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House of Cards

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Summary: Pull one card out, and everything falls. For Buffy, it all started the night her mother walked into that London pub all those years ago. Yet Another Real Family fic.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Harry Potter > General(Past Donor)akatFR131030,9752617833,1864 Aug 1313 Apr 14No

Through a Glass Darkly

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Los Angeles, 1995

There were few things that took Albus Dumbledore by surprise. This was neither an exaggeration nor arrogance on his part; it was simply a fact. So when something well and truly shocked him, he took it quite seriously.

It was for this reason that he found himself standing under the overhang of a porch on the outskirts of Los Angeles, California, in a time when he could scarcely afford to leave Britain. Sending another member of the Order had never been an option.

As he studied the home before him, he knew he had been correct in his decision.

The entire property was expansive and well-cared for -- and there wasn’t a stitch of magic at work. The pristine front garden was the result of manual labor, not a charm, and the expensive automobile parked in the driveway was precisely as it looked. This was without a doubt a Muggle home.

And yet, according to Kingsley Shacklebolt, a woman who resided here had recently made inquiries to the London authorities about Sirius and Regulus Black.

It was curious, to say the least.

Determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, Dumbledore raised his hand and knocked on the door.

Almost immediately, he heard shuffling on the other side, followed by the footfall of someone approaching the door. A moment later, he found himself face to face with a woman.

She was quite lovely – and quite obviously in distress. Her eyes had dark circles under them, as if she had not slept well in weeks, and though her skin was tanned, her pallor was quite pale underneath.

Dumbledore gave her a gentle smile, not wishing to startle or alarm her.

“Good afternoon, madam. I’m sorry to trouble you, but it appears I’ve gotten a bit turned around. Could you please tell me how I might find the freeway?” he asked.

He prepared himself to cast a Confundus Charm if she noticed that there was in fact no car behind him, which he would presumably use to reach said freeway.

It was not necessary, however. She was clearly distracted, her movements almost robotic as she stepped out of the doorway and began instructing him how to reach the entry slip-road.

Dumbledore did not listen. Instead, as she spoke, he delved into her mind using Legilimency. Though it was quite intrusive and not usually employed on Muggles, he had no choice. He needed to extract any and all information quickly, with as little detection as possible, for if the American Ministry got wind of his presence here without their knowledge, particularly considering the nature of his business, it would cause some… awkwardness.

Images and feelings immediately flooded his mind. One stood out more prominently than the rest, however; one that took place inside a kitchen.

Dumbledore could hazard a guess as to why.

Emotions were pouring off of it so intensely, it was staggering.

Anger. Bitterness. Regret. All of which were mirrored in the face of the man who stood before her.

“What did you expect, Joyce?” the man said quietly. “That I could just forget the fact that you cheated on me with some guy you met in London and never told me? That you’ve lied to me for sixteen years about my own daughter? It’s not like it’s been a bed of roses for the past few years anyway.”

The woman -- Joyce -- hung her head as a feeling of immense sorrow overwhelmed her. “I know,” she said quietly.

When it appeared as though she wasn’t going to say anything else, the man walked toward her. He stopped short before he actually reached her, however, and laid a piece of paper on the countertop.

Dumbledore could see the words “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage” emblazoned on the top.

Joyce glanced at it briefly before she looked away.

The man’s lips tightened into the thin line. Still, he said nothing and simply turned around, clearly intending to leave. Before he could exit the room, however, Joyce looked up.

“Hank,” she called out, a bit desperately.

It stopped Hank in his tracks. Ever so slowly, he turned back toward her.

Joyce took a deep breath. “Buffy is innocent in all of this. Don't make her pay for my mistakes. She’s still your daughter.”

Up until this moment, Hank’s face was coldly passive; at this remark, however, it changed, and Dumbledore could practically feel the agony roiling inside the man before he turned once again and left the room without another word, leaving Joyce with nothing but her own anguish.

As the scene disappeared, Dumbledore hastily moved further back into Joyce’s mind, following the thread of memories connected to this one as he began to understand the possible connection between this woman and the Blacks.

The next memory that appeared was inside the same house. Hank was there was well; he and Joyce were arguing.

“All these years, you knew I wasn’t her father, and you never told me?” Hank asked, his voice filled with quiet rage.

Joyce tried her best to hold back her tears, but was no use. They spilled down her cheeks in a torrent, until she was practically blinded by them. “Hank, it wasn’t like that,” she cried. “I— I didn’t know.”

Hank’s mouth twisted into a bitter smile. “Well, now we do, don’t we? The hospital’s blood test has proved that,” he spat back. Then he froze, as if something had suddenly occurred to him. “Buffy can’t know about this. No one can.”

