|The Phoenix and the Bear
Author: selmak PM
A prequel to The Steadfast Tin Soldier which shows how Alastor and Albus met. Hurt/Comfort, Angst and wee bit of AM/AD. Completed 5/27/2012.Rated: Fiction M - English - Angst/Hurt/Comfort - Alastor M. & Albus D. - Chapters: 8 - Words: 45,900 - Reviews: 16 - Favs: 8 - Follows: 7 - Updated: 05-27-12 - Published: 12-26-10 - Status: Complete - id: 6593457
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For a moment, a startling moment, a gobsmacked Albus Dumbledore watched as Alastor Moody went completely undone. Albus was not sure what to say, what comfort he dare offer. Ater all, Albus had never once experienced the bonds of brotherhood that existed between Alastor and Edgar.
"Alastor," he finally decided on what must be said. "We must get Miss Bones inside Hogwarts as we do not wish her to experience a relapse due to the weather. However, I do not know what day or year we have arrived. The clouds are covering the skies."
The fact that Alastor Moody had someone in need of his protection was sufficient motivation for the younger man to pull it together. He picked up Edgar's sleeping daughter carefully, cradling her in his left arm. His wand was in right hand, steady and ready for a fight.
"You're right. I'll carry her," Alastor offered. "I can carry her and still Cast. For all we know, it's been decades. They might Cast first, ask questions later, especially if two dead Heroes of the Realm appear."
The gates opened and both wizards pointed their wands at… Filius Flitwick. A Filius, who didn't appear noticeably older than when Albus had last seen him, thank Merlin.
However, Albus' conscience reminded him that he had never seen Filius Flitwick age in all the decades he had known him. Not so much as a grey hair! Unlike Dorian Grey, there was no picture that prevented the jovial Filius from aging at the same rate as Albus, but his splash of Goblin blood.
"Merlin's scrote! Put your wands away!" Filius squeaked. "You've been gone for a bit; everyone is home for the winter holidays. I set Wards so I'd know when you returned. Come in, come in. It's quite brisk out there. The House Elves are getting the Matron and hot cuppas for you all."
The diminutive Charms instructor motioned them to come in the welcoming halls of Hogwarts.
"You're missing one of my Ravens. Please tell me that Edgar's getting Prudence," Filius requested. His tone was hopeful but his eyes were not.
"The Fairies took him," Alastor brusquely stated. "In exchange for Amelia, they decided to keep Edgar."
That earned a sharp inhalation from Filius even as he created a settee for which Amelia to be placed.
"The Fairies? I'll send word to Minister Baxter. He's still in St. Mungo's as the Dark Wizards were quite creative and vinditive until you rescued him. It seems that Gellert's followers blamed him and Edgar Bones for the failure of their nefarious plan. While you were away, you missed the great confession; Gellert's followers claimed to have Stas' youngest daughter. He agreed to betray you in exchange for her life."
Filius shook his head.
"I need to tell Prudence about Edgar. However, I must report to whoever is in charge of the Aurors, plus I need to keep an eye on Amelia. I also need to speak to Reggie. Would that I could split myself four ways," Alastor announced. Then he shook his head, "Stas' daughter?"
Once more, Filius shook his head.
"I hope it was quick," was Alastor's response. "Now, let's get Amelia tucked in."
"She's in a Charmed sleep," explained Filius after an intense conversation with the Matron regarding Amelia Bones' condition. "We should take her to St. Mungo's."
"Any idea…." Alastor paused and then growled. "Stupid question, I know that in all the stories, you don't know when she'll wake up."
"If we're going by the stories, normally, human children are never molested on the Fairy Paths. Least the innocent, pure of heart children are never harmed, of which I am quite sure that Amelia falls into that category," was Filius' response. "Jameson and Henry are another story. Fairy Paths. I have to confess that I am not at all familiar with them and I will work on remedying that. Do you know any Picts? They're your best resource as they're the experts."
"Brynne?" Albus suggested to Alastor who nodded.
"What day is it, Filius," Alastor asked.
