By Angelfirenze

Disclaimer: Not mine, most unfortunately. So many reasons to lament that fact lay in either canon, but I digress...

Summary: "I assure you, gentleman, Detective Robert Goren has had better things to do than sniff after the Ministry of Magic's coattails."

Fandoms: L&O:CI, The XF.

Notes: Well, I finally seem able to start this.

Chapter I: …What Death and Disgust Have Done to Me…

Three days hence…

The Headmaster's Office - 3:12pm
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry - Scottish Highlands

Albus Dumbledore sighed and lowered the Muggle newspaper clipping he'd been examining and peered over his spectacles at the reluctantly contrite, thoroughly put-out DMLE official standing in his office after having had the temerity to demand where the young American who'd stumbled across their crime scene had gotten off to.

"I assure you, gentleman, Detective Robert Goren has had better things to do than sniff after the Ministry of Magic's coattails."

The Auror, one of the old crowd with ties to Minister Bagnold, sighed heavily and ran a hand down his face. "Dumbledore, as you can plainly see -- "

And here Dumbledore's eyes flickered back to the devastation he had already memorized in the photograph before him – Number 4, Privet Drive and the surrounding residences a burning wreck, completely immolated within the scope of at least twenty Inflammata Curses, courtesy, of course, of Voldemort's Death Eaters.

As if Dumbledore could have missed the bleating headline HARRY POTTER'S RESIDENCE DESTROYED -- BOY WHO LIVED FEARED DEAD!

Pursing his lips, Dumbledore again looked up at Grayson and resisted the urge to frown further.

"We need to know if Potter is at all safe -- the Prophet said that Goren was his last remaining relative on his father's side -- it makes sense that Potter would be with him now."

"Is that so?" Dumbledore inquired, again pressed to keep his face a blank mask. "So it matters not that Harry Potter's aunt was killed in the attack, nor his former neighbors -- after all, they're only Muggles, who'd give them any thought?"

"No one's saying that, Dumbledore," the other official -- Autley -- declared from his position near the door. "But the only reason the elder Dursley remains alive is because he's been imprisoned! Their son could have been killed! He's a student here now, the same as Potter! You were hardly going to continue to keep the boy in their custody if half of what that deposition last week said is true!"

Dumbledore exhaled and feigned ignorance. He supposed the bright side of this disaster was that the Wizarding World was far more upset by the possible death of their vaunted savior than his restructuring of the House system in the coming term.

As it was, he was still deeply incensed.

"I still fail to see what your request is actually for, gentlemen. Auror Grayson, Harry Potter is not of age yet and is not yet formally trained in any real sense for criminal investigation -- "

"Oh, blast that, Dumbledore!" Grayson thundered, finally losing his composure and thudding both fists upon Dumbledore's desk, causing his instruments to fall into disarray. "The boy's personally gone up against You Know Who, what, four times by now? Goren's gone up against the Death Eaters, hasn't he -- "

"I'll ask you not to make inquiries as to the happenings of last month, Auror Grayson, in regard to Robert Goren's participation nor Harry Potter's. That subject is entirely off-limits and I will have you and your department out of my school if you mention it again."

This threat was obviously unexpected as Auror Grayson blinked and a look of confusion flickered across his face before he pulled himself together once again and continued more quietly. "Yes, well -- Dumbledore -- be that as it may, Potter's still one of the most gifted Defense students we've had in quite some time. The Ministry awarded him his Outstanding NEWT two years early just last week -- sitting the test is practically a formality!

"And if Goren's half as good as you say he is, then we certainly want someone -- both of them! -- with intimate knowledge of the Muggle world to help us coordinate information-gathering in regard -- "

"You want Bobby and Harry to be the faces you plaster on your ill-informed attempts to clean up a catastrophe that should have been avoided!" Dumbledore snapped, his earlier decent mood entirely vanished now. The irritated expressions came back to both Aurors' faces, but Dumbledore pressed forward.

