They put him in chains, and, with blood flowing deep crimson from the gash in his pale, white side, they hoisted him into the great tree and left him there, suspended. They were not leaving him to die: he would have to pay for what he had done to their comrades. They were leaving him to suffer. Instead, he went to a place between sleep and waking, where grey threads swirled like an overflowing Pensieve. He drifted into a memory long past.
He was a young boy, warm and safe in his bed, the blankets pulled tight over his head. He had slept like that ever since he could remember. It was because of the vampires; they couldn't bite him and make him one of their legions, not through the thick layers of quilting. His brother had laughed at him, but still, he did it, and felt his hot breath on his cheek when he blew warm air into his quilt.
He was still awake when the siren started, high-pitched and soft to begin, then louder, then screaming like a banshee as it tore through the night. The sirens hadn't sounded in many nights now, and for a moment he thought it was a nightmare, but then he realized that no, this time it was real. The Muggle Fire was coming again.
"Alastor!" his mother shouted, tearing him from his bed in a swoop, covers and all, the sirens still screeching so even her loudest cry was drowned out by the sound. He clung to her, arms around her neck, head tight to her shoulder, legs wrapped around her middle, and he could feel how much thinner she had become since the war had begun. They used the word 'war' interchangeably, as if he didn't understand it. He knew there were two wars. There was the Muggle War, the one with the loud noises and the flashing lights, and the flying machines that dropped fire into the town, and there was the Wizarding War, the one where people vanished in the night without warning.
His mother met his father and brother in the hall, just as his father dropped a small, satin pouch into his pocket, and together, they went down, to the secret cellar where the Muggle Fire couldn't hurt them. His mother held him tightly until he slept.
On the second day, his captors returned, still cowardly in their robes and masks. One of them prodded at his foot, and in his vague consciousness, he felt his reflexes respond.
"Still alive," one of them remarked. They tipped their masked faces up to look at him. They stood there, as if making some consideration, and then vanished into the wood. He let himself slip away once more.
The Fire came more frequently, day after day, and the family spent so much time in the cellar that Alastor had dragged his favorite toys down to play with them.
Alastor took one of the little toy soldiers, and, despite its squirming protestations, put it soundly inside his shoe. "Now," he announced softly. "You will have a choice."
Durward was pretending to be grown-up, reading from a stuffy book with no pictures, although Alastor saw his brother watch from the corner of his eye, as if he were jealous.
"What are you playing, Al?" the older boy asked, a note of disdain evident in his voice. Alastor knew that Durward wished he were playing.
He poked at the soldier in his shoe. "Interrogation," he replied. He knew all about interrogation. His father interrogated people for the Ministry. They locked up Dark Wizards in little rooms and shook them until they told the good guys the location of Grindelwald's latest hideout. That was how Father put it, anyhow.
Durward didn't ask again.
Instead, he looked up, at the cellar door. Someone was beating on it, loudly.
Alastor tensed in fear. "It's vampires," he informed the older boy.
Durward gave him the sort of disdainful look that only an elder brother could give. "It isn't vampires," he scoffed, as he stood up, leaving his book open over the arm of his chair. "It's broad daylight, Al."
Alastor shook his head and returned to his soldiers. The interrogation was going badly. They would have to resort to torture soon. "Vampires," he repeated. "Take garlic."
His older brother didn't even deign to roll his eyes at him this time. He marched up to the cellar door. "Just a moment!" he called, as he fumbled with the latch, opening it to two tall figures.
"Is this the Fulsome residence?" asked a kindly lady's voice. Her tone was smooth, almost regal.
Alastor looked up. Something was wrong. She sounded like a vampire. He couldn't warn his brother, or he would bring attention to himself, too. So he dropped his soldiers and grabbed his blanket, clinging to the wall as he scrambled for a place to hide. Into his mother's big, old cauldron he went, slowly sliding the lid over his head from inside.
"Yes, Ma'am, but I'm afraid our Mother and Father aren't at ho—" he began, and the big man who accompanied the woman reached out to grab the boy, putting a hand over his mouth to muffle his cry for help.
"There's another one." The woman started into the cellar. "And look for it! Keep your eyes peeled! Mimir sent it--"
Alastor tugged the blanket over his head and waited. It was a long time, and the pot muffled noises, so that he couldn't be certain what was happening above and around him. He was certain an hour had passed, maybe more, but how could he know how long the woman would search for him?