"I'm ruining their Christmas then," sighed Alastor. "Can you transport Amelia to Mungo's? I'll inform her mother. Then I'll speak with Reggie."
Prudence Bones met them at the farmhouse door. She was wrapped in a shawl and behind her stood a very somber Brynne and Sabine. The two youngest Bones boys were sitting at the table, and they were looking at him expectantly.
"Come in. I've been waiting for you as I know something happened to Edgar, but Amelia?" Prudence's tone was composed, intent on hiding her concern from her children.
"How did you know about Edgar?" Alastor asked.
"Edgar's Candle. It started sparking yesterday," she explained. "It's still lit, but it's burning brighter and sparking."
"Candle?" Albus whispered.
"It's an Auror tradition. When you first marry an Auror, the Auror Charms a never extinguishing candle using their life essence. The only time it goes out is when they're dead. Even after what happened in France, it never went out. It flickered and dimmed, but it never went out. Look at it, it's blazing," Prudence said.
There were two candles in the kitchen, the blue one was blazing and lighting up the entire kitchen. The second candle was burning low but steadily.
"Amelia's candle?" Alastor asked.
A head nod.
"She's alive, Prudence, but Asleep. Reggie threw her on the Fairy Paths. It's a long story, but the gist is, Amelia went off the Paths. The fairies were playing with us when we searched for her. We were Fairy Led in circles. We kept circling around and around until Edgar lost his temper. He told them he wasn't playing their games, that he wanted his daughter back," Alastor explained.
Clarence's widow, Brynne interrupted, "What did he say exactly? I need to know."
Alastor closed his eyes, attempted to remember exactly what Edgar had said and how he had said it.
"'I know you're out there. You're watching us. You think it's funny that I'm searching for my daughter and you have us circling. I want my daughter back. I want her back now. I would give my eye, my remaining arm for Amelia to be home safe and sound. I'll trade my life for hers. I want my daughter back, you blasted fairies. Now! You hear me? I want her back now! You give her back or you're dealing with me!'"
"They didn't respond, so Edgar got angrier.'I'm not going anywhere until I speak to whoever is in charge here. NOT LEAVING, DO YOU HEAR ME?'"
"Did they respond to that?" Brynne asked. Her voice was intense.
"A male spoke then. 'So be it. Edgar Bones, your daughter's life is forfeited for leaving the Fairy Paths. You have offered an exchange, your life for hers. It has been accepted. Your daughter may go, however, you can not'," Albus stated as Alastor was unable to continue. "We found ourselves at Hogwarts, and it seems that Amelia has been Charmed to sleep. The Matron and Filius Flitwick are taking her to St. Mungo's and her Kneazle will be with her.
"He volunteered the exchange; they didn't offer the trade originally?" Brynne confirmed. Then in a softer voice, "Edgar didn't even put limits on the exchange. That means that Edgar is their guest for as long as he lives."
"Guest?" Prudence snapped. "Try hostage."
"I'm not sure, Prudence. I'm not. Clarence mentioned Edgar and the Fairies. My husband said that while he had been trained since childhood in the traditions of the Fair Folk, that they were fixated on Edgar. He always caught them out of the corner of his eyes as there was always at least three or more following Edgar. They always pranked Edgar first and when Edgar was injured, Clarence saw the Fair Folk hovering over Edgar."
"What would the Seelie want with Edgar?" Prudence asked. "He's still alive as his candle is lit, but I'm worried. It's burning so brightly, I worry how much time is occurring there."
"Edgar is a pure blooded mage of significant power and accomplishments," Brynne reminded Prudence.
"Edgar is not in any physical condition to play with the Jili Ffrwtan. I suggest that Alastor would be the better choice," snapped Prudence.
"Merlin's scrote, does everyone know about that?" a gobsmacked Alastor protested. Really, how many people knew that he had played rent boy to a bunch of amorous fairies? It wasn't something he'd like plastered on the front page of The Prophet.
"I didn't know," murmured Albus. The bastard gave him an appraising look complete with arched eyebrow. "I'm rather impressed, truth be told."
"Who are the Jili Ffrwatan? And how do you play with them?" asked Henry Bones.
