Chapter 6 : Realization
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He had lost an eye.
His fingers went immediately to the hole the missing eye had left, though he was cautious about probing. It didn’t hurt when he touched the flesh that was usually covered, though it felt odd to feel it. He ran his fingers down the rest of his face, but he could feel no blood. So— it probably wasn’t a new wound… But then, why was it a surprise to him?
He rolled off his bed as he reached for his wand, grasping its handle firmly. He landed in a manner that would have looked uncomfortable and awkward to anyone watching – his one whole leg bore the brunt of his weight and he fell into the wall.
It was a maneuver he had done many times before when he had suspected danger and yet it seemed new to him. It was odd, the contrast between what his body remembered and what his mind did. His body ached from where it had landed on the floor and it seemed so much older than it had before.
He growled—he was obviously missing something and he didn’t like it. The memory loss or memory failure or whatever it was had happened so rarely that he hadn’t concerned himself overly much with it—cases were much more time-consuming and they had been his top priority.
Perhaps, though, now that he was retired he could research it. It definitely wasn’t a good thing to forget, however temporary the feeling might be, what your body felt like. Especially since it had happened several times now.
Yes, he nodded to himself, it would be his top project now.
It was crouched against the wall that his eye fell upon a round ball balanced in a shallow glass dish on the bedside table. Seeing it, his memory came back as suddenly as it had before, all those years ago, and he cursed several times as he picked himself up off the floor.
Yes, he was older and he was definitely feeling it. It had been one of the reasons why he had retired from the Aurors, as much as he had hated to do so.
He still hated his retirement—after so long spent filling his days with crime each new day seemed to spread endlessly in front of him.
He had nothing to do that he wanted to do and he wished that he did—he wanted action in his life, not static.
Perhaps if he had died in the line of duty like his father had, and his grandfather before that (the Moody name wasn’t unfamiliar in the Auror department)… It would have been an honourable way to go, so long as you weren’t foolish about it. But it was too late to vanish from the world in that manner and he put his mind away from that thought. It was no use dwelling on things he couldn’t change.
He sighed and, after putting in his magical eye, pulled on his robe. He might as well start on his day – no matter how early it was, the adrenaline coursing through his body wouldn’t allow him to fall asleep.
It had been a blessing while he worked, ensuring that he would never fall asleep on a case, but now it seemed more like a curse.
The owl arrived after he had showered and shaved and while he was waiting for his bread to toast. He had never mastered the spell to toast bread, burning it more often than not, and so he had purchased a Muggle toaster and modified it to work alongside magic, just like his father had shown him years ago (his father had purchased Muggle implements so that they would better fit in with the Muggle towns they lived in and—though he never admitted it—to help out his wife). Alastor had inherited some of his mother’s talent in the kitchen.
The extra time it took to cook the toast was a small price to pay, though today the wait felt hours long.
Just like the rest of the day, he thought bitterly, watching the swirls that he made in his coffee turn around and around as he moved the mug in circles.
The brown owl’s appearance was a surprise but Alastor wasn’t overly worried at its arrival, for its ability to get through his wards (and he checked that every one still stood with a quick spell, though he could still hear their hum) meant that it was from a friend. He still cast several spells ensuring that the bird and its letter were harmless before he let it through the window, though. There was no harm in being cautious.
Anyone could change, after all.
His toast popped up after he sent the owl off—if any reply was necessary, he would floo the letter-writer. It was much more secure than owling—any fool could cast an owl down from the sky and seize its load—and he buttered his toast slowly before opening the letter.
There was no need to hurry, after all. He had all day.
The handwriting was very familiar—even if Albus hadn’t written much, if at all, to him during the war his loopy cursive had adorned his Transfiguration essays and tests for seven years—but the contents were surprising.
Albus wanted him to go to Hogwarts, wanted him to teach children. Wanted him, gruff ex-Auror, to teach. Children. He wanted him to do that.
He slowly crunched his way through his toast—Albus hadn’t requested an answer any earlier than tomorrow night. There was plenty of time in which to make a decision. He didn’t have work, after all.
