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Chapter 1: Constant Vigilance!
Those were the final words that echoed in his mind as he tumbled helplessly through the night air. He had seen Mundungus’s hands tighten up on the broom in front of him, and he had spoken the gruff phrase fruitlessly to the fickle thief, whom he had known it was a mistake to trust. The hairs on the back of Harry Potter’s neck stood up as Fletcher began to feel the frigid breeze that had already crept under Moody’s skin, leaking ravenously into his bones even as his quickening heartbeat rushed warm blood along in his aged veins. Mundungus knew nothing of vigilance, and he was certainly not known for being particularly constant. He vanished without a second look.
Alastor watched a Death Eater up ahead strike one of his fellows, and then he felt himself fall.
Constant vigilance. He had picked it up from his father, who wrote the phrase in every last one of his letters from Russia during the Second World War. He had inherited his father’s fighting spirit, and when wizards came around asking him to join the resistance and aid the side of good, he did the same thing the elder Moody had done when their Muggle neighbors came knocking in 1941. Constant vigilance spurred him on, asking him to keep fighting with one leg, then one eye.
He felt it now, fighting with the icy sting that permeated his innards as he felt himself begin to die. He would not give his attacker the satisfaction of seeing pain in his expression; instead, he struggled to keep a straight face even as his organs began to shut down one by one. Constant vigilance, Alastor Moody! He reminded himself of this every time the ache throbbed. Then, as he watched his broomstick pitch upwards, cease its flight and begin to plummet along with him, another thought: Mundungus, you bastard, I swear I’ll haunt you.
Before the war, constant vigilance meant sticking to his schoolbooks, passing up opportunities with girls and friendly invitations by his fellow Gryffindors in order to dutifully study for each and every exam. It came as no surprise to Professor Dumbledore when he announced during his fifth-year career meeting that he wanted to become an Auror. When Professor Merrythought heard about his ambitions, he offered the boy personal dueling training, and Alastor could do his practical exam with one hand tied behind his back and his eyes closed by the time he graduated.
But it is difficult to keep vigilant when there is so very much to look out for. He had never dreamed when he joined the Order that the Death Eaters could be so damn versatile. They couldn’t expose one another, never knowing themselves who was on what side, and all of them were willing to sacrifice life and limb for their precious Dark Lord. Still, he knew he was the most steadfast of the young, frightened witches and wizards who had joined up along with him. He still believed that constant inner strength had kept him alive long enough to see a second war.
He didn’t care if they joked about him. He was Alastor Moody, the greatest Auror of the ages!
He belonged in wartime; like his old man, he did not know how to operate outside of it. He was constantly checking his windows, unable to go to anyone’s house for dinner or be seen out in public. He didn’t envy his fellow Order members as they lived their normal, happy lives. In fact, part of him rejoiced when the battle commenced once more. This time, they had Harry Potter, an unprecedented weapon that would help the Order avenge all they had lost in the initial conflict.
Alastor gazed upwards, watching the battle rage on. The Order was retreating now, carrying their precious cargo to safety, where they would mourn the dead briefly and then turn back to business. There was no room for vulnerability in the Order; he had made sure of that. He did not let himself wonder who else would perish at the hand of a nameless figure in black this night. Instead, he focused on the future, when the Death Eaters would be no more, partially because he made a sacrifice tonight to save the life of Harry Potter. His thoughts turned to his funeral, to a magnificent parade of mourners all coming to discuss how strong and inspirational he was with one another. The Ministry, once reclaimed, would lay the Order of Merlin atop his ornate tomb.
Constant vigilance indeed.
He was still smiling when he finally hit the ground.