the quiet past
Alastor stumped down the
dark street, cursing his damned leg, and damned joints, and damned secrecy, and
damned Fidelius, and damned Albus, who had decided that Alastor should first
travel to 12 Grimmauld Place the Muggle way.
The light from the
streetlamps was dim at best, but it showed just enough to set Alastor on edge.
This small grimy square was the perfect location for an ambush. Jagged ends of
glass in the broken windows gleamed like menacing teeth, and Alastor glanced
quickly into each dark square as he passed. The heaps of putrid rubbish were
large enough to conceal a relatively small man, and he breathed an inaudible
sigh of relief each time he passed a grubby side-alley without spotting a
He stopped on the pavement
in front of two particularly dingy houses, one hand on his wand, one keeping
his cloak from revealing his wooden leg. This was a Muggle area, after all, and
his magical eye alone made him too conspicuous for his liking. He glanced around,
taking an extra moment with a metal car parked down the street. All clear. The
nearest streetlamp was several houses away, but it still seemed too bright.
Making a mental note to bring a Put-Outer next time he came on foot, he
concentrated on the words Albus had spoken to him a few minutes earlier.
A house materialized in
front of him.
Alastor hurried through the
front door, directing his magical eye behind him as he went. There was
something about those dustbins next door that he didn’t like, not at all. Focused
on the menacing dustbins, nervous (though he didn’t want to admit it) about
meeting the rest of the Order for the first time since that imposter, and
distracted by his distinctly un-Muggle appearance, Alastor did something he
hadn’t done in years: he walked through a door without looking. And of course,
he slammed headfirst into someone.
With a roar, he threw his
entire weight against his attacker, knocking him backwards into the wall, and
in one fluid motion, he drew his wand and pointed it at the assailer’s throat.
The body kicked out at him, landing a particularly strong blow on his wooden
leg. Though still holding his wand in attack position, Alastor allowed himself
a grim smile as his attacker let out a howl and tripped over a rather large
umbrella stand, falling backwards and clutching at her toe. “Forgot about… that
damn… wooden leg!” she panted. Alastor paused, his chest heaving, pounding
adrenaline causing his hands to shake. He felt his panic subside slightly, replaced
by a growing sense of foolishness. The young woman sprawled on the floor didn’t
seem particularly dangerous, and although he didn’t lower his wand, he did take
a step back.
“FILTH! SCUM! HOW DARE
YOU DESECRATE THE HOUSE OF MY FATHERS!” Alastor jerked around and recoiled in
horror. What the hell? The young witch on the floor rolled her eyes and
continued to massage her foot. Blood was roaring in his ears, but he heard the
sounds of slamming doors and footsteps on the stair as others came running to the
commotion. Alastor’s sense of foolishness increased exponentially. Frightened
out of my mind by a stupid girl and an old picture, for Merlin’s sake. He
lowered and sheathed his wand quickly as several heads poked into the hall, and
a young man reached out an arm to pull the girl off the floor. Alastor took in
the tired face, brown hair streaked with gray – Remus Lupin had certainly aged.
Alastor cleared his throat
gruffly. “Dumbledore sent me.”
Another man turned from
where he had been struggling to close heavy dark drapes over the still
screaming portrait. Shaking his hair out of his eyes, he extended his hand.
“Good to see you, Mad-Eye. Welcome to my humble abode.” The girl snorted.
Alastor recoiled and eyed
the hand warily. It was one thing to know that Sirius Black was innocent, but
quite another to come face to face with the man he had hated for so many bitter
years. Alastor had no idea that Dumbledore even knew where Black was, let alone
that the fugitive was being harbored in the very headquarters of the Order. And
how did they really know that Black wasn’t working with Voldemort? Even
if he had been wrongly imprisoned, the man had spent over a decade in
Azkaban with men and women who were, beyond any doubt, staunch Death
Eaters… and, besides, shouldn’t Black have gone mad? How had he survived? There
was something suspicious about that… but no one seemed to be moving to restrain
him. Alastor caught sight of Kingsley Shacklebolt down the hall, calmly sipping
from a mug and looking supremely unconcerned. Wasn’t Shacklebolt the Auror
leading the search for Black?
