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Chapter 1: Attack
Alastor was awake before the sound of the first of his alarms buzzed in his ears.
His hand immediately shot out to grasp his wand from its place on his bedside table – the closest it could be to him at night without risking him rolling onto it and cracking it. Its tip was pointing away from him, so that it was nigh impossible for an accidental spell to shoot from his wand and harm him as well as ensuring that his hand easily gripped the handle.
He had worked in the Auror forces for forty some-odd years (the specifics of the passing years had blurred in his memory, unnecessary information unless related to the solving of a crime) and he knew danger well. He would not be lazy or slow.
There was no room for that in his life.
He went next for his magical eye, which he had left in a shallow dish filled with water the night before. As much as it sickened him to leave himself vulnerable in such a manner, the Healers at Saint Mungo’s had warned him that leaving it in for extended periods of time would result in extreme irritation of his optic nerves. It was a lesser vulnerability against the ability to properly see in a battle… It was an internal conflict, but most certainly one of the lesser ones he had faced in his life.
It was also due to the threat of severe pain that he removed his prosthetic leg at night – too long in contact with his knee and the possibility of infection and irritation became real. He would not have himself laid up in a hospital due to something that had been in his power to prevent.
He hadn’t survived as long as he had due to stupidity.
Quickly, alert for any danger, he cast the spell to secure his false leg to his body. He could not, he would not, enter a potentially dangerous situation without being as prepared as he could possibly be. That was a tendency of the naïve, the inexperienced, the foolhardy Aurors-in-training and he was none of those things.
He rolled off his bed and crouched behind it, stretching his senses as far as they could go in all directions. It was a technique he had learned throughout his years as an Auror – it was very useful, the things that simple, concentrated human perception could catch.
Until he had a better sense of what had happened, what had woken him at — a glance at the window revealed nothing of the time of day – he would not act.
Instead, he waited.
Instead, he thought.
It was raining, and his window was splattered with drops of clear water. He grimaced slightly – it wasn’t a pleasant day to be fighting but he had fought under worse circumstances.
But the rain gave him something to think about while he waited, a hint as to the reasoning behind this attack. To fight in the wet was never a person’s first choice – years of learning human patterns had shown him that, if nothing else, humans disliked getting wet. Diving into a lake or the ocean was all good and fine when it was warm and to their advantage to cool off…. But it was never hot or even warm when it rained and so people cast spells to avoid the showers and storms. To willingly start a confrontation on such a day could indicate that the intruder (or intruders, he thought, you must never eliminate any possibility until it has been proven to be a negative) could do it on no other date.
But no thoughts, no clues as to the possible necessity of it being this particular day came to mind and he tucked the thought away in his mind, to deal with later, after he had fought and survived any interaction with the people who had broken into his home.
Instead, he turned to another problem, a hint about the source of the attack. The first alarm had alerted him to the intruders (It's always best to assume the worst, instead of the best, he thought) but none of the others had sounded.
That in and of itself was not overly strange—it was the ward that was tripped most often, because of his Muggle neighbours intruding on his lawn. It would do no good to burst out onto the lawn, slinging spells everywhere, only to find a Muggle, frozen in fear or, even worse, running down the streets shouting.
The Ministry would truly come down on his head then, already annoyed by his previous incidents of self-defense in the presence of Muggles, and they wouldn’t listen to anything he said about reasonable reactions and suspicious intents.
The ward was his first defense, his weakest and least noticeable, but arguably his most useful. It informed him of all intruders to his property and, due to its weak nature, was unlikely to be found and removed by enemies.
But Alastor was unable to hear the hum of the rest of his wards, no matter how he stretched his hearing and a spell revealed that they were gone. Ripped down, lost. And that, above all else, proved that the intruders were not simple Muggles. They were wizards, or witches, who were attempting to sneak onto his property and into his house without warning him.
They were people who held only ill intent towards him.
As fluidly as years of effort and training had made possible, he shifted from the side of his bed to the corner that was backed by the solid walls of the exterior of his house. They were the most unyielding surfaces in his room and out of the line of sight of his window, whose wards had also been torn down. He would do his utmost to keep himself from being vulnerable.