Joyce bit her lip, her tears ceasing as she thought of all the calls she had already made. “But it might help her—”

“How is the fact that she comes from a family of psychopaths because her mother couldn’t keep her legs together going to help her?” he said snidely.

Joyce flushed with both guilt and anger at his crude words. Then she realized what he was really saying.

“You don’t want anyone to find out there might be something really wrong with her,” she accused.

Hank scowled. “Of course not,” he snapped. Then, perhaps realizing how that sounded, he took a deep, rasping breath and ran a hand over his face. “Look, I’ve been thinking it over. This is Buffy we’re talking about. Whatever is going on with her is just temporary. She—she just fell into a bad crowd this year with that Pike guy, but he’s out of her life now. Once the doctors give her the okay, she’ll leave the hospital and everything will be fine She’ll be fine.”

Dumbledore pulled himself out before Joyce could reply, needing to see no more of that particular moment. Instead he once again followed the thread of the memory to delve even deeper into her mind; for although Hank and Joyce had all but confirmed his suspicions, he still needed more proof.

Soon, Dumbledore found what he was looking for when he spied a very familiar face among Joyce’s memories.

Regulus Black.

“Could I walk you back to your place?”

Dumbledore felt Joyce’s excitement as she nodded. He watched the couple as they began to make their way back to Joyce’s hotel, alternating between kissing and laughing as they walked. And it made him smile.

Though Regulus had been a Death Eater, Dumbledore would always remember him as the young boy who had tried his best to live up to his parents’ expectations, putting family pride and honor above all else, even his own wants and desires. To know that he had been able to be free of his burdens, even just for one night, was comforting to Dumbledore.

Not wanting to intrude any further on this particularly intimate memory, Dumbledore gently extricated himself.

So Regulus appeared to have a daughter, one who was apparently in a hospital. Dumbledore wondered if it was because she had inadvertently performed some magic; though if he calculated her age correctly, it would be a bit unusual for her magical abilities to go undetected for so long. Either way, he needed to find her.

Delving one last time through Joyce’s mind, Dumbledore searched through random memories until he found the one he was looking for.

“Mom, please don’t leave me here,” a girl, Buffy he presumed, begged, a look of panic on her face. “You know I can’t— please, it’s all a misunderstanding. It was just a… a creative writing assignment for school. There will be no more crazy talk, I promise. Just don’t leave me here.”

Joyce bit her lip, so hard it almost bled as she willed herself not to grab her daughter’s hand and rush her out of the hospital right then and there.

“This isn’t a punishment, sweetie,” she said. “It’s to help you.”

Before Buffy could say anything else, Joyce gave her a brief but hard hug and walked out of the room. As she closed the door behind her, though, she heard Buffy call out.

“Mom! Mom! MOM!”

Joyce almost lost it right there. If Hank and a nurse hadn’t been waiting for her just outside the door, she didn’t know what she might have done.

She barely registered Hank’s reassuring hand on her shoulder.

“It’s the right thing to do, Joyce,” he said firmly but not unkindly.

Joyce nodded; he was right, but it didn’t make her feel any better.

The nurse cleared her throat. “I’m sorry to bother you, Mrs. Summers, but we need your signature on these forms,” she said.

Though Joyce could barely see what she was signing through her tears, Dumbledore was able to make out the name of the hospital on the forms just fine.

That was all he needed. Dumbledore pulled himself from Joyce’s mind once and for all.

“… it will be there on your right,” Joyce said. Perhaps noticing the thoughtful look on his face, she paused. “Do you want me to write this down?”

“Oh, no, madam. I do not wish to trouble you further,” he said. “Though admittedly my memory isn’t what it used to be, I do believe I can find my way. Thank you for your assistance.”

She smiled back and after a moment’s hesitation, retreated back into her home.

With the name of the hospital in his mind, Dumbledore strode down the pathway. It was time to pay Miss Summers a visit.


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Cloaked in a Disillusionment Charm, Dumbledore studied Buffy Summers through the small window on the door. If he had not had the information he acquired from Joyce, he would not have guessed she was a Black, for her looks favored her mother entirely.

At the moment, she was sitting on her bed, thumbing through the pages of a magazine, though it was obvious her mind was elsewhere.

Suddenly, without warning, her eyes snapped to attention as she seemed to look directly at him, a puzzled frown on her face.

Dumbledore’s eyebrows rose in surprise. Still, he stayed where he was, looking to see if she truly was reacting to his presence or if it was mere coincidence.

He soon had his answer. As the seconds ticked by, she continued to gaze directly at him, her eyes never wavering, though she continually squinted and blinked, as if trying to clear her vision.

After a few long minutes, she finally turned back to her magazine, though she periodically sent suspicious looks in his direction.