The various adults all looked at the two Bones boys, both of whom were underage and not in need of confirmation of the possibilities of human-fairy intercourse. Especially in reference to their father, the fair-haired Edgar Bones.
"The Seelie Court's Quidditch team," offered Sabine. "They play it a bit differently. Since some of the players have wings they don't require brooms. Now, Prudence, you need to go to St. Mungo's, Alastor and Professor Dumbledore will be escorting you. Brynne, stop by Minister Baxter's private ward and give him the latest. Also, Edgar might need a break from sitting with him. I'll stay here with the young men and I'll make the Stollen for Christmas morning. Now go."
Erik's mum motioned for them to leave, and the various adults marched to the Floo. They arrived in the private entrance at St. Mungo's that was reserved for the family of wounded Aurors.
"I swear, if she had been Gellert's mum, she would have turned him over her knee and broke a wooden spoon on his arse when he first had delusions of power," joked Brynne.
"Edgar's sitting with Reggie?" Alastor asked.
"The bastards flayed him, so the Healers are attempting to re-grow his skin. Plus they broke every bone in his body," explained Brynne.
"Edgar thought he should sit next to Reggie because his father wasn't here to repay the favor. When Edgar was hurt, Reggie would insist on taking the night shift at Mungo's."
"Prudence, Eddie said not to blame Reggie if anything happened to him," advised Alastor.
"I'm not blaming Reggie for Edgar being captured by the Fairies. I'm blaming Reggie and Alastor and Edgar because my oldest son now has a burning passion to be an Auror, like his father. He never wanted to be one, but now that his father is gone, he thinks he needs to follow in his father's footsteps. I'm also blaming Edgar because I will lose the farm with Edgar gone. And I don't know who the hell to blame because my daughter is Sleeping after being captured by the fairies. I'm also blaming myself as I don't think I'm strong enough to deal with this on my own. I was never as strong as Edgar… and I need to be…"
Prudence Bones broke down in tears and hesitantly Alastor embraced her. Edgar's wife clung to him and uncontrollably scriked until his cloak was soaked. Really, he had no idea what to do, except pat her back and mumbled reassurances that he'd be there to help her. Fortunately, a bright eyed, ginger haired Healer arrived and began talking to Prudence.
"Come now, you're exhausted, Mrs. Bones," the Healer murmured. "Let me take you to your daughter. We've set up in her father's private ward, and there is a bed there for you. Once you've seen your daughter, let me exam you. You're under a great deal of stress, and the twins need their mum to be healthy."
"Twins?" inserted Alastor.
"Edgar never knew… doesn't know…" A mentally knackered Prudence stumbled over what the proper tense was. "Brynne?"
"I'll be there in just a minute," Brynne assured Edgar's wife. "Alastor and Albus can visit Reggie. He's still running the Ministry and the Auror office so you'd have to report to him anyway. Once you're done, come back to the farmhouse. We'll juggle space and you and Albus can stay there for the holidays. I know you won't leave Hogwarts if he's there, and we can double up so you both have rooms."
"We'll stay in the same room," Alastor insisted. "No doubt Reggie has Aurors stationed at the farmhouse, so the shifts can bunk down easier if we double up."
"Yes, we are having quite the holiday dinner. Three shifts of Aurors squads plus their families along with the normal Bones bunch. Make sure Reggie knows he has a bed and place set for him," Brynne reminded Alastor. "If the Healers will let him out."
"Do you think that would be a good idea?" He whispered as he cocked his head in Prudence's direction.
Being the mother of a mass multitude of Boneses, Prudence Bones had excellent hearing.
"Edgar would want it," Prudence said. "And therefore, we will do it."
A raw Reggie Baxter grimaced a smile when he saw Alastor and Albus. He was floating a hand or so off the mattress with a blanket wrapped around his bits. The junior Edgar Bones stood when the two men entered the room and offered them his chair. Alastor nodded and sat next to Reggie.