He finally cast “Homenum revelio”, a spell that would tell him for certain where the intruders were in his house – he had not done this before because, to the trained witch or wizard, it would feel as though a light wind had swooped over them. And, if they were within the confines of the house, that would immediately raise their awareness. However, he needed the information before he could proceed and he would not simply wait in his room like a sitting duck until they found him.
He would take the offensive, take them by surprise.
After all, it was harder to win if you were only on the defensive.
He let out a short, hot breath when he saw that there was only one other person in the house, though he knew that it didn’t mean that the intruder didn’t have accomplices, people who were waiting just outside the boundaries of the “Homenum revelio” spell or at a pre-determined location far away.
He had no facts, only suspicions, beyond the immediate situation and he didn’t like that.
But he would do and accomplish what he must.
He had done it before.
There was only one floor in his house – the entrance to the basement had been sealed as well as the one to the attic – for he lived by himself and felt that a larger house would have caught more attention, attention that he didn’t want, or need. A larger house also required more energy to protect it, for the wards had more area to cover, and Alastor had learned throughout his long career that the less challenging a task it was, the more likely it was to be completed successfully.
Alastor had chosen this house over the other possibilities he had examined for several reasons (One did not simply chose a house based on looks, he had thought back then, remembering all of the circumstances in which a fight would have been easier if only a wall had not been built where it was, or if they had had cement paths instead of mud ones), and he suspected that all of those reasons would come into play during the fight that was sure to arise.
To everyone who saw his house from the outside, it appeared as though there was only one door, only one way to enter and exit the house. A front door, easy to mark and to manage. Only one place to escape from, unless he wanted to blast a hole in his wall (which he would do, if the situation called for it. The house was worth less than his life).
Only Alastor was aware that there was a second door, the back door, hidden at the rear of the house. It was covered with ivy that he had cultivated to grow over the entire back wall, along with a good portion of the side walls. The vines of the ivy twined thickly over each other, adding layers until it was impossible to discern the shape of the door from view. He had loosened the strands of ivy around a few of his windows, including the one in his bedroom, so that he wasn’t completely blind to the outdoors.
On the inside there was none of the foolish maze-like nonsense that some people liked to use in their homes, where there were several entrances to each room and one could never be quite sure where a person would enter. Instead, his rooms flowed smoothly from one to the next, with only one entrance and one exit to each. There were no ways to loop around to a room – with the exception of the closet and the bathroom, the house was one continuous path of rooms. Alastor had liked this when he had walked through it for it prevented intruders from being able to sneak around him. As he walked through the house he would only have to worry about the room immediately in front of him, for there was no possible way for the intruder to sneak around behind him.
Any method they chose of moving to a room behind him would cause a sound, something that Alastor would surely hear and thus be ready for their arrival.
He strained his ears to hear anything outside of his bedroom door but he heard nothing. Either the intruder had cast a silencing spell on their footsteps, making them undetectable (and thus the intruder a smarter, more dangerous person), or they weren’t there. He cast a spell on the door that would alert him to any movement near to it and sealed it with “Defigio” to prevent anyone but him from opening it.
It was only then that he turned his attention to the dim, golden representation of his house in front of him. He could easily make out the steadily blinking light that marked the intruder’s position in his house—he hadn’t made it too far into the house yet.
Sighing, and mumbling a curse at the person who had troubled him in the early hours of the morning – he was getting older and thus was growing even more reluctant to wake up early, though he would never let reluctance stop him from fighting – he stood and stretched him limbs. He winced as he heard his wrists crackle – he had put them under much strain during his years as an Auror and no matter how many spells the Healers cast they refused to return to their former performance.
Still—even though he was tense and tired and sore, he relished the fact that he was once again required to defend himself. You could say that it was what he’d been born and bred for. He’d been growing bored, soft, even though he had the new year at Hogwarts to look forward to… Which started that day!
He cast the silencing spell on his feet and moved towards his door, taking down the locking spell and passing through it.
Thoughts flitted through his head, suggesting possible attacks to use against the intruder and examining possible motives. Over the years he had taught himself to be suspicious, wary, of any and all possibilities when entering a dangerous situation and questions about how the intruder had found his house circled his brain.