Well, that search must be
rigged… He saw Arthur Weasley frown,
standing quietly behind him, so, suppressing his suspicions, Alastor grasped
Black’s still extended hand quickly.
Seeming not to notice any of
this, Black jerked his head down the hall and called loudly to those just
coming in, “Don’t worry, nothing’s happened, Mad-Eye’s just arrived. Everyone into
Black appeared to revel in
his temporary leadership as he led the way through a narrow door and down a
staircase, followed by the crowd, humming with low conversation. As Alastor
joined the group and passed through the door himself, he took a deep, steadying
breath and focused on slowing his magical eye, which had begun to spin in
dizzying circles as he tried to take in the new people and surroundings all at
Just as he had expected, many
of the faces were unfamiliar to him, especially the younger ones. He recognized
a few, like Arthur and Molly Weasley, at once; others, whom he hadn’t seen in
many years, slowly associated themselves with a name from his past.
As far as Alastor could
tell, as he stumped down the dim staircase next to a small woman who was clad
in strangely heavy, gray wool robes, this house was full to the brim with Dark
Figures, if it really is
the Black family house.
Occasionally, with the most
powerful people and objects, Alastor’s eye could distinguish their auras, which
appeared as faint, pulsating glows that he could recognize, but that
disappeared whenever he tried to focus on them.
Albus radiated a constant
thrum of power, and Voldemort as well, of course, though his was somehow
darker. Alastor had seen similar auras appear around other witches and wizards
performing difficult magic under extreme stress. Certain magical objects, like
Pensieves, had their own energy, similar to Albus’, yet missing some
intangible, essential life force…
Alastor was not only
surprised, but also alarmed at the amount of power that his eye was
registering, for much of it pulsed with the dark, angry, unmistakable force of
Dark Magic. Without warning, the horror of the past war and his experiences
last term came rushing back at him with startling clarity and a reality absent
from mere memories and nightmares… this house was evil. He tried vainly
to focus on the sources… a thick cupboard, a lamp on the second floor, almost
every book in an upstairs bookshelf, a small necklace with a frighteningly
powerful aura for its size… but there were too many to investigate thoroughly.
Before he realized it, Alastor found that he had reached the bottom of the
stairs and had been pushed to the front of the room.
Feeling decidedly uneasy,
Alastor turned his attention to the situation in front of him, though he kept
his magical eye on constant surveillance of the rest of the house. He was
standing in a kitchen – a low, dim, grimy room with a large table in the
middle, around which everyone was settling. His relief that this room,
at least, didn’t seem to hold anything too strange was suddenly lost
when his real eye locked with Black’s.
The other man wasn’t
glaring, exactly, but his expression was less than friendly.
Looking away, Alastor saw
that the others were beginning to quiet down and turn to him expectantly. Time
to begin. His head was pounding as he tried to scan the third floor of the
house, focus on those in front of him, and keep a wary eye on Black all at the
same time, and so he began.
“I understand that most of
you have already been assigned a partner.” Alastor paused and saw several
people around the large kitchen table nod affirmatively, including Remus, Molly
Weasley, and Shacklebolt. Black looked positively murderous. “And some of you
are still waiting assignments.” More nods.
“That’s an understatement,”
Black muttered, and Remus shot him a warning look.
“I don’t really understand
why we need partners, anyway,” spoke a friendly-looking woman whom Alastor
didn’t recognize, as he found, to his annoyance, that he was too far away to
see through the thick wood of an upstairs cupboard. “At least, I don’t see why
the partnerships have to be permanent. Why aren’t we just working with whoever
needs help at the time? Wouldn’t that make more sense?”
“No.” Shacklebolt looked up
from his mug. His voice, deeply calming and authoritative, seemed to penetrate
the darkest corners of the room. “No, Hestia, the benefits of an established
partner are immeasurable. That’s why Aurors work in pairs. The more familiar
you are with your partner, the more effectively you’ll be able to work, so in
most cases the pairings are long-term.”
Alastor glanced down at the
piece of parchment still clutched in his left hand, which bore Albus’
instructions as well as his own partner assignment. “Which one of you is
The young witch who had
attacked him in the doorway raised her hand and waved.