"Glad you're back. Pardon me if I don't shake your hands as my bones are still healing, plus I don't have any skin on my hands. Things have been all over the shop since Edgar and you left. Where is he? I need him to get everything sorted, though his son is doing yeoman's work keeping the office afloat," Reggie said. "Amelia?"
"Things went pearshaped, Reg. The fairies weren't happy with us blundering around on the paths, so they wanted to keep Amelia. Edgar and Reggie, I wish I didn't have to tell you this."
"Stopping twining on, Senior Auror Moody. Spit it out," commanded Reggie.
"Edgar traded himself for her. She's sleeping right now and we can't wake her," Alastor admitted. "Prudence is with her now. Amelia's in Eddie's private room."
"Go to your mother, Edgar. She needs you now," ordered Reggie.
"You'll stay with him?" Edgar asked Alastor.
"I believe I'm giving you an order," Reggie reminded the eldest Bones son in the mildest of tones. Yes, he was wearing only a blanket round his bits for modesty's sake and everything from the soles of his feet to the top of his head was raw, but he still knew how to order people around.
"Da wouldn't want me to leave you alone," was Edgar's quick response.
"I'll be here," Alastor assured Edgar. "Go to your mum. She has the weight of the world on her shoulders and you need to help her."
After Edgar left the room, Reggie began questioning Alastor, looking for the subtle nuisance and faint shadows in Alastor's answer. It was reassuring for Alastor, to slip back into the role of subordinate, reporting to Reggie. After he was completely talked out, a knackered Alastor was surprised when Albus handed him a cuppa. He nodded his head in grateful acknowledgement as he was bone dry.
"You've done quite well, Alastor. It's almost time for Edgar's replacement to show, so when he arrives, go home and get some sleep. I can't sleep due to the pain and the potions, so let me think on this tonight. Come back tomorrow and we'll formulate a plan for getting Edgar home." Reggie's voice was soft and compassionate. However it was most assuredly not optimistic.
"What about you, Reg? You're still looking like a plucked chicken," Alastor asked. Well, they had been Senior Auror and trainee together, so Alastor didn't have to worry about pulling his spells.
"New potion tomorrow. Should be absolutely excruciating," wryly promised Reggie.
"Better get your skin on, you've got an invite to the Bones for Christmas. They'll even have a room for you," Alastor advised him.
"I think under the present circumstances, it would be easier for all if I did not show. They might mistake me for the mincemeat for the pie." It was a feeble joke and Reggie barked a painful laugh. He hissed and grimace. "Bloody hell, I'm so funny I hurt myself laughing. Go get some sleep, Alastor."
Alastor and Albus returned to the Bones farmhouse after checking on Amelia and Prudence. They were greeted by Sabine who ordered them to take a bath and then to bed.
"You both look exhausted. I've set up two hot baths for you. Albus, there's one connected to your bedroom. Alastor, use mine."
An exhausted Alastor nearly fell asleep in the tub, grateful to be warm and clean. Actually, he was close to dozing when Albus woke him.
"Thank you for not Hexing me when I just woke you," Albus said. He quirked a slight smile and then turned away from Alastor. "Sabine thought it proper if I woke you rather than her. However, I believe your reputation for being fast on the wand precedes you."
"I wouldn't have turned my wand on you, I recognize your magic," explained Alastor as he pulled himself out of the tub. "How it resonates, how it tastes."
"Really, magic has taste?" Albus asked. His tone was questioning, not disbelieving.
"Yes. Edgar's citrusy. Reggie's rather piquant… Clarence was bangers and mash." He put on his dressing gown, guessed it had been… was… one of Edgar's that had been resized to fit his shoulders.
"Bangers and mash?" Albus repeated.
"It was the only meal he could cook," Alastor admitted. "Not very well though I think it was a sham just to get Edgar to cook. Edgar is a very good cook. Now, your magic tastes like tea with a large dollop of honey."
"And Erik? Of all your brothers in arms, you rarely mention him," was Albus' next question. "Never to me; only to Edgar or Reggie."