He had charmed the Ministry documents that contained his address so that only people he considered trustworthy or harmless (though no witch or wizard was completely without danger – everyone was susceptible to temptation) would be able to see it. His floo address was better known but there were – had been – wards on the floo that prevented anyone from coming through until he lowered them.
And those who knew his address knew to warn him before they arrived.
A few short fights had been enough to convince them of this.
To learn of his address they would have had to break through his charms on the documents, which were stored under a ward alongside all of the other Auror files, or taken it from one of the people who already knew. Either way someone had betrayed him, for the files on the Aurors were among the most heavily guarded documents in the Ministry. To reach them, without leaving a trace, it was highly likely that the intruder was a Ministry employee.
Alastor wasn’t surprised by this – he had known since his first years as an Auror that the Ministry wasn’t as pristine in its running as it made out to be. Too many criminals had escaped due to side bargains, the calling-in of debts or bribes – something that Alastor hated to watch happen but was powerless to stop unless he was able to find the necessary evidence or catch them in the act… He had been an Auror, not a politician.
And it was the skills of an Auror that he needed right now, as he stepped through his rooms, his magical eye spinning in its socket. He couldn’t see the intruder, which meant that the intruder was still in the front of his house. Even his magical eye couldn’t see through two walls.
He continued to move forwards, wand gripped loosely in his hand and his arm dangling by his side, ready to react to whatever dangers he encountered. He could hear the soft tat tat of the rain splattering on the roof and cast a quick spell without letting his eyes leave the door in front of him. The spell would allow him to see easier in the dark, which would make fighting easier because he wouldn’t have to worry about the amount of light. He would be able to see either way.
Nothing in the rooms slowed his passage through them; he had arranged the little furniture he kept in them so that there was always a clear path from door to door.
He left the room that marked the other corner room of the rear of his house and suddenly he was able to see the intruder. Tall and slight, with shaking limbs, the intruder was holding his wand like he hadn’t held one in years. He was moving around the room across from Alastor in a jerky pattern, as though he didn’t know what he was doing. He was wearing a long robe with a hood that obscured his face.
Alastor frowned – the intruder looked weak, not at all the sort he had expected to find in his house – before once again smoothing his face. Appearances are deceiving, he reminded himself, and enemies come in all forms.
Keeping his eye on the man’s stumbling body, Alastor began to move quickly through the rooms that separated him from the intruder.
He passed by his floo, and through his kitchen. Noting that the intruder was still fumbling several rooms in front of him, he took a moment to reinforce the sticking charms on the implements in the kitchen. He didn’t want the intruder to be able to use his own knives against him.
Concentrating on securing anything that could be used against him (he had done this before but many of the spells had been stripped when the wards had been torn down) while still watching the intruder’s movements, he failed to notice the slight clink of a small sphere bouncing into the kitchen.
He did, however, notice the darkness that spilled from the opening where the sphere had cracked in half and immediately whipped around, ready to curse the first thing that moved.
But he couldn’t see a thing, only the darkness that had quickly filled the kitchen. The spell he had used earlier to ensure his sight in the dark wasn’t penetrating the darkness and no spell he used was able to light up the room. He didn’t know what type of object had been used to create this unnatural blackness, but once he survived this fight he was going to find out. It was a very dangerous tool, one that needed to be regulated.
He moved forwards, stumbling slightly because he had let his prosthetic leg come down too hard and his knee had flared in unexpected pain, and ran his wand in a giant sweep around his body. He tried to move forwards, towards the room where the intruder had been before darkness had filled his sight, but he wasn’t confident that he was going in the right direction and he had no markers to guide him.
He would just keep going until he found something familiar (Keep in motion, he thought, so that you’re a more difficult target).
Listening even more intently now that he had been robbed of his sight, the crack of apparation seemed absurdly loud. He spun around to where he had heard the crack and cast a stupefy into the darkness. He couldn’t see it leave his wand but he didn’t hear a thump as a body hit the floor, so he cast again. And again.
He was spreading out his spells into an ever-increasing arch, hoping to catch the intruder.
So concentrated was he on firing his spells in a wave in front of him that he didn’t realize that the intruder was behind him until it was too late.
A stupefy from the intruder’s wand was all it took to take him down.