firmness in the
It was a relief to be alone
in the cool, damp stone corridor at last. As if the blasted early July heat
weren’t enough to deal with, the whispers of the other staff members had
followed him constantly since he had been released from the hospital wing. “Here
comes Mad-Eye… I can’t believe he’s still around, after all that… I can’t
believe he survived… Barty Crouch…” Thank Merlin that it was finally the
summer holidays and the Hogwarts grounds were deserted.
He approached the tall door
cautiously, staring through it until he was positive that no one was hiding
behind it. He stood perfectly still, his chiseled face focused intensely
forward, for a long minute; stone was much denser than wood or plaster and much
harder to see through. At last he relaxed – as much as he ever did – and spoke.
“Pepper Imp.” The gargoyle sprang to life, and he stepped warily onto the
twisting spiral staircase, groping vainly at the rough wall for something to
hold. As he reached the top, and the stairs stopped their ascent, he suddenly
squinted and leaned forward, seeing the door in front of him as though for the
first time. He shook his head in disbelief. There was a griffin on that door. Bloody
Gryffindors. They all think they’re so clever.
Alastor stomped up the stone
“Morning, Alastor,” Albus said,
settling back into his armchair and taking off a pair of small, wire-rimmed
glasses that he rested on top of a stack of official-looking papers. “How are
“Tolerable, sir, tolerable,”
he replied, unconsciously sweeping the room with his magical eye before
settling uncomfortably on a spindly brown chair. Truthfully, he was tolerable
at best. Despite copious amounts of All-Purpose Ache Ointment, his joints were
not what they used to be, and nine months locked in a trunk certainly hadn’t helped.
“Glad to hear it.” Albus
pressed two fingers to his temple and closed his eyes for a moment. Alastor
didn’t speak; sitting there meekly in front of Albus’ desk made him feel like a
second-year again. After a moment, Albus looked up and smiled wearily.
Taking this as his cue to
speak, Alastor began in a quick low growl. “Let’s just cut to the chase. I know
that people are saying I’ve lost my marbles, and that I’m not fit for duty
anymore. For all I know, you might agree with them. All I’m saying is that I
know how outnumbered you are, and I think that, in times like these, it would
be a damn shame not to take advantage of my skill and experience.” He paused
for breath, but Albus cut him off with a quiet chuckle.
“Try not to be too modest,
He frowned. “You know what I
Sighing, Albus said, “Yes, I
do. And, of course, I agree with you. But you are correct: there are those who
doubt your competency, especially in light of the events of last term.”
Alastor nodded curtly. Damn
that imposter to hell and back.
“Just to be absolutely clear
– you are volunteering your services to the Order?”
Alastor looked up sharply.
“So it’s true. You have reinstated the Order.”
“Yes. Naturally, it will
incorporate many new members – “ Because all the others are dead,
Alastor thought darkly. “But there will be names familiar to you, no doubt.”
“Molly and Arthur, yes, and
Bill is returning to England. Charlie will be aiding our efforts abroad.
Percy…” Albus’ eyes clouded momentarily. “Percy’s status is, for the time
Alastor was not surprised.
That boy had always licked Fudge’s boots.
“Of the old crowd… Emmeline
Vance, Hagrid, Elphias Doge, several others… Remus Lupin of course, and… “
“Anyone else from within the
Ministry?” Alastor asked interestedly. He was always seeking potential spies,
and Merlin knew they would need someone to keep an eye on their great oaf of a
“We do have greater representation
among the Aurors, which should be useful. Kingsley Shacklebolt, you’ll know
him, of course, and Nymphadora Tonks.” This last name was delivered in an
almost guarded tone.
“What kind of a damn fool
name is Nymphadora?” Alastor growled under his breath, and an alarmingly
secretive smile crept across Albus’ face.
“I’m sure you’ll learn more
about her, and her name, in times to come.” Alastor stared at Albus with both
of his eyes, but the Headmaster ignored him. “If you are willing to join the Order
again, old friend, we would be honored to have you.”
Something seemed to explode
in the pit of his stomach and fill his heart. Alastor stood, drawing himself up
to his full height, despite a throbbing pain in his left hip. “When can I
“As soon as I assign you a