Editor's note: I changed some cannon as I decided that Albus Dumbledore defeated Gellert during his summer vacation from Hogwarts. This is a prequel to 'The Steadfast Tin Soldier'.

"Albus… you don't really have a choice in this matter," Reginald Baxter, the incoming Minister of Magic, informed Albus Dumbledore. "The new term starts next week and you will have an Auror bodyguard. You managed to weasel out if it by popping to and for for the summer – but you will be tied down to Hogwarts."

"I really don't need someone to mind me," protested a tired Albus Dumbledore. His tone was lifeless and his blue eyes were surprisingly old for a mage in his physical prime. He was only sixty three years old but his youthful vigor had gone a burton. His exhaustion was to be expected as he had just defeated Gellert Grindelwald in a battle whose complexity was still being dissected by the Magical Bureau of Defense.

"Yes, you do," Reggie stated in a 'I dare you to disagree me' tone. "We're not sure all of Gellert's followers have been contained. They will come after you."

"Let them come," countered Dumbledore, displaying his first spark of energy in far too long. "I will not live my life in fear of possible assassination."

The birdlike Reggie made a most ungentlemanly exclamation which cannot be repeated in polite company.

"What about Hogwarts?" Reggie asked. Seeing Albus' momentary lapse of surety, the former Auror pounced on his distracted prey. "If you won't take an Auror for your protection, do it for the students. You're tired, Albus. You're in no condition to take on a squad of Gellert's followers if they reach Hogwarts. If there's an altercation someone will get hurt. A child... a student... a co-worker... just because you were too damn proud to accept help."

"Reggie…" Albus began, though he was weakening as Reggie had hit his Achilles' hell with all the fury of a rutting werewolf. Damn Reggie! Damn the eagle-eyed Reggie for realizing that working at Hogwarts... with magical children...with the gifted and the not-so-gifted was Albus' own personal atonement for past deeds. Baxter didn't know the truth of it, thank God. But there was always the fear that Baxter would decide to investigate.

"Yes, I know about your peccadilloes as you know that I share them. The Auror I've chosen to be your guard is my former protégé. He doesn't share our inclinations, Albus, but he also doesn't view us as perverted deviants."

"Probably a good actor," was the flat response.

"No. He's raw as rope and doesn't possess a filter. He's utterly shocking and yet completely refreshing. Albus, you know about our team of Aurors that were on the Eastern front on the continent?" Reggie questioned.

"They did amazing work," Albus answered. Truly, that small band of nameless Aurors had been a band of Avenging Angels, relocating Muggles and Mages alike from Gellert's oncoming armies. Their escapades were legendary and even the biased Daily Prophet had declared the unlikely band of heroes a magical treasure.

"They did not," Reggie stressed. He held up his hand to stop Albus from interrupting. "He did bloody phenomenal work. We sent a quad of volunteers to help out. Alastor's been working alone for the last six months. I need to get him out of the field and quickly before he burns out. He's insisting on staying out in the field until the job is done. He stays out for much longer, he'll be as crispy as an overbaked treacle tart. In this strange new world that I find myself in charge of, I need both of you hale and hearty."

Albus shook his head and Reggie overruled his longtime friend. "You're meeting him tomorrow at the ceremony. You're both getting Orders of Merlin. Right now, I need heroes for the general populace and congratulations you and Moody have been selected. Then he's moving into your quarters at Hogwarts right afterwards, so you need to Charm up an extension. He's a big burly bloke so don't skimp. Full suite of rooms, Albus, proper sized bed..."

He knew Albus would mutter how he didn't deserve an OoM, but Reggie was surprised when Albus flinched.

"Wear something festive," ordered Reggie. "You look like you're being laid out."

Alastor Moody stormed into Reggie Baxter's office, his dark mood frightening several undersecretaries and three clerks.

"No need to let me know he's here," Minister Baxter stated to his terrified clerk. "I could hear his voice once he entered the building. Perhaps calling your new Minister of Magic a daft plonker is not the smartest career decision? And I'm quite sure that I didn't hear you call me a Daft Tossing Wanker?"

