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While You Were Sleeping by Roots in Water
Chapter 2: Defense
He was awake, then, if you could call his muddled state of mind awake. He felt as though he had been drowning for a long time and only now been able to come up for air – his thoughts were loose, scattered, barely worthy of the name.
He was hovering, he knew, for he could barely feel his body.
And then he stopped, puzzled, and tried to collect the thoughts that burst in every direction.
Why had his mind leaped to hovering? He had been in flight before, he knew, he thought, and he had never been robbed of his bodily sensations. He frowned then, or imagined that he frowned, and tried to think. Something was off….
But soon he could feel his thoughts leaving as quickly as he brought them into existence and he lost the thread of what he had been thinking about. Something was strange?
He was cold – he could feel that much, but cold wasn’t strange—and he couldn’t see, just like… just like something that had happened to him before, something that he couldn’t remember. But this time there was something different about his sightlessness…
That could be strange, he supposed, and scrambled around the slow, dense landscape of his mind, trying desperately to remember what it was that he had forgotten. He couldn’t see where he was going, or what he was chasing, but he knew that he was doing something.
And then his mind changed, growing denser and his progress slower. He struggled along for a few moments before wondering why he was struggling and stopped.
A single thought pierced through the fog in his brain and suddenly he wondered why he had ever found it hard to think in the first place.
Go back to sleep.
It was such an easy thought, so simple to follow. It was nothing like the difficulty of whatever he had been doing before he had thought of that thought and it sounded like a good idea. His previous thoughts had worn him out and he could feel the desire to sleep rushing into his mind and filling it.
He couldn’t feel the cold – he had been cold? – and lay down, cushioned now in the soupy contents of his mind.
Go to sleep, the voice commanded, and this time Alastor obeyed.
It was a sunny day and Alastor had the odd feeling that he’d already lived a day very much like it before.
However, he shook off the feeling—though rare, sunny days did occur in Britain and his mama had never mentioned that magic could make you repeat a day.
Then he remembered that his mama didn’t have the greatest of memories – just the other day he had had to save their house from burning to the ground when she had forgotten that she was baking bread – and resolved to pester her to go to the book shop.
The prickly feeling remained, itching the line of his back and making him hyper aware of everything that happened.
Not that much happened, mind you. His parents had bought a house in a relatively safe part of town and there were no troubles with gangs, no reason not to allow your child to roam through the streets.
Alastor took full advantage of this fact. He was a very active child and absorbed the games of wherever they stayed, playing them with the local children.
He had, in his nine years of life, lived in six different places, though he could truly remember only four.
Change and adaptation had been a constant flavour in his childhood as he and his mama followed his father. He was an Auror of sorts – his father had explained to Alastor when he was younger and had begun to question why they moved around so often that not all things that were bad in the world were quick to burn and quick to be rid of. There were problems that stewed for years before they cropped up in the public view and were as difficult to root out and destroy as the stringy vines that his mama seemed to struggle with in her garden no matter where they moved.
If the Aurors learned of these problems (and they sometimes did, long before they could take action legally) they sent him and others like him to watch and gather information so that the moment the problems acted, began to burn like a forest fire, they could swoop in and contain the damage.
It was an interesting and dangerous job, requiring more mentally than physically out of his father.
His father had learned how to tell if someone was lying, if they were disguised or concealing something, what their feelings towards him or the subject at hand were, all without magic, for magic was sometimes a giveaway, an alert to his enemies. He had learned how to change his appearance and mannerisms, so that he appeared to be a completely different person and could weasel his way to the necessary information without anyone becoming suspicious.
His mama, in her way, had perfected living almost completely alone, creating only the shallowest of friendships that she dropped the instant her husband had to move onto the next case. She never complained, picking up odd habits to occupy her time with so that she didn’t feel lonely (her latest had been fine culinary, without much success). She knew that the alternative was to live apart from her husband, seeing him only rarely.
It was fortunate for them, and the life that they had chosen, that they were average in their appearance. His father was no giant but nor was he overly short, and he had the muscles of someone who had gone through Auror training and not kept up with the intense level of fitness. He had the dark hair that Alastor had inherited, though it was now fading into a dark grey. He wore the faded black robes that were typical wear of the middle-class wizard and his wife switched through a limited selection of coloured robes.
His mama was slightly shorter than her husband and Alastor prayed that he didn’t inherit their height. Her hair was a mousy brown that she often wore up in a messy twist, as though she spent most of her time running around in a haze of household chores and social duties when Alastor knew perfectly well that she had plenty of free time on her hands.
