Truth of Nature (Act First and Sort Out the Bodies Later)
The night wind was harsh and chill, blowing cloaks back and biting through robes. Five members of the Order of the Phoenix crept through the woods, communicating only through hand gestures as they circled and closed in on their quarry. They'd been tracking the movements of a pocket of fugitive Death Eaters for several weeks, and at last they'd had an opportunity to move in.
It was All-Hallows-Eve, and that made the Order nervous. This was a time of power and wild magic. There were always risk associated with casting potent spells and entering into battle on the night when the veil to the Otherworld was thinnest, but engaging dark wizards could increase the danger tenfold. Still, it might be the only chance they'd have to catch them out in the open, and the Order couldn't afford not to take it.
From ahead a bonfire cast its flickering light into the line of trees, making it difficult to creep up undetected. Auror training and war experience prevailed, though, and soon the five had clear views of the glade they'd surrounded. Near the flames a man stood with his arms aloft and his voice raised in chant. It was Avery, the ringleader of this little band of brutes. Five more hooded figures stood in a circle a short distance from the fire, their features cast in shadow.
The leader of the offensive team prepared to throw the curse that would begin the charge, but Avery spoke first. "Alastor Moody. So good of you to join us. You're right on time"
His cover clearly blown, Moody growled, "Avery. Joining you wasn't what I had in mind. Separating your head from your shoulders suits me better."
The other Death Eaters glanced around and murmured to one another, apparently confused. It seemed that it was only Avery who'd known the Order was on their trail.
"Oh, I don't think that will be necessary." Avery's chuckle held no humor.
"Believe me, it would be my pleasure," Moody said. "And given that you're surrounded, I don't think it'll be much of a problem."
"So I see," Avery said. "How thoughtful of you to bring along four others. I only needed one of you here, but five is even better. The more the merrier."
Never one for pointless prattle, Moody said, "Enough talk. Wands on the ground and hands where I can see 'em. All of you. Now!"
Nervous Death Eaters fidgeted and looked to their leader for direction, but Avery only laughed. "Can you see this clearly enough?" Avery raised his hands high above his head. "Order of the Phoenix! Veritas faciem!" he roared, then he hurled something into the fire. The flames sparked and flared up into a near-blinding light.
Order and villains alike were forced to shield their eyes from the glare. They looked again just in time to witness a bolt of golden light streak from the fire and strike Moody square in the chest. From Moody it shot to each of the other four Order members in turn and then sped off into the night. It happened in a mere instant, far too quickly for anyone to react.
Moody had barely even begun to assess the situation when Avery turned his wand on himself, cast a final spell, and fell to the ground, lifeless.
The meeting had been long, tedious, and largely pointless in Alastor's opinion. No one had a bloody clue what sort of spell Avery had cast before offing himself, and instead of sitting around and speculating about it, they should have just turned the Granger girl loose in a library and had done with it. That's what they eventually did, of course, but not before discussing it for a good four hours. Minerva had poked Alastor between the ribs to wake him more than once.
Despite what the newspapers might have declared, the war hadn't ended when Voldemort died. His network of supporters had been larger than anyone had guessed, and while many of them had simply fled, plenty more were attempting to regroup and recruit. MLE and the Auror corps were working to track them down and rein them in, but going through the 'proper channels' could take time, and operating under strict sets of rules often put them at a disadvantage. Alastor knew that better than most anyone. So he and the Order continued the fight from the shadows.
Besides, Alastor still had a bone to pick with Voldemort's minions -- the whole lot of them -- for several months spent in a tiny, dank cell with that wretched Umbridge woman as his only visitor. If Alastor had heard one more 'hem, hem,' he swore he would have gnawed through the bars and garroted Umbridge with her own fluffy, pink scarf.
Snorting in amusement at that visual, Alastor stumped over to the kitchen cabinets, rifled through them, and emerged with a slightly dusty bottle of Ogden's Old. He held it triumphantly aloft and asked, "Anyone care for a nip?"
"Can't tonight, mate," Tonks said as she threw her lurid purple cloak over her shoulders. "I'm on duty in the morning."
"Hmph." Alastor redirected his attention to Minerva. "How 'bout you, Min? You don't have classes tomorrow."