He heard a loud, scraping noise above him, and he started, but the hands that pulled the blanket away from him were his mother's.
"Alastor?" she asked, in a tight voice. "Where's Durward?"
On the third day, they took him down from the tree. They gave him water, the first water he had drunk since they had hung him by his shackles. He drank slowly, careful not to gorge himself. He pretended he was weaker than he was, letting some of the water dribble over the sides of his mouth, and he slouched, unfocused.
The two cowards still hid behind their masks. "You know what we want," one of them said.
He nodded feebly.
"The location," said the other. "Give us the location, and we will let you go."
He knew it was a lie. They would never free him. He opened his mouth to speak, fixing pleading eyes on them in an expression of abject obedience.
Then he collapsed back in his chair, feigning unconsciousness. They couldn't torture a man who could not feel it.
His mother kept him with her wherever she went, after Durward disappeared. It was rare that she let go of his chubby little hand, and she never let him out of her sight.
They walked partway to work with his father one morning, dropping him off at a streetcorner near the Ministry. His father hugged and kissed them both, and then they parted ways, walking in opposite directions.
When Alastor glanced back over his shoulder to get one last look at his father, he saw him talking to two people. He knew who they were instantly, the big man and the tall, slender woman who had taken his brother away and tried to take him. And there they were now, flanking his father. They were both eyeing the small, paper-wrapped parcel his father carried.
Alastor screamed and tugged his hand away from his mother. He flew down the cobblestone walk in a blind rage, right there on the streets of London, in front of all those bystanding Muggles. He caught at the woman's skirt, tugging her back, and all three of them—his father, the two others—turned around, looking at the boy in horror as he beat his fists against the woman.
"Al!" he father scolded, as he moved forward to scoop him up. "I'm sorry; I'm so sorry," he apologized to the other two adults, his face flushing with embarrassment.
"WHERE'S DURWARD?" Alastor demanded, refusing to let go of the woman. "WHERE IS HE!"
The people on the street politely tried to ignore the boy's outburst, though a few couldn't help but stare. His father continued to apologize.
"Well," the woman said, in the same lilting, smooth voice she had used when she had come into their cellar, "it's only natural, after all, after what the poor sprite has been through." She stroked Alastor's hair gently. "There, there," she said coaxingly.
Alastor tugged away, just in time to see the woman give the big man a funny glance. The big man raised a hand in the air. Alastor watched as he tried to wriggle out of the woman's grasp, and he followed the gaze of the big man up to an open window in a nearby building.
Something reflected from the window, gleaming in the sun, and Alastor shrieked again, because he knew what he saw, as the bespectacled man who stood in the window pointed a wand down into the crowded street.
Alastor dove for his father, knocking the man backward. Screams rose up all around them, lost in the smoke and dust.
When the smoke cleared, the strange man and woman were gone. Alastor tried to push himself to his feet, but he couldn't. He couldn't feel his leg.
On the fourth day, he woke to find himself suspended in the tree once more.
"The Dark Lord will not see him," said one of the masked men.
"But why?" asked the second. "He is one of his greatest adversaries. I thought we were to be rewarded."
The first shrugged, an elegant motion under all those black robes. "He says he is of no use, not if he will not speak. He said to do with him as we will."
"Then make him speak!" urged the second.
The first nodded. "I intend to."
They left him again.
Alastor's mother said that they were going to the country. She packed up their things into trunks, and took the trunks to the Muggle railroad station. Father was not coming; Father had to stay in London to work. The two people who had taken Durward away—they were Father's coworkers at the Ministry. Father had explained that they were secretly Bad People, people who worked for the Dark Wizard, Grindelwald, and that it was no longer safe in the city. He was going to kill the Bad People, and then he would come to the country to stay with his wife and his remaining son.
This was why they had to travel the Muggle way, his mother explained. The Bad People wouldn't find them, not if they were careful, not if they blended in.
When they parted, his father gave him a little satin pouch. It was sewn shut, so Alastor couldn't see what was inside it, but it weighed heavy, like a stone.
"Take care of this for me," his father said. "And whatever you do, don't open it."
