First Wizarding War Era.
Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, a lifetime ago, Alastor Moody had danced with an unexpected grace.
Had it been at the Christmas party for the Order that Albus had insisted on throwing? Yes, Minerva decided. It had been the Christmas party, and she remembered seeing Alastor impromptu waltzing and marveling at the incongruity of it. For such a large man, Alastor had been light on his feet as he danced with his fiancée. The normally grim Auror had been beaming as he gazed down at the love of his life.
Yes, that had been a lifetime ago.
A lifetime of hopes, tears, and deaths.
A lifetime of war.
Diana was long dead and the wreckage of a man that Arthur Weasley and Albus Dumbledore were supporting bore no resemblance to that nimble dancer. Someone… Evan Rosier, she belatedly remembered, had taken off a good chunk of his nose. If that wasn't bad enough, his left eye had gone astray and most of his right leg was missing. But the worse were his facial scars. Alastor would never again be the young man smiling with obvious delight at a pretty woman.
Rosier must have used a Hexed Blade to inflict such horrific scarring.
Witnessing the sheer magnitude of Rosier's depravity deeply affected Minerva. It was fortunate for Evan Rosier that he was dead, else he would experienced first hand that Minerva McGonagall, enraged, did not stay her hand.
Unlike the noble Alastor Moody, who had refused to become the very monsters he fought against.
"He should be in St. Mungo's," she weakly protested. Well, yes, he should be! But Albus Dumbledore had unilaterally decided to convey an injured Alastor Moody to Minerva McGonagall's cottage and interrupt the first day of her well-deserved summer vacation. "In fact, I thought he WAS there. Why was he discharged?"
"NO! NO! NO, I WON'T GO BACK," the hospital gown clad Alastor roared. "The staff is full of Death Eaters! It's not safe! NOT SAFE!"
"He was there," Arthur explained over Albus' attempts to calm the raving Alastor. "They attempted to murder him. Albus thought it best to remove him. We came here as this is probably the safest place for him."
"What happened?" Minerva questioned. "He should have been safe there."
"We're not exactly sure, but the two Aurors that were guarding him are dead, part of the wall is missing and there are bits and pieces of Emily Selwyn strewn all over ruddy creation," Arthur tersely explained. "Least, we believe that whatever it once was, it was Emily Selwyn. There's not enough left to be completely certain."
"I'm sorry to hear about the Aurors," Minerva dryly quipped. "But pardon me if I don't mourn Emily's passing."
"Bedroom," Albus ordered. "Come on, Alastor, we need you to help us."
"Why are you carrying him?" Minerva asked. Truly, she felt as though she was missing most of the conversation. Alastor Moody was not a small man by any stretch of the imagination. He was taller than both the men hauling him and he had the solid build of a natural born Beater.
"If you use magic on him for any reason, he'll toss you through the wall first then apologize," Arthur said. "That's what saved Moody when Emily decided to visit. Albus had to knock him unconscious and then Mobilicorpus him to get us this far."
"Bedroom," repeated Albus. "He's not very light, Minerva. Can we please get him to a bedroom so we can put him down?"
"This way," Minerva ordered as she led the three men to her spare bedroom. Fortunately it was on the same level as the kitchen, dining room and a bathroom so Alastor wouldn't have to navigate the stairs.
Albus and Arthur were drenched in sweat by the time they arrived in the room and the trembling Alastor was quite ashen from exertion. Minerva had already pulled the bed covers down and was holding onto a pillow just to have something to occupy her hands. It would be so easy just to swish and flick Alastor into bed. Yet considering the traumas Alastor had endured, it would be suicide by magical means.
"Please, can you have Miss McGonagall leave?" Alastor hoarsely requested.
Miss McGonagall. Alastor was too young to be a classmate and too old to be one of her students, yet he always called her Miss McGonagall. Terence Moody had been the very epitome of politeness so she shouldn't be surprised that Alastor insisted on using the proper title. Miss McGonagall. It didn't make her feel any less decrepit.
"No," Albus firmly stated, preventing Minerva from leaving with a shake of his head. "You must accept the fact that Minerva will be nursing you, Alastor."
