A younger man's clothes
Once Harry seemed to napping again, which I assumed was the best thing for
him, I sifted through the old clothes and robes that were neatly folded in
the bureau to find something more suitable to wear. Despite the preserving
charms and such that had been placed on the clothes, everything smelled a
bit musty. Of course, I had not worn any of those robes in years. I felt rather
fortunate that I had not thrown them out the last time I had elected to conduct
a 'spring cleaning' ... whenever that may have been.
It required some minutes of rummaging for me to find something that would
fit properly. I had lost more than three stone during my ten months in captivity.
I had gained back nearly a half stone of that, but I was still much thinner
than I had been when I wore those clothes. My search ended when I located
a set of dark purple robes at the bottom of one of the drawers.
I unfolded them and sighed softly. They had been an unexpected birthday
present for Anastasio. He had told me that I needed at least a hint of color
in my wardrobe. I think I wore the robes once. I held the robes to my nose
for a moment and closed my eyes, trying to remember the dance held in honor
of Albus Dumbledore's tenth year as headmaster of Hogwarts.
But the memory does not always take us where we want to go ...
When I opened my eyes, I was no longer lying injured in the hospital wing.
I was lying on a couch that had been inexpertly transfigured into a bed. Inexpertly
because it still very much resembled a couch and was rather lumpy. It was
mid-morning by my estimation, and I could heard birds chirping through the
open window in front of which Professor Sinistra ... Anastasio was sitting,
looking out at the sky through an odd sort of eyepiece while scribbling on
a large sheet of parchment. There was a look of intense concentration on his
young face. I frowned as I tried to figure out what he was doing. Then I
remembered that he was the Astronomy professor. He could probably see the
stars through that eyepiece even in daylight.
I started to sit up, but felt a wave of dizziness that convinced me to do
otherwise. I attributed the dizziness, and a mild lingering feeling of disorientation,
to the potions I had very probably been given. I was almost certain that I
was not in danger, so lying down was probably for the best. I glanced at my
bandaged hand and drew a deep breath. It was still numb and oddly heavy. Nothing
had changed except for the dressing. My throat felt tight for a moment as
the thought that it might not ever heal properly occurred to me.
"Alastor? You are awake?" Anastasio questioned.
The sound of his chair scraping against the stone floor as he stood caused
me to turn and look at him again. He looked slightly anxious, but he was smiling
as he removed the instrument from his eye and set it on the desk before striding
toward the makeshift bed. As he cautiously took a seat next to me on the
couch-bed, I noticed that he had ink stains on his hands. He had obviously
been very busy that morning.
"I'm awake," I managed, though I could not return his smile.
"Good," he said, scrutinizing me carefully. I wasn't certain what he was
looking at or for. Or perhaps it had something to do with the eyepiece.
"Where am I?"
"You are in my quarters. Poppy gave me permission. I knew that you did not
like the hospital wing, so it only seemed logical to bring you here," he informed
"Think nothing of it," said Anastasio lightly. "How do you feel this morning?
Is your hand feeling better?" he questioned.
I swallowed hard and closed my eyes for a moment before answering, "I can't
feel my hand at all."
"I saw it when Poppy changed the bandages. It looks very good, almost as
though nothing happened," Anastasio assured me, reaching to pat my uninjured
"But I can't use it."
"Yet, you cannot use it yet, Alastor, but Poppy expects you to make
a full recovery. The bandages are only a formality ... to help reduce the
risk of infection. The numbing agent will probably wear off in three hours,
"Yes, Alastor," he said with a patient smile.
My shoulders shook as relief washed over me. I was not a trusting man, but
I did not doubt his words. Everything was going to be just fine. I could believe
that coming from him, though I didn't know why. There were a lot of things
I didn't know. Like why a stranger, like Anastasio, should want to help someone
Anastasio patted my shoulder and said, "You should take it easy and rest
or you may become very ill." Anastasio's words were cautious and came with
a serious look in his eyes.
I nodded that I understood, but I could find no words for what I wanted
to say to him. At least not at that particular moment.
