The Sugar Quill
Author: Enjoi  Story: Get Yer Gun  Chapter: Chapter 1. A Few Years Back
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Chapter 5 - A Glimpse of the Struggle

Get Yer Gun

By Enjoi

 

 

Chapter 1. A Few Years Back

 

            “Wake up, kid, or you won’t get any ice-cream.”

 

            “Why’d you have to wake him, you putz, there’d be more for us!”

 

            “Shut up, Joseph, the kid needs his strength.”

           

“Oh, and we don’t.  That little punk will be alright, but I want my damn ice-cream”. 

 

            The voices were always like that, either with him or against him.  Maybe the mine had messed him up in the head, and maybe there were no people in the cots to his left and right.  Maybe the voices were in his head.  Maybe there hadn’t been a mine at all, and maybe this was a fever dream.  He had just woken up the day before.  He had been in asleep for about a week before that, mostly due to the morphine, but he had been too tired to even try to get out of the uncomfortable bed they trapped him in.

 

            He started to move, but he felt a sharp pain through the left side of his body, moving up from his gut to his head, and then doing a victory lap through his leg.  He instinctively moved his arm to try and soothe the pain but he found there was nothing there.  There was nothing below the stub that used to be his knee.

 

            “Come on kid, they’ll stop serving it in a bit.  Get a move on,” the voice to his right, a tall dark haired man who called himself Zikan Staryet and spoke with a thick Russian accent.  He was on our side now.  He would be dead in three months, having been put back into the field.  He tried to help a younger soldier out of a bind, but ended up getting shot in the back by a German.  Some guy in a book once said, “So it goes.” 

 

            “Yeah, get up, you cripple,” the man to his left, who was called Joseph, mocked.  Joseph was short, but with beautiful blonde hair and bright blue eyes.  He’d live on, rich from the Jewish gold he’d stolen, until he died in his eighties, getting his with an aneurysm while sitting on the toilet.

 

            “Shut it, you turd.  Do you need help, Alastor?”

 

            “Thanks, but no.  I guess I’ve got to learn how to do it myself or they won’t send me back to the front.”  He was a stupid kid, but they all were.    No one bothered telling him that with one leg and one eye, he wasn’t going anywhere but home, because he already knew it.

 

            “Yeah, well, come on,” Joseph muttered.  Alastor Moody swung to the side of the bed and grabbed the crutches, pushing them under his arms and forcing himself up, ignoring the pain that half his body was feeling.  He hobbled around the musty old bed, which was stained with too many bodily fluids to count, and started to go off to the middle of the makeshift hospital, between the rows of beds where the nurses were serving the wounded their eagerly awaited ice cream.  He only took a couple of steps when he caught sight of a mirror, and saw the monster in it.

 

            “No,” he said below his breath.  The nurses had made sure not to mention his face, and they scolded and withheld treats to those mocked him, all to make sure he didn’t find out. 

 

            He would never have called himself handsome, but the ladies back home had always been taken with him.  Now, he was a freak.

 

            He knew what had happened, he knew it was pretty bad, but he didn’t know the extent until that moment.  It was a landmine, one of the thousands that littered the German countryside.  It should have killed him, like it killed three members of his troop, but had survived, somehow.  As the bile rose, he wished it had.  And so it goes.

 

            There was a bandage covered with dry blood over his left eye, or where the eye had been, now just a hole. Sewed up cuts, most of them deep, littered his face and neck, and if he had checked below the nightshirt they gave him, he’d find many more healing scars and burns.  He had a nasty looking cut going from just below his ear, leading down his neck and across his Adams-apple to below his other ear. 

 

            And yet he was still alive.  He resembled nothing of the boy he had been when he went into training.  He was, at that point, a man.  Scarred, crippled, but a man he was.    

 

Instead of going on to get some ice-cream, the only thing besides morphine that made the hospital ward manageable, he simply went back to bed, thinking about the Avada Kedava curse for some reason.

           

            As he drifted off to sleep, aided by the shot of morphine, he began to wonder what was going on at home.  This wasn’t the only war going on.  Grindelwald was not going to give up, and more people would die before it was over.

 

He’d find out soon enough.  He closed his eyes, and his mind went blank.

 

*

 

            The nurse carefully removed the bandage, and she could not help but shudder.  She had seen some horrible things in her tenure during the war, but sometimes they still got to her.  She had to do her best to remain distant, to keep from letting her personal feelings from controlling her.  She was a neutral party to this boy, and he needed her to remain that way.  At that moment, her personal feelings wanted her to scream.  She kept the smile plastered across her face as she examined the young soldier.