Minerva glared at Albus as the bastard hadn't even asked. No, he had just arrived on her doorstep with the injured Alastor. But yet, where else could he go? Poppy was on the continent as her grandchild was due any day now.
"Arthur, a proper robe, I beg you," Alastor plaintively appealed to the family man. "A suitable length so I can be presentable. There is a lady present."
"Let me," Minerva interjected as she realized what exactly Alastor didn't wish her see. Not so much his nethers, but the remains of his right leg. "May I use my wand?"
"Please," Alastor requested. "I'd like a flannel robe as I'm quite chilled."
With a practiced swish and flick, she Transfigured Alastor's short knee length hospital into a longer flannel robe that reached below his mid-calf. It was a trifle bit too long, but not so long that Alastor would trip on it.
"Thank you, Miss McGonagall," Alastor hoarsely whispered. He sounded exhausted as well he should be after recent events.
"Minerva," she retorted. "If you're staying in my spare room, you'll have to call me, Minerva."
"I'm sorry that I brought him here without so much as a warning, but it wasn't safe in St. Mungo's. For him and for everyone else," explained Albus. "I need to put him with someone I can trust will be able to handle any situation. That's why you immediately came to mind."
"Idle flatterer," retorted the pragmatic Minerva as she pour them both a cup of tea. While she was an Order Member, she wasn't a blind Devotee in the Cult of Dumbledore. "Cut the con job. Biscuit?"
"No, thank you, but seriously, as a former Auror, you can comprehend the trauma he's endured. You're an excellent duelist and…"
"I'm the only Order member who has a spare bedroom that isn't being decorated as a nursery," retorted Minerva. "Longbottoms, Potters and the Weasleys are all out for that reason."
"No… that's not the reason, Minerva, though now that you mention it, it seems quite a good idea not to have Alastor around children. Arthur would have taken him in, but Alastor's very… tetchy. I think the controlled chaos of the Weasley family might be too much for our shattered friend." Albus then sighed and rubbed his temples.
"It's a bloody good thing you found Alastor," Minerva said. "He would have died if you hadn't located him. You never did tell me how you got the information."
"In time, Minerva," Albus explained. "I am not ready to reveal my source. He's convinced me of his sincerity in switching sides but I am uncertain of how well he is able to keep our secrets."
"You love having the air of mystery about you," teased Minerva. "Speaking of which, who is replacing Horace?"
"I need a Potions Master this fall, don't I? I've quite forgotten that position, as I'm still attempting to fill the Defense vacancy. Fortunately, I don't have to find another Divination instructor." Albus attempted to look innocent but failed miserably. Instead, he looked dangerously amused at his own cleverness. "I filled that one last year."
Minerva snorted, "It's tripe! I can not believe you're keeping that subject. And your new instructor? She's a drunkard, Albus."
"I'm inclined to agree with you on many of your excellent points, but traditions must be maintained. Rest assured, I have a candidate in mind for Potions. I'll have to see if he's interested and his other obligations won't interfere," assured Albus. "Speaking of potions, I took Alastor's potions and poultices from St. Mungo's. He'll need to continue them but I want you to watch his reactions to the medications. He's quite paranoid. I'm not sure how much is natural and how much might be side effects of the medications."
And so that is how Minerva McGonagall became Alastor Moody's keeper during a long, hot summer.
As a former Auror, Minerva McGonagall had enough training to be a fairly competent emergency mediwitch. She could restart a stopped heart, amputate a leg, stop uncontrollable bleeding and even deliver a baby. With an arched eyebrow and a few succinct words, she cut even the most arrogant of school children back down to size. Having faced the worst that the Wizardly World produced, she had come from the experience, intimately knowing both her strengths and her weaknesses.
Minerva McGonagall deemed that none of her current skills would be helpful in dealing with the traumatized Alastor Moody. Yet as a former Auror and a fellow Order member, she would struggle to help Alastor even though it would be in her typical, no-nonsense manner.
"Don't let me bugger this up," she prayed all night long. While slightly improper, her prayers were sincere and heart felt.
