Disclaimer: The world of Harry Potter and all who reside therein belong to the woman whose name is on the side of the books: J.K. Rowling. And certainly not to me.
Title: A Simple Assignment
Author: Aeryn Alexander
Summary: Alastor Moody has a job to do. A very simple one in fact: check on Harry Potter during the summer. But he gets more than he bargains for. Yet another rough-summer-for-Harry story. But this one is obviously a little different.
Rating: PG-13 (mild - moderate violence, abuse, mild language, and thematic elements)
Genre: General/drama/angst
Year: Summer before 5th year (complies with GoF canon; not with OotP speculation/canon).
Author's notes: I have never written first-person perspective fan fiction before. I didn't think there was a character I liked well enough or identified with sufficiently for it to be feasible. I hope to God I was wrong about that. I'm not sure if anyone has used this precise storyline (with Moody) before, but this basic plot is one of my favorite cliches. I thought I would have a go at it. This story is a work-in-progress (WIP), so neither the middle nor the end is in sight. I don't even know if I will be able to finish it. Consider that a warning of sorts. I am not taking into account that Order of the Phoenix will be out soon. If that makes this AU, then so be it. I'm also in the process of removing 'hard stops' from my dialog. All feedback is appreciated (as always), but flames will be used to defrost my air conditioner. Thank you.




A Simple Assignment


Chapter One

Even the best laid plans



Standing in front of the muggle house, which looked even more ordinary than I had imagined, I almost wished that I had taken Albus Dumbledore up on his offer of a glamour, something to make me blend in properly with all of this. The neatly trimmed lawns. The muggle automobiles. The nearly uniform houses. Everything here. But it was too late to change my mind. I straightened my clothes, uncomfortable muggle garments the like of which I had not worn in several years. I plucked at the shirt and sighed before walking up to the door.

I knew that it wasn't going to go very well before even knocking. Dumbledore had sent me to Privet Drive to check on young Harry Potter. He had never said precisely why he was concerned, but Albus always had his reasons, even if they were clear to anyone but him at the time. In the end he always seemed to be right. And that worried me more than I wanted to admit as I stood hesitating on the stoop.

He had informed me that the muggles, the Dursleys, he called them, were opposed to magic. That was enough to make me rather concerned. What was James and Lily's son doing living with people like that? I didn't get a proper answer to that one either. Ancient magic? His own protection? That was all well and good, but if he needed checking up on ... what did that really say about the situation?

"And why me of all people?" I muttered.

Why didn't he ask any of the other professors? The ones who were still employed by the school? Most of them were busy, and I could hardly find fault with that. They were all doing their part for the war effort. And this was my part: checking to make certain that Harry Potter was getting on all right with his muggle relatives.

Of course, I conceded, feeling a sudden wave of shame wash over me, it was a compliment that Albus still trusted me to do this for him. I had been hood-winked by a Dark Wizard and left to rot in a trunk for the better part of the school year. At least Albus believed I was competent enough to manage this. And well enough too. I grimaced and remembered Poppy Pomfrey's admonishing words to me before I left Hogwarts.

"Take it easy, Mister Moody, and be sure to see me when you come back," she had said, like I was an invalid or an old man.

I hung my head for a moment, considering the possibility that she just might be right. That thought had been occurring to me more and more since I woke up in the hospital wing with only vague and hazy memories regarding the previous months.

"I've a job to do," I growled, finally knocking on the front door of number four, Privet Drive.

I straightened my clothes again, almost compulsively even by my own estimation, and with a slight wince. I was here to see about Potter, not to cause a scene. Then again, there wasn't any reason why I couldn't do both, I realized as the door opened.

When I saw the woman who answered the door, my initial reaction was that she simply could not be Lily Potter's sister, which is what Albus had told me she was. Then I noticed something about her eyes, the shape of them, and perhaps her chin. And then her ear-splitting shriek as she got a good look at me. Yes, she had a very Lily-like scream, that woman.

"Excuse me, ma'am. I'm looking for Mister Harry Potter. I'm from his school," I told her once she stopped screaming. "Might I come inside?" I questioned.

"I don't believe ..." began Mrs. Dursley, pursing her lips and looking thoroughly disagreeable.

"Headmaster Dumbledore sent me here. I really must insist upon seeing him," I told her, stepping forward.

In the past I had found it rather easy to intimidate muggles when necessary. But was more difficult that afternoon, and not because this was the sister of Lily Potter - I can't remember if I ever knew her unmarried name. I had been retired from the business of being an Auror for almost seven years when I had the great misfortune of being abducted by Voldemort's henchmen and stuffed in my own trunk. And I would never admit it to anyone, but by my estimation, I just wasn't back in good condition yet.

Of course, the woman at the door had turned pale when she looked at my magical eye and at my wooden leg and had done the only thing I imagine she could have done. She called for her husband, and as it was a fine Saturday afternoon in mid July, he came.