"No, but I have detentions to supervise. 'Brave Gryffindors' my tartan-covered backside. My newest batch of first-years is the biggest hoard of hooligans to walk the halls of Hogwarts since Remus' Sorting."
At Minerva's nod, Remus gave a sheepish grin. "I don't know about that, Minerva. We did set the bar rather high," he said and ducked out of the room.
The others made their excuses and trickled out one by one until Alastor was left alone with, of all people, Severus Snape.
Snape had never been one to hang around after meetings any longer than he absolutely had to do. Alastor used to suspect it was his means of protecting himself from the other Order members' scrutiny lest they discover where his true loyalties lay. Now he just reckoned it was because Snape was a miserable bastard with the social habits of a rabid alley kneazle.
Alastor nearly asked Snape why he was still there, but stopped short when he noted how defensive Snape's posture already was. Questioning him would likely only send him packing. Odd company through Snape might be, he at least was company, and Alastor didn't feel like being alone just yet. So he lifted the bottle of Ogden's again and said, "I'm taking this up to the drawing room. Bring two glasses if you're sharing."
When Snape entered the drawing room a few seconds behind him, Alastor was already seating himself on the once-posh sofa. He used his sleeve to rub some of the dust from the top of the Ogden's bottle, twisted the cap off, and looked to Snape expectantly. Snape sat on the opposite end of the sofa and produced two glasses.
After pouring two rather generous servings, Alastor took one of the glasses from Snape, knocked back the contents in one go, and provided himself with a refill. "That's the ticket," he said, then settled back, stretching his legs out and throwing one arm over the back of the sofa.
Lifting an eyebrow, Snape said, "Constant vigilance, hmm?"
"Let a dark wizard pop in here, boy, and we'll see who gets his wand out and hexes the bastard first." One corner of Snape's mouth seemed to twitch in amusement, but he raised no argument. "Have to say," Alastor paused to take a smaller swallow of his firewhisky, "I'm a bit surprised you stuck around tonight. Not really like you, is it?"
Bristling visibly, Snape said, "Voldemort's gone, I nearly died in helping to make that happen, and you're still interrogating me?"
"Don't get your knickers in a twist. I was just curious."
Slowly, Snape relaxed. "It isn't as though I have any reason to rush off these days. Unlike Minerva, I don't have detentions to supervise, for the first time in seventeen years, thank Merlin."
"The benefits of being dead, eh?"
The conversation lapsed. Severus lifted his glass and took a sip. The lines around his mouth creased slightly, a tell-tale sign that he wasn't used to the burn of the alcohol, for all that he tried to hide it.
"Not much of a drinker, I take it?" Alastor said.
"Not especially." Snape shrugged.
Barking a laugh, Alastor said, "Well, why the hell not?"
Snape's eyebrow went up again. "Have you ever tried to Occlude while intoxicated?"
That was a damn good point, and it was a startling reminder to Alastor of exactly what Snape had done during the war. "Fair 'nuff," he conceded, then swallowed the rest of his second glass.
Alastor filled his glass a third time, then capped the bottle and set it on the table beside him. As he repositioned himself on the sofa, he found himself settling a bit closer to Snape. He leaned forward slightly as he asked, "So, you ever thinking about returning from the grave, so to speak? Letting people know you made it out alive and all that?"
There was a pause before Snape lifted his glass and swallowed half its contents. This time he didn't bother to hide his grimace. "I'm not certain. The only people I might give half a damn about talking to are already aware, and otherwise… I'm rather enjoying the peace and quiet, midnight battles in the middle of the forest notwithstanding."
"Bollocks," Alastor declared. "You can't retire any more than I can. You'd go mad with boredom!" He couldn't say why, but suddenly Alastor found Snape to be an interesting character study, a strange puzzle to solve. Much more so than when he thought Snape was likely just a double agent Death Eater.
"From teaching? I can retire most blissfully and without hesitation. I've wanted to since the first day I stood at the front of a Potions classroom and stared down at a cornucopia of snot-nosed, ankle-biting imbeciles."
"That's not what I meant and you bloody well know it." Alastor flashed a feral grin.
There were any number of ways that Snape could respond at that point, and Alastor waited with bated breath to see which direction he would take. What Snape actually did, though, surprised him. He leaned in a little closer, eyes flashing, and said, "Alastor, how could I ever possibly get bored with you around to question and beleaguer me?"