The next morning, she walked into Alastor's bedroom at seven in the morning. Her wand was in her right pocket and her hand was resting upon it. It didn't help that the Hogwarts' motto was repeating itself in her mind.
Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus.
Never tickle a sleeping dragon. Or should it be Alastor Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus?
"Good Morning, Alastor," she clearly enunciated. "Breakfast will be served in the kitchen in one hour. Will you need assistance in making yourself presentable?"
Her reflexes keenly honed after teaching a generation and more of magical youths, she was able to easy deflect the half-awake Alastor's Hexes into the large stone fireplace. The fire blazed merrily for a bit. A piece of Highland stoneware shattered as one Hex escaped from her control and hit the fireplace mantle instead. A shaken Minerva surveyed the wreckage and pursed her lips.
Yes, it was best to appear displeased rather than frightened.
"I never particularly cared for that overly ornamental vase but that was an antique from my mother's side. I hope, Alastor, that you will make an effort at not destroying the rest of my heirlooms? Or should I put everything breakable away?" For good measure, she added a scorching amount of censure in her tone. "While none of them are particularly dear, they do hold sentimental value to me."
"Best you put me in a cave…" rasped Alastor. "Be safer for you. Your valuables."
For a moment, Minerva remembered how Alastor had once sounded. He had possessed a pleasant baritone that still carried traces of Ireland but now, he cawed like a crow.
"Rubbish! You're a House Guest. I don't put my guests in a cave or a barn. You still haven't answered me, will you need assistance?"
"Miss McGonagall…" he began.
"I don't hear you," she interrupted. "Miss McGonagall is not here. Miss McGonagall is not in habit of opening her cottage to men who will not call her by her first name. Miss McGonagall fears being known as a harlot."
"Miss McGonagall should take more care of her reputation," protested Alastor.
"Miss McGonagall's an old, spinster school teacher. Everyone knows that she doesn't have a social life and that she only lives to teach empty, little heads. In the summertime, she is rumored to be hard at work at Hogwarts, dreaming up new ways to torture students," was her response. "She certainly would not be entertaining a man in her bedroom, spare or otherwise. Minerva McGonagall, on the other hand, does. With great frequency. Scandalizes her neighbors."
Her tart rejoinder caused Alastor to horribly grimace. Minerva feared that he was in pain, but then realized that he was smiling. Her asperity had amused him, it seemed.
Oh, my poor wounded lion.
"I am in dire need of your kind assist, Miss Minerva," whispered Alastor.
"Very well, you'll need to inform me what needs to be done and how you fancy it to be handled. I would have preferred if we had hashed this out yesterday, but you needed to slumber. What you need, I may not have available. It will take time for us to break in this new broom together, Alastor."
"Arthur drugged me," growled Minerva's patient.
"You were ashen and trembling in exhaustion. A sleeping draught seemed quite appropriate treatment for you. First things first, you probably need to make use of the toilet. Then you need a bath and a shave. You look utterly disreputable," she firmly stated.
"Can't get into a tub of hot water," protested Alastor. "Stump isn't ready. I can't shower because I to weak to stand unaided. Just Scourgify me."
"Chamber pot first," insisted Minerva.
He had been dumped onto Minerva McGonagall. Alastor knew very little about her except that she was a professor at Hogwarts and was rather highly ranked in Albus' Order of the Phoenix. James and Lily Potter and the rest of younger Phoenix members spoke highly, if slightly fearfully of her, but still… to be cast off… like an unwanted kitten on a woman he didn't know.
It galled him.
Nay, it frightened him because he wasn't sure if he could trust Minerva McGonagall with his safety.
They were coming for him, he knew it.
Emily Selwyn had managed to easily slip in through all the protective Wardings at St. Mungo's, slaughter two of his closest friends and then nearly take him unawares. Only a fortunate case of insomnia that had kept him awake had enabled him to notice the magical disturbance and react instinctively.
Alastor Moody trusted Albus and loved Arthur Weasley like a brother, and they had both repeatedly assured him that he'd be safe with Miss… no… Minerva. That's the only explanation on why he agreed to be dumped on her doorstep. Oh yes, he'd be safe and sound, as his reflexes were honed to a hair-trigger. Take the way he had nearly Hexed Minerva McGonagall into being bound and restrained in a hundred different ways because she had the gall to wake him for breakfast.
