DISCLAIMER: The world and characters belong to JKR. I am merely borrowing them for procrastinaion and entertainment.

Written for Elledreamer's Growing Up Challenge

"Awww, come on Al, you're such a fraidy-cat."

"Am not!"

"Then how come you're afraid to come into the woods with me?"

Seven-year-old Margaret Moody leaned over her brother's shoulder and yelled right in his ear "FRAIDY-CAT! FRAIDY-CAT!"

Alastor leapt out of his seat with a yelp, before turning to face his younger sister red faced.

"Go away Meggy, I'm reading."

His sister scowled at the book, her lips slowly forming the author's name.

"Oh," she sneered, "it's one of those stupid muggle books about the Defective, and his healer friend."

"Detective," Alastor muttered "and he's Doctor Watson, not a healer."

She considered this for about ten seconds before returning to her original topic.

"Anyway you should come with me. Mummy doesn't like me going by myself," she scowled at this prohibition, before grinning. "We might see another flying unicorn, or some more drop bears."

Wincing at the memory of their last walk into the nearby woodlands, Alastor said "That wasn't funny you know. You could have broken my back, or your leg jumping out of a tree like that."

"Oh come on, it was just a joke. You're just para...panar.."


"Yeah that one. And a fraidy-cat too. I'm going and if Mummy tells me off I'll say that you went with me and left me out there by myself so there."

Alastor considered his options for a moment before deciding that little Meggy would indeed tell his mother that and opted for the lesser evil.

"All right, all right lets go play in the woods. Just no more jumping out of trees at me."

But his sister was already outside, racing towards the line of trees that marked the boundary of their garden, no doubt hoping to get a good enough head start to scare him when he walked past. Shaking his head in resignation, he followed her out the door.

"...bloody ministry....useless filing system...where the hell..."

Alastor Moody grumbled to himself as he pulled file after file out of the box, glancing at the (out of order) names, before tossing them on the desk beside him. While technically retired, his many years of service and reputation allowed him access to the Auror department's collection of mismatched reports, files, trial records and general rubbish that accumulated in the back rooms.

"Aha!" He grabbed a wad of parchment covered in what looked like bloodstains, though a cautious sniff suggested tomato sauce instead (he cast an examining spell just in case), and flicked through every scrap of knowledge they had about the death of Dorcas Meadows. D.O.B 17th of September 1957, Hufflepuff, had completed training as an Unspeakable, was researching in the Death department, suspected to be personally killed by L.V, no-one could provide a reason why she was anywhere near the location she was found at.

Of course, Alastor knew exactly why she had been there. She and Elphias and Pettigrew had been keeping a lookout while Longbottom and Black staged a rescue of four young muggle-borns. They had gotten away safely, along with Doge but the Death Eaters had somehow stumbled across her and young Peter and she had fought to buy him enough time to escape. The fact that the Death Eaters had found the supposedly hidden lookouts had not seemed particularly suspicious at the time, and even he had put it down to bad luck. But now with Black on the run, and the looming possibility of the abductions and killings starting again, he was checking through the old cases to see if he had missed something, anything that would help in catching that filthy murderer. Something had been niggling at the back of his mind since that fateful day last July, and he hoped that this would help...

His back to the door, and attention fully focused on possible revelations, Alastor failed to hear the soft footsteps of his assailant until she leapt from behind the door and yelled "BOO!"

He whirled, firing curses indiscriminately, and determined after several seconds of heavy breathing and darting eyes (including a quick glance through the back of his own head) that the only attacker was indeed the unconscious, tentacled, twitchy-eared piglet splayed across the portal. He considered leaving whatever half-witted fool it was to be found, but changed his mind, and muttered the counter curses, ready to tear strips of whoever thought it would be amusing to...

"Wotcher, Mad-eye. Was that really necessary?"

"Trainee Tonks, I might have known. What the HELL we're you thinking?"

Apparently unharmed and unembarrassed by the barrage of curses, the young witch grinned up at him. "Well, you're the one always going on about CONSTANT VIGILANCE and all, and I saw you with your back turned and thought it'd be a laugh. Come on Mad-eye, its April fool's day, lighten up a bit. It was a just a joke."

Unable to think of anything to say that might possibly convince the blue-haired trainee Auror that she should not find sneaking up on a superior (albeit retired) Auror amusing, he affixed her a final glare before returning to the paperwork that had scattered across the small office.

"Talk about paranoid," he heard her mutter as she walked off.

Staring at the papers, Alastor found himself unable to focus on the spidery scrawl detailing the examination of Dorcas's body. Instead he saw his little sister of that April fool's day all those years ago, pretending to be a drop bear, jumping out from behind trees, delighting in her nine-year-old brother's yelps and squeals of surprise. Then he remembered the sight of her corpse, her skin drawn tight from hours of torture before finally being destroyed. Paranoid indeed, he thought moodily, with fair reason.