1. He was named for a Soviet Soldier.
When his grandmother was fifteen and eight days, the Allgemeinwohl broke down the door. When she was fifteen and nine days, her family was handed over to the SS. When she was fifteen and twenty-three days, she went through the gates into one line and her father and brothers went into another. When she was fifteen, six months, and seventeen days, the gates opened again for her, and she had to be carried through them. She weighed sixty-nine pounds and had had typhoid for three weeks, one day. The soldier who wrapped her in his coat and carried her sixteen and a half miles to hospital because the truck hurt her and made her scream did not speak Polish or Yiddish. She did not speak Russian, but she learned his name was Antonin Vladmirovich. She lived. She had three daughters. When she was fifty and eight days, she named her first grandson Anthony.
2. He learned to whistle with his fingers in his mouth at four.
He was so silent, his grandparents called him Little Gonif and his parents had seriously considered belling him like a cat. His first word hadn’t been until he was almost eighteen months old, his first sentence not until almost a year later. Not that he was unintelligent, that much was obvious. Hand the boy any form of little trinket, and you’d get it back neatly disassembled into all its component parts, and his dark eyes would follow you around the room voraciously, but even as an infant, he barely cried. So when his father whistled for a cab and his young son almost immediately repeated the signal perfectly, there was serious discussion about checking a toddler for Polyjuice.
3. He was pulled from day school after less than a month.
Both of his grandfathers agreed (a rarity) that he should go to a proper Yeshiva. His parents were debating between Bassett House and Sussex House. The North West London Jewish Primary School was a compromise, but unfortunately, neither set of adults had taken the child himself into account. For three weeks, teachers tried everything to get him to speak, to interact, to do anything but sit at his desk and shake with fear or sob quietly, but when the other children homed in on the vulnerability and began to torment him, they began suggesting that homeschooling be considered. When something happened and the payot of a boy tormenting him caught fire, it stopped being a suggestion.
4. He had a hamster named Oz the Great and Powerful.
It wasn’t his to begin with. Actually, he didn’t know whose it was. For a few days, it was just a scratching, scrabbling sound in the walls. They set out rat traps, called the landlords and raised hell, even seriously considered whether they might have a ghost given how loud it was and how there were absolutely no other signs of rats or mice. It took Tony almost a full day of carefully, patiently laying his hands against the walls and using pure magical instinct to feel for alive thing before he found the tiny golden Siberian Dwarf hamster. Between the ratio of fuss to fuzz and his fondness for the book series, the name was almost a foregone conclusion, as was the vast network of green tubing his room soon sprouted.
5. He was always extremely good at crossword puzzles.
He was also pretty good at the logic puzzles with the little grids, cryptograms, ciphers of any kind, sudoku (when he was older and those got popular) and anything else that required filling in the missing pieces and finding patterns. Crossword puzzles were just even better because they had the added bonus of catering to his love of trivia and esoterica. His record on the Prophet’s Sunday edition is 8 minutes. Sunday Times is 24, but he stubbornly insists that’s because of all the Muggle pop culture that’s so much more difficult. A ledger is an accounting tool, not a playing card.
6. Over two thirds of his classmates had never heard him speak until the DA.
With his parent’s help and quite a good therapist, he was doing a lot better with his social anxiety by the time he went to Hogwarts. He would talk to teachers, to other students when necessary, and he warmed up soon enough to his roommates, especially when he realized Boot actually surpassed him on social awkwardness and that no one noticed him past Corner and Cornfoot anyway. It shocked him later to learn that the amount of willpower often needed to engage at all had given him a reputation as curt and confrontational. Both renditions of the DA were his first experiences with successful casual conversation and eventually, friends to a level he’d never imagined being able to endure, much less delighting in. And of course, nothing quite changes your perspective like near death.
7. He loved Li since third year.
He had, he knew damned well, all the grace and fluidity of movement of a sack of turnips falling down a flight of uneven stairs. But she? She was a sylph, a goddess, a poetess, a siren of motion against whose rocks he would dash himself all too willingly. Of course, that would mean having the balls to at least, like, introduce himself as more than “Corner’s roommate,” and the idea that she would have any interest in him if the infamously beautiful, brilliant youth hadn’t gotten anywhere beyond a pas de deux was ludicrous. The idea that she might have decided Mike was a fantastic dancer but way too full of himself and clearly in love with Terry never occurred.