Alastor’s eyebrows – at
least, what was left of them – shot so high that they disappeared into his
“Wotcher,” she said, but
seeing the look on his face, her eager smile faltered.
Alastor was speechless.
That silly slip of a girl?
She had to be just out of Hogwarts. Ridiculous. This couldn’t be right. When
he had volunteered for the Order, he had imagined it would be as it had been in
the first War... then, he was respected, revered even, for his leadership and
power. When he worked with a partner, it was always one of the most senior,
competent Order members. Though the war itself was horrible, it had marked
And now what? From the
moment he had walked in to 12 Grimmauld Place, everything had gone wrong. He
was no longer a respected leader. He was a joke, an old man futilely trying to relive
the past, and everyone knew it. He should never have come. He should have
retired peacefully and salvaged what dignity he could, after the mess last
The room had gone quiet.
Nymphadora Tonks wasn’t smiling at all anymore. Her eyes narrowed a bit as she
watched his internal struggle, and after a minute she spoke. “Could I have a
Alastor frowned but nodded.
He stood and, without
bothering to wait for her, stumped out of the kitchen and into the stairwell. Temporarily
stopping his scan of the house and pointing his magical eye through the wall,
he watched her rise from her seat and make to follow him. Remus put out a hand
and grabbed her arm. She looked at him, but he didn’t say anything, and after a
moment he released her. As she brushed past Black, he whispered loudly, “Don’t
let him intimidate you.”
The young witch laughed
softly and said, “Scared of the creepy eye, are you, Sirius?” before slipping
out the door.
Alastor had positioned
himself in what he considered his most commanding pose. Arms folded across his
chest, brilliant blue eye flashing, he fixed her with a piercing stare. She
returned it calmly. The girl was quite a bit shorter than he, but her hair
added a few inches. Bright pink and curly. Unbelievable. She was dressed
in casual Muggle clothing, and she had a circular silver hoop attached to the
top of her right ear. Vaguely wondering whether that hoop had a practical defensive
purpose as well as a decorative one, Alastor addressed the girl sternly.
“You are Nymphadora
Tonks, I assume.”
“Yes. And I assume that I’ve
been assigned as your partner.”
He didn’t respond.
“It’s nice to meet you,” she
said. “And you can call me Tonks.”
No response. It had been her
idea to talk out here, and Alastor wasn’t about to make it any easier.
“I take it you weren’t
expecting me as your partner, Mad-Eye.”
skills, he thought bitterly, but he restrained
himself, responding only with a curt, “No.”
“That makes two of us.”
Alastor was a bit taken
aback. But, then again, it made sense. Why would such a clearly inexperienced
girl expect to be paired with an old fighter like himself? She was probably as
uncomfortable as he was. An idea began to form in his mind…
“I think we should speak to
Dumbledore about – ”
“Speak to me about what?” Albus
was standing at the top of the stairs, his sudden appearance giving Alastor’s
heart an unpleasant start. That was twice tonight he had been caught unawares.
Alastor gathered himself.
“Partner assignments for the Order.”
“Ah… I thought that might be
it,” Albus spoke delicately. “Could this wait a few moments, Alastor, Tonks? I
need to address the rest of the Order briefly.”
Alastor grunted. Tonks
nodded. “Of course. Hope it’s nothing too serious, Dumbledore.”
He smiled benignly at her.
“Not at all, my dear. Shall we?” Stepping down, he held open the kitchen door for
her and they walked in, followed by a rather disgruntled Alastor Moody.
The kitchen was buzzing with
conversation that stopped rather abruptly when they entered. Black had been waving
his arms animatedly at a grave-looking Remus, and they both watched Alastor
closely as he shut the door and settled on a chair at the corner of the table,
resuming his sweep of the house.
“Dumbledore!” cried Molly.
“I didn’t know you were coming!”
“I didn’t know, myself,
until a few moments ago. Hello, everyone. If you don’t mind, I believe this
would be an excellent time to share a few words with you about the Order
Alastor blinked. What?