"Wake up, Alastor. It is time to take your potion," said an accented voice
that was quickly becoming quite familiar.
A hand shook me by the shoulder, causing me to open my eyes. Anastasio was
seated beside me again. I wondered if he had ever left. He smiled warmly as
he reached for a glass of murky blue-green liquid that sat on a small table
"What is that?" I asked hesitantly as I sat up ... very slowly this time.
"Poppy did not say precisely. Only that it would help your hand to heal
more quickly, strengthen the bones, and dull any pain that you might be experiencing,"
he explained, holding the glass up the light for a moment.
I was nervous. I had been trained not to trust anything offered to me to
eat, drink, or even smell. There were Dark Wizards and their agents everywhere.
I had internalized that training, made it a part of me. Drinking that potion
went very against what I had been taught.
"Anastasio ..." I hesitated as he started to put the glass to my lips.
"Yes?" he questioned curiously.
"Who prepared the potion?"
"Ah, I believe that Poppy prepared it herself," he answered.
"Are you certain that it's safe?" I asked, feeling ever-so-slightly foolish.
"Perfectly," he smiled. There was a spark of humor in his eyes. That afternoon,
I found that humor oddly comforting. Innocent, perhaps.
"Very well," I consented before drinking the evil tasting concoction.
"You are a very cautious man. Caution is an admirable trait," he said, setting
the glass aside.
"Not nearly cautious enough," I muttered, shivering slightly and reclining
Anastasio furrowed his brow and felt my forehead. His hand was like ice.
I shivered again.
"I believe you have a fever," said Anastasio with a somber and serious look.
"So much for those potions," he sighed in defeat.
It was useless to deny it. The room with its open window felt extremely
hot. I, on the hand, was experiencing slight chills, and not because of the
room-temperature potion I had just ingested. Anastasio was correct. Most
likely, I had a bit of fever.
"Alastor," he said, tucking the linens closer around me, "I am going to
see Poppy for a few minutes. I will come back as quickly as I can. Will you
be all right?" he asked, placing the back of his hand to my forehead again.
"Of course," I said with a slight scowl. I was afflicted with a mild fever,
not with a severe head injury or an Age-reducing charm as Anastasio suddenly
seemed to believe.
I must have nodded off again while Anastasio was gone, because the next
thing I knew, he was shaking me by the shoulder and holding a small cup to
my lips. I refused to drink without questioning him first.
"What is that?" I asked as he got the message and set the container aside
for a moment.
"For your fever ... from Madam Pomfrey. I am not sure what it is, but I
saw her prepare it myself," he assured me.
"Fine," I consented reluctantly.
"You are not only cautious, but you are also a very suspicious man," he
observed as I drank the ghastly concoction, acting in direct violation of
both my instincts and training.
Of course, if he had wanted to harm me, he had had more than enough opportunities
to do so. He could have just left me on the grounds. That would probably have
done me in.
"I am an Auror," I reminded him.
As he set the empty cup down and smoothed the linens with a cryptic little
chuckle, I tried to formulate a question in my mind, the one that had bothered
me so much before. Why was he doing this for me? What, if anything, did he
have to gain? I still couldn't answer those questions, and I still didn't
know quite how to ask them either.
"Yes, that much I know," he said. "But are all Aurors like you?"
"The best ones are," I said, perhaps a bit too defensively.
"I apologize if I have given you cause for offense," he said, although he
didn't look very apologetic. He looked ... a little like an early wizarding
painting I had seen from before moving images were perfected. Anastasio had
the secretive smile of La Gioconda.
"Not at all," I replied.
"It may require some time for that potion to take effect, but perhaps I
know a way to help it along a bit," he said, drawing his wand. I stiffened
for a moment, causing him to raise an eyebrow. "With your permission, of
course," he added.
I had no idea what he intended to do, but I knew that he was asking for
my trust. Why? Perhaps only to see if I would give it to him.
"All right," I answered, trying not to shiver too much.
"Lie on your stomach please," he requested.
I looked at him a bit oddly, but did as he requested, feeling a bit dizzy
at the sudden movement and being very careful of my injured hand. Anastasio
adjusted the pillow for me before raising his wand and casting a Cooling Charm
... on his own hand. He flexed his fingers and smiled as I watched him with
an expression of disbelief on my face.