Oh yes, he'd be safe, but Minerva was in a hell of a lot of trouble.
His lack of self-control frightened him as Alastor always prided himself on his restraint, in his ability to follow the proper moral path. When the Ministry had given permission to his fellow Aurors to use the Unforgiveables, he had refrained from using them. They were too easy to use and once they were cast, they had a way of destroying a man's soul.
But he was a man, a proud man. The loss of his dignity bothered him far more than the loss of his leg.
To use a chamber pot in front of Minerva McGonagall! How utterly disgraceful!
"Just close your eyes and think of the Order," Minerva suggested when she began Alastor 's flannel bath.
The mediwitches had Scourgified Alastor as it had been easier for them. Shouldn't… couldn't… really blame them as they were overworked and understaffed, but Scourgifying Albus had further inflamed his stump. It was sore and irritated and there was no way he'd be able to put any weight on it for a spell. Plus, he did smell a bit… rank… not in a bad way, but enough to disturb Minerva's sensitive cat nose.
"Aye," he softly rasped. Minerva smiled as she thought that the wounded lion was agreeing with her, but her smile quickly faded when she realized that he had actually said, "Eye".
"Eye" as in only one eye.
His good eye was scrunched closed and he turned his head away for her, so the side with his missing eye was flush against his pillow.
Best be efficient and professional about the matter, Minerva thought so she briskly cleaned and washed the various odds and ends of Alastor Moody. Every part of him except for his face was covered with a heated blanket. She only bared the spot she was washing at the last possible moment before drying and re-covering it. To pass the time, Minerva talked about Quidditch, she made inane comments about the weather and she even discussed the history behind the piece of stoneware that was now only a memory.
And when Alastor had broken down into tears, she pretended not to notice.
Even wounded lions have their dignity, she knew.
At last, she could do no more. There were certain anatomical areas that were distinctively no-Minerva-Land and Alastor was required to clean them.
"You can finish washing yourself," she crisply stated. "When you're done, let me know. I need to create some proper clothing for you as it wouldn't be respectable for you to lounge around wearing nothing but a dressing gown. It would ruin your reputation."
Alastor barked a rumbling laugh which turned into a hacking cough.
"Reputation is everything," she tartly reminded him. "It's the Golden Rule for spinster School Teachers. Now, let me give you some privacy. When you're done, let me know and I should have something for you to wear for breakfast."
She stood up, straightened her shirt and then looked at the fire place mantle and the damage from Moody's misredirected Hex. Bloody hell, if she hadn't be quick on her wand, at best, she would have ended up flat on her back. Minerva sincerely doubted that Alastor Moody had fired off a Cheering Charm.
Don't show any fear, she reminded herself. He's nothing more than a large Firstie. You must treat his magical explosions the same way you would a student. Radiate complete confidence that you'll be able to handle anything he might do.
"I'm taking the carriage clock. It was my grandfather's and it has great sentimental value to me. Feel free to destroy the rest of the knick knacks," she declared. "Though you will have to clean up after your tantrum."
Regally, she turned her back on him and walked with complete self-assurance the four paces to the door, willing her limbs not to tremble.
Alastor Moody wished once more that he had the common sense to roll over and die when the Rosiers and their friends had ambushed him and his young partner. No, instead he had endeavored to defend the dying Marcus with every last ounce of his being. For all his Herculean efforts, he had been protecting a corpse by the time Albus and his marshaled Order troops had arrived.
What use was he now to Albus' glorious cause?
Maimed, he was no good to anyone, even himself.
Couldn't even wash himself.
The witch had cleaned him with a soapy flannel like he was a babe and had even washed his hair. With a remarkable equanimity, as though it was something she did every day, she had put the drops in his empty eye socket and had liberally applied the narcotic compound onto his stump.
"Just close your eyes and think of the Order," she had ordered and Alastor had done so.