 

            “This is impressive, Alastor,” she said once she saw his wounds.  His eye socket, despite the lack of a working eye, was in fine condition, in spite of his injuries.  He had a few healing cuts along with the lost eye, but they were all in fine condition.  He would heal, but he had lost the eye.  Along with his leg, it was a disaster for the boy.

 

            “Really, how so?” he asked absentmindedly, not caring what she said. 

 

            “It, well, it appears that there is absolutely no infection to your eye.  In fact, none of your injuries have shown any signs of infection.  Considering the damage, that is great.” 

 

            “Thanks for the news,” he said in the same absent voice.

 

*

 

            “Are you all right, boy?” the Russian asked.   Zikan had a habit of making Alastor uncomfortable, simply by trying to be friendly with the wounded boy.  The Russian sat on the edge of his bed, wearing a bathrobe like all the other patients, only his was clean due to his, get this, concern about his appearance.  Must have been a cultural thing, because the rest of the patients, English and American teenagers, didn’t give a sweet rat’s ass how they looked at that moment, even with some of the attractive nurses constantly flirting.  He just sat there, watching the boy who was watching ceiling.  His right arm was in a sling, to keep from damaging his shoulder any worse.

 

            “Been better, been worse,” Alastor replied automatically, not taking his eyes from the ceiling.  He had made it a habit to count and recount the cracks in the plaster, or to try and find patterns in them.  There was one spot where if he squinted, it looked like a crow.  Of course, he was lying to Zikan, but he honestly didn’t care about that.  He just didn’t care.

 

            “Come on, boy, you’ll survive.”

 

            “You thank so?” Alastor asked, with biting sarcasm dripping from his voice.

 

            “Come off it, boy.  You’ll be home in a week’s time, and you sit around and cry.  You think you’re the first to get hurt in this war?”

 

            “No, I’m not, but that doesn’t mean I have to enjoy it.”

 

            “Whatever.”  The Russian sat there on the edge of his bed.  He reached with his healthy arm for the aging book on his bedside table, which was yellow from age and use.  It was one of those books they kept in the hospital wing to make sure the wounded soldiers were at least occupied.  There was a bookcase full of them; no one cared enough to pick them up but Zikan.  He thumbed through the pages of the book, which was ironically enough called Dead Souls, until he found the page where he had stopped.

 

            “Why are you here, Staryet?” Alastor asked in a small voice.  He was fighting with himself at that moment, trying to figure out why he needed to keep the Russian speaking.

 

            “I got shot in the shoulder.  Want to see?”

 

            “You know what I mean.”

 

            “Perhaps I do.  Why are you here?” Zikan looked up from his book, and looked to see what the rest of the wounded were doing.  Joseph, the American who slept to Alastor’s left, was with the others who were awake playing poker using bullet shells as chips.  Most of the wounded were asleep.  “Your fight is with Grindelwald, not Hitler?” Zikan added in a hushed tone.

 

            “What?”  Alastor sat up, ignoring the aches in his crippled leg, and sat on the edge of his bed, facing the Russian.  “You’re a . . .” Moody stammered, unable to finish the simple sentence.

 

            “I know why I am here,” he continued like he didn’t hear Moody.  “I fight for Mother Russia, for the Revolution.  Why do you fight this war when it is not yours?”

 

            “This is my fight.”

 

            “Maybe.”

 

            “Maybe my gimp ass!”  A handful of the others looked up, but just laughed off the remark and went back to what they were doing.

 

            “Then why are you here?  Why would an English Wizard come here, to the Hell of the Muggles, when his own world has Hell to offer?”

 

            “Because our Hells are the same.”  Alastor reached to his bedside table and grabbed the glass of water that sat there, cooling his lips and throat with the dirty water.  “I’d just left school. . .”

 

            “From Hogwarts, am I correct?”

 

            “Yeah.  The war just started when I graduated.  No one there cared about the bombs, or Nazis, or anything.  It was all about Grindelwald, you know, and how he was just going around, killing random Wizards an’ Muggles.  Hell, most of them, the Slytherins at least, didn’ even care about that.”

 

            “So.  You haven’t answered my question?” the Russian seemed to enjoy egging on the kid.

