Chapter 1 : Prelude: Retirement and its Many Woes
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No, the truth of the matter was that Alastor Moody had just seen too much. He was so much associated with a wizarding war that everyone just wanted to forget. Thirteen years had passed and his face still served as a reminder of an old world they did not like to think about. Voldemort was gone. His supporters imprisoned. Harry Potter had saved them all. The world was safe. Dragon dung the whole lot of it – DRAGON DUNG! They were all fools, all naive, blind idiots; lulled into a false sense of security by the heroics of a one-year-old. They could delude themselves all they wanted, but the truth was that The Dark Lord would rise again, make no mistake about it, Moody had been saying it for years, it was only a matter of time.
Moody had given the Auror Office the best years of his life and, what was more, he had even given them his left leg, his right eye and half his nose, and not to mention pretty much seventy percent of his actual skin. He had sacrificed a great many things during his tenure in Auror robes, then, once old Gawain Robards retired, they got a new head of the department: one Rufus Scrimgeour and Moody was simply discarded like last week’s old, yellowed newspaper. ‘Restructuring’ they called it, ‘bringing in new blood’, ‘revamping the whole Auror Office’. All his years of service had counted for nothing. They had simply given him a card and a bottle of Fire-whiskey and told him to be on his way. Oh, how he hated it.
Half the cells in Azkaban were full because of him. He never killed, if he could avoid it, always brought his quarry in alive where possible. When they had given the Aurors new powers (that was their pathetic code for permission to use Unforgivable Curses), Moody never resorted to such means, because that would mean stooping to the level of the enemy and he was better than that, he was always better than that. He was of the old breed; the consummate survivor, the warrior, the mastermind; he never cursed first and asked questions later, like one Bartemius Crouch. Moody always did things his way, which may not have been the easiest or the most practical way, but it certainly was the right one. Furthermore, he could track down the most elusive Death Eaters, ones that others had failed to apprehend, even after months of trying. He had an eye for the tiny details of a crime scene that most over looked. He could read a person by their expression and tell if they were lying or not, simply by looking at them. He could smell a crime in the making and could read occurring events in a way no one else could. He could see the connection between mundane things; how they all added up to something sinister that no one suspected. He saw everything and missed nothing. It was his blessing and his curse.
He also had a real eye for talent. Every kid that he had picked to be under his charge always rose through the ranks of the department quickly. He could spot the skills, the talent, and the mind that made one a true Auror. He saw things in kids others did not and when others called him mad or insane for consenting to take on a new recruit that others believed useless, Moody always proved such critics wrong. Take young Tonks for an example, no one wanted her in the Auror Office on account of her own clumsiness and inability to stay on her feet at the best of times, but Moody had looked passed all that, in her he saw courage, bravery, a cunning and clever mind and a real talent for concealment and disguise. Tonks thought like an Auror, she could make the same connections as he could between happenings and events, she looked passed the ordinary and saw the tiny details others disregarded. None of the other senior Aurors wanted young Tonks in their ranks, but Moody took her, Moody taught her and now she was his real protégé, rising up through the ranks of the department as he had expected her to. But she was his last. Retirement had been thrust upon him soon after she had completed training. Moody was robbed of the chance to watch her become the brilliant Auror he knew she was.
Retirement didn’t suit Moody. He was born to be in the thick of the action. He was made to catch dark witches and wizards. He had a considerable talent for blending into his surroundings and becoming truly invisible at will. He had a knack for gaining entry to impenetrable buildings. He had the uncanny ability to spot booby-traps, uncover plots and see through a ruse as though it were glass. He was made to be an Auror. He thought like an Auror. He acted like an Auror. He even looked like an Auror. He was an Auror at heart, pure and simple. His place was on the battle field or else in his study pouring over documents and reports as his brain worked feverishly, searching for an unseen clue or a connection between events. He was not designed for a life of leisure. It bored him. There was no thrill or excitement. His brain needed problems, needed puzzles, needed mysteries and he found himself growing increasingly more restless and agitated the longer he spent without such stimulants.