Intriguing.

Though Dumbledore knew she could not see him – for his Disillusionment Charm was rather good – it seemed as though she could sense something was amiss.

Clearly, she was not to be underestimated.

After making sure the hallway was empty, Dumbledore stepped away from the door and cast off the Disillusionment Charm. Then he uttered a silent Alohamora at the lock and entered her room.

Though she did not look up as he approached, she was obviously well aware of his presence. By the defiant tilt to her chin, he knew that she would not deign to look at him until she chose.

Perhaps she had more Black in her than he initially thought.

Unperturbed, Dumbledore sat down in the only chair in the room. Because of her sensitivity to magic, he didn’t immediately delve into her mind, thinking he would first try to engage her in conversation.

“Good afternoon, Ms. Summers.”

At first, she said nothing; she just continued to peruse the magazine. Then she glanced up at him with a bored look on her face, before she looked down at the magazine again.

“Another doctor?” she said. “Just how many of you guys are in this place?”

Dumbledore smiled. “I’m not a doctor,” he revealed. “Consider me a consultant.”

She snorted. “Seriously? Just because they can’t find anything wrong with me, they’ve decided to outsource?” she said. She turned toward the door. “You know, it would be a lot cheaper and a lot less painful – for everyone –if you could just admit you made a mistake in locking me up here!”

Dumbledore smiled at her antics, and she looked taken aback by his amusement for a moment, before the carefully constructed look of boredom cloaked her features once again.

“So you believe this was a mistake?” he prodded. “Why?”

“Just look in the notes. I’ve only said it about a hundred times,” she shot back.

Dumbledore shook his head. “I’d rather hear it from you.”

She stared at the page of the magazine for a moment, obviously weighing what she wanted to do. Then she shrugged. “I’m big with the horror movies, so I wrote a story in my diary about vampires and demons attacking me. My mom read it, thought I was serious, and freaked out.”

“And that’s it? Nothing out of the ordinary has happened?” he probed.

She shook her head. “Nope, because, you know, vampires aren’t real. It was just in my overactive imagination,” she said blithely.

At that precise moment, she looked up at him, as if she were daring him to call her crazy or perhaps even a liar. As their eyes met, Dumbledore seized his opportunity and slunk into her mind. Within seconds, he had his answer.

She was a Vampire Slayer.

Dumbledore blinked. He couldn’t remember the last time one had been born into a Wizarding family. It was quite a rare occurrence, one in which the girl almost always lacked the ability to perform magic of any kind. No one knew why, though Dumbledore suspected it involved the Calling of the Slayer interfering with the natural magic that resided within the girl.

If he remembered correctly, as it was far before his time, the one girl who had been both Called as a slayer and able to perform magic had caused quite a problem. In fact, the Watcher’s Council and the Ministry had almost gone to war, as the Council refused to acknowledge the Ministry’s authority over the Slayer as a witch. In retaliation, the Ministry declared the Slayer a Magical Creature.

Thankfully, it appeared as though Ms. Summers avoided being put in that unenviable position between the Council and the Ministry, for he could see nothing in her memories that remotely resembled the use of magic.

Of course, it also meant he would not tell Sirius about the existence of his niece. She would only serve to distract the man, which could prove to be extremely dangerous, particularly now. Sirius had only just recently returned to London himself, and he was already chafing at his inability to do more for Harry and for the Order. What good would it do to tell him of his niece, whose destiny lay elsewhere, one that would almost certainly be short-lived? Conversely, there was no sense in dragging the poor girl into the Wizarding World when she had her own burden to bear, particularly when she could perform no magic.

Satisfied that his business here was concluded, he got to his feet.

“Thank you for your time, Ms. Summers. I believe you are correct. You do not belong in here,” he said.

“So I can leave?” she asked, her hope temporarily overriding her feigned indifference.

Regretfully, he shook his head. “I’m sorry, Ms. Summers. Unfortunately, I do not have control over that. But I suspect your stay here won’t be much longer.”

She deflated before his eyes, slumping back on her bed. “Whatever.”

Dumbledore quietly walked toward the door. He wished there were something he could do for the girl, but alas, his hands were tied. Just as he was about to leave, however, he looked back and paused, right before he cast the Trace on her.

It was unlikely that she would come into her magical abilities. If the impossible did manage to occur, however, he wanted to be the first to know, as they would have an entirely different situation in their hands.

With that in mind, Dumbledore paused once more outside her door and silently cast the Obliviate Charm, erasing all memories of him from her mind.


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A/N: Dumbledore -- he’s quite the interesting character, isn’t he? So many possible interpretations! I would love to know your thoughts on him and on my take!

Big, big thanks to AllenPitt and Lisette for the recs!
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