"Pity that I can't perform the charm on both hands," he said with a muted
chuckle. "There must be a way to do that, but I do not know it."
"You need a mirror and an appreciation for geometry," I told him.
"All that?" said Anastasio with another small laugh as he peeled the linens
back and gently lifted the back of my nightshirt.
I frowned for a moment as I realized for the first time that I wasn't dressed
in uncomfortable hospital robes anymore. I was wearing one of my own nightshirts
and the matching pants. Had Anastasio found the clothes for me? I couldn't
Then his magically cooled hand touch my back, and I sighed as I felt some
of the unnatural, unhealthy warmth of the fever leave my skin.
The word that I had been struggling with for so long finally found its way
to my lips.
"Why?" I asked him, feeling my eyelids growing heavier. Accursed potions.
They always seemed to induce sleep!
"I do not understand the question," said Anastasio.
"Why are you doing so much for me?"
He chuckled again and said, "I have my reasons."
"Which are?" I questioned.
"You are an Auror. I respect the work that you do," he said in a serious
I opened my eyes to make certain that he was not joking. No, his expression
was a somber, but kind one.
"That's only one reason," I said.
"Yes, but you are also a fellow Slytherin," said Anastasio.
I didn't believe him when he said that. It was it reason enough to escort
me to the hospital wing, but hardly reasonable grounds for doing anything
more. A calculating way to look at the situation perhaps, but if we Slytherins
were nothing else we were certainly that. So house loyalty would hardly be
sufficient reason to take on the burden of caring for someone who was practically
"Have you ever decided to do something because it simply seemed like the
proper thing to do?" he asked me, reading the expression on my face only too
well as he rested his hand between my shoulder blades.
I looked away from him for a moment and nodded. A thousand times as a young
Auror in France during the war ... I had done things just because they
seemed right and because no one was looking over my shoulder. Illicitly and
covertly conjuring food or water for starving villagers, wizarding and muggle.
Using magic to repair things when I knew no one was the wiser. Against, the
rules and regulations? Certainly, not to mention that those actions exceeded
our mandates, which was to fight the servants of Grindelwald, but everyone
did it. Slytherin or Gryffindor, young or old, we could hardly help ourselves.
Sometimes we just had to do things for the suffering people in those war torn
areas where we did our work.
"Then I suppose you understand," said Anastasio, removing his hand and replacing
"Yes," I told him, wanting very much to question him further, but the dratted
fever potion was making me very drowsy. It just wasn't fair ...
I shook my head hard to clear it and silently berated myself for allowing
the memories of those long passed days to overwhelm me again. It was all so
silly, so childish. Dwelling on the past ... so useless and futile. Anastasio
and I had both changed so much since that spring, that painful, but wonderful
spring in midst of a terrible war. We had changed and grown very much apart.
I looked at the robes that were grasped tightly in my hands. It was difficult
to believe that I still had them after Anastasio and I had gone our separate
"Why not wear them? It's been years since you were slim enough to, and they
are very nice robes. Anastasio had such excellent taste," I told myself, silently
arguing. "They must have been so expensive," I thought with a muted, guilty
sigh. "But he was so insistent that I should have something nice for my birthday."
I shook my head and murmured, "I wish Krohn had never told him."
But what could I do? The robes would fit without going through the trouble
of shrinking them. I folded them up and retreated to the bath to change, after
which I fully intended to catch up on that reading and rest quietly in my
A/N: The title comes from Piano Man by Billy
Joel. I don't know when I will be able to update again. I'm working on a
lot of other stories (and schoolwork).
I want to thank Molly Morrison, silversea, Michelle (Harry's done enough
already, becoming an Auror would be a bit cliche), ER, redrose2310, NS (I
don't know), Finwitch1, Wren Truesong (I don't think the Penseive was biased,
but to each their own; thank you for your helpful comments), Marz1 (Harry
does seem young, you're right), and a reader for reviewing the previous chapter.
Thank you all!