"His taste… was complex," was all Alastor would admit. Albus was not satisfied with that answer, so a regretful Alastor finally explained it further. "His magic tasted of blood, smoke and…. fire." -
Albus Dumbledore, not terribly gifted with empathy, realized that he had stumbled onto a very painful subject. He struggled to change it once they reached the room that they would be sharing. "Have I ever told you how much I appreciate your sincerity?"
"You've gone barking mad, man. You appreciate my sincerity? I called you a purple prannet in front of witnesses." Alastor shook his head in disbelief.
"A little sincerity is a dangerous thing," admitted Albus Dumbledore.
"And a great deal of it is absolutely fatal," whispered Alastor. "Edgar was quite sincere….as was Erik. All it got them was…. a never ending vacation to the Summer Lands, and a terminal case of being dead. You get the bed tonight, I'll take the floor. We can't enlarge the room as we don't know what Charms have been overlaid on the farmhouse. Don't want to cause a conflict among the Charms. I'm too tired to deal with it."
"Alastor," protested Albus.
Meanwhile, a recently arrived Fawkes murmured a sleeping protest over the noise and put his head underneath his wing.
"I sincerely remind you that you're significantly older than I am, so you sincerely need a mattress," Alastor retorted. Alastor barked a laugh then, which unexpectedly turned into grieving sobs. Albus created a handkerchief and handed it to the younger man.
"Let it out," he instructed, wishing that he didn't sound so much like a boarding school professor cheering up a homesick firstie. He also wished that the two of them weren't sitting on the side of the bed. When Alastor stopped scriking, he sighed. A long sigh.
"I'm gutted, Albus. I'm completely and utterly cored. I just… " Alastor sighed once more and then looked at Albus. "Fancy a shag?"
"I beg your pardon?" was Albus Dumbledore's witty response.
"I'm offering some mattress bouncing," explained a somber Alastor. "I've seen the way you look at me. Fawkes has been busy courting me, and I'm amendable."
"Amendable?" repeated Albus. Now, his tone was one of disbelief.
"It's not a love match, Albus. You and I are both too damaged and battered. Plus we'd always fight over who topped who," was Alastor's sage response.
"But you're… heterosexual…." Albus flushed as he didn't meant to make it sound like a Hex.
"I'm a heterosexual, yes. I've also consorted with the Fairies and I bedded Erik regularly until…." Alastor shook his head. "Until he died. I know where the parts go, I trust you, and the floor is rather hard."
"This is probably the worst proposition…," Albus dryly admitted.
"Have a lot of experience being propositioned, have you?" Alastor wryly asked. "Now get into bed as I'm in charge."
Albus' feeble protests were quickly silenced when Alastor kissed him. They were too drained to do much more than exchange a few kisses, rub and tug, but they both managed a happy ending. Fawkes woke up long enough to happily coo and warble, much to Albus' extreme embarrassment.
"Well, I can guess it was good for you," teased Alastor. "Now under the covers with you. I'll sleep on top of the covers so we look respectable." And for the first time in far too long, Alastor was asleep almost as soon as his head hit his pillow.
Wake up, Bear Man! Fawkes ordered with a not very gentle peck to his chest. To his right, Albus was softly moaning as it seemed he had already been Phoenix-pecked. Skeleton girl is coming home! Get up! When that failed to rouse Alastor, Fawkes broke out into song. Loudly. It was akin to standing next to a cohort of crazed piccolo players. Loud, bone piercing and ear rattling.
"Skeleton girl?" Alastor asked.
"Fawkes isn't very proficient with names," was Albus' explanation.
I am! I am! I just don't chose to use them! The Phoenix protested. Since you two were nesting, I visited little Skeleton Girl and I sang to her. I also visited Wren and cried. Wren will be coming here with Skeleton Girl.
"Wren? Should I care that Fawkes had a scriking jag over a bird?" Alastor asked. Really, how long had he slept? He was quite foggy.
"Wren is Reggie," explained Albus. "Fawkes thinks Reggie reminds him of a Wren. Phoenix tears have healing qualities. I can't coerce Fawkes to cry on command, so he did it on his own. What a wonderful Phoenix you are, Fawkes."