Curtains of lank hair fell to either side of Snape's face, and from this close, Alastor could see the texture of individual strands. He wondered if it felt as oily as it always appeared. Snapping himself out of that train of thought, he smirked and said, "Should have known you Slytherins would find harassment and the strategic avoidance thereof exciting."
Returning Alastor's smirk, Snape said, "Erudite words for an 'act first, sort out the bodies later' Auror. Though perhaps not entirely inaccurate ones."
Alastor only barely heard what Snape said. He'd become fixated on Snape's hair again. He just had to know… He reached out and took a strand of black hair between his thumb and forefinger. It was oily, yes, but also fine and smooth. So different from Alastor's own thick, rough mop. He couldn't resist running his entire hand through it, feeling it slide between his fingers like strips of silk.
Once he'd fallen to that one temptation, it wasn't enough. Alastor wanted to try more, feel more. Pulling his hand from Snape's hair, he ran his fingers down Snape's cheek and then slid his thumb across Snape's lips. Soft skin; dry, slightly chapped lips. Somewhere in the back of his mind, the Auror in Alastor analyzed what could be determined about Snape's habits with these minute details, but the rest of him, the simple creature, the human, paid it no heed.
Snape's lips parted as though he intended to speak, and that pulled Alastor out of his trance. He jerked his hand back, and his mind raced to come up with an apology, an explanation, an excuse. "Snape…" he began. He didn't know what he intended to say next, and he never had a chance to find out. Before he could form another word, Snape grabbed two fistfuls of Alastor's hair and slammed their mouths together.
Not to be outdone, Alastor steadied Snape's face between his hands and shoved his tongue between Snape's teeth. Snape gasped in surprise but quickly rallied and redoubled his efforts. Growling low in his throat, Alastor nipped at Snape's bottom lip. Alastor didn't know exactly what was happening, or more to the point, how or why it was happening, but he'd be damned if he'd stop to investigate. He couldn't even recall the last time someone had kissed him like this, the last time anyone had wanted to kiss him like this, and he was going to take full advantage of the situation, to hell with the consequences.
As the kiss went on, it transitioned from frantic and demanding to slow and exploratory and then on to needy and heated. For the longest time, everything was the slick feel of Snape's tongue, the sharpness of his breath, the softness of his hair between Alastor's fingers. Alastor was drowning in sensations. And still, it wasn't enough.
Tearing his mouth away, Alastor reached for the top clasp of Snape's robes. Snape drew back, and Alastor frowned. Although he was virtually ready to tear Snape's robes from his body, he preferred his partners willing, thanks ever so. "Oh, so that's how it is, is it?" he said, his tone bitter. "Ol' Moody's fine for a snog and a grope, but anything else is out of the question. Afraid you'll go blind if you have to lay eyes on my battered old flesh?"
Snape blinked twice, then said, "Your legendary paranoia is showing, Alastor. I believe it was my nudity that was in question, not yours."
It took a moment, but understanding sank in. "Merlin's hairy bollocks, Snape, you think I'm going to laugh at you? I couldn't do that even if I wanted to. I haven't got a leg to stand on -- literally! Come on, boy, you're young and whole. Quit being an idiot and drop trou. I'll make it worth the effort." At the last, Alastor flashed a wink with his good eye.
There was no further argument or hesitation on Snape's part. He simply unfastened his robes and drew them aside. Alastor's gaze traveled down Snape's slight, scraggy body and landed on the outline of the erection that tented Snape's pants. "Nothing to be ashamed of at all," Alastor breathed.
Not giving Snape time to disagree, Alastor reached forward and ran his hands down Snape's chest. To his surprise, Snape dropped his head back and arched into the touch. It occurred to Alastor then that it had likely been just as long for Snape as it had been for himself, perhaps longer even. Something about that notion made Alastor's blood run hot, and he fell on Snape, licking and touching every bit of bare skin he could find.
If it had ever occurred to Alastor to think about it before, he never would have predicted that Snape, usually so carefully controlled, could be so fervent and responsive at a time like this. He hissed and clutched and writhed as Alastor made his way down his chest and stomach. As much as Alastor was enjoying the response, though, he had a specific target in mind, and he'd always been a straight to the point sort of person. Kneeling on the carpet, he freed Snape's cock from his pants and sucked it into his mouth.