Mister Dursley was a great, lumbering man. I can't recall the last time I saw someone so overweight. Then I saw a boy of fifteen or so standing in the hallway behind him ...

Before I could sufficiently recover from my astonishment, Mister Dursley asked me, "What is the meaning of this?"

"My name is Alastor Moody, and I'm here to see Mister Potter. I ... I am affiliated with your nephew's school," I explained as I watched him go sort of red in the face.

"We don't like your kind around here ..." he began to tell me, wagging his finger at me.

"Just allow me to have a few minutes with the boy, and I will be on my way," I said in the most placating tone I could manage.

The two of them exchanged nervous glances and I felt a chill run up my spine. I forced my way into the house and closed the door behind me as the Dursleys continued to seem rather uncomfortably nervous. Granted, I was a stranger and not very easy on the eyes, but that did not appear to be what was bothering them.

"You can't see him right now," said Vernon Dursley - Albus had told me their given names, not that it mattered very much.

"Oh?" I questioned, not liking the sound of that one bit.

"He's asleep," said Petunia hastily.

That was even worse. I had heard muggles use 'sleeping' as an untidy euphemism for 'dead' on more than one occasion and that did not set well with me at that moment.

"At five o'clock in the afternoon?" I asked them.

"He's a lazy little bastard," said Vernon.

I raised an eyebrow at that and had removed my wand from my pocket before I even realized it. James and Lily were among the best people I had known during the last years of the Dark Lord's reign, and according to Albus, their son was growing into a person of real merit. The barb stung. But I knew that getting angry was not the answer here.

"Where?" I growled as menacingly as possible.

"In his room, but you shouldn't disturb him," said Petunia, unconsciously wringing her hands in a gesture of anxiety.

I glanced over their shoulders and into the living room down the hallway. I had a bad feeling. They were covering something up, and it certainly wasn't their hatred or contempt for wizards, young Potter especially.

"Step in there," I instructed, pointing them toward the living room with my wand and deciding not to take any unnecessary risks.

They went, all three of them, quite obediently, obviously rather afraid of magic, which served my purposes for that moment.

I followed them to the doorway and stopped, watching them walk inside and stand near the hearth, as far away from the door and from me as possible. But how to keep them there ... without breaking any wizarding laws. I smiled, which made them pale even more.

Waving my wand through the air in an exaggerated fashion, I said, "Sinus hex us and a ... road, turn anyone who leaves this room into a toad!"

I truly loved that one. It was all mumbo-jumbo, of course, but muggles always seemed to believed that one if they believed in wizards at all. I considered finishing it off with a good 'bippity-boppity-boo!', but then I had other matters to attend to. I took one last look at the trembling Dursleys and started for the stairs, secure in the knowledge that they would be too frightened to leave that room for some time.

This was supposed to be a simply assignment, I thought, as I clumped up the stairs to the second level of the house. Just see that the young man wasn't being mistreated, that he wasn't suffering too terribly from what had happened at the Triwizard Tournament, that he was all right. Then maybe go for a butterbeer at the Leaky Cauldron and return to the castle with a good report. Neat as neat. Or it should have been.

Once I reached the upstairs of the house, I noticed three doors. Two were merely closed. One was closed and padlocked. It didn't take a genius to figure out that the locked one probably belonged to Potter. It only made sense, I acknowledged.

"If you have someone or something in your house that you don't trust, you keep 'em under lock and key," I told myself, but not liking the idea at all when applied to a young wizard like Potter.

I had only seen the boy once, at the end of year festivities some weeks earlier, and had no special liking of him, except that I had known his folks. They had been decent people, though James Potter and I had not always seen eye to eye. Well, that was the past; this was the present. His son deserved better than to be locked in his room and shunned by his only relations.

With a quickly mumbled spell I had the lock off the door, which I then open slowly and cautiously. It did not even so much as creak. The room inside was almost pitch dark. The window, I noted, had been boarded up tightly so that not even the afternoon sunlight could filter through the space between the boards. It was also eerily quiet. And I didn't like that one bit.

As an Auror I had gone into rooms where people had been tortured and killed. It was part of the job. Simple as that. Other men had caught a whiff of the lingering scent of pain, blood, and fear and had immediately emptied the contents of their stomachs. That had never been me, and maybe some of my younger, less experienced colleagues had thought me heartless because of it. Of course, if they had lived through the days of Grindelwald, maybe they would be just the same.

As I stepped into the room that I knew to be Potter's bedroom, I could not help but to feel another chill as I recognized the smell of sweat and pain, which remained familiar to me in my retirement.

"Lumos," I whispered, not bothering reach for the light switch on the wall.