Albus stood at the front of
the room, facing his seated audience, looking very much the part of the
Hogwarts professor. “You are all aware of the dangers that lie ahead. You are,
even now, facing new horrors each day, and yet you have chosen to stand on the
side of good.
“Our choices determine our
destinies. Many years ago, a brilliant young Hogwarts student named Tom Riddle made
a choice. He took gifts that could have accomplished great good and used them for
selfish gain. The promising boy that I once knew now lives as Lord Voldemort.
“I fear for our students.” Albus
spoke heavily, and Alastor saw Remus stiffen; he guessed the old teacher still
felt a responsibility for his pupils. “They are at their most vulnerable during
their time at Hogwarts, and it is my greatest fear that our children will learn
to choose what is easy instead of what is right. I am comforted to know that
there are a few students whom I can trust,” Albus’ eyes flickered to Molly
Weasley, who was gripping the arms of her chair tightly, “as well as several
young witches and wizards who have recently left Hogwarts.” He nodded at Tonks.
“And I fear for our older
generations.” More than one head turned imperceptibly toward Alastor. “There
are those who are so comfortable and set in their ways that they cannot face
the difficult truths of our day.” A Daily Prophet photograph of the old fool
Fudge desperately trying to deny Voldemort’s return flashed in Alastor’s mind. “There
are also those who fought on the side of evil and have simply been waiting for the
opportunity to rejoin their master. And then there are those who chose rightly
before, and who have chosen rightly again. To make such a difficult choice once
is honorable; to make it again, fully aware of the consequences, is valiant.
“For both the young and the
old, prejudices are strong and difficult to overcome. For students, it could be
something as simple as inter-House rivalry. For those who fought in the first
War, old enemies have left deeper scars.” His eyes rested on Black.
“No doubt many of you have
been wondering about your Order assignments, most particularly the unexpected
pairing of Tonks and Alastor Moody.” Alastor set his mouth grimly. He could see
where this was going. “A young Auror, a Hufflepuff only a few years out of Hogwarts,
talented, idealistic…” Tonks blushed slightly. “And an old war veteran,
experienced, battle-scarred, a Slytherin in his Hogwarts days…”
Albus looked around at the
Order of the Phoenix, huddled together in the dark kitchen at Grimmauld Place. Alastor followed his gaze as it lingered first on Black, who was still glaring. Remus, who at one point had leaned over and whispered intently to
Shacklebolt, was now sitting back in his chair, his arms folded, clearly
keeping a watchful eye on Black. Alastor skipped over several unfamiliar faces
to Molly, who looked pale but determined, white knuckles still clutching the
arms of her chair. Next to her was Arthur, his chair pulled close so that he
could rest his arm protectively over her shoulders. Dung was drumming his
fingertips nervously on the table – after a moment, Hestia Jones reached out
and covered his hand with hers. “Stop,” she whispered. Tonks looked pensive.
When Albus spoke again, his
voice was no louder, but it was filled with an authority Alastor hadn’t heard from
the old man in years. “I see this partnership as the embodiment of everything
we are fighting for. And I am sure Alastor and Tonks will rise to the occasion
admirably.” With a swish of his cloak, he was gone.
A babble of conversation
broke out immediately.
Alastor sat seething with
silent fury. He certainly couldn’t protest the assignment now. That sneaky
old man should have been a Slytherin.
Through his magical eye,
Alastor spotted Tonks trying to pick her way through the crowded kitchen,
knocking over two chairs, a partially empty mug, and Hestia Jones in the
process. “Sorry, sorry, so sorry!” she was calling over her shoulder.
By the time she reached
Alastor, he had decided on a course of action. He would have to work with the
young Auror – that much was certain – so he was going to be formal and
professional and at best polite… that was all. Nothing more.
“Welcome to the team!” she
said, patting him on the arm.
Tonks shook her bright curly
head. “Just being friendly, Mad-Eye. Friendly, you know? Try to lighten up a
bit.” Still shaking her head, she made her way back toward Black, who was
hissing something at Remus and Shacklebolt.
Alastor groaned and rubbed his stiff neck with a gnarled hand, cursing
Albus again in his mind. Maybe he could have handled the situation better, had
that damnable man not winked at him just before he disappeared.