Teaching children at Hogwarts would be very different from training young adults to become Aurors. They had chosen that path while the students at Hogwarts were required to take the Defense course (a fact that he very much approved of).
If he taught, he would have to teach the basics and expect near to nothing from them—no “best of the bunch” like he met in training (though sometimes he doubted that label; he truly did).
And yet… it would be something to do. It would get him out of the house and back into the action… Sort of.
He drained his coffee.
Albus would be there, as well as Minerva… He would have people to talk to, instead of remaining shut up in a house. He would have a reason to talk to them (he wasn’t very good with casual chatter).
He sat at the table long after he finished his toast and coffee cup grew cold on the table, thinking.
Would he take the position or wouldn’t he? Should he take the position or shouldn’t he?
It would be something to do…
It would be different… But then, when had he ever shirked from change?
He thought, and he turned the thoughts around in his head, until he had no more possibilities to explore. When that time came the sun had long since moved past noon and he rose, slowly, from his seat, his muscles groaning in protest.
He had made his decision, though he wouldn’t hurry to floo Albus about it.
He would go to Hogwarts and he would teach.
There was nothing else to do, after all.
His mind was different this time – no longer did the waves crash against his legs, threatening to send him under. No longer did they roll towards him in lines as far as he could see.
No—instead they were moving away from him, crashing in the opposite directions, and fading into nothing. Soon he was standing on a dry patch of crushed grass as the water rushed away from him. His clothes were wet, soaked through from where the water had hit him before it had been repulsed by him, and yet he wasn’t cold.
The temperature was rising and his sight was obscured by rising fogs of mist. Blinking, trying to figure out what was happening, he tensed as the ground beneath him shook and broke, giving way to towering bushes.
He was completely surrounded by dark green walls that were taller than he could see and yet he wasn’t feeling cramped or tense, even though he felt that he should be.
Instead he felt peaceful, as though everything was as it finally should be.
He smiled and began to drift through the bushes, making sure that everything was in order.
Alastor, for the first time in what felt to be decades, woke up feeling comfortable and used to his body. It was the same as he remembered, though he felt weak and skinnier than before. But those things weren’t permanent, he reminded himself. He hadn’t lost an eye, or a leg, or taken an unexpected wound to the chest. Things were good…
He also recognized where he was, though he had no idea why he was there and that made him ache to grab his wand. He lashed out with his hand to one of the tables that were always situated beside the patient beds in the Hospital wing of Hogwarts and relaxed slightly when his hand fell on the familiar handle of his wand.
But he was still unsure as to why he was lying a hospital bed in Hogwarts – the last thing he could remember was that he had been… fighting… Had Albus recovered him and placed him here to heal?
But Alastor didn’t like the feeling of lying exposed on the top of the bed, even though he was covered by sheets and a blanket, and so he decided that, Hospital wing in Hogwarts or not, he had to get off the bed. So he tried to roll off the bed and onto the floor like he had done so many times before in his house.
Except that he couldn’t move from his position.
He tried again, wrenching his body sideways, but only his arms and legs were able to follow the motion. And all they did was fall limply onto the bed.
As he was readying himself for another attempt—no good Auror gave up after only two tries – a voice interrupted his concentration.
“I thought you would go straight for your wand, my friend. You always were a model of conscientiousness about your surroundings. That was part of my reasoning for asking you to teach at Hogwarts, though things didn’t go exactly according to plan.” Alastor turned his head as quickly as he could to the other side and almost smiled when he saw Albus sitting on the chair beside his bed.
He looked older than he had when Alastor had last seen him, years ago (a floo didn’t allow a person to properly look at someone). His beard was longer and whiter. He looked out of place in the white, pristine Hospital wing—his robes were too colourful, too crazy for it.
But even though they were both in Hogwarts, Alastor was determined to never let his guard down. He croaked, “What did I say to you the night we went to protect Variety of Vials?”
