The idea of four-year-old Gordon's dislike of Alan stealing all his attention comes from Phx's adorable Better Baby Brudders, which can be found at: www. fanfiction. net/s/5315892/1/Better_Baby_Brudders (Remove the spaces)
This chapter is totally the reason – well, one of many - that it's taken me so long to update this story. Alan, Virgil, and Gordon refused to talk to each other for some reason. –Glares and kicks them- But I finally managed to beat them somewhat into submission. Still not sure if I'm entirely happy with it, but I'm open to suggestions and constructive criticism.
Chapter 25: Questions Answered and Not
Sunday morning dawned conspicuously quiet, and Alan lay in bed for at least an hour before breakfast, trying to decide if last night had been a dream or not, and if he wanted it to be.
If he did have a family - a family, for Merlin's sake - there were so many things to worry about. How to keep them safe from the Ministry, for one. If the Ministry thought there was something 'odd' about him, odd enough to run tests in hopes of finding out what it was, what was to say they wouldn't do the same with his brothers? What would his brothers think if they knew that there was something odd about him that no one could figure out? Would they still want him? What if they didn't? What if they changed their minds as soon as they found out how socially inept he was, how he was supposed to have saved the Wizarding World but he didn't know how, that, that -
Merlin's beard, what if they only wanted the BWL, too?
A hand wrapped on one of his bedposts shortly before pulling his curtains open. He blinked up at Harry, who was still dressed in his nightclothes and eying him suspiciously. "You know," Harry informed him, "I can hear you thinking from the other side of the room."
Alan rolled his eyes. "You can not."
"Can too," Harry retorted, plopping himself on Alan's bed without invitation. "You move around a lot in your sleep. As soon as you've gone quiet I know it's because you're awake and brooding."
"He's right you know," Neville offered tentatively, poking his head around one of the open curtains. "You do go quiet when you're thinking."
Alan stayed silent, staring down at his bedspread.
"Does this have to do with why you came in so late last night?" Harry asked suspiciously.
Alan's head snapped up to stare at him, eyes wide. "What?"
Harry frowned at him. "You came in a few hours after midnight. I was sure you'd been busted by Flitch or something for being out so late, but you just went straight to bed."
His heart began to pound. Did that mean it was true? Had last night really happened? Was Virgil ... were the Tracys really ... ?
"I-I'm not sure," he stammered finally, swallowing hard. "I ... it's all a bit ... hazy."
There was a moment of silence as they both stared at him.
"Maybe you're hungry?" Neville suggested. "You didn't eat much dinner last night. I'm sure things will seem much clearer after you've got something in your stomach."
Harry gave Neville an amused glance. "Careful, Nev. You're starting to sound like Greg."
Neville made a face at him.
Alan blinked for a moment. Breakfast. Virgil would be at breakfast. Virgil could tell him if last night was a dream. Virgil could tell him what to do now.
"Yeah," he said at last, slowly moving to climb out of bed as he swallowed awkwardly. "Breakfast sounds good."
It was amazing how tasteless food could be when you're nervous.
Pansy was frowning, poking at him to eat more, while Draco kept demanding to know why he had bags under his eyes. "Don't you sleep at all?" he persisted, shortly before turning to glare at Harry. "You're supposed to be keeping an eye on him. Doing a shoddy job of it lately, aren't you?"
Harry's eyes widened in indignation, and Alan and Neville both immediately scooted away from them.
"It's a little early for you two to be fighting already, isn't it?" came an amused voice.
Alan tensed, swallowing awkwardly as he glanced up.
Virgil stood behind Harry, looking vaguely amused as he often did whenever he came to break up one of Harry and Draco's fights. Hovering just behind his shoulder was Gordon, shifting his weight back and forth and looking oddly nervous. Gordon's eyes flickered to Alan's, staring at him for several moments, until Alan finally looked away.
Not a dream then, he thought weakly, feeling nauseous.
" - never too early for an argument," he heard Harry say distantly. "And we're not arguing. Draco's being a prat."
"I am not," Draco shot back, sounding distinctly offended. "I'm asking why Harry isn't upholding his duties with Alan. He looks terrible, and it's supposed to be Harry's job to make sure that doesn't happen. Obviously he's been slacking, and I want to know why."
"I have not been slacking!" Harry snapped.
"I don't need looking after," Alan cut in, annoyed. "By anyone. And I'm fine."