Alastor had been a
full-fledged member of the new Order of the Phoenix for no more than two days
when he received a message to arrive at Grimmauld Place at eight o’clock the following evening for a briefing on his assignment.
He had studiously avoided
Order headquarters – and his partner – since their first meeting the other
Staying away was easy. Keeping
the encounter out of his mind was something else altogether.
Alastor had distracted
himself by reinforcing the wards around his house, a small, understated affair
several miles north of London. His experiences as an Auror had taught him that
a larger home only meant a home more difficult to protect, and so he lived a
sparse and meager life by design rather than by necessity. Besides, it was to
his advantage to be noticed as little as possible, and – despite his skill in
stealth and disguise – he was a conspicuous man. It was difficult to hide an
oversized magical eye and a fake leg. Not to mention scars. It would take him
half a day just to perform all the camouflage charms necessary to disguise
As Alastor worked, he
couldn’t help but compare the new Order to the old… and no matter how he looked
at it, the comparison was never favorable. On the whole, the Order members
seemed a rag-tag, inexperienced band, and no match at all for a group of
hostile Death Eaters. Black had spent a decade in Azkaban – that didn’t bode
well for his psychological state. Dung was a drunkard, useful for gaining
information, but not much help in a real battle. Molly and Arthur Weasley… good
people, but again, not fighters. He didn’t know Hestia Jones and some of the
Alastor paused at the third
wall of his sitting room and lowered his wand, wiping the sweat off his
forehead, feeling it drip down his nose. Of the four rooms in his single-story
house, Alastor spent the most time strengthening this one, which he considered
the most vulnerable.
It had two windows instead
Of course, windows weren’t
necessarily dangerous. His were charmed in a thousand different ways
(unbreakable, undistinguishable from the rest of the wall, and only transparent
one-way, for example), as well as protected by the larger spells on the house. It
didn’t matter – they still made him uncomfortable. He didn’t know why he didn’t
just get rid of them altogether.
Resuming his work, Alastor
brightened a little when he thought of Shacklebolt, whom he had trained, and
whom he knew to be a stellar Auror and a fierce fighter. And from what
remembered, he suspected that, despite his tired appearance, Remus Lupin was an
immensely powerful wizard.
Nymphadora Tonks? He could
The old Order had been
comprised of the best and the brightest… young prospects and established
veterans… nothing like this.
He stopped again to catch
his breath. Ward-casting was a strenuous business, especially for someone of his
age and condition, but he was a patient man and took his time. Besides,
strengthening the wards took a great deal of concentration – and the more he
focused on his house, the less he focused on the impending Order briefing.
And what happened to all
those witches and wizards you used to know? Alastor leaned against the house and sank down onto the ground, resting
his head back against the wall and stretching his good leg out in front of him
with a groan. Their magic didn’t help them. Their training, their idealism,
their loyalty, where did it get them?
He shook his wild mane of
hair out of his face, looking up at the sky. It was remarkably clear for such a
hot, hazy summer day. The few lazy clouds trailing across the blue seemed to be
miles high and utterly unreachable.
A dark speck appeared
against the streaks of white, growing larger as it headed toward him.
Squinting, Alastor focused on his owl as she flew closer and closer, a parcel
of letters clutched in her beak. Just as the owl was close enough that Alastor
could make out her long, speckled brown feathers with his real eye, she pulled
up quite suddenly and landed on a thick branch of a tall tree several hundred meters
away from the house. She stared in Alastor’s direction, waiting.
He scanned the area
carefully before calling to her. “Alright, Circe. It’s all clear.” The owl
lifted off and flew toward him, dropping the parcel of letters in his lap with
a soft hoot. “Good girl,” he said, ruffling her feathers as he picked up the
letters with the other hand. It was a good thing he had trained her to wait for
an all clear signal before approaching him – otherwise, anyone could easily follow
her to the house.
There were three letters.
Alastor just sat and looked
at them for a moment, those three letters spread on the grass in front of him.
