Disclaimer: Dick Wolf, Chris Carter, and J.K. Rowling own nearly all. Blame them.
Summary: It was no longer inconceivable to believe that he could be cared about, that he could return those feelings without ridicule.
Notes: It would be fortuitous to read the entirety of this oner's precursor, 'Ominous' before embarking on this one. That may not be entirely necessary, however, but it's still an advantage. As most CI viewers will know, this story has been AU for a very long time. Bobby's brother's name was not Anthony, nor was his father's (one of them, anyway -- damn you, Warren Leight!). I have disregarded all that, as well as Donnie's existence as that would complicate Aaron's in this universe. Most Harry Potter readers will note how this plot takes certain parts of the final two books, but largely ignores everything in them. Not to mention, for plot's sake, I'm moving Draco's birthday from June to July, as well.
Regarding Anthony, Sr., I first broached an idea like this during an RPG I moderated several years ago. ::evil grin::
We'll just have to see what happens, though.
It started with a pair of letters. The parchment was very old, undated, tightly furled where it sat in Bobby's palm. It required a Straightening Charm before Bobby was willing to read it for fear of tearing the thin paper. His stomach -- as was usual now -- leaden and tumultuous, Bobby forced himself to focus on the words in Dumbledore's handwriting.
Dear Robert, it began, and Bobby felt a small stab of resentment at Dumbledore's presumption of anything beyond the perfunctory. It was irrational, he knew -- letters were generally started with the adjective 'dear', whether the recipient really was or not, but Dumbledore had been born during the age of heightened manual correspondence that the Wizarding World still had not left behind. He knew that the 'dear' was more than implication in Dumbledore's eyes and that fact brought a frown to his face, partially sincere no matter how objectively he tried to view the man's decisions. Dear or not, Bobby hated being used, no matter the situation. For now, though, he concentrated and tried to read.
If you are holding this letter, then -- indeed -- you have likely discovered your powers and have begun to consciously use them. By now, you have doubtlessly understood you have a far more pronounced control over your magic than most novice magical beings, even with training. It was the same for your father when I found him in London all those many years ago. This has likely meant that your ascent through training has been very rapid, even for someone with prodigious ability. Control is immensely important, you've realized, but not even close to what is done with that power while under such proposed restraint. It is a different matter to be engulfed by possibilities until you forget where boundaries are. Your biological father and I have each been repeatedly entrenched in that lesson, to no avail. It is our mutual lot in life, it would seem, and none more fitting as payment for our like atrocities, purposeful or not.
It is my deepest regret that I had not the foresight to realize that my flippancy toward his upbringing and behavior warranted far more oversight and care than I afforded him. I ignored any forebodings about possible traits, learned behaviors, or ingrained habits Tom may have carried -- henceforth, I should refer to him by the name on his birth certificate as opposed to any familiar or assumed names as I have no wish to impose upon you neither his nor my feelings on the matter. Thomas Riddle was once a human being in more than simply words and it is largely my wrongdoings that have led to the current events.
For this and many other missteps, I am truly more sorry than I can express. I failed him. In failing him, I in turn failed you, Anthony, Jr., Harry, Severus, Neville, and so many others I have lost count. All for foolish naivety and an enduring assumption that if he were any real danger to himself or others, I would notice -- other instructors would notice -- intervention could be staged before it was too late. Alas, I failed to see Tom's behavior as anything other than the ruse he had cultivated while in the care of multiple takers while still a very young child. I did not notice that his very pronounced inability to properly foster attachment to or affection for others as anything serious.
In short, I am a fool. Your family has doubtless paid for my inattention in ways too obvious to simply list. You have most likely endured horrors no man should ever face. It is not an assumption on my part -- it is mere logic. Tom is not capable of treating anyone with the empathy he is so adept at falsifying. It is my deepest hope that the cruelty and malice he holds so deeply within his heart has been spared becoming a part of your reality. This is merely a hope, however, and only a faint one at that.
Doubtless, if you even know the name Thomas Riddle you understand that maltreatment is a matter of course for him. Without more information, only the name Lord Voldemort (and here I posit that you have already realized that 'I Am Lord Voldemort' is but an anagram) need suffice and a shudder will follow. Further feeling is reserved for the deeper spectrums of human emotion and is likely to mean you have suffered greatly.