"And Phoenix songs are loud enough to wake the dead," Alastor added. At Fawkes' aggrieved look, Alastor decided to add, "And to bring a soul lost on the Fairy Paths back home."
A very modest Fawkes happily preened at Alastor's acknowledgement and Alastor put both feet on the floor.
"I feel like I slept for a week," Alastor said. He cracked his neck and then stretched. "Fawkes, any news about Edgar?"
Fawkes look perplexed there were two Edgars and he had not bothered to categorize them. Truly, he could only do so much!
"Skeleton girl's father?" Alastor prompted. He struggled to be charitable as Fawkes was a bird brain after all, and a very colorful one at that. He had often found that intelligence and beauty did not go hand in hand. Fawkes narrowed his eyes as he had heard what Alastor thought.
There was a knock on the door and Brynne asked if she might come in. Alastor quickly moved to a chair as Albus was sitting on the bed.
"We're presentable," Albus informed her.
"Happy Christmas!" Brynne exclaimed as she entered the room, carrying a heavily laden tray. "You slept the day and more 's news and what we news we have! Amelia woke up! And she's in remission from her adrenal condition as the Healers are unable to find a trace of it! Also, Reggie's wounds have healed enough that they are permitting him to come here for the holiday. We will be eating in two hours; at least that's what the House Elves say."
"House Elves?" Alastor repeated, not sure that he had heard Bones had no House Elves.
"House Elves. Reggie asked the House Elves that traditionally take care of the Minister of Magic, if they might agree to handle the holidays here. That way Prudence can get some rest. It's rather chaotic, having thirty people here and with Edgar missing…."
"How is Pru?" Alastor asked.
"Insisting that we leave Edgar's seat open for him for the meal. We'll probably do the Christmas Crackers right before we sit down for the meal, just to make it a little festive. Regarding Edgar's abduction, I requested additional information from Clarence's main mentor, but supposedly he's afield. I think they know something about the Fairies' infatuation with Edgar, but I fear that they're a bit put off. I mean, they trained Clarence since his birth to interact with the Fairies, and the Fairies took Edgar?"
"Perhaps, you can make the suggestion that your husband was the conduit. He brought Edgar into the Fairy realm which was only possible due to his extensive training," suggested Albus. "That way the sting of their wounded pride might be eased, permitting us more information on what may have occurred for Edgar."
Brynne brightened. "I'll try that. Sometimes the Fairies take a person for a specific purpose. It is quite possible that they may return him after the issue is resolved. Truthfully, I'm just grasping at the tail straws in a broken down Silver Arrow broom because they shouldn't have taken Edgar. Also the Fairies have apparently, for no rhyme or reason, have Healed Amelia of her condition. Now come join the crowd downstairs when you're ready."
Silence descended after Brynne left.
"Happy Christmas, Alastor," was Albus' awkward attempt at making conversation.
"Happy Christmas to you, though I fear it will not be a very festive Christmas for the Boneses," admitted Alastor. "I'm afraid that I didn't get you anything. What with you being the Great Defeater of Gellert, I figured you have whatever you needed. Plus all the shoppes in Fairy Land were closed."
A slight grin from Albus.
"I have something for you, however."
He handed Alastor a brightly wrapped package. His hand touched Alastor's hand and gave it a squeeze.
"Open it." Albus insisted.
It was a pendant with a rather archaic sigil. Alastor put the necklace on and grasped it with his hand. He could feel the Protective Charms tune themselves to him.
"This is a princely gift, Albus."
"The sigil is for Michael the Archangel. I believe he is the patron saint of the Aurors and that is the original Auror sigil. It should keep you safe, at least until you leave the bedroom." Again the slight smile. Then Albus' smile faded. "About what happened between us?"
"Doesn't change anything," was Alastor's sincere response. "I'm still your ball and chain, and you still think you know best. Next time, I'll make sure we both last a little longer."
"Next time?" Albus repeated.
"Please, I have my reputation to maintain. I satisfied a group of Jili Ffrwatan after all. I don't want you nattering about how I've got no endurance plus being clueless to boot."