The first seemed to be from the Ministry – his name was spelled out in neat,
even, obviously charmed-on letters. The other two were handwritten, one in tall
looping letters, the other in bright purple ink. His eyes traced his name on
the three envelopes: Alastor Moody, Alastor Moody, Mad-Eye Moody.
For nine months he hadn’t
received any post at all.
Circe hooted and took off,
and Alastor glanced up at her as she disappeared behind the house before he
tore into the last letter first, the one addressed in vivid purple.
I hope this letter finds
you well. In fact, I pray this letter finds you well, with my fingers crossed,
and my toes too. Are you wondering why I’m so concerned? It’s because, Mad-Eye,
I am positive that you have not taken the potion that you are supposed to take every
day, and I am equally sure that you are not sleeping nearly enough.
Let me remind you of
something. If I had had my way, you would not have left my hospital wing for at
least another week, if not two. Albus seems to have a higher regard for
your physical strength than I do. Don’t get all defensive! Just don’t forget
that you underwent a severe physical and psychological ordeal, and it will take
you a while to recover fully.
Mad-Eye, take that
potion. You will feel better. You will heal more quickly.
And don’t forget that the
other condition of your release was that you would write to me at least every
three days with an update on your condition. I don’t care what kind of an
Auror you are, or were, but you obviously don’t know how to count. Go back to
first year. It’s been almost a week since I heard from you.
Take the potion. Now.
Feeling only slightly guilty
as he thought of the still-full flagon sitting untouched on his kitchen table,
Alastor set Poppy’s note aside. He would reply later, if only to get her off
his back, but inwardly he resolved to take the potion more diligently. I can’t
afford to be weak now, of all times.
Reaching for the more
official letter, he slit it open curiously, wondering why the Ministry was
writing to him. But the seal of the crossed bone and wand in the corner of the
heavy paper wasn’t that of the Ministry… it was St. Mungo’s. He scanned the
page quickly. It was a non-specific letter, probably sent to thousands of
British witches and wizards… soliciting funds to improve various wards… what
else is new… the Dai Llewellyn Ward, the Dilys Derwent Ward, the Janus
Alastor’s gaze stopped on
those last words, hovering.
Quite suddenly, he folded up
the letter and stuffed it back in its envelope, tossing it hastily a few feet
away, where it landed upside-down in the thick grass.
He sat in silence, his back
to the wall of his house, his wand lying a few inches from his hand, the
letters spread out around him.
After a few minutes, Alastor
leaned forward to pick up the third envelope and slowly tore it open, reading
the short note carefully.
“Alastor, if you would
please meet us at eight o’clock this evening, I believe we have a few things to
Alastor didn’t need Albus to
spell it out for him in an unprotected letter – he was being summoned to Order
headquarters for a briefing on his mission.
Not my mission… he thought darkly, heaving himself back onto his
feet and banishing Poppy’s letter and Albus’ note into the house. Our
mission. Don’t forget that girl.
Raising his wand, Alastor
resumed his work strengthening the wards on the third wall of his sitting room.
The letter from St. Mungo’s lay abandoned in the grass a few feet away. Alastor’s
gaze fell on the place on his wall where he knew a window was disguised.
He suppressed a shiver.
And so he was going to
headquarters again tonight. Well, he would be fine. He would take Poppy’s
potion before he left. It wouldn’t be too bad... Alastor wasn’t sure whether he
was thinking of the potion or the meeting.
This is ridiculous, he thought bitterly as the sweat trickled into his
magical eye and made it stick. I can handle wards, but I can’t even give the
new Order the benefit of the doubt. I’ve only been to one meeting, for the love
of Merlin. It might get better.
He snorted and shook his
head violently from side to side, hoping to jar his eye free. After several
seconds, his eye was stuck facing sideways out over his ear and an unpleasant
twinge had settled in his neck.
Alastor sighed. The
afternoon was shaping up quite pleasantly.
He Apparated to London to avoid as much of the Muggle neighborhood as possible, and he took great care at
the door to make sure he didn’t knock into anyone again. Focusing intently through
his magical eye, he saw the ghostly images of what lay beyond the door, and
nothing seemed remotely dangerous. In fact, to his relief, the hall looked
Alastor pushed open the
heavy door to Grimmauld Place and stepped inside, glancing around sharply.
