The professor’s office faded as Alastor walked out of it. Instead of the stone grey walls he had become accustomed to seeing he once again saw the rolling pale waves that covered the surfaces of his mind.
Nothing had changed since the last time he had found himself there and yet he felt like it should have. It couldn’t stay the same – not after experiencing—whatever he had experienced.
He frowned—why couldn’t he remember? He should be able to remember. Someone had once told him that every moment in your life makes its mark on your mind, even if it was only a deepening of a previous mark.
He remembered the person—a woman, he thought—saying that since he had a very particular line of work (and what was that work?—this half-remembering was odd… suspicion-raising odd) the instinctive part of his mind would be very deeply marked, and thus shifted so that he could better access it.
Looking around, he could find no marks, none of the grooves she had mentioned.
The waves rolled and broke at his feet and he stumbled. Had the waves erased the marks?
She’s wrong. Everything’s fine.
He paused in shock and stumbled again, almost going under a wave.
Was the woman right? Wrong? Who even was the woman?
He struggled through another wave.
Who could he trust? An unknown woman, part of a faded memory, or a voice in his mind?
Go back to sleep.
The waves thickened and he rocked and wavered as they crashed quicker and quicker on his legs.
He remembered feeling a sense of reluctance to see the woman – it had made him feel damaged. But could he even trust his memory? He should be able to—the only reason he wouldn’t was if someone else, an outsider, had meddled with his mind.
Was there another presence in his mind?
Go to sleep.
Another wave, larger than the others, swept into him and he fell, unable to remain standing.
He floated under the water, unable to reach the surface.
At later, finally, he ran out of – something – and blacked out.
He was walking down the corridor from the stairs towards the Auror department when, in stepping down with his left foot, he almost fell over.
His leg felt different—too solid—and he had so little control over it he knew that it wasn’t there. Or permanently damaged. Alastor immediately knelt on the floor – he wouldn’t risk walking until he knew what was wrong.
He would have to have a talk with the other Aurors if a person could be cursed (for when did a jinx have such an extreme effect?) walking so close to their department.
He cast a quick “Homenum revelio” but found no one in the corridor. Had the perpetrator left so quickly?
But as he lifted his robes to check his leg (after casting a solid shield spell him which only the strongest of Dark Arts could penetrate—and no one cast Dark Arts in the Ministry unless they wanted to be arrested immediately, due to the detection spells that blanketed the Ministry) he remembered the loss of his leg and wondered why he had reacted like he did.
Was it a side effect of the spell that he had been hit by on his last case? He thought that the Healers had cured all of the damage done to his chest, where he had been hit, and his head, where he had knocked it on the floor when he fell after being hit. All that remained were the final ghostly pains that only time and rest could heal.
He stood again, dismissing the shield charm, and continued on his way, this time falling into the steady rhythm of walking with a wooden leg. It was the same rhythm he had used ever since he had lost his leg four years ago when the edge of a Blasting charm had caught him as he dodged it. A Dark wizard attempting to be the newest (and, in his eyes, the greatest) Dark Lord had cast it and, though it had cost him his leg, Alastor had beaten him and taken him into custody.
It had been his first injury in the six years since he had graduated from training to become a full-fledged Auror, not counting the minor scratches that everyone got when buildings exploded as you ran past.
It could have been his last, had he not been as talented as he was as an Auror and had he not modified the sticking charm so as to increase its strength while also ensuring that the wood of the fake leg wouldn’t rub against his knee and thus irritate his wound.
He had then taken physical therapy for two months, until he had relearned to walk and run, and retaken the physical Auror tests to prove to (and reassure) the Head Auror that he was still fit for duty.
Now, four years later, he had once again sustained an injury serious enough to put him on desk duty—and Auror training. The Healers had said that he shouldn’t participate in an active case for at least another week and, due to the lingering pain in his chest, Alastor wasn’t inclined to disagree. Though he enjoyed active work, he knew that to go out onto the field not in top form was to invite serious injury, or even death.
However his injury had happened at a busy time for the department: many witches and wizards had died—presumably murdered—and though the majority of the deaths had occurred in Germany, enough had died in Britain to raise the alarm. Some Aurors were speculating that a new Dark Lord was attempting to rise and Mr Thornebury, the Head Auror, had assigned several Aurors to watch for and investigate any hints of Dark magic.