8. He always planned to be an Unspeakable.
He first heard about them from Steve’s older brother when he was a first year, and he almost swooned. There was an entire division of magical scholars and scientists whose job was to cloister themselves in the depths of the Ministry studying magic both so ancient and so advanced that it was literally too dangerous to even discuss the existence of outside their ranks? He will forever be grateful that when the stammering, mumbling eleven year old asked how to attain one of the most elite positions in magical studies, Professor Flitwick did not laugh at him. Like so many other things in his life, he didn’t realize it should have been impossible until after he did it.
9. He holds himself responsible for Geoff Hooper’s death.
His therapist says that from the injuries he describes, the boy was probably as good as dead anyway. His therapist says he’d never have made it as far towards the edge of the collapse as he did if he’d had to carry another and they’d have both died. His therapist uses words like “understandable” and “instinct” and “not your fault.” But Tony knows it wasn’t a calculation. He remembers hearing the horrible shattering sound and seeing the mortar burst from between the stones. He remembers looking down at the bloody face, the wide eyes. He remembers thinking fuck it. He remembers dropping him. Not putting him down. Dropping him. He remembers running as fast as he had ever but not fast enough. He remembers the first stone striking his shoulder and spinning him around. He remembers the last thing before the darkness…a boy reaching, trying to crawl, screaming lost in the crash. Screaming his name. Fourteen years, eight months, two days old.
10. He believes he heard the voice of G-d while he was trapped.
He’s a scientist, even above and beyond all the personal research he’s put into this sort of phenomenon. He knows that he was dehydrated, in shock, in pain, pumping enough adrenaline and endorphins to choke a manticore, that he’d lost a dangerous amount of blood, and every other reason it was a hallucination. Except it wasn’t. Hallucination was when he thought he saw lights, or when he thought the stones were breathing. This was begging and crying into the dark and being afraid it would fall more and crush him and afraid it wouldn’t and he’d be buried alive, this was please please pleaseplease and a kind of soulscreaming that you can’t explain, and then it was peace. But not resignation. A deal. And then the lights were real, the voices were outside, they had found him, and he didn’t need to be a scientist to know the likelihood or to know that the proper word for those odds was miracle.
11. He was addicted to pain medication for almost two years.
He didn’t even realize it for a solid eighteen months. The core of the wand was that he really did need them for the legitimate on the label reasons. Eighteen year old boys just weren’t supposed to get sat on by seven stories of medieval stone tower, and if they were, they definitely weren’t supposed to start Auror training six months later or be doing their first missions on the street thirteen months later. Throw in that he might have just possibly been trying to impress a certain someone he couldn’t believe he was dating, and there wasn’t a day the stumps didn’t wind up bleeding raw. But then he was taking it on good days. And to take the edge off the stress. And because if he didn’t….yeah. He confessed it in writing because he was too ashamed to tell her. She said they’d get through it and asked him to marry her while she was holding a sick bucket for him. She was his second miracle.
12. He beat the crap out of his future brother in law the first time they met.
He didn’t speak any Chinese at all at that point, but he could hear the tone well enough – accusatory, lecturing, scolding – and when Li started to cry and Xao said something that involved slapping her (even if it was on the stone, she still flinched) that’s the last thing Tony remembers really clearly before it all dissolved in a kind of irrational ohnothefuckyoudon’t. The closest thing he had on hand to throw was his crutches, but while it might not have been the best tactical move, he surprised himself as much as he clearly surprised Xao, the rest of Li’s family, and the two orderlies (with several stunning spells) it took to separate them. Oddly, Li was the only one to take it entirely in stride, switching to English for his benefit as she mocked her brother for dismissing DA just because they were injured.