It was loud and chaotic when Albus and Alastor rejoined the family in the festively decorated great room. A very pink-skinned Reggie Baxter was propped in a settee and Amelia Bones was next to him. They were having a serious discussion and Alastor hoped that Reggie would be able to reassure Amelia that her father's capture hadn't been her fault. There were a multitude of House Elves who were busy serving drinks to the horde. There was at least three septs of Aurors and their families, and Prudence was being squired by her oldest son.
"Now that you've decided to join us, we can have our meal. However, let us all join hands. I understand that some of us have different ideas of who is charge of the universe, but I believe a prayer of gratitude would not be amiss," requested Prudence. "Reggie? Would you mind?"
Albus' hand found its way to Alastor's hand and Alastor quirked a crooked smile.
The Minister of Magic's voice was still hoarse, but his words were heartfelt, "Creator and sustainer of all that has been, that is or that will ever be, please accept our sincerest gratitude for this day and all its blessings."
The niceties handled, the Christmas crackers were handed out. There was a great deal of popping and snapping among the laughter. Alastor found himself in possession of a gilded, gaudy crown. He placed it jauntily over one ear and surveyed the crowd. "I think this is more Reggie's style," he suggested amidst general laughter. "Though I believe Albus' jester hat matches his eyes."
While Alastor had been forewarned about Edgar's empty chair at the end of the table, he wasn't anticipating that Edgar's Auror candle would be predominately displayed at what would have been his place setting. It was still merrily ablaze and he couldn't help but watch it out of the corner of his eye. Conversation was subdued, though it might have been partially due to the vast quantities of food being consumed. Truly the House Elves had outdone themselves, though Alastor believed that the mood could have been much happier.
The Christmas pudding was brought in, merrily ablaze, by Edgar Bones. There was the thunder of loud applause and then a stunned Edgar nearly dropped the blazing pudding. Fortunately, one of the nimble Aurors prevented it from falling.
"Da's candle," he whispered. "It's changed."
The formerly raging candle was still lit, but the flame was no longer quite as bright. It flickered much the same as the other candles on the table did.
"Wards on the farmhouse have been breached," Reggie announced even as there was a pounding on the front door.
"He's come home," insisted Prudence. "He's come home for Christmas. I knew he would."
She rushed to the door and Reggie didn't need to order Alastor and Albus to follow her.
"Prudence, let me open the door," insisted Alastor. "It might not be Edgar."
"'Tis him," she insisted.
The pounding on the door continued and Prudence threw the door open, ignoring Alastor's loud curses. On the front step was a bearded, graying Edgar Bones. He was dressed in summer clothes and he pushed his way in, past the startled Alastor and Albus. But that wasn't the only reason why Alastor and Albus were so surprised, it was because Edgar Bones now possessed a right arm and a right eye. The hand was the color of quicksilver but it seemed to move in a human fashion. His right eyeball was a bright electronic blue. It possessed a mind of its own as it rolled and spun in its socket.
"Blasted Fairies decided to return me back in the middle of a bloody blizzard, with me wearing summer clothes," he growled even while Prudence was tightly embracing me. "Why is everyone staring at me? How long have I been gone? I fear I've been gone for years, but you all look the same. Did you have the baby, Pru? What did you name it?"
"You've been gone for three weeks and I'm having twins, thanks to you, Mr. Bones. What happened to you?"
"I don't know," he admitted. "The fairies needed me to do something, but I'm not sure what it was. There was iron involved, so they needed a human. I think. It's all a blur. Twins? That means we're completely outnumbered, Pru."
"Da!" Amelia Bones screamed. "Da!"
Edgar was quickly surrounded by his family and embraced.
"Close the door and let's give them some privacy," Reggie suggested. "We should take him to Mungo's for a complete exam, but it's Christmas. Tomorrow is good enough."
Alastor, Albus and Reggie walked back to great room where everyone else waited. Never one to miss a chance to make a happy proclamation, Reggie faced the crowd. "Ladies and gentleman, I am delighted to inform you that the prodigal Edgar Bones, Senior, has been restored to us. Now eat up!"