He tried to keep himself detached from the situation. It was just a set of hands, not a person, not someone with which he had infrequently shared a cuppa. Her voice was soft as the witch talked about the most inane things. To his deep surprise, the silliness of her conversation did not anger him. Instead, Alastor found it relaxing. Quidditch, weather and a brief overview of Scottish stoneware required no actions from him besides listening. There were no muffled gasps of horror when she saw the extent of his scarring. No chirpy, patently faux, assurances that the festering wound would heal cleanly and be completely unnoticeable.
The warmth of the wet flannel, the soothing motions of being made truly clean for the first time in too long and the heated blankets help loosen his tight muscles. He no longer stunk of ashes, blood and dead.
No, the soap reminded him of the Highlands.
Nothing too flowery, but a pleasant smell.
It reminded him of home, hearth and safety. Completely disconnecting himself from his present, he daydreamed of times long past. He remembered when Diana agreed to marry him and of her desire to wait until their union was consecrated by the Goddess. They had grown emotionally so close while they delayed the physical.
Diana had taught him how to dance. He couldn't believe his luck that a burly, ginger haired bloke like him had such a fine woman in his arms.
Never had been very good with the fairer sex, as he had been physically and socially awkward compared to his peers. Alastor had gotten his growth and weight early plus he had inherited his father's strict code of conduct. That meant when his peers were picking on the ickle ones, he was the lone one defending them either by wand or by fist. Didn't like being like that, but it was like his Da always told him. Because of his talents, because of his size, it was morally imperative that he be a defender, not a tormenter.
"I believe that the Pride of Portree Quidditch team has a better chance this year," the witch calmly stated after she had medicated his eye socket. "Do you agree?"
Yes, his dignity was maintained due to her unwavering efforts at keeping his pride intact, yet Alastor couldn't explain for the life of him why he broke down in tears. He wasn't a Pride of Portree fan, Alastor Moody was a flag waving Ballycastle Bat man.
Carefully, she placed the carriage clock on a side table located in the hallway. With a quick flick and a stabbing motion with her wand, Minerva McGonagall wrapped the clock in enough protective spells to ensure its survival even if a Muggle bomb dropped on her house. It was then that she allowed herself to come undone, and collapse into a chair. Her hands shook and she nervously swallowed.
"Alastor will accidentally kill me," she predicted. "He'll feel quite badly about it afterwards, but his heartfelt regret will do me no good."
She shook her head and gave herself a stern what's what.
"Alastor Moody is a member of the Order and he is an Auror. You will just have to be prepared for anything with him. Albus sent him to me because I am the best chance he has. God help my poor wounded lion."
Her Scottish grit and pragmatism once again reaffirmed, she pondered the difficulties of clothing one Alastor Moody. He was a big man, broad shouldered and far taller than she was. He was roughly her Faither's size, and Minerva remembered purchasing Gavan McGonagall a few new odds and ends before he had died. Missing Gavan's good-hearted presence deeply, Minerva had kept the barely worn clothes, vowing to give them to someone that could truly use them.
Alastor Moody was truly in need and her loving Faither would not begrudge the use.
"I'll speak to Albus about getting him some pants. Now, where did I put Faither's clothes?" Minerva questioned. She walked to the hall closet and began rummaging through the various bins. There were some fuzzy socks and some pyjamas that Faither had never worn besides the dressing gown and night shirt.
Very well, Alastor would be clothed but how was she supposed to get the Mountain to the dining room? She couldn't Floo Call Arthur Weasley and the idea of Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew being on retainer for such situations made her head ache. What did the Muggles call those contraptions? Chairs with wheels? No… wheel chair. Very well, she located a suitable chair and transfigured it into something similar. She sat in it and gave the larger wheels a gingerly push, modifying the chair until she was happy.
Next problem was that the doors weren't wide enough for Alastor's chariot, so that cottage wide revision required a neat bit of wandwork. That accomplished, she made a mental list of what else caring for Alastor would mandate; a roll in shower as the wounded lion had been terribly mortified about his "Flannel Bath by Spinster". But she was putting the hippogriff before the cart as she needed to get Alastor fed. Their breakfast had long since turned into a brunch.