"Of course not, Minister," responded a not very contrite Alastor. The Auror was guilty of doing that but he wasn't idiotic enough to tell Baxter.

"Put your arse in a chair, lad," Reggie commanded. He was busy signing various documents and he didn't look up to see if Alastor did as instructed. Because he knew Alastor would sit and Alastor accepted that he'd sit. Reggie then gave the stack of papers to his clerk and ordered him to Floo the Prophet regarding the photo opportunity at the ceremony.

That done, he looked at the ginger Alastor, Viewing him, estimating his magical stores, guessing at his depletion levels and worrying about his hair-trigger temper. Inwardly, he cursed himself for letting Alastor Moody get into such physical straits, alone on the Eastern Front. Intellectually, he accepted that no one else could have convinced Gellert's followers that they were dealing with a quad of highly trained warrior mages. Emotionally, he ripped himself as new hole because he shouldn't have left Alastor out there. The boy was barely in his thirties! Yet he looked older and Reggie noticed how his eyes constantly shifted as though anticipating attack. Paranoia and constant vigilance had kept Alastor alive for his tour of hell, but now Reggie needed to reintegrate Alastor back into the norms of peacetime Auroring.

"I understand that you're not appreciative of your new assignment," Reggie dryly commented.

"You want me to mind that mage that defeated Gellert. What exactly do you want me to do? Offer to hold his cloak when he decides to kick in the gates of hell as an encore?" Alastor growled. "Put me back in the field, Reggie. There's actual work I can do in Europe!"

"Alastor, defeating Gellert exhausted Albus Dumbledore. In his weakened condition, he will be easy prey for Gellert's followers. I need you to keep him alive," explained Reggie.

"Why me?" Alastor roughly exclaimed.

"I told you, perhaps you weren't listening, Senior Auror Moody. I need Albus Dumbledore alive. I've chosen you for three reasons. You're the best Auror I have available. You're also open-minded, which I need as Albus and I share similar inclinations. You never held that against me…"

"Why should I?" Alastor questioned. "I was the only Muggle-born Auror trainee in over fifty years! Kept getting that superior pureblood bull shit crammed down my throat, even the halfies looked down on me."

"Which is pretty hard to comprehend as you towered over all the others in your trainee cohort? And in fact, I know that when you were my trainee you binned a Senior Auror who made a comment about my particularities. Literally binned him, Alastor! 'Talking rubbish means you get put in with the rubbish'!"

Alastor's face fell and he looked bashful.

"You knew about that?"

"Yes, Alastor, I kept both eyes on you and while normally I can not condone a trainee slamming Senior Auror Phineas into a rubbish bin, I appreciate the sentiment. I must confess that I was surprised that you didn't turn him into a rubbish bin."

There was a mumbled response of 'got the bloody spell wrong'.

"Anyway, Albus appreciates men. You're a raging heterosexual, Alastor, as I know about the various female Aurors to which you'd showed your wand."

Reggie was rewarded with Alastor Moody turning fuchsia and attempting to hide his face.

"I must confess that I am still awed by your vitality and stamina, Auror Moody. As I was explaining, Albus is like me in that we both share similar interests. I can safely say that your virtue will remain intact as Albus won't find you attractive." Then just to twist the knife a little more as Alastor needed to be spanked after his bad behavior, Reggie added, "In the slightest. You're taller than he is, you outweigh him by a few stone and the beard… Plus he's a bit of a repressed priss. Alastor, I know that being out on the Eastern front for the last six months was hellish, but you need to trim that beard and cut your hair. You look like a ginger haired bear."

"I should feel insulted," Alastor protested. He proudly stroked his beard. "It kept me warm at night."

"And please take a long bath," Reggie pleaded. "I know you Scourifyied yourself daily but really, hot water, soap?"

He then dismissed Alastor, but Alastor refused to leave.

"What's the third reason, Reginald?" Alastor asked.

"You've been in the field by yourself for too long. I need to pull you back in, Alastor. Before you so astray in the head or have a meltdown. I should have pulled you back in after Erik immolated himself, but I had no one to replace you."

