Alastor felt something shift and suddenly he was back in the foggy soup of his mind. It felt thicker than before and the warmth from the sunny day in his memory –dream?—was quickly disappearing.
In its place a deep coldness crept in, accentuating the paleness of his mind. Rolling waves of mist blanketed the surfaces of his mind.
They made him shiver, the waves did, and the motion caused everything in his sight to rock, his mind becoming even paler.
Alastor moved forward, away from one wave and against another, struggling against the surprising strength of the waves and a steady sense of fatigue that threatened to pull him under.
If only he could find… But what, then, was he looking for?
Another wave and he was feeling so tired… He just wanted to stop and sink into the waves, let them crash over him instead of around him.
But he couldn’t, but he wouldn’t – there was something odd about the waves… Why wasn’t he casting warming charms? Putting on more layers? Was he becoming like his mother?
He never had before.
Had done what before?
He wouldn’t what?
He shook again – he just felt so cold.
He wouldn’t succumb…
Succumb to what?
And he fell.
He had grown, Alastor thought as he awkwardly settled his body into a chair in Charms class. His arms felt too long, his legs too gangly. He held his tongue when his knees hit the bottom of the desk hard and there wasn’t enough room on the top of the desk for his arms so his elbows hung uncomfortably off the sides.
This feeling of discomfort in his body was not something he thought other sixteen-year-olds felt, no matter how much of a growth-spurt they had had. As strange as he knew it sounded, he felt as though his legs ought to be shorter—a shortness that would make him look like a child.
But he was soon distracted from the odd feeling when class started. His friend Adam, who had been chattering at his side about the latest Quidditch scores (somehow he had never grasped the fact that Quidditch didn’t interest Alastor), quieted quickly when Professor Trunot turned her grey gaze towards them.
A stern-looking woman in her early thirties, she always wore her black hair in a tight bun at the base of her neck. She had such a straight posture that Adam sometimes wondered aloud if she had charmed an iron rod invisible and stuck it to her back.
It certainly was possible, he mused, because she was a Charms mistress.
Alastor thought differently, though he never shared his thoughts with Adam – his revelations seemed too private to reveal, especially since they would ruin the persona Professor Trunot had built for herself.
He thought that she was too afraid of losing control of the class, scared of being embarrassed or being called incompetent. It showed in the way she ran her class: strict in every matter, small or large, giving detentions when pressed in class. By his sixth year, everyone had long since learned that hers wasn’t the class to slack off in, unless you wanted to find yourself cleaning the dungeons with a toothbrush.
But even if she wasn’t the most well-liked teacher, no one could call her ignorant of the intricacies of her topic without being a liar. And she marked fair, favouring (or not) no one. So while her class wasn’t one everyone looked forward to, no one dreaded it either, especially since she wasn’t harsh in her criticism and always knew what you were doing wrong with your spellwork.
Alastor had based his theories on her behaviour on the tricks and tells his father had taught him over the years.
As recent as a few years ago, he would brag to his mum whenever he got his chance that he was as good as his father (he couldn’t dream of being better). He didn’t do that anymore, but he felt that he valued his father’s lessons even more now than he had ever before. And though his father couldn’t update him on the details of his current case (they had moved again shortly after Alastor had received his letter from Hogwarts and the case was now very close to its burning point) since a single letter taken and read before it reached Alastor could be the end of progress or—as much as Alastor hated to think about it—his life.
It wasn’t only for that reason that Alastor was looking forward to heading home at Christmas.
But Christmas was still a month away and Professor Trunot was here and starting her lesson.
Or, at least, she should have been. She had set everyone the task of reviewing the Disillusionment charm from the last class, something that she only did when she was behind on marking and wanted to hand the essays back that day (that was so rare it was a what if scenario) or when she wanted to talk to someone privately.
For some reason she believed that setting a task meant that everyone would be doing that task and not paying attention to her. The last time she had assigned review time at the beginning of class Derrick Pervish’s brother had gotten on the wrong side of a dragon and he hadn’t been expected to live. Derrick had left the class immediately to go see his brother in St Mungo’s.
Alastor looked up, wondering who she would approach this time, since he saw no stacks of essays on her desk, which ruled out that option. He liked to be aware of the major events in the lives of the other students so that he could better predict how they would react in situations. It was something that his father always did with his targets so that he would not only be able to pass on information about when they planned to act but also how they planned to do so.
His stomach squeezed unpleasantly in his body when he noticed that she was heading towards his row.
“Who do you think she’s headed for this time?” Adam whispered, and Alastor noticed that practically everyone’s eyes were following her progress through the room, though the spell continued to be cast so that Professor Trunot wouldn’t catch them in their inattention.
“I don’t know,” he said, hoping that by proclaiming uncertainty it would make her change direction. It didn’t work – she still kept on moving towards them and now she had almost arrived.
“Mr Moody,” she said, prompting Adam to snicker and Alastor to sigh, both at having his fear confirmed and at Adam’s amusement. Adam, for some reason Alastor didn’t understand, found his last name funny and said that it seemed especially fitting for him.
Alastor often wished that Adam’s last name, Shortte, was just as fitting but unfortunately Adam had also inherited his height from his father and his was the more desirable one.
Professor Trunot ignored Adam and continued to watch Alastor. She had crouched down beside him, as though it made their conversation more private, and seemed oblivious to the many eyes watching them. Her brown eyes were soft and sympathetic and they made Alastor want to close his ears so that he couldn’t hear her words.
But to do so he would have to cast the charm – verbally, and with his wand – and that would reveal vulnerability.
His father had always cautioned him to conceal his weaknesses so that no one could us them against him and Alastor thought it to be good, useful advice.