He had offered to stay on as a consultant, but Scrimgeour wouldn’t have it. The new head claimed that old Mad-Eye would be more of a hindrance than a help, more of a liability than an asset. Experience amounts to nothing if people think you’re a nutter. He had also offered to stay and train new recruits; but Mr-New-Head thought it unwise, feeling Moody’s experience was no longer valuable, and instead of aiding young Aurors he would hinder them, making them fear constant attack at every second of every day and making them see enemies where there were none. But Scrimgeour didn’t understand; he had been stuck behind a desk for too long, to survive in these troubling times one needed constant, never-ceasing vigilance. Voldemort was not gone. He would rise again and everyone needed to be ready when that day came.
Young Tonks and Shacklebolt visited him often, called in on their way to or from crime scenes. Sometimes they called in to see how he was doing, but other times they dropped by to ask his opinion on difficult cases or to enquire if he could make a connection between murders or disappearances that they could not. He had a real fondness for the pair of them; that is until they started advising him to take a long holiday or get a real hobby or just leave the damn house. He had hobbies, loads of them. He liked reading – that was a hobby, wasn’t it? He read all the newspapers and all the wizard magazines. He picked them apart, dissected them for information, for secret codes even. He read them backwards, read them upside down and sometimes he only read every second word or the first word or letter of each line. In short he was looking for any information, in code or otherwise, that would help track down Voldemort’s old supporters or help predict a murder or disappearance.
He also liked reading over his old cases, in the hope of solving new mysteries, like the one’s Shacklebolt and young Tonks were working to decipher. They always brought him new cases, not necessarily because they needed help with them, but more because they saw how frustratingly bored he was, how he lacked both friends and ‘proper’ hobbies and how his mind craved stimulation. All that and the fact that the way he dissected the newspaper everyday really unnerved them for some unknown reason.
Moody didn’t need friends, the only people that interested him were the ones he was trying to hunt down and imprison. Normal people bored him; he found their careless attitude to security exasperating, their small talk unexciting and their mundane minds frustratingly slow. But to say he had no friends was a lie. He had two friends, well four if you wanted to get technical or two friends and two close (now former) colleagues if you wanted to get really technical. But whatever way you want to put it, these four were the only people he trusted. First was Albus Dumbledore, head of the Order of the Phoenix, leader of the rebellion against Voldemort, ever the orator for all outsiders, ever the true voice of reason in a world of chaos and ever the content headmaster of Hogwarts who refused power for the sake of power. Second was his (now former) colleague, Kingsley Shacklebolt, the talented, level-headed Auror and future Head of the Department once everyone came to sense and saw passed Scrimgeour’s accolades to the clueless crup he had become. Third was his protégé, young Nymphadora Tonks, clumsy but brilliant. And last was the werewolf, Remus Lupin.
Now, you might think him mad for trusting a werewolf, and you’re probably right, but Lupin was different. Moody had first met the werewolf when the latter was merely a boy fresh out of school. Both had fought side by side for Dumbledore as members of the Order of the Phoenix. At first Moody was deeply mistrustful of the werewolf, but over time he made many interesting observations. Lupin was cautious and careful, extremely brave, uncommonly loyal and exceptionally clever. He had the makings of an Auror, but, due to what he was, the lad could never become one. What intrigued Moody most about Lupin was that he never embraced the monster, never, in fact he became the polar opposite: he was severely self-deprecating on the werewolf front. He feared what he became at the full moon and as such could never embrace the wolf. Fear kept him safe, kept him in control of himself. He was a man that used fear to his advantage and Moody liked that, really liked that.
Lupin also never killed opponents; he always stunned them, always without exception. He respected life and his own power to take it away. Killing was what monsters did and Lupin refused to be dragged down to that level. He was also remarkably even-tempered and cool in a crisis. He commanded himself well, he did not wear his heart on his sleeve and he knew how to keep secrets. He was kind and caring, two traits that usually Moody saw as weaknesses, but for Lupin they were his greatest strengths. Lupin was thin and pale, but that didn’t matter in the slightest because if he had your back in battle, you were going to be alright. He was a good ally to have, one of the best. He was a werewolf, but Moody would trust him with his life regardless.
When the war had ended, Moody was drawn to Lupin a way he had been drawn to no other. Lupin was the ever outsider. He was a werewolf stuck in a prejudiced society. Also, the war had taken from him the only people who had seen passed his condition to the man behind it. He was lost and alone without them. Moody was drawn to him for that reason. For all his skills and talents, Moody lacked friends and Lupin provided that human contact that truly kept old Mad-Eye from becoming a completely obsessed, reclusive Auror with a puzzle-complex.