He didn’t blink when Albus chuckled, waiting patiently (or not so patiently—his grip on his wand tightened for every second Albus delayed answering) for the answer. He swung the arm that held the wand back onto the side facing Albus, just in case. Eventually Albus stopped laughing and gave him the answer he wanted.
“You said that I shouldn’t go since I was a “magnet for Voldemort”. And you were right.” Albus smiled a smile Alastor knew was meant to be comforting, even though he didn’t feel comforted. He was missing something—a lot of things—and he wanted to know what it was.
“Albus,” he said, his throat aching in its dryness, and Albus’ smile grew.
“Ah, my friend, I’ll get to that in a moment. First, allow me to suggest that you don’t expend your efforts in attempts to move on the bed. Madam Pomfrey has informed me that your body is weak after so many months spent under the Imperius curse. Apparently prisoner care was not one of Barty Crouch Jr’s priorities.” Albus paused while Alastor’s thoughts churned rapidly in his mind.
Under the Imperius? How? He’d taken precautions to avoid the possibility…
And the foggy memories of rolling waves and a commanding voice rose to the surface of his mind – memories that didn’t fit with what he had experienced in his life.
Memories that made it seem as though he had been imprisoned, stuck with no possible way of leaving. Could he have been there for months?
And then he remembered the intruder in his house, the black mist that had spread throughout his kitchen. He had been blind, vulnerable, then; easy prey for a spell.
It was a good technique, he thought grudgingly, and one that had most likely worked.
“How long?” he asked and ignored the pain in his throat. He wanted answers more than he wanted relief.
“Almost a year, I believe. We suspect he attacked you September 1st. Arthur Weasley said that he had received word from Amos Diggory that you – or should I say, your imposter—were making a ruckus with your pans and attracting the attention of your Muggle neighbours.”
“And no one thought to question me to prove my identity? To ensure that I was who I said I was?” Alastor’s throat felt raw and he coughed. The problems that could be prevented if others were vigilant… Instead of sighing and grumbling he coughed even more.
“I’m afraid we’re not all as careful as you are, Alastor, though I’d like for this to change.” Albus sighed and he seemed to grow older and more tired before Albus’ eyes. “I told you of the Triwizard tournament that occurred this year when you flooed me – the first in two hundred and two years, if I’m not mistaken. Oh, how proud we were of this fact. How foolish.” Albus’ eyes were greyer than Alastor could remember seeing them before and so he didn’t growl and tell Albus to continue on with the debriefing, to leave out the stupid, unnecessary details. “I don’t think the Tournament will be revived again, not after the tragedies that have occurred.” He paused. “Though the public is only aware of the one.”
He met Alastor’s eyes with a piercing sorrow. “In the last event, the Maze, the two Hogwarts champions were carried off to an unknown location by the actions of Barty Crouch Jr. Only one returned alive.” He held up one hand, forestalling Alastor’s questions. And then he went into the level of detail he knew Alastor would be satisfied with.
Alastor felt frustrated with the population of the world as he listened—there were so many occasions where Crouch’s plans, Voldemort’s plans, could have been broken, crushed. There were so many moments where questions could have, should have, been asked.
Why had nothing been done earlier? Was a tragedy necessary for things to start being changed? For action to take place?
But Albus had not sat by his bed simply to inform him of what had happened while he was locked away in the bottom of his trunk (and boy did that burn him—the fact that his own belonging was turned against him!). He had a plan, a proactive plan.
He wanted to reconvene the Order.
And he wanted Alastor to be a part of it.
Alastor didn’t hesitate before agreeing—he was not going to be a part of the world’s population that did nothing.
And it would be something to do, now that his teaching job had fallen through.
It would be several days before Madam Pomfrey would let him out of her sights but Alastor wasn’t too concerned.
The days still stretched out endlessly before him but he didn’t mind. He knew that the monotony would soon disappear in the excitement and awfulness of war.
And until that moment he felt at peace; calm when he was alone and the hospital door was shut. He felt surer and more at-home in his body than he had ever felt before.
He knew himself, better than he had before, and he knew that, come what may, he would be ready.
He was, after all, born and bred for action.