I will spare you my paltry attempts at recompense as they will mean little in the scheme of greater events. There is no apology I can make for the way your life and those around you have played out. It is hoped that even with the knowledge of your true lineage, you have escaped the more obvious traits Tom inherited and cultivated. It is hoped that your life has been one of many delights and knowledge that, above all else, you are loved -- by your mother, even if no one else. You and your older brother mean more to Frances than I have the power to articulate. Furthermore, your adopted father, Anthony, Sr., is not merely afraid of you, but afraid for you. He fears not so much damage to himself for your presence in his home, but the possibility of being forced to watch his entire family, especially one so young as you, slaughtered at the hands of a man who willingly became a monster. He hopes you will not be enslaved by the malignant traditions and practices your mother so bravely left behind.
This is my hope, as well.
I have no knowledge of your true relationship with your fathers (either, to be perfectly honest), but interactions with both over the course of these years have left me alternately unsettled and gratified for different reasons. It is not my wish to impress bias of any sort upon you, you must know. It is perfectly reasonable if you do not believe me, as I am time and again reminded by my brother of my more manipulative tendencies even in the name of some unidentifiable 'greater good', but all I can ask for is that you exercise the patience to believe that Anthony wanted to keep you safe. From Tom, from myself, and -- much more successfully -- from himself.
He did not ever reveal to Frances much about his past. He did not ever tell either of his sons anything about the nature of his work for fear of reprisal from so many sources I would be remiss in even attempting to describe them. It is miraculous that I have knowledge about them at all. It was, however, the deal he struck with me in order to seal the bond that brought you into his home, his life: If he was to be made guardian of so many of my secrets and whatever fallout from them, then I would become steward of his in return. The smile that appeared on his face whenever he used the words, 'turnabout and fair play' remains etched hauntingly in my memory.
Whatever you may recall of Anthony, he was in truth a devastatingly brilliant man. That he so ably played me right into his hand -- for yours and Anthony, Jr.'s benefit, no less -- still astounds me, not that I intend to sound boastful of my own admittedly vast intelligence. It is simply a gage for understanding the scope of his. I am not sure what effect this information will have upon yourself, your brother, or whomever you decide to tell, but it will doubtless have a great effect on your life -- already so complicated! -- henceforth. I again offer my earnest apologies, in advance.
The gist of it is that while your father is dead -- he did not lie to you about that, no -- the manner in which he died is not likely anything you will know. That is for that best, I believe.
He was not unaware of the magical world, even as he was unable to do magic, himself. I believe the mirror department in my own Ministry is the Department of Unspeakables. I am unaware of the name in the Americas, but I am aware that their work is only done in other countries -- that is their mandate, I am told -- and your father's specific gifts for sight of magical auras and such despite having no more magical core than any other Muggle, rather like a Squib, really -- made him a prime target once his abilities were realized. He did not have magical powers, but he was capable of seeing the magical world.
It is my understanding that your own older brother has inherited this same odd tendency. It is only through your father's diligence that no one has claimed him for their own use. Anthony, Jr., is safe -- your father's cooperation hinged upon it. You are the one, it seems, who will be 'up for grabs', to use your father's rather startlingly appropriate phrase.
You are half-blooded, magical, capable of wandless magic only dreamed of by most wizards and still largely without understanding even after hundreds of years' research by the Department of Unspeakables and your father's own occupation. It is only your mother's status as a (however disowned) Black that has wielded enough protection against them.
Tom, however, is another matter. He, himself, became an Unspeakable long before he returned to Hogwarts to attempt to wrest the post of Defence Against the Dark Arts from me. He became one while still a student at Hogwarts. Recruiters from the Ministry were beside themselves when he accepted their offer before even graduating. They did not know, however, that he was only going to use the knowledge he gained there for his own endeavors.
The Wizarding world would find out what those aims were soon enough.
It is my hope that while you are doubtless furious with me, we may one day become reconciled in my regret. That is all I could ask for.
Bobby noted the lack of listings of his various ranks and offices and realized this letter was of even more personal import than any others the man had likely written during his tenure as Headmaster. Sighing deeply, he reclined slightly to take in the implications of everything Dumbledore had shared with him, wearily lifting a hand to give the letter to Alex to read, as well. Nick was bent over his own letter across from Bobby, Sara's hand entwined in his over her shoulder. Vacantly, Bobby wondered what Nick's said, but decided he'd rather not know.
"It just keeps getting better and better," Alex remarked sardonically, lowering the letter, herself, and staring at it. Her face showed the same unease that his own probably did.