"You pay heed to rumors and useless finger-pointing, flinging their family business onto the front page of the Prophet for the magical world to see and then are simply astonished when it leads to their harm, the harm of those close to them, anyone remotely connected to them! And then you expect them to rectify your misdeeds and for myself to stand by idly -- sucking a lollipop with my fingers in my ears, I suppose!"

Both his visitors were wide-eyed and pale at the sheer force behind Dumbledore's words, not least their unexpected venom.

"I suppose I am yet again wrong to persist in the assumption that anyone in the Ministry looks ahead of their own aims, but I refuse to answer for either Messrs. Potter or Goren. If you want their help, find them and go ask for it."

With that, Dumbledore lowered his gaze back to the photograph in his hands and ignored them, seemingly unaware of their ensuing vacation of his office.

Professor McGonagall refrained from letting her disdain show as both men tried to gauge her reaction to Dumbledore's outburst. After the door closed behind them, however, she sprang to her feet with an agility belying her years and strode over to Dumbledore's desk, planting both hands on either side of the workspace.

"Dumbledore, Potter and Goren aren't going to sit aside and let the Dark Lord blast Muggle England apart looking for them. If they find out his followers murdered Petunia Dursley to get to them -- they'll jump for the nearest Portkey and trade themselves for the safety of the public!"

Dumbledore rubbed his forehead in trepidation and nodded. "That is my fear, Minerva. However, I promised Bobby before they left that I would not make their choices for them."

"Dumbledore, if -- if the Dark Lord gets his hands on either Potter or Goren, if he is allowed access to Draco Malfoy or even Dursley, they will die -- whatever he has said in the past, it is clearly not his intention to lead peacefully in any sense of the word!"

Her eyes were like a tunnel of piercing scrutiny boring into him and Dumbledore had to look away before he flinched.

"Dumbledore, you can't allow the Ministry to continue to use Harry and Bobby as chess pieces in paltry political games that serve nothing and no one's interest."

"I know, Minerva. I fear that events are parading themselves into existence without thought to fairness or that Hindu Indian ideal of karma, universal debts owed -- if that were the case, both Harry and Bobby would be as at peace as anyone I know and that is plainly not the case."

"You can't keep the destruction of Privet Drive from them, nor can you allow the Ministry to go sweeping into every borough of New York searching for them -- "

"With the enchantments on an already very well concealed house, I doubt very much they will find their quarry, my dear professor. The question is whether the American papers -- Wizarding or Muggle -- are reporting the murders and whether Bobby or Harry have seen them. If Mr. Potter is still taking the Prophet, then all we can hope for is that there are matters in New York more pressing than throwing themselves in Tom's path."

"So it is a matter of weighing some deaths over others!" McGonagall burst out, flinging her hands up.

"I assure you, Minerva, that is not what I am saying. Without Harry and Bobby apprised directly of the situation, we have only a slight chance that they won't still find out from whatever means they have at their disposal."

McGonagall pursed her lips now. "Dumbledore, do you remember when Anthony Goren asked you to stop speaking riddles? I'll ask the same of you now."

Dumbledore sighed, "I fear I would not be enough sway in either direction to stop Bobby or Harry doing exactly what they please, whatever that may be. If Bobby faces Tom, Harry will go and the opposite is true, as well. If Tom forces the hand of either, whichever one remains will subject him to their considerable wrath."

"Dumbledore. Concise words with actual meaning or I will never speak to you again."

Despite the seriousness of the situation, Dumbledore found himself holding back a chuckle.

He sighed, "Whether anyone likes it, they are inextricably bound to one another. Tom is Robert's biological father and maintains intangible connections to both that are beyond mere senses. Tom sees them both as objects, that is true -- it is his greatest failing as a man and otherwise. Harry and Bobby love and care for one another entirely of choice. Tom has never known that phenomenon. He cannot hope to win this war, as a result."

McGonagall's face was subsequently forcibly blank. This man was absolutely allergic to plain English.

She left, then, overriding the intense urge to hex his mouth shut and began planning an owl post to Alexandra Eames.

McGonagall hoped in advance that the petite detective had overcome her obvious annoyance with Professor Snape, but didn't hold her breath.