Alastor's mother picked him up to carry him onto the carriage. He had not yet gotten used to his new leg. The people at St. Mungo's had not been able to put his old leg back on, so they had given him another one, made out of wood. Alastor was secretly pleased to look like a pirate, although he didn't say this anymore in front of his mother. He didn't like it when she started to cry.
She bundled Alastor into a compartment, and put him down in the seat beside her. Now that Alastor had his new leg, she hovered even more than she had before, and Alastor sometimes felt as if she were breathing down his neck. He pulled out the few toy soldiers that he had secreted in his pocket, and they began stretching after their cramped trip across the city.
The woman sitting across from him stared at his soldiers with an odd look, until Alastor's mother realized what had happened. She snatched up the soldiers, putting them into her handbag. "Put those away!" she scolded.
At lunchtime, Alastor's mother gave him a few odd-looking coins and sent him to find the trolley to buy sandwiches. It was a laborious process, on the crowded train, with his stiff new wooden leg that thumped and dragged and couldn't quite be trusted to go exactly where he put it.
The pink-faced lady who pushed the trolley smiled as the little boy held out his coins, unsure of how much money he had.
"I've a special sandwich, just for you," she told him in a kindly voice, and she handed over two sandwiches, wrapped in paper. Alastor dutifully took the sandwiches back to his mother, thumping all the way.
"They smell funny," he informed her solemnly.
"We'll have something proper to eat when the train stops," she promised, as she unwrapped the sandwiches. "Here you go, Al."
She put a half of the sandwich out on his lap.
"I don't want it," he said. "It smells funny."
His mother let out a long-suffering sigh. "Then starve, if you like," she said helplessly, as she took a bite of her own sandwich.
A moment later, her face began to redden, and she let out a gasping sound, her eyes bulging like an insect's.
"Mother!" Alastor exclaimed, as he reached for her shoulders, shaking her. "Help!" he cried. "Someone help!"
The woman sharing their compartment hurried out, as Alastor's mother's eyesockets began to bleed, her mouth began to foam, and her body began to convulse violently.
"Mother!" he cried again, as the other woman in the compartment screamed. The blood began to pour from her ears and her nostrils, then finally from her mouth, as the convulsions stopped and she grew still.
On the fifth day, no one came at all.
They had stopped the train at the next station, and made Alastor get off and sit with a Muggle Police Officer while many more Muggle Police Officers went into the train to look at his mother's body. The Officer kept asking Alastor for information: things like his name, and his mother's name.
""I'm afraid we can't find a telephone number for your house. Where does your father work in London?" the young officer asked.
"At the Ministry of Magic," Alastor replied, clutching the pouch his father had given him tightly in his hands.
The officer chuckled, shaking his head.
"Aren't you going to write that down?" Alastor demanded.
"Oh, oh, of course," the officer replied, and he scribbled something on the paper. "Ministry of Magic," he said, but Alastor could tell that those weren't the words he had written. "Now, did you see what happened to your mother? Do you know if she was… ill?"
Alastor shook his head. "She's never been sick," he replied. "Someone hexed our sandwiches."
"Someone what?" the police officer asked, blinking at the little boy.
And all he had was the pouch his father had given him. Another child might have opened it, but he believed his father's words. He clutched it tightly, but he did not dare rip open the seam that kept it shut.
On the sixth day, still no one came, and he hung in the tree. The weather grew chill, but he was too weak even to shiver with the cold.
When his father finally came for him, he looked haggard and unwashed. He had sparse whiskers on his usually-clean-shaven face, and his hair had grey spots where Alastor couldn't remember there having been grey before.
His father took him away, to a little cottage on the seaside. There was an old lady waiting with the key when they arrived.
"You must be Mister Moody," she said, as she greeted his father. "And this," she said, eyeing Alastor's leg more than the boy himself, "this must be the little lamb."
"Why did she call you Mister Moody?" Alastor asked, when the woman had left.
Father was distracted, he was looking around the cottage. Alastor was used to that, though. He finally looked back at Alastor. "It's a new name. We're going to use that, instead of Fulsome."
Alastor frowned, and then he realized that he understood. "So they can't find us and kill us."
His father nodded grimly. "So they can't find us and kill us," he agreed.
Alastor and his father slept in one bed, his father's arms tight around him every night. In the mornings, people would talk to his father in the fireplace, but there were never any owls or visitors. His father set up wards around the perimeter, at the door, at the three little windows, and at the chimney. There were no pictures on the walls.