 

            “I’m getting there, damnit!  I was in Diagon Alley, the center of Wizard London, one day after graduation.  I was just goofing off with a couple friends of mine.  We had just left the Alley into Muggle London when we heard the planes, and then the alarms went off.  People went flying into buildings, trying to get out of the street, but we didn’ know what to do.  All of a sudden, this block of buildings, real nice flats, just explode, dust and smoke go everywhere, the buildings just crumble.  Once the smoke clears, I start towards the rubble an’ start diggin’ through it and all, trying to help the survivors if I can.  I’m aching and bleeding from some of the debris that hit me, just a cut on the arm, and I’m trying to do what I can.  I’m not the only one, there were a bunch of Muggles out there, and a couple of wizards are trying to help as well.

 

            “They just pulled out their wands and lifted the rubble and the Muggles all saw it, but they didn’ care at all, they just kept digging through, trying to find any survivors.  After we pulled out three or four live ones, and a lot of dead ones, I look over my shoulder and my friends, Wizards, weren’t doin’ a damn thing!  They were just standing there, twiddling their damn thumbs, watching this go down, laughing at a joke.  I wanted to curse them dead where they stood.”

 

            “That’s why you’re here?”

 

            “Yeah.  I went home that night and told me Mum I was going to fight.  She thought I was going to enlist with the Auror Corps, you know, and fight Grindelwald.  She was proud of me and all about that.  I’d been thinking about doing that after I graduated anyway.”

 

            “Fighting Grindelwald?”

 

            “Yeah, well, just fighting.  Protecting all those witches and wizards who couldn’t stand up to the people like Grindelwald, Dark wizards, you know.  But I told her I wasn’t goin’ be no damn Auror when there is a real war goin’ on out there.  The next week, I was bein’ shipped off to basic training.  Me Mum was so disappointed.”

 

            “You’d rather fight for the Muggles then for your own kind?” Zikan asked over his book.  He had continued to read while carrying on the almost one-sided conversation.

 

            “Truth be told, I’d rather not fight at all.  I’d like to continue with me Dad, raising sheep and cattle, growing crops.  But I just felt like I had to do something.  And with the Muggles, they’re in worse shape then the damn wizards.  This war is destroying the whole of Europe.”

 

            “It is.”  Zikan put the book down and looked at the boy before him.  “Grindelwald isn’t a danger in Russia.  He doesn’t see us as a threat to him.  We aren’t, really, as long as he leaves us be.  Like with Hitler.  We had a sort of peace with the Nazis, but they broke that amity.”

 

            Alastor later found out about Zikan, from one of the other Russians in the ward.  Staryet was a sniper, one of, if not the best, that the Soviets had.  He had well over 200 confirmed kills, most of them regular grunts, but he had taken out several high ranking officers, all clean kills, one shot to the head.  He was the best stalker.  He would hunt his prey like a wolf, never letting up for a moment.  When he had a target that mark would end up in a body bag.  He was there, in the hospital, because of a simple mistake.  He had been seen returning to his base, a bunker that was extremely well hidden.  He was caught in an ambush, though with only three Nazi soldiers.  He had killed two of them with his handgun before the other had managed to get a shot off.  That had hit him in the shoulder, the one he used to aim.  For a while, it looked like his career as a sniper was over, but he had been healing remarkably better then the doctors had thought he would, because, as Alastor had found out, Zikan Staryet was a wizard.  But being a wizard cannot prevent death.  It would be some ten years later that Moody was able to find out what had happened to the Russian sniper.  One shot to the back of the head by a Nazi soldier, and so it goes.  Another dead hero.

 

*

 

            “Oh, God, Alastor,” his mother exclaimed, shock fixed across her aging face.

 

            “I’m fine, mum.  Just a little worse for the wear,” he said with the best smile he could muster.  He got out of his father’s truck, which was used to haul crops, slung a duffle bag of his belongings over his shoulder, and then put the crutch under his arm to steady himself.  He could see the anger and sadness flash over his mother’s face, and though he knew the feelings were warranted, he couldn’t help but resent her for them.

 

            “Of . . . of course you are, dear.  Come in, I have lunch prepared.”

 

            She mumbled and stuttered her way through that initial meal, trying not to step on Alastor’s toes, figuratively speaking, of course, and also trying to make him feel guilty about his injuries.  In her heart of hearts, Anna Moody would never forgive her son for the anguish he had caused her.  He was her first born, the ideal child, and he goes and fights in a war he had no reason to fight.  She would later feel immense guilt over those emotions. 