Of the four Auror blood brothers sent off to the Eastern Front, only two survived. Edgar had been shipped off to Mungo's early on, Clarence had gotten killed by a troika of Gellert's supporters and after Erik's stunning death by flambé, Alastor had been left to carry on. Six months of solitary fighting, a one wizard resistance army.

"Erik died due to hostiles," growled Alastor.

"I investigated Erik's death, Alastor. You and I know the truth, but no one else does. Erik's mum is getting his death benefit so his dying in battle is the official story. No one needs to know that the demons he was fighting were his own. Auror to Auror, brother to brother, Alastor. I swore the oath, too. Now, Alastor, I anticipate that you will cooperate. Clarence's widow will be receiving the Order of Merlin medal as will Erik's mother. Edgar's receiving his in a private ceremony as you know he's no good with crowds. Not any more. I need one of the Eastern Front Quad at the ceremony and you're it."

Bloody hell, Reggie had him by the short hairs.

The other Hogwart House Heads had taken it upon themselves to get him presentable for the travesty of the Order of Merlin award. He didn't bloody deserve it. He knew and accepted his role in Gellert's rise in power and the accompanying guilt but he had recognized the glittering in Reggie's eyes. It was a losing battle as Reggie would have him at the ceremony, short of Albus Hexing him - and knowing Reggie, he had probably also double dosed on the AntiHex Potion.

Galatea Merrythought was to be his 'date', Filius Flitwick was threatening him with a CheerMeUp Charm that would make him the life of the party and Horace Slughorn was busy commenting on the social and political connections of people he might meet. With friends like these, Gellert would have never become a Dark Lord Overseer intent on capturing Europe. No, he would have gone absolutely stark raving nutters.

Galatea shook her head in disapproval at his mood. "You deserve this. Stop acting like you're a guest at your own funeral. Filius? Do you have a Charm that might help?"

"No charms, please," requested Albus. "Filius, did you ask Hogwarts if she'd be kind enough to expand my quarters?"

As the longest serving House Head, Filius was required to intercede with the Grand Dame Hogwarts regarding structural changes. It wasn't that she was uncooperative, but she was a tad bit set in her ways and firm in her foundations.

"What's this? Albus needs a larger suite? You moving someone in?" Horace narrowed his gooseberry colored eyes in mock concern. "Dippet must be having backflips – what with our morality code in our contracts."

"Horace, don't you worry, Reggie Baxter talked to Dippet and it's all approved," chirped an irrepressible Filius. "I just need his name."

"He's an Auror..." began Albus.

"Oooo..." catcalled Galatea. "An Auror...who is this pretty that has attracted your interest enough for you to actually make such a bold declaration of your interest?"

Really, this matter was rapidly heading out of control, and Albus needed to put his foot down.

"Reggie believes that some of Gellert's followers might wish to avenge what happened." He kept his tone flat and the irrepressible trio settled down right quick. Perhaps too quickly as they were now overly concerned about his welfare.

"He's guarding you," Galatea surmised. "Who is it? Have you met him?"

"No, I haven't met him as he was one of the Eastern Front Quad. He's been in Eastern Europe for the last year or so."

"Alastor? It wouldn't be Alastor by chance, would it?" the intuitive Filius asked.

"If by Alastor, you would mean Alastor Moody, you would be correct," Albus agreed.

"He's one of my high-flying Eagles," Filius proudly admitted. But his mustache was twitching which meant the Charms Master was struggling not to laugh.

"May I ask why you're so amused?" Albus questioned.

"You and Alastor are quite the odd couple," giggled Galatea. "It's like having a den of broody Ashwinders nestling next to an erumpet horn. You two together? He's so... Alastor and you're just so... Albus...Just so Albus..."

And both Horace and Filius were nodding their heads in agreement.

"What do you mean by that?" protested a flustered Albus.

"Albus!" Reginald Baxter exclaimed upon Albus' arrival to his inquisition. "You came! And Galatea! No doubt it's all due to your influence."