The office was only partially full when Alastor entered. He could see empty desks whose owners were out following leads, and chairs occupied by Aurors hunched over records, newspaper articles and maps, trying desperately to piece together the clues and find leads.
As Alastor walked past several people raised their heads to greet him while others remained too absorbed in their work to be disturbed by someone they didn’t think was a threat. One person, a woman who kept her black hair cropped close to her head and her robes trimmed even more snuggly to her body since she maintained that leaving them flapping the wind was a death wish, barked something other than a greeting.
“Alastor, you’re expected in the second trainee room in five minutes. Mr Thornebury told me to remind you.”
“Got it, Mirabelle,” Alastor responded. Mirabelle acted like the secretary of the department, reminding everyone of the various appointments they had within the department and with the other sections of the Ministry. No one knew exactly why she had given herself that role, but no one protested. Even as Alastor passed by her desk he could hear Willy, a man even shorter than himself and younger as well, was asking her to remind him of his meeting with the Head of the Magical Creatures department the next day at three o’clock.
“And you’ll be in the office all day?” she asked.
“Of course, Madame—” Mirabelle could be fierce and until you got closer to her most were slightly fearful of her “—though I’ll be popping out quickly in the early morning to pick up the latest information from St Mungo’s,” he responded, smiling widely, his white teeth glistening in the light. “Thanks.”
Alastor didn’t hear her response, though he was sure it would be along the lines of “You’re welcome” (he had heard hundreds of conversations just like that one), for he was almost at his desk.
He nearly groaned when he saw that the stacks on his desk had grown yet again—at the rate they were adding to it he wouldn’t be done by the time he was able to go back on active duty and they would remain on his desk, gathering dust for months.
Sighing—at least they had given several sessions with the trainees, spread throughout the three levels, so that he didn’t have to spend all day on paperwork—he checked the schedule he had been given. It told him the level and lesson he would be teaching that day.
Today he had two sessions and he had remembered the order correctly – second years and then first years. He smiled a savage grin—first years were so fun to intimidate, and so easy to as well.
Gathering the few supplies he needed (Auror training was generally hands-on, in which case the equipment needed was already in the exercise room, or just lecturing. In that case the trainees were expected to provide their own parchment and paper), he once again walked through the desks to reach the trainee room located just outside the actual department.
Walking through the unlocked door (the trainees were welcome to arrive early), Alastor placed the attendance on the available desk at the front of the room and flicked his wand so that the title of the lesson was written in big, bold letters across the chalkboard. However, he thought that the trainees ought to already know the subject of today’s lesson because it was on the schedule everyone received at the beginning of the year. Unfortunately, he was aware that not everyone took the time to be as prepared as they could be.
And it seemed that this particular bunch had that sort of idiot mixed in – some of the people who were walking through the door were wearing exercise clothes instead of the black, free-flowing robes that everyone else was.
At least they have the grace to look embarrassed about it, Alastor thought. He had never been anything less than prepared for his lessons when he was a trainee.
After waiting for a few minutes – a minute past ten o’clock, for those didn’t value punctuality—he started to call out the attendance. As he marked several people absent, he wondered if they had a good reason for not being there. They would certainly need one if they were to be excused for missing the class—too many unexcused missed classes and you were kicked out of the program. The Aurors department was no place for someone who was lazy in their work ethic.
Placing the completed attendance sheet on the desk, he looked around the room. It was his first in the second trainee room since he had been taught in it, and his first time teaching second-year trainees as well. The room hadn’t changed much in the eleven years that had passed – the desks were new, as were the chairs, but that was to be expected as spells were sometimes practiced in the room.
It was a large room, with the desks clustered on the sides of the room so that a large space was available in the center of the room for practical demonstrations. It had a high ceiling as well that could be used to imitate different weather conditions. That feature, however, was rarely used.
Turning towards his students he was glad to notice that the majority of them seemed attentive and ready to learn.
“As you may or may not know, I am Auror Moody and I will be leading your lecture. Today you will be learning about what happens after you get your leads,” he paused, and those in exercise robes shrunk a little deeper into their chairs, before continuing. “I was told that you learned about how to find your leads in previous sessions.” His gruff voice echoed in the room and he saw several students nod.