Draco, Pansy, Harry, Neville, and even Blaise, Greg, and Vincent from across the table, all turned to look at him.
He rolled his eyes, getting up from the table. "I'm not hungry anymore," he grumbled as he headed for the door, ignoring Neville's worried frown.
He'd only made it just down the hall when he heard Virgil call his name. For a moment he stopped, closing his eyes as his heart began to pound. Did he really want to do this? Did he really want to know? Wouldn't it be so much easier to just pretend last night was a dream?
He let out a long, quiet sigh. It would. But Alan Sheppard had never been a coward, and he wasn't about to start now.
He turned around slowly, mentally steeling himself. Virgil watched him with an expression of concern, while Gordon still looked like he was about to bounce out of his trainers. Briefly he debated letting Virgil be the one to make the first move before shoving the thought away. It was best to deal with this now. "Maybe we should go somewhere more private?" he suggested carefully, his eyes flickering toward the Great Hall.
Virgil nodded. "I know a good place," he offered, stepping on Gordon's foot when he started to say something. They scowled at one another briefly. "Follow me," he said finally, ignoring Gordon's audible huff behind him.
They walked in silence. Gordon, Alan realized immediately, was not subtle. At all. He kept glancing at Alan every few minutes, and it was clear by the expression on his face he wanted to say something. Virgil on the other hand, kept shooting glares at him to keep him quiet, while deliberately ignoring Alan.
Did that mean that Virgil was regretting what he'd said last night? Maybe he wished he hadn't told Alan he was right? What if he wanted to take it back now, pretend it never happened? What if he'd lied, and they really weren't brothers, but he hadn't wanted to make Alan feel bad?
Alan gave himself a mental shake. Now he was just being ridiculous. He clearly remembered the way Virgil had hugged him last night for over an hour, never once acknowledging the fact that Alan was obviously in tears. Even when they'd separated to head for their own rooms, Virgil had given him another hug and told him good night with a warm smile.
Someone who wanted to pretend it had never happened wouldn't have held on to him for so long. They wouldn't have tracked him down before breakfast was even halfway finished, let alone offered a private place to talk things over. And if he hadn't wanted to acknowledge what Alan now knew, he would never have bothered telling Gordon.
"An die Freude."
Alan blinked, drawn sharply back to his thoughts at the realization that they were standing in front of a door. He gave Virgil an odd glance as it swung open. "'Ode to Joy'?" he repeated, frowning.
Virgil looked faintly surprised, even as he gestured for them to go ahead. "You speak German?"
Alan shrugged a shoulder. "I've had a lot of free time on my hands," he explained simply, even as he wondered why Virgil had chosen that particular phrase at all. He stepped over the entryway before either of them could do more than look confused, swiftly glancing around for entries and exits, as well as possible dangers.
The room was small, but filled with comfortable, overstuffed furniture. The walls were decorated in Gryffindor red and gold, but several photographs had been placed around the room to distract from the burst of color, as well as a few paintings of scenery. Only two doors other than the one they one they'd entered through, one on each side of the large window overlooking the lake. An easel had been set up between the main window and the door to the right side, curtains drawn back to let in as much light as possible. A pair of bookshelves covered the one area that was free of pictures, with a small writing desk set up between them and the door on the left side. Just to the side of the door by the easel was a strange, black bar on a stand that Alan had never seen before. The design of it somehow reminded him vaguely of a piano, and he wondered what it was for.
Gordon wasted no time in flinging himself onto one of the armchairs, glancing around for a moment before stopping to nod at a beautiful scene of a white beach stretched across a crystal blue ocean hung on the wall. "New piece, Virge?"
Virgil nodded absently, moving over to a box on one of the side tables. "I was thinking about home the other day, and I couldn't get the south beach out of my mind. It's just a rough base for now, until I can go back for some better ideas."
"You painted that?"
Alan struggled to suppress the sudden feeling of heat rushing to his face as both teens turned to look at him, forcing himself to reign in his discomfort. Virgil seemed almost equally embarrassed at the question, but Gordon immediately lit up with a bright grin. "Of course he did. Our Virgil's an real artist," he told Alan cheerfully. "He draws, paints, composes, plays ... just about anything you can think of." The pride in his voice was unmistakable.
"It's just a hobby," Virgil murmured, ignoring Gordon's snort as he turned back to the box he'd been reaching for. "Are either of you hungry?" he offered, pulling out an odd brightly colored bag that crinkled as it moved.
"Always!" Gordon returned brightly. "Got any dip?"