Bobby was inwardly gratified, though, by the fact that throughout reading the letter, Alex never once let go of his hand. He didn't have the words to express his awe at her continued refusal to toss him to the wayside, but he resolved to let her know in some way as soon as he could without endangering her.
He'd started correspondence with Mulder a short time ago to discuss what had happened to him and what the best way to proceed would be. Scully had written him herself to address, in no uncertain terms, that if Bobby tried to push Alex away from him, Scully would trap him 'in a locked room and let Alex shoot you in your knee caps'. He supposed that her very abrupt declaration, underlined several times for clarity of intent, had done something to rid him of the idea that Alex should be disgusted by him.
He still struggled with the idea of lovemaking or intimacy of most kinds, but Alex had made no attempt of anything like they'd done before they were kidnapped. Bobby was certain her own frustration was mounting, but felt inconceivable gratitude toward her for being so patient with him. That she would never have considered otherwise wasn't something that occurred to him, unfortunately.
As it was, they were now departed from England and all sat on the Muggle plane Dumbledore had used contacts to charter and book, the sunlight outside streaming in through the windows.
Letters for Bobby and Nick had arrived in the living room of their apartment at Hogwarts (now restored to its previous state, the charms lifted in their absence) some time before, catching them each by surprise as they, Alex, Harry, Dudley, and Draco gathered their belongings for the move back to Privet Drive and, then, to New York. Bobby and Alex had spoken at length with Captain Deakins that morning, having (fortunately or not) caught him out during a case.
The details of Bobby's re-assimilation back into the Major Case Squad would wait for their return. For now, Captain Deakins had secured through Carver proper documents for Harry and Draco's naturalization in the Muggle American world, including passports applications -- all of which had been processed over the previous week, doubly expedited by magic.
Dumbledore had been handling their transition through the Magical world, petitioning for the legal emancipation of Harry and Draco (neither knew that Bobby had demanded it above all else, threatening to bring damages against Dumbledore for neglect, reckless endangerment, and countless other 'crimes of passion' -- an otherwise laughable designation, albeit appropriate in Dumbledore's case), and Dudley, who would have been privy to his mother's whims otherwise. Harry and Dudley's testimony of their childhood in Surrey, via a Dicta-Quill, was taken by the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and likewise delivered by Muggle means of transcription for the magical liaison in the London Police Department, where Vernon Dursley had been detained.
Dudley had been spared legal punishment on Harry's behalf, Harry having firmly decided not to press charges against him given that he meet certain community service demands over the coming years. Dudley had wordlessly accepted his fate, believing he'd gotten off rather light considering the proof of what he'd done.
Petunia Dursley had been sentenced in closed-circuit court to twenty years probation, her husband likewise receiving twenty years to life in prison for several charges each of nearly everything Bobby had threatened Dumbledore with. It was little reimbursement for Harry's suffering and Dudley's inadequate preparation for life, but it was something.
Frances had been put up in the Hospital Wing while she recuperated from the years of torment and psychological abuse at the hands of various Death Eaters and Voldemort. Bobby and Nick met with Sara and herself to decide what they would do next, eventually deciding to move both her and Bobby into the Black residence in Troy, New York, which Bobby remembered as the residence of Joy Brody, Lance Brody's sister, and wondered aloud if they'd ever run into one another again.
The house, itself, was another mystery. It wasn't under the Fidelus Charm as the London House of Black had been, but none knew what sort of disrepair it may have fallen into in intervening years. Frances recalled House Elves being in charge of upkeep, but very plainly couldn't say whether they'd survived or not.
As it was, there had been a lot of dashing around this morning as Harry and Ron did their usual last-minute roundup of their belongings and they and Hermione snuck off somewhere to say their goodbyes.
Now they were all on a trans-Atlantic flght, minus Dudley, who swore he would owl Bobby for help if he needed anything at all. The letters had first been considered a way to pass the time, but now Bobby and Nick were definitely wishing they'd read them before leaving Britain. After seeing what they contained, they'd been forced to hold any conversations they wanted to have with Dumbledore until the Floo-Network at Black House (Bobby was trying to think of a new name for it, but had yet to come up with one) could be restored.