“Finding your leads and following them are two very different things; one is the job of a research Auror and the other the job of a field Auror. Believe me when I say that these are very different branches of the department, though they do work very closely with each other. You have gone over the differences between a field Auror and a research Auror, right?”
Alastor was pleased to see the nodding heads and hear the murmured “yes”s. He didn’t mention the fact that there was a third, lesser-known category of Aurors—he had learned that information about his father’s unit was only given out on a need-to-know basis and even then they had to swear an oath to not reveal the information to others. If word of the “spy” unit of Aurors found its way to the general populace, life would suddenly become much more dangerous for people like his father and information would become harder to obtain.
“It’s the most dangerous aspect of being an Auror and probably the most recognizable. As such, there is a protocol you must follow when you’re out on a case. You can find a copy of the rules at the end of your Auror handbook – you’re expected to have them memorized by the end of your training.
“In essence, you must never put a citizen in danger and, if at all possible, you must capture – and not kill – the suspect. A living suspect is available for questioning, can be put on trial and confess. A dead suspect can do none of these things and with them you run the risk of having killed the wrong person or not getting the necessary information to close all the loose ends of a case. And believe me—loose ends can be the death of you.” He looked around the room, meeting the eyes of those who looked at him. There were nodding heads among them and Alastor saw several students who had their handbooks open to the correct page and were making notes in the margins.
“A mistake that some new Aurors make, no matter how many times we tell them not to in training –” Here he glared at the students and was glad to see some of them sitting straighter as though that would prove that they would never make that mistake, even though they didn’t know what the mistake was yet. Hopefully the warning would stay with them and keep them from dying a young death. “—, is getting overexcited when they get a lead on their case and rushing out without preparing. You,” he said, pointing at one of the wizards wearing exercise robes at the back of the class, “tell me why that’s a problem.”
“Uh…” said the wizard, in a very intelligent manner, looking towards his friends. Alastor hoped that he learned to stand on his own two feet before training was over – the Auror department was no place for someone who required someone else to do their thinking for them. Sighing, he turned to a different person, this time someone who looked much more prepared for the class. She was sitting in one of the front rows of the class, looking expectantly back at the wizard Alastor had asked. He had seen her writing notes earlier on parchment that she had brought with her.
“Forget it,” he growled, watching the girl. When she turned towards the front again he said, point at her, “You. Can you answer the question?”
She ducked her head before straightening. Pushing a lock of blond hair behind her ear, she answered, “It would be a problem because you wouldn’t know what you were getting into and thus you wouldn’t have a plan. Because of this you would increase the danger associated with the case and the likelihood of being killed.”
It was a simple answer, but Alastor had found that complicated ones were more likely to lead you astray.
“Good answer. By being prepared you can learn what spells the subject favours – and their counters – as well as their weaknesses. However, there is also the opposite problem of no planning at all – over-planning.” He paused to give those who were writing a moment to catch up and noted that several of the students looked confused.
Oh well- not everyone had such an easy time of grasping strategy.
“People who try to control situations all the time are afraid that if they don’t, nothing will work out the way they want.* This is especially dangerous because they won’t be prepared to adapt if the plan doesn’t go as they planned—and plans very rarely go exactly as planned.”
The wizard at the back of the room who hadn’t been able to answer his question raised his hand. Alastor nodded—knowing when to seek clarification was good. Confusion in a battle was often fatal.
“So you’re saying that planning is a bad thing?”
Alastor shook his head—there was clarifying confusion and not understanding a thing he said. “No,” he barked, and he saw several students flinch. Well, he knew perfectly well that his voice wasn’t meant to be singing on a stage but it served him well when he confronted prisoners and almost-convicted prisoners. “I’m saying that planning to such a degree that you believe nothing will go wrong with your plan is foolish.”
A sandy-haired trainee in the third row raised his hand. “How do we know if we’ve over-planned?”
Alastor answered him before continuing on with his lecture. As he spoke he watched the trainees. He found it interesting, as a guest teacher, to see them learn. Some of them, after all, would be his colleagues in two years.