The newly crowned Minister exchanged assorted pleasantries to Galatea before he asked if he and Albus could be excused. He then hooked his arm into Albus' and pulled him toward a small room.

"I need you to meet Alastor," Reginald explained. "You two will get along like a cauldron on fire!" Then in a softer voice, he informed Albus that the Department of Aurors had Charmed the party for safety. And then as an afterthought, "And there are anti-Disaparation charms. So while you could punch your way through them, Albus, it would make quite the scene."

In a louder tone as the two men entered a smaller room, "And here is Alastor!"

Albus wasn't sure what he was expecting, but the man known as Alastor Moody wasn't it.

Moody was tall, a bit taller than Albus and he was broad shouldered and bulky. Well, that was just a first impression as Moody hadn't bothered to pretty up. No, he was wearing his working clothes. Long leather jacket, dragonhide vest, sturdy trousers and dragonhide boots. He carried a blasting staff in the crook of one arm and his wand was noticeably holstered with his left hand hovering over it. Shaggy, ginger hair with a matching beard, complete with a streak of grey. It looked like a Hex-caused disfiguration as he was probably in his mid-thirties at the maximum. And far too young to have come across the grey naturally.

His face looked young – however his eyes... his dark eyes were darting back and forth, never still. The hands that hovered over... never on... his wand and staff. To Albus, he personalized vigilance that bordered on full blown paranoia.

Alastors' eyes narrowed and he stared at Albus. For several minutes, he examined Albus and then he spoke.

"Alastor Moody," he introduced himself.

"Albus Dumbledore," Albus replied in kind and then extended his hand. To his surprise, Moody ignored it... well... he viewed it with the same intensity that some reserved for poisonous snakes.

He looked... like he was a walking, talking case of SpellShock.

A guardian angel that had witnessed too many traumas to stay sane, and in response to his suffering, he had become one of God's Avenging Angel, thunderbolt and lightning in hand.

"I'm going home with you tonight," Alastor announced.

Albus flushed and Moody roughly barked a laugh.

"Hard to believe that a renowned defeater of Dark Lords blushes," Alastor growled. "Then again, it's hard to believe that the Ministry believes you need someone to change your nappies. We need to get some ground rules settled first."

"When it comes to your safety, I make the final decisions. You will abide by what I say with no whinging. I've heard that you haven't wanted a minder so you've been blatantly ignoring Reggie's attempts at saving you from your own stupidity. That shite's ending now," Alastor roughly insisted.

Like bloody hell was Albus Dumbledore allowing a stranger to make decisions involving him.

"You're not making my decisions for me. I make them myself and you figure out how to keep me safe. If Reggie had his way, he'd put me in a cell and keep me there," protested Albus. "He doesn't want me to teach this term, and I refused. I will teach my students and I do not need you to mind me during classes."

The two wizards glared at each other, daring the other one to look away first. It was akin to staring at a mad dog, Albus realized. One sign of weakness and he'd pounce... yet too much staring would be viewed as an attempt to dominate Alastor, causing him to attack. Instinctively, they took one step closer toward each other and then Reggie... short, wren-like Reggie butted between them.

"Now boys," Reggie interrupted. He grabbed both men by their arms and squeezed. Hard.

The two near combatants turned as one and stared at him, both obviously puzzled by his interruption of their friendly greetings.

"Put your willies back into your pants, boys. There is no need for a pissing match. We're actually doing this my way," Reggie explained in a faux cheerful voice. "In public, Alastor will not disagree with Albus. You two will appear to be friendly at all times."

Alastor was in mid-bark and Albus was smiling,

"Don't get too happy, Albus. In private, Alastor will take lead. In all matters of defense, Alastor's will be the final decision. Don't try to be a sly fox, Albus, and attempt to make changes in public. Albus will continue to teach however Alastor will be present during all classes, be they public, private; one-on-ones for advancements or remediation and most especially Alastor will be there for all detentions. I don't anticipate that Albus will need you to be his teaching assistant, Alastor. You will be an observer, nothing more."

"Do I have to soap his back for him, too?" Alastor roared.

"I must protest," Albus argued.