Virgil rolled his eyes, shaking his head even as he pulled out a few other strange packages Alan couldn't identify. "It's not a fridge, Gordon. If you want dip you'll have to figure out something else."
Gordon pouted, even as he reached out to snag one of the bags. "Want some, Alan?" he added belatedly, opening the bag with a sharp pop.
Alan hesitated before shaking his head. If he didn't know what it was, it was probably a better idea not to eat it. "No, thank you."
There was an awkward pause as Gordon dug into ... whatever he was eating, and Virgil settled uncomfortably onto the couch across from Alan's chair as he stared at them both. At last Virgil cleared his throat. "Well," he began, folding his hands together and swallowing hard as he looked up at Alan. "I'm not really sure where to start," he admitted. "I'm sure you have a lot of questions for us, and I know we have plenty of questions for you ... "
"Why?" Alan interrupted as he trailed off.
Virgil looked up again, blinking. "Sorry?"
"Why would you have questions for me?" he clarified, holding in a sigh. At the rate they were all communicating, he'd never learn anything. Besides, what could they possibly want to know that hadn't already been published in the newspapers or one of his biographies?
There was another long silence as they both stared at him. Gordon had actually frozen with one hand halfway to his mouth, something small, round, and greasy-looking clenched in his fingers as he gawked. Eventually he blinked for a moment before lowering his hand as he burst out "Because you're our brother and we love you, we missed you, and we want to know about the things in your life we weren't there for, that's why!"
"Gordon," Virgil interrupted, silencing the red-head with a shake of his head. Gordon looked like he wanted to protest, but Virgil gave him another look and he subsided.
Instead Virgil sighed quietly, turning to meet Alan's blank stare. "Alan ... I know this may be hard for you to believe right now, but losing you to the Ministry was never something we wanted to happen. We spent - " He faltered, shaking his head slightly. "God, years, trying to find where you were. We tried every spell and trick we could think of to figure out a way to get to you. But ... we just ... we weren't good enough."
The right thing to do would have been to say it wasn't their fault, that he didn't blame them. That it had been the Ministry who had kept him hidden for so long. That he forgave them, or at least that he appreciated that they'd tried to find him at all. That just knowing someone had been looking for him made it okay.
But it didn't. And he couldn't.
"How did it happen?" he asked instead, staring at the floor. He knew all the stories - how he'd managed to destroy You-Know-Who had only a year old, how his parents had died but he'd somehow managed to survive - but stories weren't always true, especially now. Especially when no one had ever really seemed to know how he'd done it. And the one thing he'd always wanted to know was why. Why him.
Virgil let out a slow breath. "Mom and Dad both worked for the Ministry of Magic. Dad was in Charms Research and Development, while Mom worked for the Department of Ministries. They weren't - " He stopped again, swallowing. "They weren't out on the front lines or anything. Mom didn't like the idea of being away from home any longer than she had to, and Dad always said that he'd do what he could when he could, but family always comes first." A faint, sad, smile touched the corner of his mouth. "That's why no one knew about you when you were born," he explained. "There'd been rumors going around of Death Eaters hunting down young children for some reason, and they decided it'd be safer if they just didn't tell anyone when you were born."
"Aunt Lily knew," Gordon interrupted, looking solemn. "Mom never really said why, but we always figured it had something to do with them both being pregnant around the same time. It was Aunt Lily's first baby, but not Mom's. And with everything going on ... " he trailed off with a shrug.
Alan wasn't entirely sure what Gordon was trying to suggest, but he supposed maybe the two women had been trying to offer each other moral support. It couldn't have been easy to be pregnant in wartime.
Assuming any of this story was true, of course.
"Anyway," Virgil continued, "Everything seemed to be fine, for awhile. You were born perfectly healthy, Mom was fine, Dad couldn't be prouder ... " He paused to shoot Gordon a faint grin. "Gordy finally stopped trying to hide you somewhere in hopes we'd all forget about you."
"I was four," Gordon huffed, reaching into his bag of strange food again. "I think I was entitled to a little jealousy over not being the center of everyone's attention anymore."
Virgil made a non-committal noise, turning away from Gordon's glare as he tried to hide a smile. It faded as his thoughts cleared, turning into yet another sigh. "The Halloween after you'd just turned a year old, you'd been sick. So Mom stayed home with you, while Dad took the rest of us out to have some fun and get us out of the house for awhile. We didn't even realize anything was wrong until - " He broke off, looking away and closing his eyes as tears welled.