Snape gripped the arm of the sofa so hard that his knuckles turned white, and he howled. Alastor damn near came in his robes like a green firsty at that alone, but he maintained control of himself and the situation through sheer force of will. He wrapped one hand around the base of Snape's cock and used the other to fondle his bollocks, then began a relentless suck-bob-stroke. It had been a while, but he still remembered how it went. Smug satisfaction filled him as Snape grunted and groaned and thrust up into his mouth.
Just when he thought Snape might come, Alastor was abruptly grabbed by the hair and hauled up instead. Before he could entirely gain his balance, Snape shoved him onto the sofa, and he landed on his back with a grunt. The next thing he knew, Snape was hovering over him, tugging at the buckles that held his robes closed.
Alastor didn't know exactly what Snape had in mind, but he wasn't about to argue. Instead he started helping with the buckles, and though combined, impatient effort, they had Alastor's robes shoved aside in record time. There was a moment of uncertainty for Alastor as Snape's eyes swept over his scarred flesh, but Snape didn't seem the least bit put off. In fact, he immediately tugged Alastor's pants down and then lay atop him, pressing their bodies together.
It was hard to say which of them groaned the loudest at that or who clenched their teeth the hardest when Snape gave a first, tentative roll of his hips. All Alastor knew was that his eyes -- both of them, natural and magical -- rolled into the back of his head. Snape buried his face in Alastor's neck and then all at once he was moving frantically, forcing their bodies together hard and fast, gripping Alastor's shoulders and making needy little sounds in his throat. It occurred to Alastor to wonder if Snape had ever actually done this before at all, but then decided that he really couldn't give a nickel-plated fuck.
Grabbing Snape by the arse, Alastor pushed his hips up and matched the rapid pace he'd set. Snape's cock was hard as a steel rod against Alastor's stomach as it skidded over his skin and slid in the fluid that was gathering there. Alastor was getting close, so close, but he'd wound Snape up far too much, it seemed. In mid-thrust, Snape went rigid, bit down on Alastor's shoulder, and then spilled himself all over the both of them, his cock pulsing wildly.
If they stopped there, Alastor thought he'd go mad. With a frustrated noise, he shoved his hand between their bodies. Snape lifted up enough to let Alastor stroke himself, Snape's semen easing the glide and making slick, wet sounds with each pull. It didn't take long. Alastor's fist was a blur of motion as he threw his head back, shouted, and added his own spend to Severus'.
Once Alastor had finished, Snape slumped forward again and ended in a sprawl half on top of Alastor and half on the sofa beside him. He didn't seem inclined to move, and Alastor wasn't particularly inclined to move him. They lay that way for some time while Snape languidly traced his fingers along the scars that crossed Alastor's chest. It was strangely comfortable, Alastor thought, but he couldn't help being amused. He never would have taken Snape for the cuddling sort.
Finally Snape levered himself up and began fastening his robes. "I suppose I'd best get home," he said.
Sitting up, Alastor said, "Aye, me as well." The words were empty, though. He didn't especially want to go home, nor did he want Snape to leave. "Or I might just stay here. Too bloody tired to Apparate. You could stay as well," he ventured. "It's not like anyone's here that'll complain."
There was a long pause, then at last Snape said, "I suppose I could. I'd really rather not risk splinching myself, after all."
Alastor grinned, and he and Snape went in search of a bedroom.
The morning after was about as awkward as Alastor had expected it to be. Thankfully, Snape was too pragmatic to make any suggestions about staying for breakfast, and the uncomfortable scene didn't last long. And even though it would likely be some time before Alastor would be able to concentrate at Order meetings when Snape was in attendance, he didn't regret a thing.
Alastor returned home, showered, and was just preparing a much needed cup of tea when a voice called to him from the Floo. "Oi! Moody! You there?"
"Keep your shirt on," Alastor grumbled. He picked up his cuppa and went to his sitting room to find a ginger-topped head poking out of his fireplace.
"Ah, there you are," George said. "I have good -- and highly entertaining -- news. Let me come though, yeah?"
A wave of Alastor's wand lowered the wards and opened the Floo for travel, and George walked out. "All right," Alastor said as he settled into his favorite armchair, "what's the news?"