"Protest all you wish, Albus and Alastor. We have medals that we are presenting in two minutes and I know that you both will be happy and clappy and most importantly suitably impressive so you can give our shattered populace some hope in these difficult and trying days. Alastor, Edgar's children are in attendance, so I'm sure you'll wish to talk with them. Albus, I took the liberty of having a few students from Hogwarts attend. One of them is the Head Girl, the one that is training to be an animagus? I think she's one of your lions, am I correct?"

Both wizards, realizing that they had been cut off at the knees, decided silence was the better part of valor.

"Now, good wizards," Reggie exclaimed. "A celebration awaits. In other words, you're about to go out there to a world hungry for heroes. You will smile. You will be happy. You will appear to be the closest of friends. And you know why?"

"Because you got me by my short hairs," Alastor growled.

Albus nodded his head in agreement. "While his expression of discontent is rather ... crude...the sentiment is quite correct."

"Boys, boys, boys," Reggie protested. "You're going to smile because that's what cheerful wizards do."

Alastor Moody was beyond fuming. Albus Dumbledore was a prissy school teacher, an academic, annoyed that his personal freedom was curtailed. And Alastor would be responsible for keeping Dumbledore's intelligent head on his shoulders. No common sense did he possess. Yes, he had defeated Gellert but Gellert had probably tripped over Albus' long robes.

A lucky cast, a throw of a hex...

Yet Alastor knew that his furious anger... it was a new thing. It had kept him alive on the Eastern Europe Front for the last six months, after Erik had gotten Spellshocked. Erik was a good man, and Alastor refused to linger on Erik's last few moments. Moody had long accepted that a good man could be driven into darkness, especially after what the two of them had endured together after Clarence's death. When Erik had finally snapped and nearly taken out a bunch of innocent Muggles thinking that they were a cohort of Gellert's followers, Alastor had put him down.

Reggie knew the bloody truth and had kept it close to his vest. Erik's mum was getting the death benefit and she needed to keep receiving it. Therefore, Alastor put on his best smile and went out to his public.

The flashing of photos being taken blinded him, making him relive the horror and chaos of the firefight of Erik's death and instinctively, he reached for his wand. To his surprise, Albus latched onto his hand.

"It's just the flashes from the photographers. Don't panic," hissed Albus. Then in a louder tone, Albus offered to illuminate the room. "The flashing are quite overwhelming us both."

Alastor mumbled something that he hoped sounded like thanks and then opened his eyes. Albus Dumbledore was creating a ball of illumination wandlessly. Wandlessly. The wizard that Alastor was willing to dismiss as an overdressed priss had a bit of talent.

Still didn't mean that Alastor was gonna scrub his back in the tub. Or get the lather out of his hair.

Albus and Alastor mutually and silently both decided to mingle solo. Alastor saw a small girl next to three strapping lads. The set was matched with a harried looking mum and two other ladies, and his face broadened into the first real smile of the evening.

"Mrs. Bones?" He asked. "Mrs. Jones, Mrs. Harrison."

"Pru," Prudence Bones reminded him. "How many times must I insist that you call me, Pru? Edgar would have loved to have been here, but he's not comfortable with being out in the public."

Clarence's widow greeted him with a kiss and a hug, then Erik's mom was given a warm handshake.

They chinwagged for a bit and Edgar's young daughter Amelia had just informed him that she was attending Hogwarts for the first time in a week when Alastor was requested to get his arse over to meet someone important. He ignored the summons and instead bent down so he was eye to eye with young Amelia. She was a serious girl, far too serious for her age. Edgar had confessed that he was a might worried about young Amelia attending Hogwarts as she had been the lone Bones child still being homeschooled when her dad had gotten hurt. She had been deeply traumatized and Edgar worried about her first few days at school.

Therefore Alastor would keep both eyes on her, least as much as he could while soaping Albus Dumbledore's assorted bits.

"Now, Amelia, I'm being assigned to Hogwarts, so if you need anything, you come find me. Deal?"

She nodded her head before spontaneously giving him a big hug. He hugged her back and ignored the repeated summons for just a while longer.