She knocked on his bedroom door and asked permission to enter. There was a guttural croak, which she hoped was his permission and so Minerva entered, pushing the wheelchair.
"Your chariot awaits," Minerva quipped.
Alastor saw the wheelchair and grimaced. Yes, he frowned, as she was beginning to differentiate the minute differences in his various expressions. He was lying in bed, on his side and he was covered with blankets.
"Can you sit up? I have new clothes for you," Minerva requested. She had stripped him when she had given him his flannel bath so she wasn't sure how he'd react. Grabbing a spare continental quilt, she then held it front of him to give him a modicum of privacy. "Sit up and then I'll drape this over you. I have a nightshirt and a dressing gown plus some socks."
"Sock," Alastor tersely reminded her.
"Sit up," she repeated. Deliberately, she turned her face away from Alastor just in case something slipped when he sat up. The bed shifted and there were a few painful sounding moans before Alastor said that he was sitting. "Take the quilt and wrap it around yourself."
After he had done so, Minerva turned towards him. Alastor was sitting on the edge of the bed with his lone leg dangling over the side. Deliberately, she looked fully on his face, refusing to let him know how his ruined face disturbed her. It wasn't Alastor himself that distressed her; it was the sheer rage she felt toward Evan Rosier.
"Nightshirt?" She asked.
"Sock," he requested. "Foot is cold. Would you mind? I think I might fall out of bed if I attempt it."
"Absolutely," she assured him. Deliberately, she knelt before him and carefully picked up his foot. Casting a nonverbal warming spell on the sock, she easily put it on him. For good measure, she put on a baffy though he hadn't requested a slipper.
"Marvelous," he sighed. "Both were cold. Now I have one that's warm and the other that's chilly."
"I can put one on your other leg," offered Minerva. "I can make sure that it's not too tight."
"No, it's fine," he softly protested.
Merlin's beard, Alastor didn't want her to look at his leg!
"Alastor," Minerva protested from where she was sitting on the floor. "I've seen your leg, Alastor. I rubbed the poultice on it earlier today."
"I know," he softly admitted. "Sometimes… it feels like it's still there and then… I look and realize anew that this isn't a horrible dream. It's time to completely accept the fact that I am missing a leg. Socks are for feet, not for stumps."
For the first time, Minerva realized how young Alastor Moody truly was. He was only in his late-thirties? He had always been a rock-solid presence at the Order meetings, what with his large build and his towering reputation. Why was it such a surprise to her that she had viewed him as a contemporary, especially when compared to the High Spirited Marauders?
Alastor always had possessed an Old Soul.
"Very well, let's get you dressed and ready for breakfast?" Minerva crisply questioned.
As Alastor feared, it was complicated getting him dressed. There was nerve damage in his right arm and he required Minerva's assistance in getting into his nightshirt. The blanket slipped during the process and Minerva got quite the gander. She said nothing, didn't so much as blink as she continued to maneuver his uncooperative arm through the armhole.
Alastor, on the other hand, knew he was red from shame. What would his Da say?
"Don't be embarrassed," Minerva assured him after she had finished wrestling him into a dressing gown. "My fault. I forgot that your shoulder is buggered up. Now, here comes the fun part, can you lean on me, and pivot? So we can get you into the chair?"
He refused, fearing that supporting his dead weight would cause Minerva to collapse. By utilizing the bedpost and with a great deal of effort, he landed in the wheel chair.
"Good," Her approval was quite obvious. "Now, the dining room is down the hallway on the left. I'll meet you there as I must get breakfast started. You'll have to get yourself down there as you need to exercise. Else you might get pneumonia or develop a clot. We'll do this again tomorrow, but tomorrow, you'll have to shave before breakfast. You're looking rather rough, Alastor."
When she came out of the kitchen with a heavily laden tray, she found Alastor at the dining room table. The hundred meters or so to the dining room had exhausted him as he was asleep in the chair. Minerva silently put the tray down so not to wake him. Carefully, she placed a blanket over him so he wouldn't catch a chill.
"To all, to each, a fair good-night, And pleasing dreams, and slumbers light," she quoted. "Sleep well, my wounded lion for I will guard your sleep."