 

            Later that evening, as the sun was going down, the family sat on the porch looking at the view of their property.  The Moody family owned a large farm in the outskirts of Birmingham.  Though they were a pureblood family, they had decided to remain close to the soil like their ancestors.  It was a highly successful plot of land, helped by a bit of magic.  They sold to Muggle and Wizard distributors, mostly produce, though they occasionally traded in cattle as well.  It was a good, honest life, one that Alastor could now fall into.

 

            In those moments of silence, drinking hot tea, he felt a growing contentment, despite some actions by his family.  His family, father Jerold, mother Anna, younger brother George, sisters Alice and Sheila, were all good people, but they were finding it hard to even engage Alastor in conversation.  He had no difficulty seeing where they were coming from.  There were, in a sense, two wars going on, though in Alastor’s eyes there was only the one, and they could only see half of the battle.  They would never know the things he had seen in the two years he had been gone.  And he would never burden them with those visions. 

 

The thing that was making his return difficult was simply his appearance.  Though Alastor had always been shy and modest, he had in fact been quite the handsome boy.  Now he was, as his brother said under his breath to Alice, a freak, a cripple.  Alastor loved George dearly, in only the way an older brother could, but he knew that even with one eye and one leg, he could hex him to dust, and probably still beat him in a fist fight.  Alastor always was something of a fighter.  He would come home as a child, either before he went to Hogwarts or when he was home on break, he would come home sporting a black eye or bloody nose with the biggest smile that would fit on his face, proud of the fight he had been in.  He had glared at George for about fifteen minutes, with his one good eye, simply to make the rising seventh year squirm.  The boy knew he had been heard, but he didn’t say anything along the lines of an apology.  He simply didn’t say anything.

 

Despite the tension, Alastor was glad to be home.  That first night back made the last two years seem like a distant memory, even though he had just gotten off the boat back from the hospital not eight hours earlier. 

 

Around midnight, everyone but Alastor and his father were asleep.  Jerold had been the only one who had not treated him like a porcelain doll, knowing full and well that was not what his boy needed.  He had gotten out the brandy he kept in his office, a bottle that was aged seven years.  Jerold and Alastor simply drank the sweet drink in silence until Alastor had to speak.

 

“I’m not sorry about it, Dad.”

 

“I know, son.  You have to just give them some time.  They’ll adapt.”

 

“Maybe.”  They lapsed back into silence for a few moments, staring at the stars and listening to the insects of the night until Jerold broke the deep silence between them.

 

“I want you to know something, Alastor: I have never been more proud of you.  You had the heart to fight for something that you believed in when no one else around you did.  I checked, and you were the only member of your graduating class to go to the war.  Sure, some became Aurors, and a few have died fighting Grindelwald, but you saw the Muggle war as something that didn’t just belong to them.  You understand what few of us Wizards do, that war is everyone’s problem, that it is never confined to a few isolated groups.  Hell, most Wizards, the pureblood families at least, don’t even see Grindelwald as a threat.  They think the beast is the answer to their blasted prayers.”

 

“He’s helping Hitler,” Alastor said after a moment to take in what his dad said.  “Do you have any idea what that monster is doing?  I helped to liberate one of his little ‘camps’.  There were thousands of people there, Jews, mostly, but there were others there, so-called undesirables.  They were like walking skeletons, emaciated by hunger and work.  Those that didn’t work were killed.  We found a few graves, with hundreds of them piled right on top of each other.  During the fighting, when I was watching my friends get their heads blown off, when I stepped on that mine, I never once cried.  When I saw what was happening there, I couldn’t help but cry.  These were people, damnit, not cattle or livestock, but people with families and lives and souls, and they were being killed as if they were nothing!  And Grindelwald, that coward, is giving Hitler his strength, his rule.”  The emotion was too much for Alastor, and he let the tears flow for the first time since that day at the Death Camp, not fighting them. 

 

It was something that his fellow witches and wizards would never understand, his compulsion to help the Muggles in their war.  Damn them, he cursed, slightly intoxicated from the brandy, for their negligence, for the blind eye they turned on their fellow human beings.

 

He would live with his contempt, both for the world he lived in and for the family that silently mocked him, knowing that if the situation arose, he would give his very life to protect them.

 

 

Authors Note:  Thanks for reading.  This is part of my By The Sword universe thing that can be found mostly on Fic Alley.  This fic is in a slightly different form here, because I’m too lazy to change the Fiction Alley one.  Check me out, I’m there as chris d.  My other stories are the By The Sword novel length, the In Nomine series of vignettes, Meetings, and this.  Everything is interconnected in some way.  Peace and love and gravy.  Please review.

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