He was then hugged and kissed by all three women, given a hearty handshake by all three Bones lad and then agreed to meet the Minister of Bloody Toilets.

What a flushing good time he was having.

Albus decided to divest himself of Alastor Moody the bloody Berserker as soon as possible. The bright lights of the photographer's flashes had been nerve-wracking yes, but Alastor had instinctively gone for his wand. Recklessly, Albus had grabbed Moody's wand hand, trying to prevent the widespread destruction of most of the wizarding world's press corps. While the death of Moe Skeeter would not be even be considered a minor loss, there were a great many people whose deaths would be hard to explain.

Galatea latched onto his arm, and skillfully directed him towards the various people that Horace Slughorn had deemed important. As Reggie would desire, Albus made small talk and gave false praise to Moody whenever possible. The ginger-haired bear was not making the social rounds according to the various disapproving comments made in his presence and fortunately Galatea was able to rally a defense.

"I'm sure he's visiting with the families of the Eastern European Quad. They were invited tonight and I'm sure he wished to see them. They were a brave band of brothers facing impossible situations together, so I'm sure their tight bond is impossible for people like us to understand."

Then Albus was informed that the awards would be presented.

Alastor didn't remember much of the ceremony. Lots of hot air about what he and his brothers had done, how a schoolteacher had defeated a Dark Wizard. He did remember the faces, the upturned faces peering up at him when Reggie placed the Order of Merlin – 1st class on him. A sea of faces looking for a hero in dark times and not one of them was kin. He was Muggle-born, his dad and mum long dead. The little he remembered of his father was that he had been a police officer before Liam had taken sick and died.

All those long years in the orphanage, where he had been friendless and considered unlucky due to the flukish things that occurred around him, he had always remembered that his Da had been the proper sort. Perhaps he had turned his Da into a superhero, but Alastor always struggled to be the man his father had been.

Might did not make right.

Morality was all that kept mankind from descending into anarchy and so he followed his Code. That's why he became the first successful Muggle-born Auror in a hag's age because he was following in the footsteps of his Da. He hoped his Da and his Mum were watching down on him and that they were bloody proud of him.

Because he had taken his magic, a gift, and used it well.

Or so he hoped.

And as he looked at the multitude of faces, he never felt so damn alone in his life.

Albus Dumbledore didn't anticipate that Aberforth would make an appearance and so he wasn't disappointed when he failed to see him. Instead he just saw the clamoring crowd and he felt violently ill at the celebratory praise.

I let Gellert do this to you all. Do not praise me! BLAME ME! Punish me!

When the blasted celebration was over, he had a pounding headache. Galatea took pity on him, and Side-Apparated the entire group back to Hogwarts.

Alastor Moody followed Albus Dumbledore back to his suite. Tomorrow, he'd be introduced to the various staff members of Hogwarts but tonight he needed to get some sleep.

After arriving in the suite, the first thing Alastor Moody did was toss the Order of Merlin into his dresser. He noticed without commenting that his 'suite of rooms' consisted of a small, single bed, a chest of drawers... and no private bath. Wonderful, the schoolteacher would soon regret his decision as he'd be getting an eyeful and more of Alastor Moody every damn time he bathed. Then Moody began triple checking the wards. After they matched his personal satisfaction, he placed a foeglass, a sneakoscope and assorted toys of the trade throughout Albus' neat quarters.

Albus opened his mouth, no doubt to protest, but Alastor cut him off quick. "Private means your quarters."

That done, Alastor cast a spell on the door and on the various windows.

"If you decide to take a midnight walk, you'll wake me," he explained.

And with that, Alastor Moody went to bed. His small, single bed that filled most of the room.

Damn it, Hogwarts hadn't agreed to amend a full suite of rooms to his quarters. He needed that rectified tomorrow. At the very least the Auror deserved a bed large enough to entertain in.

Oh dear God, he hadn't even thought that Alastor might wish nocturnal company.

Albus took off the blasted Order of Merlin, threw it in his sock drawer and then prepared for bed. And he had never felt so alone in his life.