13. He eloped…kind of.
In all fairness, planning a wedding between an Anglo-Chinese Buddhist family and a family of Essene Jews was never going to be easy. The obligatory roast piglet for luck was only the tip of that iceberg. But after two years, it had gotten beyond ridiculous and was clearly just petty sniping with a dose of stalling in hopes that they’d give up. So they decided to run off to the US for the weekend (much harder to follow them to Atlantic City than anywhere in the UK), get married, and come back with an ultimatum: It’s already done, and in six months, we start living like it, whether you get your asses in gear on a ceremony or not. It was a lovely wedding.
14. He visited Israel for the first time the same trip he brought home his children.
He wore the talit his grandfather had sent him with, the kippah from his dress uniform that he had been married in. He had not planned to, but when he was there he knew he had to take off his legs with his shoes, and again his brow, his lips, his tears were pressed to broken stone, his breath filled with dust, his fingers scraped bloody pressing the slip of paper deep into the cracks that must have made that same shattering sound so long ago. It simply said thank you. Three days later, with a stroke of the same pen, he became a father. He was twenty-three years, one month, three days old. It was his third miracle.
15. He has half the Ministry convinced he owns a talking cricket.
It’s a perfectly ordinary cricket he keeps in his office at the DoM, a good luck present from his mother in law…one of the few such talismans he hasn’t thanked her for profusely and then stashed in a closet somewhere (for all that she still doesn’t like him, she does worry about him quite a lot). Visitors, certain pompous academics, difficult witnesses, and gullible interns all get a tailored variation of the legend of the lucky cricket and how sometimes, if you’re about to have really incredibly (good/bad, he switches it up depending on how you’re feeling) luck, you can hear it talk. Or at least, you can hear the results of some guided questions and a time delayed ventriloqutious charm, among other odds and ends of magic. The looks on people’s faces are worth every bit of that bastard mess of spellcraft.
16. He can play piano.
There were lessons when he was young, and he got really quite good, though never anywhere near prodigy or even proper professional level. For the next seven years, it languished as something he sometimes puttered around with on holiday, but he took it up again in physical therapy to help with some tendon damage to his right hand, and he never quite dropped it again. He has taught Li and the girls – ok, he’s taught Asa, Fi doesn’t have the patience - splurging on a special piano that compensates for the pedals, and sometimes, they play together. His favorite piece is Chopin’s Raindrop Prelude
17. He has never managed to successfully use chopsticks.
It’s not for lack of trying, nor lack of desire. He knows that his in-laws will never quite believe he isn’t being passive-aggressive, and his daughters are as good as their mother, deftly spinning long strands of sauce-slick noodles and catching single grains of rice as he tries to achieve the most rudimentary food to mouth without dropping or stabbing until someone takes pity on him and gives him a fork. It’s embarrassing. Unless they’re alone and she does it to him on purpose and they start using their fingers and…well, that’s a whole different matter.
18. He has a secret ritual with Asabi.
Every other Thursday morning, they get up before dawn and wake no one. They wear their pajamas and and go to the all night corner shop and get chocolate bars and fizzy drinks and come back and climb to the roof of the building and picnic while the sun comes up. He brings her mat for her morning prayers, and then they sing a song about the happy sun that blesses the day. It’s in Yiddish, something Bubbe taught him, and she always pronounces it better than he does.
19. He has one with Firyali too.
He had plans to do the same with her on alternate Thursdays, but unlike her sister, she simply put up with it at first and then asked if she could just sleep in. Only two when the mob came for her first home, they already called her dindinbaa, Little Mommy. She loves to fuss over things, to nurture, and he asked her one day when he saw she was watching him whether she’d like to learn how he shines his shoes. So she does one, he does the other, and he always happens to find a sweetie in the bottom of the shoe shine kit after.
20. He has never stopped looking for a way to give Li her legs back.
Everyone in the Department of Mysteries is allowed what is called a passion project beyond their standard assignments. Over the long centuries, they have learned that the amount of mind-numbing research you can put up with increases exponentially when you are also allowed to do something you love. He has been looking for a way to grow her legs back, something that won’t just be a stopgap, a better prosthesis, a magical illusion or simple walking device. It’s not about walking. She has learned to adapt to the chair and her other aides so well that she gets more done in a day than any two women he knows. It’s sure as hell not about desire or love or commitment. It’s about giving her back the dancing. He would do anything not to see her stand again, but to see her dance.