A/N: In the scene in GOF where I took the idea for this story, Moody is still mentioned as having both eyes…hence, he wouldn't be "Mad-Eye." I felt he'd still be the type to have an odd nickname and came up with my own title – "Nine Lives." Also, I should mention that the title itself comes from an old Irish song, "The Rocky Road To Dublin." Hope you enjoy the story!
14 March 1982:
The Red Griffin Inn was well known among wizarding folk across the United Kingdom, at least by reputation. It was a safe haven to smugglers, Muggle-baiters, dealers of non-tradeable goods, and, on occasion, even more unsavory characters then all of those. It was the sort or place a respectable person only went to if they had the insane desire to be robbed, hexed, or worse.
Fortunately for most, its actual location was a mystery to any witch or wizard who hadn't spent years working in the wizarding underworld and interacting with its prominent denizens, so it was rare that any respectable person ever actually got close enough to the Red Griffin for there to be a problem.
This said, once can imagine the surprise of the inn's patrons when Alastor "Nine Lives" Moody, arguably one of the most infamous Aurors under Bartemius Crouch's command, opened the front door and limped confidently into the parlor as if he knew the place well.
Alastor's beady brown eyes were practically the only part of his face that wasn't heavily scarred from one hex or another. He'd been with the Department of Magical Law Enforcment since the late ‘forties, had brought in more Dark Wizards then any of his fellows, and had a nasty habit of not dying when his enemies were positive they'd killed him.
The Auror's lopsided mouth twisted into a smile upon seeing the shocked faces of the three men sitting at the room's sole table.
"Well, well, well. If it isn't Peter O'Neil. Smuggler, lowlife, and innkeeper extraordinaire," Alastor said. "My coworkers on the Magical Law Enforcement Squad would give their right hands to be in my shoes right now."
Peter O'Neil wasn't the sort of man most people threatened idly. He was of average height, but well muscled, with broad shoulders, auburn hair, and a beard streaked with white. He wore his wand within easy reach, and had several spares trapped about his person. This was in addition to the Muggle firearms that casually hung from his belt, and several bulges in his robes suggesting other hidden weapons of one sort or another. He looked up at Alastor now without flinching, eyes flashing angrily.
"Ye're coworkers know to stay damn well away from me place ‘o business, Englishman. Ye're kind isn't welcome here."
Alastor's smile vanished. "I'm making myself welcome, O'Neil. Ministry Headquarters is just a Portkey away.
"Assuming ye live long enough to port out ‘o here. I don't take kindly to people threatening me in me own inn. Especially an English bugger who put two ‘o me cousins in Azkaban."
"Your cousins were destined for Azkaban the minute they signed on with the Dark Lord," Alastor growled.
"I'm not saying they didn't deserve it. But family's family. If me da were here, ye already would've been put down. But I consider meself a reasonable man. If ye've got business here, name it."
"I'm looking for Evan Rosier," said Alastor.
Peter spat on the ground. "Ye're not the only one, Auror. Benjy Fenwick was a decent man."
Alastor's jaw dropped in shock. "How'd you know who killed Benjy?" he asked.
"I have my ways, Englishman. I might be a little more forthcoming if ye told me how ye found me place, here."
"You'd be surprised just how well Veritaserum will loosen a man's tongue," Alastor said, smiling again.
"Veritaserum? What the…but that's illegal! I was under the impression ye law enforcement types ne'er strayed beyond the straight and narrow," said Peter.
The young man sitting next to him raised an eyebrow. "Ye grow up sheltered, Peter?"
"Magical Law Enforcement, Jimmy. They stick to their laws better than Muggles do," Peter muttered.
"That's right, we do. Crouch authorized the use of Veritaserum on suspects. Logical course of action, can't say I disagree with it," Alastor said.
"Yes, I bet ye don't. Next thing ye know he'll be authorizing the Killing Curse on suspects."
"Already did, effective as of yesterday," said Alastor, grinning.
"Ye can't just go using the Killing Curse on people. It isn't decent," said Jimmy. He was tall and thin, couldn't be much older then 19.
"No boy, you're right, it isn't decent," said Alastor. "But neither are Death Eaters, and these are desperate times. I won't fault anyone who uses ‘em…even if I won't myself."
"I figured you'd be first in line, as obsessed as you are with catching Dar-," Jimmy started, but was cut off mid-sentence by Peter.