They went to bed early every evening, after his father painstaking made their supper. It was usually cold or not very good at all, but Alastor knew that it was hard for his father to have to do the chores his mother had always done, so he didn't complain. His father cried sometimes when he thought Alastor was asleep.
Then, one morning, Alastor awoke to his father shouting into the fireplace.
"We agreed!" Father said angrily. "You told me I wouldn't—"
"We need you to bring it," said the man in the fire. "We need it now."
"I won't bring it," Father replied. "I've lost everything protecting it! Everything!"
Alastor couldn't hear what the man in the fire said, but he could tell that they were asking his father to do something that Father didn't want to do.
At the end of the conversation, Father took the satin pouch from atop the fireplace mantle. He let out a snarling sound as he turned to face the fire, then was silent for a long moment as he weighed the pouch in his hands.
"Well, you can have it!" he shouted finally.
He threw it into the fire, where the flames flared brighter for a moment. Alastor hastily pulled the blanket over his head so it looked like he was asleep.
"Wake up, Alastor," his father said.
Alastor pulled the blanket down off his face and opened his eyes.
"I'm going to have to leave for a little while," he informed the boy. "There's some very important work that needs to be done. You're to stay with Mrs. Brown—the landlady-- until I get back."
"You won't come back," Alastor informed his father dolefully.
His father gave him a weary smile, ruffling his hair. "Of course I will. You just be careful, and don't say anything about magic to Mrs. Brown."
A week later, a Muggle in a smart-looking uniform came to Mrs. Brown's house with an official-looking document they called a telegram. They asked for Alastor Moody. Alastor had to remember that that was his name now.
Mrs Brown looked apologetically at Alastor as she took the telegram from the uniformed Muggle. She read it out loud. "It's as I suspected, Lamb," she said in her most sympathetic voice. "Your father's been called to the Lord. Shot down by enemy planes."
On the seventh day, He Rested. No, no, that was another story. The captive's story had two more days yet to go, after this one..
"No relations to speak of," Mrs. Brown always said, as if Alastor couldn't hear her. "We searched and searched, but it seems as if Mister Moody was alone in the world, and the poor lamb…so of course I took him in; it seemed like the right thing to do, poor, penniless child. No one else would have him, not with his, oh, his leg, you know. But he's a dear lamb, a bit twitchy, if you ask me, but that's to be expected, after all he went through."
Then, there was the look of surprise on her face, the day a letter arrived for him. "Alasto—oh, Al, look, you've got mail!" she cooed at the boy, waving the envelope in front of him. "And a fancy bit of mail it is, too. She eyed the seal curiously, then opened it, not seeming at all timid about reading a letter addressed to him.
"Oh, scho—"she began, then stopped, her eyes widening. "Oh my," she said, fanning herself with the letter. "Witchcraft and…oh, oh my…we await your owl? Owl? What is this nonse—"
There was a screeching sound outside, followed by a sharp thud on the lawn. Mrs. Brown looked up.
"Now, what on earth could that be?" she asked.
Alastor paled. "Don't open it!" he shouted, but it was too late. She was already turning the knob of the door.
Alastor ran, as fast as he could, with his wooden stub of a leg, toward the back of the house, as a flash of green light reflected off the walls and he heard Mrs Brown's body slump to the ground.
In the kitchen, he found what he was looking for, the one thing that no wizard would be prepared for.
"He's in here," said a familiar voice, a smooth voice that he only just recollected from all those years ago.
He fumbled to see that the gun was loaded, then cocked the rifle, as the woman pointed her wand at him.
He shot once, then twice for good measure, then started into the living room again, emptying the gun into the man who had once muffled his brother's screams.
Then he took his letter painstakingly from the dead woman's hand and wrote back that he would be arriving at school immediately, if possible, and that he was very sorry for the inconvenience of an early arrival.
On the eighth day, the men finally returned. Still in masks.
"Miss us?" asked one.
Alastor was in no position to reply.
He had to assume they were smirking behind their masks, when the second one said. "I think he's ready to talk now, don't you?"
They took him down from the tree again and brought him to a house, where they locked him into a chair. They left him naked, completely exposed, even as a circle of men and women, all in dark robes and white masks, fell in around him, watching with their blank, masked gazes.