There had been definite heightening of already tense feelings once the content of the letters had been taken in. Without thinking, Nick had reached across the divide of their first-class seats and gathered Bobby in a hug. Bobby had frozen, immediately employing many of the relaxation techniques Snape had recently taught him in order to control his Occlumency and slowly was able to relax. He wouldn't let Nick apologize after they parted as, despite his own deep misgivings and the past that still lay between them, he'd come to appreciate his brother's presence and missed being able to hug him. Nick fought back tears and a smile as Bobby returned the hug after a moment, unaccountably glad his little brother was seeking comfort from him for the first time in his memory.
Draco, who was sitting next to Bobby, watched the pair with fascination. He, Harry, and Dudley had come to view one another without antagonism, but he doubted they'd ever achieve such closeness that body contact would ever be anything other than suspect. Beside him, he knew Harry was attempting to bury himself in one of the books Sirius and Lupin had given him the previous Christmas. He'd known Harry closely enough now to realize that this was both Harry's way of trying to give Bobby and Nick a sort of privacy as well as covering up his own awkwardness with such behavior.
It had never occurred to Draco before, but he and Harry were far more alike than he'd ever allowed himself to think. He was different now, though, and conceded that growth had taken place whether he'd known it or not. It was no longer unthinkable to consider Harry Potter something of a friend, nor to ask for help from anyone (especially Professor Snape, who had worked so hard to keep him from sliding into the trappings of Dark Magic as he had). It was no longer inconceivable to believe that he could be cared about, that he could return those feelings without ridicule.
None of them knew what was coming, but given what had already happened, none of them allowed themselves to sink into any deceptive calm.
Still, they could -- they would, live.
Three weeks later...
Bobby still wanted to change the name, but figured the Bat Cave would be a problem due to licensing agreements and such. It was difficult not to feel like various flying rodents and insects wouldn't come bursting out of any random doors of the vast underground mansion his mother had inherited despite being formally disowned.
Blood accounted for a lot, it seemed, as Frances Goren hadn't been killed by any of the so-called 'defensive' spells her father had layered the house with (she and Draco had shared a look of morbid understanding after her explanation and his additions describing Malfoy Mansion's own malicious spellwork) in efforts to deter Muggles from visiting or entering. With her help, Bobby had disabled most of the more lethal curses and reworked many to exclude specific non-magical people who would have universal clearance. So far, that list only included Alex and Sara but it would most likely grow.
He understood, however, why no secrecy charms had been used on the location. Given that the house was actually composed of many interlocked rooms under the city of Troy, itself, with its entrance more or less completely invisible if you didn't know where to look, it was highly unlikely that anyone non-magical would have ever been able to find it. Harry remarked that it was like the Ministry of Magic, in London, which was also underground. As it was, Frances had pointed out very specifically that it was much like the Leaky Cauldron in that the small dwelling that sat on the edge of the actual property was almost completely ignored by Muggle passerby.
Frances Goren had improved greatly from her previous state, now almost completely recovered. She no longer suffered hallucinations or any other symptoms of schizophrenia or most other signs of trauma and was extremely adept at recognizing them in Bobby, calming him down when Alex was unavailable in the interim.
This came in handy after Alex's return to work, which was staged several days ahead of Bobby's own. Her return to her own apartment in the city was marked by Bobby's being almost inconsolable the first night, who supposed afterward that it had probably been pretty rough on her, as well, as she'd gotten used to having him nearby.
In addition to the overwhelming sensory overload after being part-werewolf in the relatively isolated Scottish Highlands for more than a month, the added despair of not being near Alex for the first time since his ordeal made for a terrifying night. Sara, Nick, and Aaron's room had been warded in advance with sound-proofing charms so as to afford Aaron a continued good night's sleep, but Harry and Draco both still found themselves in the kitchen, desperately assembling complicated midnight snacks to attempt to distract themselves from Bobby's screams.
The next morning, a very haggard Frances emerged to gather something like a breakfast for Bobby to attempt to eat once the anti-emetic potions he and Snape had brewed together took effect. No one commented on the tears she shed or the way her hands shook, causing her to drop a large jug of milk toward the floor. Harry arrested the jug's descent, levitating it back to the kitchen counter, and Frances favored him with a watery smile of thanks.
By the end of the first week, it was determined that Bobby couldn't stay in this house without Alex and he was picked up by her and driven in her own car back to his apartment in Brooklyn.
When he slept nearly soundly the moment he was in her presence again (especially in comparison to his previous outbursts), it was decided that Bobby and Alex would move into his apartment for the time being until their transfers out of Major Case were finalized and they were officially "hired" by the Compound in Washington. It was unspoken that Mulder would aid Bobby's recovery once the move was finalized.