“Professor Dumbledore wishes to speak with you in his office. You can catch up on today’s lesson later from Mr Shortte. Now,” she added when Alastor continued to sit in his chair.
She paused before saying, “I’m sorry.”
Alastor continued to sit in his seat, though he knew he’d have to leave soon or risk never leaving at all.
But he was afraid of hearing what Professor Dumbledore would say, just as he had been afraid of what Professor Trunot would say. People were usually only dismissed from their classes to see their Head of House if something bad had happened and Alastor knew that his father lived a dangerous life. His mother did too, by association. Had something happened to them?
His blood seemed to rush overly fast through his ears and Alastor swore that he could hear his heart pounding away in his chest.
He might have sat in his chair forever if Adam hadn’t leaned over and nudged him gently with his shoulder. “Are you okay? Do you want me to go with you?”
Alastor shook his head and finally began to gather up his belongings. He did so slowly at first before, irritated and agitated, he picked up everything at once and stuffed them into his bag. Barely pausing to nod goodbye to his professor, he hurried out of the classroom and started the rather long journey across the castle to Professor Dumbledore’s office. It was located close to the Gryffindor tower – Alastor assumed that it was located there so that he would be able to monitor the Gryffindors at night with more ease, but he had never seen the professor there.
Still, everyone in Gryffindor knew where his office was and many had visited it and tasted the sour lemon candies he seemed bent on giving to everyone. Alastor didn’t know why he gave so many away if he actually liked them like he seemed to. Who would give away candy?
His father had always taught him to mistrust strange or incomprehensable actions.
It was with great reluctance that Alastor knocked on Professor Dumbledore’s door but he had already taken the longer route through the castle and couldn’t delay hearing the news any longer.
He didn’t have to wait long before he heard the professor’s soft voice call “Come in” and the door swung open before he could touch it. Left without a defense, Alastor entered.
Professor Dumbledore was sitting behind his desk, half-moon glasses perched on the tip of his nose and wearing black robes trimmed with blue, marking essays in purple ink. Alastor could see small yellow ducks moving about on the blue cloth and wondered if the professor only wore these robes in the privacy of his office for he had never seen them in the classroom and his father had taught him how to see the presence of a glamour.
“Please sit,” said the professor, gesturing towards a plump, purpley-red chair in front of him. “Make yourself at home.”
Alastor didn’t move and Professor Dumbledore sighed, placing his quill and the essays to the side.
“I’m afraid, my boy, that I have some rather poor news for you.” Alastor didn’t tense, though his stomach clenched uncomfortably – he had expected it to be bad news. He just didn’t know what the actual news was. “I’ve just received news from the Ministry that your father has perished, though they have given me no details.”
Professor Dumbledore was watching him, Alastor was sure, but he couldn’t bring himself to care. He felt as though someone had just sent a huge gushing wind straight through him and left nothing behind. His father was... was…
“Dead?” He wanted to be sure… No—he wanted there to have been a mistake, though he had suspected the news had to do with his father since Professor Trunot had approached him in class. It had been what he had spent his entire journey to Professor Dumbledore’s office wondering. But his father had never been hurt before, though there had been several times where they had had to flee a town in a hurry. Alastor had managed to convince himself that it would be something else. Anything else.
He was supposed to see his father in a month, discuss the case he was working on…
Professor Dumbledore nodded his head gravely and Alastor felt as though his whole world had been ripped away from him.
“I’m sorry, my boy. Was this unexpected?” Alastor shook his head—of course he hadn’t been expecting the death of his father!—and then paused. Was his death entirely unexpected? His father was an Auror, after all, facing dangerous witches and wizards on a daily basis.
He shook his head, trying to get rid of the fog that seemed to have taken over his mind. He had never thought his father would die, no matter how dangerous a case he was involved in. But should he have expected it, prepared for it?
Then a thought raced though his mind like lightening, searing through the fog: what had happened to his mum? She, too, lived in danger, though it was less obvious than her husband’s.
He looked up at the professor from the spot on the floor he had been staring at and Professor Dumbledore met his eyes, nodding gently. Alastor opened his mouth to ask but Professor Dumbledore spoke before him.
“I was told, though, that your mother is safe. She apparently left your home just minutes after your father was killed, faster than word of his death could have reached her. She’s now at the Ministry for questioning – they want to know how she could have known so quickly.”
Alastor could hear the hidden meaning in his words and stiffened. However, he didn’t defend his mum to the professor – there was no need. He knew the truth, or at least the part of the truth that mattered in this case, and the Aurors would know soon enough. His father had long ago figured out a method of quick communication with his family, a manner that didn’t require a fireplace or an owl: an indescript ring that, when twisted, became rather like the telephones that Alastor had seen muggles using.
Professor Dumbledore continued to watch him sympathetically and Alastor decided that he didn’t want to be there, where he would be constantly watched by eyes that thought they understood.
Not many knew of his father’s true occupation – another post in the fence they had built to keep him safe, though a fat load of good that fence had done him in the end. Somehow, someone had found him out and killed him.
He wanted to make sure that whoever it was didn’t stay free for long.
“Professor, I’d like to visit the Ministry.” There he could be with his mum and learn who had killed his father.
“Of course, my boy. I’ve already spoken about the matter with Headmaster Dippet—he says that you can go right up to his office if you so desire. The password of the moment is “snippet”.” Professor Dumbledore paused and a smile appeared on his face. “The Headmaster is fond of his funny words.”
Alastor nodded and stood.
It was off to the Ministry with him.
He just wasn’t aware of how long he would end up staying there.