The small room was bathed in a gentle yellow glow. Rather poor accommodations, I thought, though I suppose I shouldn't be so particular after spending the better part of the previous year in a trunk. An empty cage sat in the corner. I hoped that whatever had occupied it was merely out hunting or delivering a message if it was an owl. There was also a bed in the other corner of the room.

"Potter?" I questioned quietly as I walked over to the bed.

There was a motionless form lying beneath a thin and ragged blanket that covered the bed. His dark hair was tousled and messy. And he looked very pale and underfed too. It was Harry Potter. I recognized him mostly by the lightning shaped scar on his forehead because he seemed so much thinner and did not have his glasses on.

A horrible thought occurred to me as I reached toward him. He wasn't moving ... I held by breath as placed my fingertips against his neck to check for a pulse. Potter flinched away from the touch ever-so-slightly. I breathed a sigh of relief. His eyelids flickered, but he didn't wake up.

"Potter," I said, shaking him by the shoulder. Nothing. "Wake up," I said, realizing then that the young wizard seemed rather ill.

I cautiously felt his forehead. He was burning up with a fever. I was certain that no one, meaning those muggles downstairs, was taking care of him.

Then I noticed something. My magical eye, which was all too often telling me things that I'd rather not know, caught a glimpse of something through the blankets and worn nightclothes: bruises. I pulled the blanket back in astonishment to get a better look. There weren't so many of them, but far too many to be caused by simple accidents or natural causes. I felt rather certain that the cretins downstairs had done this to Potter. I set my jaw as thoughts about going back down there and teaching them a lesson entered my head.

The flash of anger carried me half way to the door, intending to have words, and perhaps more than just words, with the elder Dursleys. It was apparent to me that Potter needed medication and maybe medical attention. Didn't they care?

"Help me," said a soft voice mumbled.

I paused at the door of the room and turned again, getting a handle on my temper as I realized that Harry was conscious.

"That won't do," I reprimanded myself for my momentary fit of temper. "I was sent here to see about Potter, not them."

Returning to his bedside, I saw that his eyes were open. And, Merlin, his eyes were just as green as poor Lily's had been. He looked confused as he squinted up at me. I know I probably wasn't the first person he expected to see. I glanced at the desk by his bed and saw his glasses. I picked them up and gently placed them on his face so that he could see properly.

"Don't be scared. I'm not here to hurt you," I assured him as his eyes widened.

That statement actually brought up a good point. I was there to check up on the boy and make sure that everything was all right. Albus had given me no instructions whatsoever regarding what I was supposed to do if I found out that Potter was not doing well, which was certainly the case.

I looked at him for a long moment, watching him shivered slightly under the covers. If I removed him from the house, I would exceeding my mandate, I debated with myself. But if I left him there, I could not readily say what would become of him. Could I frighten or intimidate his relatives into caring for him? I didn't think so. My instincts told me that he needed medical attention, or at the very least someone to look after him, which meant that I had to get him out of there.

"Pro... Professor," mumbled Potter hoarsely.

"Where are your things, lad?" I questioned him, feeling suddenly resigned.

"My ... wand ... floor boards," he answered.

I wondered if he was delirious, then I checked the boards beneath his bed with my magical eye and saw his wand a few school things stashed away there. I knelt and removed the board. Then I placed the wand in my pocket and shrunk the other things before tucking them away too.

"You don't have a trunk?" I asked.

"Cupboard, under the stairs," he whispered, beginning to lose consciousness again.

I considered casting Ennervate on him and trying to coax him into some clothes. His was wearing sleep wear at the moment that seemed rather large on his thin frame. But I decided that it would probably only make things worse. His body was trying to conserve energy, trying to keep him alive. I didn't want to take any chances by forcing to exert too much energy when it was obvious that he was very sick.

Instead I wrapped the blanket around him and pocketed my wand before lifting him from bed and hoisting him over my shoulder. On one hand he was surprisingly light. On the other I was feeling rather unfortunately weaker than usual. Then I wondered if these people had fed him a single meal in the last three weeks. I adjusted his weight and heard him groan weakly in protest.

"Easy, Potter," I growled before walking out of the bedroom and down the stairs with him.

When I reached the bottom, I set him down carefully and went to fetch his trunk, discovering the cupboard in question quite easily. Located inside were his trunk, all locked up tight, and his broom, which looked like a rather good one. I momentarily considered checking inside the trunk to make sure nothing dangerous had been slipped inside.

"Must hurry," I muttered to myself before magically shrinking both articles and putting them in my pockets. I could thoroughly examine everything later.

As I left the cupboard, my eyes drifted to the living room. I felt a stab of anger. No, I couldn't leave without saying something.

They were all sitting on the sofa, looking rather worried. The pig-like boy was fidgeting, and the sofa groaned beneath his weight. The other two were eyeing the doors nervously. Petunia, if I remember her name correctly, gave a soft shriek when I appeared.