Nothing. But his eye was already beginning to detect those strange pulses of
Unsure of what to do, he
stood stupidly for a moment in the silence before he spotted a shadow in the
ceiling above the stairs, heading down towards him.
“Hullo, Mad-Eye. Dumbledore
and the others are in the kitchen.” It was Black, looking sulky. “He says
you’re to meet him in there for your…” he spat out the next word bitterly, “assignment.”
“Got it.” Alastor turned
away. His shoulder ached sharply, but he ignored it. Black glared at his
retreating form for a moment before disappearing back upstairs, and Alastor
could turn his full attention to the scene in front of him.
His stomach settled
unpleasantly as he recognized the grimy kitchen from the earlier meeting.
Though no cleaner, the room did seem larger, but only because it wasn’t as
crowded. Albus was sitting comfortably at the table, his long delicate fingers laced
together in front of him – apparently he felt no need for conversation. There
was also a youngish woman whom Alastor didn’t recognize. She had a round face
and reddish hair, and she seemed familiar, but Alastor couldn’t quite place
her. She was talking to Albus somewhat randomly – it seemed she had a low
tolerance for silence.
Tonks was nowhere to be
found. Alastor tried to tell himself that he wasn’t surprised, but truthfully he
“Alastor, glad you’re here.”
Albus spoke and motioned to a low chair, where Alastor sat down a bit
awkwardly, twisting his wooden leg in his robes. “Let’s begin.”
But what about Tonks? Alastor thought. Not like Albus to leave someone
out in the cold… his eyes rested on the other woman momentarily. Maybe
he changed his mind about the partnership… but no, not after his performance
the other night…
“Have you heard about the
Department of Magical Law Enforcement’s inquiry into the actions of the senior
Alastor stiffened at the
reminder of last year. “No.”
“I’ve heard rumors around
the Ministry – nothing concrete,” the woman added.
Albus nodded gravely. “In
short, Percy Weasley is currently under investigation for his involvement in
Mr. Crouch’s crimes.”
“I thought he was acting in
So did I, thought Alastor. Misplaced faith, but honest even
so. He tried to stretch out his wooden leg but found he couldn’t free it
from his tangled robes.
“Oh, he was,” Albus
responded. “He most certainly was. But the Council of Magical Law feels it is
duty-bound to thoroughly investigate everyone involved, and you must not fault
them for that. What you likely do not know is that Mr. Weasley is about to be offered
a very prestigious appointment as the Junior Assistant to the Minister of Magic
Alastor jiggled his leg some
The woman shook her head. “I
suppose Fudge sees fit to overrule the Magical Law Enforcement’s decisions
“His sense of his own power
is slightly indulged, yes.”
That still doesn’t make
any sense…Alastor thought, momentarily
forgetting about his leg. What skills does Weasley have that Fudge wants so
The woman shifted in her
seat uncomfortably. “Can Percy really be so talented that Fudge would risk a
direct confrontation with Amelia Bones? From what I know of her, she won’t take
kindly to having her toes stepped on again…”
Sure he’s good, but
nothing that special… Albus’ mind
was racing. If not talented, then what? His brow furrowed deeper, and
then it came in a rare flash of clarity.
“Talent isn’t the only thing
that would make a Weasley valuable,” he said.
“Of course!” The woman’s
eyes widened. “Of course. His connections to the Order… Fudge wants a spy.”
“And he’s going to get one,”
Alastor growled. “Only not in the way he thinks.”
Albus nodded gravely. “Mr.
Weasley is in a rather unique position. The information he could access as
Fudge’s assistant would be of inestimable value to the Order.”
“There’s more to it than
“Of course.” Albus paused. “Civil
wars are complicated, and confusing. Alliances are rarely black and white. Nearly
everyone has friends and family on both sides. During the last war, I trusted
too blindly… I cannot make that mistake again.”