He made bets with himself as to where they would be – he placed the blonde-haired witch in the front row as a research Auror and he thought that the dark-haired wizard in the back row wouldn’t pass the final tests needed to become an Auror.
Just a few years ago he had been sitting in the seats where they were now and his own teachers could have been making guesses about his future. He wondered if they had known his father and, if so, if they had included his influence in their factoring. Even if they hadn’t, his grandfather had also been an Auror, though he had died before Alastor was born.
It was his father who had encouraged him to join the Aurors, even though he had died before he could see him apply. He had admired the difference his father was making in the world, even though almost no one knew it, and, even though he now worked in a different division than his father had, he liked to think that he was putting the skills his father had taught him to good use.
His mother was still alive, though he didn’t visit her as often as he wanted to – he had made several enemies in his line of work and he didn’t want to put her in danger. She was living a more peaceful and certainly less secretive life in Hogsmeade now (though perhaps she wasn’t as happy), working as a waitress in the Three Broomsticks. He didn’t want to remove that from her.
The lecture wasn’t very long—only a hour—and shortly after eleven o’clock he was free… Or free enough to return to his desk to work on papers.
It seemed like the trainees were even more eager than he was to leave the room – almost all of them had their bags packed before he dismissed them and they hurried through the open door. He knew that they had an hour and a half before they would be expected back, this time ready for fitness. After that they’d have another short lecture, though he wouldn’t be the one leading it this time.
He smiled. Finally the guys in the back would be able to wear their exercise robes without embarrassment.
Back in the department Alastor noticed that more people were doing research. Some of the desks were littered with the remnants of late breakfast and early lunches.
With his own stomach hungry, Alastor only wanted to deliver the attendance sheet to Mr Thornebury before going out to eat. Unfortunately it seemed as though he was going to have to wait – Mirabelle had called him over, fluttering a letter in her hands.
“An owl came with this just a little bit ago – approximately twenty minutes. He was disturbing others in the office so I took the liberty of releasing him of his package. I hope you don’t mind.” She raised an eyebrow, as though she was daring him to object. Alastor, however, wasn’t about to object—he knew she wouldn’t read his personal things and that was all he cared about.
He thanked her and, collecting the letter, walked over to his desk. He hadn’t originally planned on stopping at it, preferring to bypass it so he could find lunch sooner, but since he didn’t have very many friends outside of work he suspected that the letter was important. It was best to read it now.
Sitting at his desk and pushing a stack of papers to the side so that he would have room to place the letter on it, he cast several spells meant to detect if the letter would him harm after being opened. Theoretically no such letter should have made it through the Ministry wards, but the crest it was sealed with was unfamiliar and thus Alastor was suspicious.
At least he could be sure that just touching it wouldn’t do him any harm—Mirabelle would have already cast those spells and wouldn’t have given the letter to him if they had shown anything.
Deciding that there weren’t any harmful spell on the parchment, he peeled back the wax and opened the letter. In it he saw a very familiar handwriting, though he hadn’t seen it for many years – the loopy cursive of his Transfiguration professor, Albus Dumbledore, was unmistakable. As he began reading, though, he remembered that Headmaster Dippet had retired and Professor Dumbledore had taken his place. Professor Dumbledore was now Headmaster Dumbledore. But that didn’t explain why he would be writing to him.
Dear Alastor, read the letter,
I hope you forgive me for my familiarity but I retain a very strong recollection of you as my student.
I have read of your adventures in the Daily Prophet and though I was very sorry to read about your injuries I was heartened to see that you had gone on to do great things after your graduation. So many fail to live up to their potential.
But that is a common criticism among professors and I haven’t written to you with the purpose of sharing it. I do, however, hope that you remember your time at Hogwarts fondly.
My boy, I find that I am in need of that sort of greatness and so I request your aid.
If you are interested and able, I would like for you to floo me so that we may arrange a time and date convenient for the both of us.
The large sweeps of the Headmaster’s signature reminded Alastor of his old professor and he smiled.
So he was in need of help, was he? The help of an Auror?
Nodding to himself, he reached for a piece of parchment and a quill. He would send his reply immediately after work.
A/N: The line with the * beside it is a quote from the book "Perks of Being a Wallflower" by Stephen Chbosky.