He visited Lupin often; every Tuesday evening like clockwork since the Potters had died, except when Tuesday fell on the full moon of course. At first he did it out of pity. He did not like the idea of Lupin being alone as he was afraid of what dark space such isolation would bring the man into, but Lupin was always stronger than that. He was the consummate survivor, like Moody. They did not do anything on these Tuesday evenings except talk; pure and simple conversation, that was all. It was only when Lupin took the DADA job at Hogwarts and was no longer available for Tuesday evening visits that Moody realised how much he depended on his friendship, how much it actually meant to him, course, he would never tell Lupin that. Never. But he thought Lupin knew, Moody had given him a super-sensitive, highly advanced, limited-edition Sneakoscope for his birthday and if that didn’t say: you’re my friend, I care, Moody didn’t know what did. But it wasn’t just the friendship that was important to Moody; it was the fact that Tuesday was the only evening he physically left the house. He didn’t like leaving, unless he had a reason. Death Eaters could infiltrate his home and ransack it while he was gone, possibly poison all the food in the cupboards, or set a trap for him or maybe cast spying jinxes to monitor his movements. No, he would not venture outside unless he had to, and he only had to for work and on Tuesday evenings when he visited his werewolf friend.
But Moody would be abandoning Lupin now, for tomorrow he was off to take the very job Lupin had vacated. Moody was going to Hogwarts to teach kids how to defend themselves against what was really out there. It was a once off favour to Dumbledore, and had anyone else asked, Moody would have answered them with a flat: no. Sitting behind a desk never appealed to Moody. He was not keen on the Hogwarts job, mostly because he would be teaching kids, kids who ranged drastically in magical ability. He was used to being surrounded by the elite – the very best of the best (Aurors in other words). To cope with weak students he would need a patience he did not really possess. Then there were all those ministry restrictions, dictating what he could and could not teach. They would drive him mad.
Moreover, all his Dark Detectors would go haywire, picking up kid’s stuff; lies about not doing homework, lies about being out of bounds, lies about seeing the ghost of Merlin haunting a broom cupboard on the sixth floor, which was complete balderdash, because Merlin was in fact still alive, he was just devoting his life to guarding Excalibur from dark wizards, and Moody had all the evidence to prove it. But no one believed him. He was just another nutter with a conspiracy theory, and people wondered why Moody didn’t like being around other people? There’s your answer: idiots the whole lot of them. Anyway, all Merlin related evidence aside; his defences would be considerably lessoned at Hogwarts. He would not be able to prepare his own meals anymore, and would have to put his faith in the Hogwarts House Elves. He didn’t like that in the slightest. Then there was all the back talk, the kids that just did not care about the subject and the fact that he would come face to face with the off-spring of known Death Eaters, the ones that had escaped Azkaban. If there was one thing he did not need it was constant reminders that the enemy were still out there, biding their time, waiting to strike, and there was absolutely nothing he could do about it.
Yes, teaching in that school did not appeal to him, but he was so damn bored that it was starting to look attractive. All that and the fact that there was some very strange stuff happening of late: a Muggle-man disappearing near Voldemort’s father’s house, Bertha Jorkins vanishing without a trace in the last place Voldemort was said to have been hiding, that and the Dark Mark resurfacing and Igor Karkaroff, Mr-Annoying-Snivelling-Cowardly-Death-Eater-Number-Twenty-One, returning to Britain. All this pointed to one thing: Voldemort’s return, and Dumbledore agreed with him on this one, so there was no playing the ‘Old Mad-Eye is gone in the head’ card. Things felt like they did last time The Dark Lord came to power: disappearances, possible murders, strange happenings, old skeletons jumping out of the long-forgotten wardrobes. As much as Moody disliked the idea of teaching snot-nosed little buggers about jinxes, hexes, curses, dark creatures and Death Eaters, even he could not deny that it was going to be an interesting year, the very thing he needed considering retirement was driving him mad. Dumbledore sensed that something was brewing and he wanted an extra pair of eyes at Hogwarts and there weren’t any eyes better than those of Alastor Moody.