"Jimmy, shut the hell up, will ye? Nine-Lives here didn't come here to debate wizarding law with ye…because that would prolong his visit," He looked back at Alastor. "And ye're not to be stayin here a second longer then ye need to."
Alastor smiled. "That could be a while, depending on how cooperative you decide to be."
Jimmy's wand was out in a flash but Alastor's was faster.
The boy's wand flew from his hand, to be caught by Alastor, who kept one wand covering Peter, and the other covering the third man, a sandy haired bloke whose deep brown eyes now flashed dangerously.
Alastor wasn't phased by Peter or the third man, both of whom were pointing their wands at him with violence in their eyes. Glancing off to the right, he saw three more men come in from the crowded tap room, wands also at the ready. Turning back to Jimmy, he asked "You want to explain why you pulled your wand on me, boy?"
Jimmy looked flustered for a second, but recovered and started shouting "YE DON'T TELL ME UNCLE WHAT TO DO IN HIS OWN F-,"
"Mind your mouth, laddie. Your uncle and I have business. A smart man knows what he can and can't say in the process of negotiation. A stupid man draws weapons. Wet behind the ears kid might do one or the other – I suggest you learn from your mistake. Now, Peter, seems my time table just got kicked forward a notch, so I'll be blunt. I'm looking for an even exchange of information here."
"Even exchange? That's pretty funny, Moody. Why don't ye start with giving me a reason not to send ye back to the Ministry without a single recollection of who ye are or where ye've been?" said Peter.
"Aberforth Dumbledore knows I'm here," said Alastor.
The sandy-haired man blanched. "Dumbledore knows--" but Peter cut him off with a wave of the hand. "Aberforth Dumbledore, Paddy. Not the famous one, but his brother. Runs the Hog's Head in Hogsmeade."
"Aberforth stays in contact with his brother. Ain't hard, seeing as Dumbledore spends most of his time no more then a stone's throw away from Hogsmeade."
"So we hit Aberforth with a memory charm, too. Simple as that," said Peter.
"You'll find that hard to do if you're not among the living, O'Neil," Alastor growled.
Peter scoffed. "Ye really think ye'd get out of here alive in a six-on one battle?"
"I've lived through worse odds. You might get me. You might not."
More wizards were coming in from the taproom now, wands drawn.
"Ye're odds are getting worse, Moody," said Peter, grinning nastily.
"Not quite, Petey," said a familiar voice. Mundungus Fletcher stepped out of the shadows in the corner of the room, wand pointed at Peter's chest.
"Dung? What in the-? AFTER ALL I'VE DONE FOR YE?!" Peter bellowed.
"'E's hunting Evan Rosier, Petey. You knew Benjy Fenwick, blimey, most of us did," protested Mundungus, who looked like he was feeling guilty but kept his wand pointed at Peter nonetheless.
"Seeing as yer head hasn't turned into a cactus, I'm doubting ye're the one who gave up the Red Griffin's location. But you seem pretty quick to jump to an Auror's defense, Dung," said Peter, ignoring Mundungus' protests.
"Maybe he wants justice done," said Alastor.
"I'm about to lose me livelihood! If the Aurors know where this place is-," Peter started.
"Only one Auror knows where the Red Griffin is, and you're looking at him. You're not Dark wizards; you don't torture or kill people. The Magical Law Enforcement Squad may be after your hide, but I'll be happy to forget I was ever here if one of you can tell me where to find Rosier," said Alastor.
"I want yer word," said Peter. The innkeeper, like many others, had heard of Alastor's reputation as a man who stuck to his word.
"You've got it," growled Alastor.
"Say it," persisted Peter.
Alastor rolled his beady eyes. "You have my word, I won't tell a soul the location of this inn, provided that you give me a lead on Rosier."
"All right, wands down," said Peter, lowering his wand. The others followed suit, and Alastor handed Jimmy's wand back to him.
"Old Modius Bulstrode is likely to know a thing or two. He's got a room here, upstairs. Not a Death Eater himself, or we wouldn't let him rent, but rumor has it that his sons are, and he still gets owls routinely," said Peter.
"Bulstrode, eh? He was in my class at Hogwarts. Caused a heap load of trouble back in first year, but that's a different story," said Alastor.
"Well, come on then, I'll take ye up to his room," said Peter. "Paddy, Jimmy, ye mind coming along?"
They nodded grimly and followed Peter and Alastor out of the room, as did Mundungus.
"Let me ask you something, if you lot liked Benjy Fenwick, why are you giving shelter, pay or no, to a man whose connected to his killers?" said Alastor, as they made their way through the crowded taproom to the wooden stairwell.
