A/N: The Battle of France begins on May 10th 1940 and lasts until June 25th of that year. The result is the German occupation of Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Belgium and the north of France, with Italy occupying the south of France. The Vichy government is installed in France. On July 10th, the Battle of Britain begins.
Alastor arrived at the Great Hall, fifteen minutes late. Tom looked up from where he sat writing a Charms essay.
"You been avoiding those girls again?" he asked.
"Shhh!" Alastor looked around, fighting off a blush, "I'm not avoiding them. I am…saving them the embarrassment of another confrontation."
"But…" Tom started, not understanding.
Alastor quickly sat down. "So, what are we working on today?" he changed the subject rather forcefully.
"I'm doing some extra work on Charms," Tom said, "Remember I told you about the Headmaster?"
"Yeah?" Alastor replied, not comprehending. Then enlightenment dawned. "Oh – right. You don't think it's enough to just pass all subjects this year, you want to have straight O's again. Notice that is not what he said, though."
"No, but it would definitely prove to him I can handle it," Tom said, "Scraping by with A's would not convince him that I can add extra work."
"First of all, I can't imagine you ever just 'scraping by with A's'. The worst you ever get is an E. Second, he does not expect perfect grades. And you know that the Headmaster knows that you know that he didn't mean that."
Tom stared at him. "Uh…"
"Oh, you know what I mean," Alastor waved him off, "and I noticed the essay for Transfiguration yesterday was supposed to be two feet. You did seven, two on what we were supposed to do and FIVE feet of extra information."
"So? I was interested in the topic," Tom shrugged.
"Or interested in making a good impression on the teacher?" Alastor asked.
Tom's face went carefully blank, a sign Alastor had learned meant that Tom was hiding some concern or emotion. Being a teen, emotions weren't Alastors forte either, but this was pretty easy to guess.
"Still thinking that fight between them is your fault?"
"I am no good, you know," Tom said sarcastically, "no matter how much Professor Dumbledore tries to redeem me, he still thinks I am. I'm still not good enough for him. He must hate me being in Slytherin."
"He shouldn't mind Slytherins, his best friend…well, former best friend, is one," Alastor said, a bit out of his depth, "and he does care for you."
"Oh, he gets me anything I need, and an allowance to get what I want," Tom conceded, "you know, forget I said anything. I'm probably wrong. He's been good to me."
With that, he turned to his Charms work. Alastor hoped to get a chance to talk later, but Tom had agreed to meet Minerva and John for some chess, and Alastor had a detention with Professor Kettleburn for being late for class three times in a row on Monday morning. Yet the conversation did not sit well with him.
Ignatius sighed. "I must admit I am pleasantly surprised by the ease with which we and Mr Churchill have managed to work together," he admitted, "but it is an exceedingly dangerous and explosive situation we have here. At least the Prime Minister is realistic in his expectations of the destruction a major war will bring, to all nations involved. Unfortunately, not all of our citizens are."
"I have spoken to several storekeeps and merchants," Slughorn, who had been in charge of preparing the Wizarding areas in London for the possibility of attack, said, "particularly the ones dealing with volatile items and substances. We cannot begin to evacuate all of Diagon and Knockturn Alleys, but a number of them have already left, anyway. Some stubbornly refuse."
"What are the risks?" Aberforth asked.
"If bombing should occur, the wards on most stores in Diagon Alley should hold and protect against most damage shy of a direct hit. Unfortunately not all wards in Knockturn Alley are up to date."
"That we can fix, with some effort," was the general consensus of the others. Slughorn agreed. "the Goblins have no interest in Gringotts being left the only building amidst a wreckage. It would seriously cut back on their clientele. So against a reasonable discount they will help with the warding as well as offer vaults for the safekeeping of those goods we want out of the Alleys, with the promise of no questions asked…by them, anyway," he added, with a slight smirk, "though if the Ministry is sensible, it will not plan to search people or level penalties at those who bring in questionable items. That would deter the others from doing the same."
"And St Mungo's?" Ignatius asked.
"Has already moved many of their regular wards and patients to another location outside the city," Slughorn, "but will remain open as a crisis centre to take care of any casualties. They have made their Floo and Apparition points as secure as possible and request a supply of one-way Portkeys to be able to send people on to safety once treated. I have asked for volunteers from among my NEWT students to brush up on a variety of advanced healing potions so we can quickly brew any supplies in potions St Mungo's might need. Almost all of them offered – especially after I indicated extra credit might be involved."
"Good, we're as prepared in London as we can be, then," Ignatius nodded, "I'll report this to the Prime Minister."
"Will we be expected to fight alongside the Muggles?" Albus inquired.
"How?" Ignatius asked simply, "brooms are no use against airplanes. Shields are meant to stop magical energy, not bombs and bullets. Should they attempt to land troops on shore we can help."