"If I were a lesser man, what I would do to all of you ..." I growled menacingly. "But I will leave it to others to settle your accounts. Mister Potter is coming with me," I said to them.

"V... Very well," nodded Mister Dursley.

I was beginning to lose my temper again. Those stupid muggles didn't even care that a complete stranger was taking their nephew from their home. I could be a Death Eater. I could be anyone for all they knew. I rubbed my good eye for a moment as I looked into the living room at them and reminded myself that not all muggles were like them. I knew that some of them had just as loving families and were just as capable parents as wizards were. They weren't all bad. They were all as neglecting or as evil as this particular family of muggles.

And I wanted to make them pay for it, but then, I was a better person than them. I couldn't turn them into a snake and two mice, though the thought occurred to me. I could only go and get Potter and leave.

"I've got what I came for. You're lucky that the headmaster sent me. I can only imagine what some of the lad's teachers would have done if they'd seen the way you were treating him. I'll be on my way now," I said, giving them cold hard stares each in turn.

"Wait!" shouted Vernon as I turned to go.

"Yes?" I growled impatiently.

"The spell ... Aren't you going to take it off?" he questioned.

I smiled, which made the woman on the sofa gasp in revulsion, and said, "No, I believe I'll be leaving it in place. Give you some time to think about what you've done."

Then I walked back into the hallway, feeling the tiniest bit satisfied. There would be no one coming from the 'Accidental' Magical Reversal Department to save them as no magic had been performed on them or on the room. So they would be sitting there for a good long time, I imagined.

Of course, I was facing a bigger problem than working out a fitting punishment for those wretched people: how to transport Harry Potter and to where. I sat down next to him on the stairs for a moment, feeling his forehead and checking his pulse while I tried to work it out.

He would be safest with Albus at Hogwarts, not to mention under Poppy Pomfrey's care. But getting there would be difficult ... Potter could not travel by floo in his condition, even if I had access to a floo to travel by. I could take a risk and apparate with him, but that would only get us to Hogsmeade. Wonderful place for a Death Eater attack. Masked figures had made an appearance there only two nights ago ...

I frowned as I tried to think of other places where he would be safe. I had a cottage, secluded place that very few people knew about. I had not visited it since the previous summer before I returned to the city in order to prepare to teach. I would have been safer there ...

I shook my head. Maybe I would have been. It was well warded, unlike the house in the muggle neighborhood, and that was the important thing. I could take Potter there, make sure he didn't die or anything, and contact Albus by floo. That was a good plan, in my humble opinion.

There were anti-Apparition wards on the house, which meant that I had to carry Potter outside before attempting the foolhardy stunt that I had in mind. I tried to be gentle with him as I scooped him up off the stairs and left the house. His eyes opened, and I caught him staring up at me. I was probably a frightening sight to him, and not just for the usual reasons.

"Where am I?" coughed Potter in a faint voice.

"Safe, Potter, you're safe," I said in a gruff, growling voice as I set Potter down on the ground outside for a moment. I didn't want the boy to think I was kidnapping him, though in strictest of terms that was probably the case.

"What are you doing here?" he mumbled.

"I'm not going to harm you," I assured the young wizard. "I just need to take you away from here. Think you can manage to help me?"

"Yes, sir," he replied. His teeth were chattering. I could tell that he did not feel at all well even as he said, "I'll try."

"Good lad," I nodded. "Can you stand up?"

He struggled to rise for a moment before I slipped my hands under his shoulders and hauled him upright. It had been a silly suggestion. Potter was barely conscious. Why should he be able to stand up on his own? He obviously had a high fever and possibly some of those bruises indicated broken or cracked ribs or other serious injuries.

As I pulled him closer, Potter struggled weakly with a look of absolute terror in his eyes.

"Potter, I said that I won't hurt you. You're going to have to take my word for it, because there is no other assurance I can give you," I growled. "Put your arms around my neck. We're going to disapparate away from this place," I explained.

I had read in Five Hundred Ways Not to Splinch Yourself that when attempting to apparate or disapparate with another person, that close proximity yielded better results, especially when both individuals could not cast the spell.

Harry nodded mutely, but I could tell that his compliance was reticent. His thin arms were trembling, and he squeezed his eyes closed. I could more than understand his reluctance to trust me. His own family had treated him very badly, abusively even. Why trust a stranger not to do worse? I had done nothing to earn his trust, and of course there had been that nasty business with my impostor ... But that could not be helped. It was already done.

I took a deep breath and put an arm securely around his waist before disapparating away from Privet Drive with Harry Potter.

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A/N: Someone is asking themselves right now if wizards get sick like ordinary muggles. Based on Trelawney's flu prediction in PoA and the existence of Pepperup Potion, I am going to answer in the affirmative.