Alastor remembered a pudgy
boy, forever tagging along harmlessly at the heels of his talented friends… No
need to beat yourself up, Albus. We were all fooled by Pettigrew’s act. Hell,
even I trusted him…
“We need to cut through
facades and see who is truly on our side. There are those who wrongly appear to
be with us – and those, seemingly against us, who could be persuaded to our
“And you want us to find
out.” A small crease had appeared between the woman’s eyebrows.
“Yes. It will be especially
difficult for you, Tonks, but…”
“Tonks?” Alastor turned
violently in his chair, tangling his wooden leg even further, and he gaped as
the woman’s hair began to pull back into her head, losing some of its length, and
abruptly changed color to the lurid pink he remembered. She grimaced and, after
a second, her face lengthened and skin lightened. Relaxing, the Nymphadora
Tonks he remembered looked across the table and grinned sheepishly.
Alastor vaguely thought to
himself that someone could hex him from behind at that very moment and he
wouldn’t even bat an eye.
Chuckling softly, Albus
said, “As you can see, Tonks is a Metamorphmagus.”
Alastor blinked a few times
and closed his mouth. “Ah. Of course.” He shook himself. So she’s a morph.
That’s very interesting… but focus, man, focus. Back to work.
“As I was saying,
investigating your enemies is no easy task, but investigating your friends is
in many ways harder. Remaining unbiased and emotionally detached… it is not a
skill I have mastered. It will be more difficult for you, Tonks, especially with
your current Ministry connections, but I believe you can handle the stress.”
She didn’t seem thrilled. “I’ll
have to give loyalty tests.”
“Yes and no.”
Tonks sighed. “I don’t… I’ll
do my best.”
“What does this have to do
with Weasley?” Alastor asked.
“You will need to work
closely with him to gain access to some of the higher-level Ministry officials.
But the investigations are secondary. Remus and Stan Riley are on a similar
assignment, and I expect you will be working closely with them. For the two of
you, Percy’s situation must be of the utmost priority, because I want someone
keeping an eye out for him at all times. His life, if he so chooses, will be a
dangerous one. You will need to help protect him.”
His words hung ominously in
the air, until…
“Why us?” Tonks asked.
“Alastor brings a great deal
of valuable experience, and, quite frankly, your abilities as a Metamorphmagus
will allow you unprecedented access to the Ministry. Choosing the two of you
was purely practical, though I do wish I had more profound reasoning to offer.”
“I really don’t like this,
Dumbledore,” Tonks said, shaking her pink curls. “All this lying and sneaking
around – and it will involve a lot of lying, you know it will…”
“But this is a chance to
pull off an acting job bigger than Peter Pettigrew’s!” Alastor growled. “Don’t
tell me the thought doesn’t appeal to you, even at all.”
“It doesn’t, not in the
Albus raised a hand to
silence them. “Tonks, I can assure you that this is absolutely necessary. You
will simply have to trust me.”
She frowned. “I trust you. I
just don’t like it.”
“When can I talk to
Weasley?” Alastor interrupted.
“I will be discussing this
with Percy and his parents tomorrow, and I would request that you both be there
as well.” They nodded. “And that is all I have to say, for now. I leave the
intricacies of planning up to you. I will see you tomorrow at Hogwarts, at six o’clock.” He stood quietly and left the room.
Alastor’s mind was spinning.
I can’t believe Albus is suggesting that Weasley act the double agent. It’s
a damn good idea but completely out of character… Pettigrew was the scum of the
earth… Will Weasley even want any part of this? It will involve a lot of
Tonks broke the silence
first. “Look, Mad-Eye, I know you don’t want to work with me, but since we
don’t have a choice, just give it a go, alright?”
Alastor snapped out of his
reverie. “I’ve got nothing personal against you, Nymphadora.” And she’s a
Metamorphmagus. That’s going to come in handy, now that I’m stuck with her for
She grimaced at the name.
“Tonks, please. And while that’s reassuring, it doesn’t change the fact that we
still need to work together on this.”
Why is she on assignment
with me, anyway? I don’t buy Albus’ reasons… and Weasley might be too much of a
Gryffindor for this type of work… Alastor
groaned and rubbed his shoulder. “Let’s talk about this later.”
Tonks stood. “Fine, then.
She strode out of the room,
and Alastor was left alone with his confusion.