"Alastor Moody, you have been sentenced to death by the Dark Lord himself," one of the men informed him. "We will commute this sentence if—and only if—you are willing to cooperate."
By the look of the ugly pair of tongs the second man was holding, they were not expecting him to cooperate.
"You will give us the location of the current headquarters of the so-called Order of the Phoenix," the man informed him.
Alastor barely smiled. He knew this game. Interrogation. "Vampires," he recalled, weakly, his throat cracking with the word.
"What was that?" the man asked. "Water," he ordered, and they gave Alastor water to drink. "Now, what was that?"
"Vampires," Alastor repeated, his eyes twinkling.
The man took the tongs to his nose. "Now, an answer that makes sense."
He felt the squeeze of the tongs, felt the skin and cartilage ripping. "Now."
And then there was a jerk, and a fountain of blood before his eyes, and then, for the first time in eight days, he truly blacked out.
He was only aware of one statement, as he felt them free him from the chair. "Put him back up. We'll try an eye tomorrow."
On the ninth day, they came for him again, but this time, he was prepared. When the two men lowered him, he let his body stay limp, so that one of the men had to lift him up, over his shoulder.
"Do you have a particular preference?" one of them asked. "Right eye or left?"
Alastor grunted. He wasn't much paying attention to the question, but more his reach. He let his arm dangle a bit lower, just grazing his captor's pocket. He was almost there.
The other man snickered. "Which eye is prettier?"
The wand was his. His fingers closed around the handle, but he couldn't pull it from the man's pocket.
"Incendio!" he rasped weakly, just gripping the end of the wand. His captor's trousers burst into flame, and the man whirled around, dropping Alastor onto the ground.
Alastor held the wand tightly, pulling it to himself as he rolled away. His captor was writhing in agony, while the other man started for him.
Alastor couldn't pull himself to stand—not even to sit. He was too weak. As the other man drew near, it took all his strength to raise the wand and point it at him.
"Accio mask," he tried.
The man's mask snapped away from his face, stunning him so that whatever curse had been on the end of his tongue vanished, as the mask flew to Alastor. He studied the man's face.
"Rosier," he said, in as delighted a tone as he could muster. "The Ministry will be…glad to see you."
"The Ministry?" the other man asked with a cackle. "Do you even think the Ministry will know how to—"
"Stupefy," Alastor ordered, smiling weakly at the paralysed man. "That's good. Less chatter."
But Rosier did have a point, and he was too weak to perform much magic. He needed to find a way to bring anyone—the Ministry, the Order—anyone who would know it was him there, and fast.
He did the only thing his half-alert mind could think of. He pointed his wand at the sky. "Amorsmordre!" he rasped.
An enormous pink heart erupted into the night sky. Alastor let his head drop to the ground. He hoped that would do. He also hoped, rather dizzily, that the so-called Dark Lord would appreciate the bastardization of his special spell.
It was not until the last battle had been fought that Alastor made his way back to the seaside town where he had spent five years of his childhood.
He limped into the tiny cottage, its roof collapsed so that bits of old thatch were strewn across the floor, and his wooden leg thumped on the boards as he made his way to the fireplace.
He knelt down, reaching a hand into it to pull out the object that he knew would still be there among the decay.
He rolled it around in his hand. It was smooth, but for a few pits, and covered with a thin black coating of grime that came off on his fingers, revealing the piercing blue of the iris beneath.
"I know you're watching," he informed the fireplace, glaring at it. There was nothing in it, nothing that could burn, so he gathered the dry wood he could find from the yard, and pulled some of the fallen thatch in for kindling, then set it aflame.
The face that appeared in the fire was weathered and worn. "I've been waiting for you," it said.
Alastor nodded. "A long time. Mimir?"
The man in the fire smiled. "You knew," he replied.
Alastor gave him a dry look. "What else would you call yourself?" he asked, as he tossed the glass eye up in the air. "I'm keeping it," he informed the man. "I'd say I have a right to it, after everything I went through."
The man in the fire was quiet for a long moment. "It might be the safest place for it, after all. But are you prepared to make the sacrifice?
Alastor eyed the man in the fire stonily, with a steady, even gaze, as he pulled the silver knife from his pocket. "I've been prepared all my life, Mimir," he answered, as he plunged the blade into his eyesocket.