"We came home to bodies and blood all over your room," Gordon spoke up softly, looking haunted. "We could kind of guess who the charred guy was, but Mom ... " He swallowed, blinking hard as he whispered. "She looked like she was sleeping."
"You ... " Virgil cleared his throat, but his voice still sounded thick. "You were sitting on the floor just behind where the crib had fallen over, with blood dripping down your head. You were crying, but ... it was so quiet. And when we all came running in behind Dad to see what'd happened, you just ... held your arms up and asked for Scott. You didn't yell, didn't scream. Just ... " He shrugged, blinking rapidly for a moment as he reached over to squeeze Gordon's hand on the armrest of the chair beside him.
Alan digested this for several minutes. It was more detail than anyone else had ever been able to give him, but it still didn't explain anything. How had he killed You-Know-Who? How had his mother died? Why was there blood everywhere? Why hadn't he tried to get away, or screamed, or wailed? Why had he just ... waited?
"Three days later, the Ministry came." Virgil's voice was suddenly hard and cold, and Alan looked up at him in surprise. "Dad was suspicious for some reason, but he never said why ... just told the four of us to hide and stay hidden. Told Scott to keep us there until he said it was safe. It was quiet for awhile, and then the next thing we knew Dad was shouting that they couldn't do this. Something about the safety of the Wizarding World, but Dad didn't care." He raised his eyes to meet Alan's again, and something in them seemed lost. He shrugged a shoulder. "That's when they obliviated him and left with you."
The silence lingered once again, and Alan wondered. It made sense on some level, in the sense that it explained how he could be stolen away without anyone else noticing. But there were still so many other things they hadn't explained at all.
"Dad never believed us when we tried to tell him about you." Gordon's voice was abrupt, and there was a raw undertone of something Alan couldn't identify. He stared blankly at the floor, bag of food forgotten as he continued to grip Virgil's hand. "He thought you were something I made up, because I wanted a little brother and the other guys were just playing along. He started telling them to stop encouraging me, and said that it was time for me to grow up." He paused, eyes darkening. "We stopped trying to convince him after that."
"Johnny always thought it was because Dad just couldn't believe that he'd ever forget one of his kids," Virgil explained quietly, watching Alan even as his grip on Gordon's hand tightened. "Because he loves us so much, it just ... he couldn't imagine losing one. And when he was already grieving for Mom ... " He trailed off, swallowing again.
"Is that why you moved out of England?" Alan asked at last. His voice was bland and unemotional, but inwardly he was raging.
Virgil nodded once. "Dad couldn't stand the memories, so he packed us all up and moved to America. But Scott was already enrolled at Hogwarts by that point, and Mom had always wanted us all to go, so ... " He sighed. "Eventually Scott asked Uncle James and Aunt Lily if they would be his guardians while he was in England, so he ended up spending winter holidays with them and then coming home to be with us during the summer. It worked out well enough that we all stuck with it."
"Which sucked when you had to be the one left behind with Dad," Gordon muttered bitterly, ignoring the look Virgil gave him.
Alan digested this. "So that's how Uncle James and Aunt Lily knew about me?"
Virgil nodded again. "Harry doesn't know the whole story," he added abruptly, even though Alan hadn't actually asked. "He knew you were related to the family, and that we were trying to get you away from the Ministry, but he never knew why or ... well, everything behind it." He looked slightly uncomfortable.
So his best friend was just an idiot instead of a liar. Well, wasn't that reassuring.
"I need some time," he said at last, moving to stand. "I ... I just need to think about this for awhile."
Gordon looked like he was about to protest, but Virgil silenced him with another hand squeeze and nodded. "Take all the time you need, Alan," he promised gently. "And if you have any other questions, feel free to ask us. Any time."
He nodded stiffly, moving for the door before he could lose what was left of his control. He wasn't sure where he was going or what he would do next; just that it wasn't here. Just that it would be somewhere he could be alone.
He stopped with one hand on the door, just as he was about to push it open. " ... What's my name?" he asked suddenly, almost too soft to be heard.
There was a pause.
"Alan Sheppard Tracy," he heard Virgil answer. "You were named after one of the Mercury Seven Astronauts."
He gave another short nod, pushing the door open and letting it shut quietly behind him. Well, at least one thing is still the same, he thought dully as he wandered off down the corridor. Distantly, he wondered what an 'astranot' was.