That was, after all, the reason why she was able to subject him to her attempts in the culinary arts.
Their house certainly wasn’t dust-free, though Alastor thought it would be silly if a witch hadn’t invented a spell to vanish the dust long ago.
Alastor liked his parents – they were the only people he had known for longer than a few years. He didn’t mind this fact, thinking of each move as a new adventure, the next opportunity to root the evil out of its hiding spot. He eagerly swallowed the latest cover story, knowing that he played a vital part in the keeping of their cover – no one suspected a family with children, for no one wanted to put children in danger. However, Alastor knew that he was as safe as he could be, as safe as anyone could be.
“Sometimes,” his father told him, “it comes down to luck and vigilance. But don’t ever rely on luck – it’s too chancy.”
Alastor had taken his father’s words to heart and now, as his feet pounded a steady beat on the pavement, he never stopped looking around at the houses with their green yards and dull swing sets. He was as much looking for danger as he was other children for, surprisingly enough, due to the fact that it was a residential area, kids were scarce.
Perhaps they’re just avoiding me, Alastor thought – the town, small as it was, seemed to be of the mindset that outsiders were unwelcome and dangerous and, even with his father posing as a bartender in the town’s only bar, they had yet to accept them.
Alastor was feeling lonely—all of the games he knew required at least two people and he knew that if he went home his mama would cajole him into helping her with the washing. She was awful at it, as she was with every other household charm, and had to do it by hand lest she wanted to ruin every single piece of clothing they owned.
His father was busy at work and, because the town was largely Muggle, Alastor couldn’t “play” with his magic like he sometimes did when there was nothing else to do.
Therefore, when he heard the voice of a boy, he was understandably excited. His pace picked up until he was running as he raced towards where he had heard the voice come from.
It wasn’t long before he came skidding around the side of an older red brick house, frantically thinking of the best game to play. The boy was most likely a muggle so Quidditch was out (not that it was his favourite game anyway) as well as seeking out bowtruckles to tease. He didn’t know many Muggle games—his father’s travels had led them mainly to magical villages – but he did know tag and hide-and-go-seek. They were well-known in the Wizarding world as well, though hide-and-go-seek could be a lot trickier since there were Disillusionment charms and all manner of spells that enabled you to fit in difficult-to-reach and out-of-the-way hiding spots.
But all thoughts of games disappeared when he rounded the corner of the house to see one boy, built like a Beater, towering over another. He spoke in a low, threatening voice and the other boy, as small as the other was big, cringed against the wall.
“You’re nothing more than the son of the town fool. Your father is almost too stupid to live and your mother—”
And Alastor had seen and heard enough. His father had passed on his values in right and wrong to him and he could see clearly enough to know that the boy was a bully. Neither of the boys had noticed him standing there and the bully was too focused on the other boy to hear the crunch of gravel under Alastor’s feet until Alastor was next to him and had shoved him. His father had always said that it was better to solve things with words than with violence but sometimes Alastor didn’t agree.
“What the hell was that?” The boy turned, eyes blazing, and Alastor saw the other boy take his chance to run away. That was alright – Alastor could take care of himself and it certainly looked as though the other boy couldn’t. Not yet, at least.
“You were being mean,” Alastor said simply and watched carefully, but without fear, as the boy’s fists clenched.
“I was doing no such thing. He deserved it. And you’re going to be sorry you got in the way!”
With that the other boy charged, quickly crossing the short distance Alastor’s shove had created between them.
A step to the side and the only thing the boy’s charge got him was contact with the brick wall when he couldn’t stop himself fast enough.
Of course it only made him angrier and his larger size made it easy for him to hit Alastor without Alastor being able to hit him back.
And because Alastor refused to use his magic, he had no advantage.
But later, as he was walking slowly home, his lip bleeding and his arms and chest throbbing, he couldn’t keep himself from smiling, even though it hurt to do so.
He had stopped the bully from tormenting the other boy, had allowed him to escape – it didn’t matter so much, then, that he had lost the fight.
He would ask his father about fighting techniques and his mama about healing spells (it was one of the few areas of magic that his mama was really good at and it helped to keep them away from the community’s attention if they only had to go to St Mungo’s for the really serious injuries which luckily didn’t occur that often).
Proud and content as he was, he forgot to be vigilant and so, if the sky seemed more solid than usual, more like a barrier than air, he didn’t notice.
A/N: I know this chapter is short but I hope to get the next chapter up soon and I know that it will be longer. Please leave your thoughts in the box below- I appreciate them!