But it was odd, jarring really, figuring out the mechanics of life in this odd house once they were again settled. The House Elves had been ecstatic in their greetings of 'Mistress Frances', whom they hadn't seen in decades. The oldest had been one of those who had cared for her as a child and positively wept to see her again. Dobby, Winky, and Kreacher were asked over from England through Harry's call and it had calmed Kreacher somewhat to be back in a house of his dearest Masters, even if it wasn't the ones he preferred.
Bobby, despite no vast liking of Kreacher at first, had become fascinated by his allegiance to the mysterious Regulus Black and had finally managed to get the story of what happened the night he died out of the wretched elf, who then collapsed into paroxysms of grief after finally revealing his most guarded secret.
Bobby had waited until Kreacher had calmed back down before looking to his mother for something, any Black heirloom that she'd be happy to part with, finally settling on an old set of robes her father had owned. Kreacher had thrown himself into a very low bow, cradling the velvet cloth against his thin, bony chest, thanking Frances most profusely. He lost control again when Harry and Bobby presented him with his own small niche in the kitchens, noting that he seemed to enjoy working in them most of all. The bundle of robes were folded neatly and placed in the cubby-hole for Kreacher to sleep upon.
Kreacher's behavior completely reversed whereas before, Draco had been the only Black family member Kreacher had been willing to address with any respect (also severely curtailed after it became obvious his name had been blasted off the family tree), now he afforded everyone with general courtesy, even Alex, Sara, and Nick once Bobby had forbidden him to call them derogatory names.
Bobby explained that Nick was his master in blood, if not name, and no House Elf would continue to work for them if they couldn't behave themselves in a dignified manner. Kreacher insulted himself, Bobby explained, acting so boisterously when Nick had just as much right to this house as Frances, Bobby, Harry, and Draco did. Nick had been rightly surprised when Kreacher addressed him as 'Master Anthony' and told him to remove his shoes before dinner, afterward jogging off looking cleaner and happier than Harry had ever seen him.
Dobby was assigned to helping Bobby and Harry organize the library and rid it of all Dark Magic tomes. These were burnt in the massive fireplace along one wall, with those that resisted the flames destroyed by Dobby on Harry's command. After the job was finished, Harry ordered three dozen pairs of the most obnoxiously patterned socks he could find anywhere and had them delivered to Dobby, whose gratitude was sung for days afterward.
Winky was assigned to helping with Aaron's care, following Nick and Sara when they went back to White Plains so both could finally resume their jobs. It was rather odd, how quickly she stopped pining for the Crouches once she had a family to take care of again, but her overall upswing in demeanor -- like Kreacher's -- was only celebrated, not reflected upon for long.
Harry and Draco's birthdays at the end of July were celebrated lavishly (indeed, Dobby went rather overboard with the decorations and had to be directed by a chuckling Bobby to tone them down a bit) at the end of the summer, with gifts delivered to and from Neville, as well. The party, itself, was a private affair -- the only guests from Britain were Lupin and the Tonks family -- with many Muggle attributes in addition to magical. Draco had gotten used to more and more Muggle customs over the previous months and accepted the gift of a Playstation 2 without much bafflement.
Harry was almost astonished when the end of the summer came and it was time to return to Hogwarts. This summer had been both the longest and fastest of his life, with more changes over mere weeks than he'd've previously thought possible. He admitted to being reluctant about returning to Hogwarts to Bobby and Alex the day before they were to take a Portkey back to London so Harry and Draco could board the train. The time difference meant that they would be departing at least twelve hours early so all forwent going to bed in favor of sleeping after the boys were dropped off.
It was the first time Harry, Draco, and a returning Dudley (noticeably without Petunia's presence, though his attitude hadn't seemed to suffer) boarded the train with people who were genuinely sorry to see all of them departing and bothered to tell them so.
Harry smiled at the typical Weasley crunch as Fred and George joined their parents in sending Ron and Ginny off once more. It seemed that their request to be re-Sorted had been granted, as they explained to a mildly surprised Bobby, who seemed to again be deep in thought. What about, though, he didn't find out as the train began it's journey before he could ask. Sighing, Harry sat back in his, Hermione's, and Ron's compartment and pulled out another book. He had plenty of chances to ask in the post, after all.