"He pays four times the room's actual price, every day," said Paddy, as if this explained everything.
"And he's not the one who put Benjy down. I don't go after people for what their relative's friends have done," said Peter, throwing a slightly disgusted look at Paddy.
"Fair enough," said Alastor.
They reached the top of the stairs, turned a corner, and walked down the hall to the last door on the right, marked with a sign that read "Guest Suite."
Peter stepped forward and knocked on the door. "Modius? It's Peter O'Neil. I need a word."
There was the sound of eight separate clicks as the room's occupant undid the locks on the other side of the door. The door opened a crack and a familiar pair of hazel eyes widened in surprise. Jimmy leapt forward and shouldered the door open before the room's shocked occupant could react.
Modius Bulstrode stood there, wand at the ready. He looked like a grotesque cross between that famous Muggle scientist, Albert Einstein, and a body builder. His first and immediate reaction was to punch Peter in the gut and shout "Protego!" which sent Paddy and Jimmy's Stunning Spells back their way. Paddy dived to the floor but Jimmy was knocked unconscious with his own rebounded spell.
"Stupefy!" cried Alastor. A red bolt of light shot from his wand but Modius deflected it with his wand, while stepping forward and kicking Paddy in the head as the latter man tried to get to his feet.
Peter stepped forward and shouted "Impedimentia!" as Alastor launched another Stunning Spell.
Modius dodged Peter's spell and blocked Alastor's, moving into close combat range. Putting his weight on his claw-footed wooden leg, Alastor kicked his good leg out and caught Modius in the kneecap, shattering it. The aging brute cried out and buckled forward, only to be caught by Alastor's follow-up uppercut to the jaw, sending Bulstrode reeling backwards to the floor.
"Expelliarmus!" shouted Peter, which sent Modius' wand flying from his grasp; Alastor caught in his left hand and trained both wands on his old enemy.
Modius was wheezing on the floor and rubbing his jaw where Alastor had hit him.
"Well if it isn't Nine-Lives Moody," he said in a deep grating voice. "Been a long time…I can't say the years have been kind to you."
"Ah, but this is an acquired look, Bulstrode. You've always been ugly," Alastor growled.
The wounded man turned to stare at Peter O'Neil. "And this is the thanks I get for paying you four times the average rate to be left alone? I should have known better then to trust a Mudblood."
"With an attitude like dat? Aye, ye should hab," muttered Paddy, who was crouched on the ground with both hands to his bloody nose.
"I'm sorry about this, Modius, but it was either turn ye in or lose me business. Not a hard choice to make," said Peter with a shrug.
"Turn me in, eh? I've done nothing wrong – I'm no Death Eater and you know it, Alastor. You've crossed a line this time, you low born half blood bas--"
"Ferio," Alastor said casually. Twin bolts of yellow light shot from the wands in his hands and Modius was suddenly doubled over as if he'd been repeatedly struck in the gut with a heavy club.
"Let's set some ground rules, Modius. First off, I talk, you listen. Your filthy mouth stays shut unless it's to answer a direct question from me. Is that clear?" Alastor growled.
Modius spat blood onto the floor, and said, "I know my rights, half-blood! I will tell you nothing."
Alastor threw back his head and laughed. "Actually, Bulstrode, you don't know jack squat. See, Barty Crouch has changed the rules a bit when it comes to dealing with Death Eaters and their associates."
"I'm not a Death Eater and I never have been!" shouted Modius.
"I'd love to stand here and jinx you till you've got more scars than I do, but unfortunately, I don't have the time. Cooperate, or I use the Imperius Curse."
Modius' eyes widened in fright. "You…you wouldn't dare."
"Imperio!" growled Alastor. Peter and Paddy gasped from behind him as the spell made contact with Modius.
The effect was instantaneous. Modius slackened and his eyes took on a glazed, almost happy expression.
"Well, time to get down to business. I'll ask you lot to leave now," Alastor said, turning to Peter and Paddy.
"This is my place, Auror. I hear whatever he has to say, or the deal's off," said Peter.
"Fine," growled Alastor. "I haven't any time to argue. Modius, are you now or have you ever been a Death Eater?"
"No," said Modius.
"Do you have any connection with the Dark Lord?" Alastor pressed.
"Oh yes. My eldest son is a Death Eater, and my younger son is under Igor Karkaroff's Imperius Curse," said Modius, eager to help.
