in a manner of speaking.  But what you mayn’t know is this.  Firstly, Malfoy regards that connexion as dictating that he alone has a right to do me any injury – and he’ll regard our usual division of labour as an insult to me, and by extension, to him and his family.  Secondly, he knows the law as well as we, and by far the greater part of his debaucheries are conducted in his own form and person, with every appearance of their being consensual.’


‘You shall of course examine his victims for any sign of the Imperius Curse.’


‘And so we shall, with proper Aurors present to give a hand, but I tell you frankly, I don’t expect we shall find them.  And thirdly, Mr Holmes, I must tell you that by all accounts, Malfoy is not only a talented potioneer, he’s a well-known Arithmancer.’


‘I shall take the warning to heart, my dear fellow.  I learnt long before even my encounters with the late Professor Moriarty, never to trust an Arithmancer.’


‘Well, you’ll have it your own way, I don’t doubt,’ said the little inspector, as he rose to leave.  ‘But it will ease my mind to see you safe and whole at our next meeting, having heeded my warnings.  As for finding any means of ingress and egress at the houses of those who’ve been victims of Polyjuiced impersonation, I wish you luck: if you find it where the other Aurors and my men have overlooked it, you’re more than welcome to all the glory you’ll have earnt.’


I had anticipated that, so soon as Lestrade had reached the street, my friend should have thrown off his pretence of languor and become once more the man of action, and I had indeed already moved to the corner of the room from which we were accustomed to Apparate when I noticed that Holmes remained musing in his chair.


‘No,’ said he, before I could speak, ‘I shall remain here, as I have several things in hand.  You, my dear Watson, if you’ll be so good, more than suffice to interview your fellow Hufflepuff at Denver.  It is best that I not be in the neighbourhood, as the duchess is still somewhat evilly-disposed towards me, although the duke left me no complaint of his generosity in the small matter I adjusted for him.  I have in any event the utmost faith in your powers, Watson.’


There were moments, I confess, in which Holmes’ refusal to use Legilimency upon his intimates was cold comfort, as his ability to deduce one’s thought without it supplied the want all too well.


‘My dear Holmes!  Can that ducal scandal of yesteryear be related, do you think, to this series of crimes?’


‘Come, Watson, surely you see the similarities.  It is in part to familiarise myself one more with the fine details of that incident that I must remain here.  Off you go, then, and see what young Mr Brown has to say for himself.  I shall await your return, and your budget of news, with the keenest anticipation.’


With that I had perforce to be content.




Upon Apparating to Norfolk, hard by the Denver Sluice, I found little difficulty in securing directions to the small but pleasant manor, rather mouldering now, held by the recusant Browns.  Putting those directions to use, however, in so flat and featureless a country, was somewhat less easy to me, a man of Scotch antecedents and Northumbrian birth.  Every place in that flat Norfolk countryside looks deceptively like the others.  Even so, I soon enough found myself in the shabby but cheerful ancestral pile in which the Browns had held on through years of disfranchisement and well-bred poverty.  The second son of the family, whom I was to interview, was a small, cheerful young Wizard, with a somewhat round face and an air of unworldliness that might have misled anyone who failed to mark the intelligence in his gaze.  When I learnt that he was destined for the Roman priesthood, I could not help but think of the late Cardinal Tosca and his manner of gentle cunning.


‘Doctor Watson?  How good of you to come.  I take it that Mr Holmes is interesting himself in the matter.’


‘I seem always to be regarded as his adjunct.’


‘You cannot have celebrated your friend without becoming yourself celebrated, Doctor.  I must say I am relieved that the best of the Aurors, and you, a man commonly rumoured to be the worthiest of the Unspeakeables, has come to our aid.  I do hope that anything like open scandal can be avoided.’


‘It is to that end – in part – that I am here.’


‘Of course.  But we are agreed, naturally: justice must be done, without scandal if possible, but done nonetheless.’  The young Wizard was quite disconcertingly clever.  ‘You will wish to know the facts.  They are quite simple.  We live a very retired life.  The house-elf left to us, old Deekin, is responsible for our simple wants and commands in Diagon and at the local shops.  All of our neighbours are known to us; those who call, we have known for many years, and our ancestral wards, which date to the time of the Dissolution, would indicate if any who stopped here were Polyjuiced or under a glamour.  At the times at which my mother is alleged to have been involved in an intrigue, she was in fact here at home, and indeed At Home: numerous witnesses, Muggle and Wizarding, and ranging from a Wizarding Gilbertine prior to Colonel Sir Oliver ffinch-Fletchley, can attest to this.  I may say of the latter that he was actually stopping with us, he and my father having been comrades in India, and he living nowadays in Cambridgeshire.  Sir Oliver is a Muggle and a Protestant, of the old Evangelical stripe, the sort that saved us in the Mutiny, and an ornament of the Royal Artillery: neither on Wizarding nor on religious grounds could he be imagined to be interested in shielding us. Equally, of course, he could hardly have carried away with him any ingredients for Polyjuice Potion, let alone that he left here only after the incident in which you are interested.’


‘That seems very clear.’  I was beginning to think that talents such as these should be wasted in the Romish priesthood.


‘Thank you: a thorough grounding in Thomistic method has its merits.  You will, I make certain, wish to interview the rest of the household.  I shan’t interfere, and I’ve my parents’ authority to make you free of the place, without let or hindrance.  You will also wish to be able to report to Mr Sherlock Holmes any incident, however trivial, that has been at all out of the ordinary, and so you shall.’


‘And has there been such an incident?’


‘Only one of which I am aware.  For the past year, we and several of our neighbour Wizards and Witches have been plagued by black-beetles, against which all the usual Charms and remedies have been wholly inefficacious.’



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2 comments or Leave a comment
noeon From: noeon Date: June 17th, 2010 10:42 am (UTC) (Link)
The scene setting and inhabiting of Watson's voice here are well nigh pitch perfect. So many enjoyable little details.


You must also be aware that, so long as it is not a brothel, it remains upon the windy side of Wizarding law

was particularly poignant, given the time and the Wilde case and the history of legal strictures.

The portrait of Abraxas Malfoy is chilling.

I laughed and laughed at this little interchange

I have had occasion, my lord, to rescue a minor Continental monarch from it.’

‘I am not in the least surprised.’ The Premier’s tangled growth of wild beard moved in a fashion that suggested he might be smiling to himself. ‘I rather think I could give the name, if pressed.

We have not yet been to Baker Street, but this will lend added excitement to the already considerable draw.

Very, very nice work. I love your Watson and Holmes.

wemyss From: wemyss Date: June 17th, 2010 02:22 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you.

And it IS such fun to write Ld Salisbury.
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