"I have gathered together such wizards and witches as would be willing to lend aid should that occur," Dumbledore said, moving into his own responsibilities within this group, "we have about a hundred standing by, many of them Aurors. The Centaurs, I'm afraid to say, are completely unconcerned and truth be told they would be too difficult to hide from Muggle eyes…and too difficult to explain. A group of House Elves are currently being trained to, unseen or in disguise, transport casualties either to St Mungo's when wizards, or one of the Muggle hospitals when Muggle."
The others acknowledges this and the meeting went on to other points. Slughorn and Dumbledore were steadily ignoring each other, to Aberforths obvious annoyance, but at least the two remained professional enough to set their differences aside in face of this common threat. Ignatius wished they would hurry up and resolve it, however – none of them needed the additional stress it caused.
Albus Dumbledore looked up from the essays he was grading.
"Why hello, Mr Moody," he replied, "where is Tom?"
"He beat Minerva again last Friday night, so she's forced him into a rematch," Alastor replied, "it will go on all night, I think."
"Minerva won't be pleased," Albus smiled.
"I think not. Their agreement was that if she lost that last match, she would have to tutor Tom in Transfiguration – as if he needs it!"
"Well, it never hurts to learn something new, and Minerva has done a great deal of extra credit work over the years," the Professor lectured, "but I do not think you came here merely to inform me of Tom's studies. I can see for myself his grades are excellent."
Alastor pursed his lips. "They should be, he spends enough time and effort earning them."
The Transfiguration professor nodded slowly, suddenly wary. The boy looked – angry?
Alastor got a sudden surge of the reckless Gryffindor courage that was usually only just beneath the surface, and kicked the office door shut.
"When is he going to be good enough for you?" he asked his professor with enough disrespect that it would earn him a clip around the ear from his father had the man heard him.
"Excuse me?" his Professor blinked.
"You know, Tom thinks he's no good," Alastor continued, his voice bitter, "that you will always think him not good enough."
He saw the blood drain from the older wizard's face, and felt a guilty surge of satisfaction.
"He thinks your fight with Professor Slughorn is his fault, too. He thinks you fought over him."
Albus just stared. How in the world had his son known that? He had been careful to keep it from the boy.
"You think that just because Tom's not always entirely normal that he doesn't care what you think of him?" Alastor challenged, "or that he's too dense to notice that you seem to think he needs to be 'redeemed', like he told me. Like he's a criminal! My Dad says Tom didn't learn the things any child should learn when he was in the orphanage and that's why he's the way he is. How is he going to learn all those things if you make him feel like he's never good enough?"
The Professor swallowed. "I do not intent to make him feel that way."
"But you do!" Alastor accused, "Tom always feels like that anyway, but now he's right, isn't he?"
Dumbledore stood up. "Mr Moody, you have said quite enough. I suggest you return to your dorm."
Alastor glowered. "He's my friend," he said angrily.
"Which is the reason I am not punishing you for speaking to a teacher, an adult, in such a highly inappropriate manner," his Professor retorted, drawing himself to full length, "because you spoke out of concern for your friend. Do not try my patience, Mr Moody. Off with you."
The boy opened the door to leave, but turned on the threshold. "If this is what Gryffindors do," he shot at the older man, "then I wish I had gone to Slytherin."
It had been months since their fight, but when Slughorn responded to the knock on his door and found his estranged friend there, looking pale, he wordlessly stepped aside to let him in.
Pouring him a shot of whiskey, and himself another one, they settled by the fire.
"Tom figured out we fought about him," Albus finally said, staring into the flames. "He hardly speaks to me, and according to young Moody, thinks he's never going to be good enough for me."
Horace managed to bite back an 'I told you so' by sheer force of the will and stayed quiet.
"Now how will I get Tom to trust me?" Dumbledore groaned, taking a far too big a swallow from his glass and coughing.
The Potions Master refilled the glass without a word.
"I think," he finally said, "that before you speak to Tom, you need to figure out your own prejudices. There is an immense amount of insecurity in that boy, and for some reason he only feels safe enough to occasionally show that side to Alastor. Perhaps because he does not feel threatened by Alastor. He trusts you now to provide him with what he needs – that is already an achievement. Now you need to work on showing him that you want him just as he is. That you will not give up on him. That he will still be your son, that you will still acknowledge him as such even if he does murder half the Wizarding World."
A small smile trespassed on Dumbledore's face. "I don't think he's likely to do that," he slowly relaxed some, "you were right. I should respect the person he is, not who I think he should be."
"And you aren't wrong in keeping an eye on him, the boy does have Dark tendencies," Slughorn admitted, "but he is making progress. He had made a massive amount of progress over the past couple of years. Despite his problems, he's a son worth having, Albus."
Dumbledore nodded, and they resumed staring at the fire. There would be no apologies, no talking things over. Both knowing what the other wanted to say, and both knowing where they'd been wrong, they rarely needed words to pick up the shards of their friendship. In a day or two, when the weekend allowed them some freedom, they would walk down to the Hogs Head together for a pint. After that, things would be back to normal.
Between them, at least. Albus was keenly aware that he had another relationship to mend, one that could not be fixed with a few drinks.