"Karkaroff," Alastor muttered. "I've been tracking him for over five months now…slippery little git. Do you have any idea where he is?"
"Not for certain, but I know where my sons are," said Modius.
"Do enlighten me," said Alastor.
"They are holed up in a seaside cottage on the outskirts of Donegal. My eldest's letters say that Karkaroff is also hiding somewhere in Donegal. He's trying to book them passage on a Muggle ship to New York City, but they're running into some trouble."
"Why doesn't he just take a plane?" asked Alastor.
Modius shook his head. "I don't know what that is, but Damon's letters say they're trying to avoid going through Muggle customs so as not to leave a paper trail."
"These are awfully detailed letters you've been exchanging," Alastor commented. "You should have known better than to trust that the owls wouldn't be intercepted.
"The letters are cursed – if they aren't opened with the Bulstrode Family seal, the message is erased and whoever is in contact with it is poisoned."
"I might have known," said Alastor, making a mental note to acquire copies of the personal crests of every Pure Blood family he could think of. "What have you got in here that's cursed?"
"Everything but the parchment on the desk and the leftmost quill hexes the user if anyone but myself touches them," replied Modius.
"You're a sick man, Bulstrode," said Alastor. Not trusting his quarry even under the Imperius Curse, Alastor levitated, rather then touched, the quill, pen, ink, and parchment on the desk, setting the items down on the floor next to Modius.
"I want you to write down the address of the place your sons are hiding," said Alastor.
Modius put pen to ink and wrote for a minute, then went to hand the parchment to Alastor, who looked at it suspiciously and didn't take it.
"Ah for Merlin's sake, he's under the Imperius Curse!' said Peter, grabbing the parchment from Modius' hands.
"Don't mean he can't fight it mentally and fudge the commands a little," said Alastor.
"Aye, well I didn't turn into a pumpkin, did I?" snapped Peter.
Alastor heard footsteps and spun around, wand raised. Mundungus Fletcher was standing there. He threw his hands up. "Easy there, Nine-Lives! No need to get hostile."
"Where the hell were ye when he was shooting jinxes our way?" shouted Peter, gesturing wildly at the floored Modius.
"I was keeping half the bloody pub from following you up ‘ere, that's where," said Mundungus, looking indignant.
Peter looked like he was about to say something else but Alastor held up a hand. "Quiet, I've got to finish interrogating Modius, here."
"What's that you got there, Petey?" asked Mundungus, stepping forward and taking the parchment from Peter before anyone could stop him.
"You idiot! That could have been jinxed six ways from Sunday! Do you want to get us all killed?" shouted Alastor.
"What are you on about? ‘E already touched it." Mundungus said, nodding to Peter.
"Never mind," said Alastor, rolling his eyes.
"Guess this means you're not going to insist on testing it for jinxes," said Peter.
"It wouldn't hurt, but I haven't the time," said Alastor, snatching the parchment from Mundungus.
"Ye're headed out then?" asked Peter.
"Yes," said Alastor, lifting the Imperius Curse from Modius, who immediately started wincing in pain from his wounds.
"What about ‘im?" asked Mundungus.
Alastor sheathed his wand and stared for a moment at Modius' wand in his left hand. Making a decision, he took it in both hands and snapped it in two.
"No!" shouted Modius in painful protest.
"Hit him with a Memory Charm and have one of your people take him to Saint Mungo's," said Alastor, taking a bag of silver Sickles from his belt and throwing it to Peter. "For your trouble," he said. "And if you can get past the jinxes, his possessions are yours, too. I haven't got time to go through them."
"Fine. Now get out of me place and don't darken this door again," said Peter.
"Your door is dark enough without my help, O'Neil. Don't think you can order me about just because you've got an Anti-Apparition charm on this dive," said Alastor.
"I'll order ye about in me own inn if I feel like it," Peter said, sneering.
Alastor bit back a reply. He was wasting time. Without another word he turned and limped from the room.
"Give my best to Aberforth," Mundungus called after him.
Alastor turned around. "Aberforth? I will if I see him. Only met the bloke once…and he certainly doesn't know I'm here," he said with a chuckle.
Laughing even more at the expressions on their faces, Alastor made his way down the stairs and out of the Red Griffin.
A/N: Many thanks to my beta, Christina Teresa! Multiple plot holes were caught and put to death in the course of production of this fic! Thank you also to Sherry for the rebeta, and to Michele for uploading this particular chapter a second time so I could make final grammatical alterations.