Sitting across from Alastor, George said, "Hermione and Kingsley think they've figured out what Avery's spell was all about."
"Yeah? Go on, then."
"Well, we already knew that it had something to do with 'truth of nature' and seemed to be directed at everyone who could be considered a member of the Order."
"Yes, yes, and we speculated about that for hours last night. Get to the point."
Rather than being offended by Alastor's brusque manner, George broadened his grin. "It seems there are a number of spells and rituals of questionable morality out there designed to remove inhibitions or conscience and cause the targets to divulge truths about themselves and act on their baser instincts instead of their better sense. In other words, reveal their true natures. Best we can figure, this spell was Avery's misguided idea of revenge."
Alastor gave a derisive snort. "No doubt he thought we'd turn into the raging bunch of bloodthirsty savages we are and all end up dead or in prison. What better retribution than proving that your enemies are no better than you, eh?"
"Except the joke's on him, innit? From what I've heard, it sounds like the results of his spell range from completely harmless to utterly hilarious."
Thinking back to what he'd done the previous night, Alastor wasn't certain that he agreed with George's assessment. Still, his curiosity got the best of him, and he said, "Oh? Dare I ask what some of these results were?"
If George's grin got any bigger, Alastor thought his face would be in danger of splitting in half. "The best story I heard was about our dear Chosen One. Seems that he and Draco Malfoy got into a bit of a squabble, which is hardly new. What was new, though, was that, after Harry had punched Malfoy in the face twice, he threw him up against the nearest wall and snogged him senseless. Witnesses say they both came away from that one with sticky robes. I congratulated Harry, of course. Told him I never knew he had it in him."
For a few moments, Alastor blinked at George in disbelief. Then they both fell into an uproarious laughing fit that nearly made Alastor spill his tea. When they finally managed to beat back the worst of the snickering, George wiped his eyes and said, "Oh, but there's more."
"Out with it, then."
"Imagine Remus and Tonks' mutual surprise when they each calmly confessed to the other that they thought their entire relationship had been an incredibly bad idea. They apparently made a good team, though, when they went to my mum and gave her a right tongue lashing for being a matchmaking busybody instead of knocking some sense into Tonks like she should've done."
"About damn time," Alastor said. "But I can imagine how Molly must've taken it."
"Well. She was Mum. She's never done anything to hide her true nature."
Laughing again, Alastor said, "True, that."
"Rumor has it," George went on, "that McGonagall was caught in the Hogwarts staffroom in a compromising position with another professor, but no one seems to know which one. Of course you already know that Hermione stayed up all last night doing research in the library. It seems that Ronny-boy used that as an opportunity to sit around in his underpants eating chocolate biscuits and listening to the Quidditch broadcast on the wireless." George shook his head. "Don't know where I went wrong with my little brother."
"There are worse crimes than being boring," Alastor said, although he privately thought Ron could have at least gone to a pub.
"Speaking of which," George said, his eyes taking on a gleam that Alastor didn't like one little bit, "what did you get up to after the meeting last night?"
"None of your damn business!" Alastor snapped.
"Oh-ho! I sense a story," George said.
"You'll be sensing my boot up your arse if you don't drop it."
George laughed and threw his hands up in surrender. "All right, all right. I've got to get back to the shop anyway. I just wanted to let you know that Hermione and Kingsley are working on nullifying the 'curse,' such as it is." He stood and moved to the Floo.
Alastor knew the chances of George leaving the matter uninvestigated were zero to none, but there wasn't any point in issuing warnings or threats. They never worked on Weasleys. Instead he only said, "Good. Tell them to hurry it up before Harry gets his nose broken," and watched as George stepped into the fireplace and disappeared.
After charming his tea hot again, Alastor picked up his cup, took a sip, and thought back to the previous night's events. George's news certainly explained a hell of a lot. It also had some curious implications. If Alastor had inadvertently revealed his true nature, his deepest desires… well, then the same was true for Snape. The question was, what should Alastor do about it, if anything? He sat there and considered possible courses of action and probable outcomes and potential ramifications until his head felt like it might explode.
With a snarl, Alastor slammed his teacup down. He'd always preferred action to endless contemplation. Rising, he stomped over the fireplace and stood there for several heartbeats. Then he said, "Fuck it," and tossed a handful of Floo Powder into the grate.