It was a relief to be alone in the cool, damp stone corridor at last. As if the blasted early July heat weren’t enough to deal with, the whispers of the other staff members had followed him constantly since he had been released from the Hospital wing. “Here comes Mad-Eye… I can’t believe he’s still around, after all that… I can’t believe he survived… Barty Crouch…” Thank Merlin that it was finally summer vacation and the Hogwarts campus was deserted.
He approached the tall door cautiously, staring through it until he was positive that no one was hiding behind it. He stood perfectly still, his chiseled face focused intensely forward, for a long minute; stone was much denser than wood or plaster and much harder to see through. At last he relaxed – as much as he ever did – and spoke. “Pepper Imp.” As the gargoyle sprung to life, he suddenly squinted and leaned forward, seeing the door as though for the first time. He shook his head in disbelief. There was a griffin on that door. Bloody Gryffindors. They all think they’re so clever.
Alastor stomped up the stone steps.
“Morning, Alastor,” Albus said, settling back into his armchair and taking off a pair of small, wire-rimmed glasses that he rested on top of a stack of official-looking papers. “How are you feeling?”
“Tolerable, sir, tolerable,” he replied, unconsciously sweeping the room with his magical eye before settling uncomfortably on a spindly brown chair. Truthfully, he was tolerable at best. Despite copious amounts of All-Purpose Ache Ointment, his joints were not what they used to be, and nine months locked in a trunk certainly hadn’t helped.
“Glad to hear it.” Albus pressed two fingers to his temple and closed his eyes for a moment. Alastor didn’t speak; sitting there meekly in front of Albus’ desk made him feel like a second-year again. After a moment, Albus looked up and smiled wearily.
Taking this as his cue to speak, Alastor began in a quick low growl. “Let’s just cut to the chase. I know that people are saying I’ve lost my marbles, and I’m not fit for duty anymore. For all I know, you might agree with them. All I’m saying is that I know how outnumbered you are, and I think that, in times like these, it would be a damn shame not to take advantage of my skill and experience.” He paused for breath, but Albus cut him off with a quiet chuckle.
“Try not to be too modest, Alastor.”
He frowned. “You know what I mean.”
Sighing, Albus said, “Yes, I do. And, of course, I agree with you. But you are correct, there are those who doubt your competency, especially in light of the events of last term.”
Alastor nodded curtly. Damn that imposter to hell and back.
“So that I do not misinterpret you – you are volunteering your services to the Order?”
Alastor looked up sharply. “So it’s true – you have reinstated the Order.”
“Yes. Naturally, it will incorporate many new members,” Because all the others are dead, Alastor thought darkly. “But there will be names familiar to you, no doubt.”
“Molly and Arthur, yes, and Bill is returning to England. Charlie will be aiding our efforts abroad. Percy…” Albus’ eyes clouded momentarily. “Percy’s status is as of yet unknown.”
Alastor was not surprised. That boy had always licked Fudge’s boots.
“Of the old crowd… Emmeline Vance, Hagrid, Elphias Doge, several others… Remus Lupin of course, and… “ Albus paused.
“Anyone else from within the Ministry?” Alastor asked interestedly. He was always seeking potential spies, and Merlin knew they would need someone to keep an eye on their great oaf of a Minister.
“We do have some more Auror representation this time, which should be useful. Kingsley Shacklebolt, you’ll know him, of course, and Nymphadora Tonks.” This last name was delivered in an almost guarded tone.
“What kind of a damn fool name is Nymphadora?” Alastor growled under his breath, and an alarmingly secretive smile crept across Albus’ face.
“I’m sure you’ll learn more about her, and her name, in the future.” Alastor stared at Albus with both of his eyes, but the Headmaster ignored him. “If you are willing to join the Order again, old friend, we would be honored to have you.”
Something seemed to explode in the pit of his stomach and fill his heart. Alastor stood, drawing himself up to his full height, despite a throbbing pain in his left hip. “When can I start?”