The man lifted his hipflask to his lips and drank, the potent alcohol barely burning his accustomed throat. The stream ran out and the man looked inside with the eye that had given him his nickname of 'Mad-Eye'. Empty.
Alastor Moody grunted in dissatisfaction and stood up, banging his way to a cupboard that was locked and barred. He raised his wand and disabled the wards before unlocking the muggle security. Out of the cupboard he took a dark honey-coloured bottle, half full. He stumped over to the table and put it down, casting a detection charm to make sure no one had interfered with it in the day since he had last used the bottle. Only after his multiple spells had come up clean did he step away. He was about to sit down when his magical eye rolled back in his head and he whirled over to the window. Ducking beneath the sill, he scanned for trespassers. A movement flashed across the yard and he shot a red spell at it. Nothing. Only a moon shadow. Merlin, he was losing it. Still, better mad than dead.
He sat down and tipped the bottle towards his hip flask. Just before the home-made alcohol started filling the hipflask, Alastor paused. What was he doing? He knew that alcohol slowed the senses, lowered the inhibitions. The more he drank, the better a target he was for any dark wizard wanting to attack him, and there were many.
He put the bottle back down and leant back, his eyes distant in some long past memory. His father had died because of alcohol; because he couldn't hold his drink enough to prevent his stomach being ripped out by a dark spell as he stood up from the bar table. Constant Vigilance: it doesn't matter where you are.
His brother had died in the explosion that had blown up half the Ministry in the first few years of the first war. Died sitting on the toilet. Moody chuckled, the sound harsh and discordant. It still amused him in a satirical way. His brother hadn't even been a combatant; he had been one of those pen-pushers in the department for magical transportation. Constant vigilance: it doesn't matter who you are.
Aye, he had seen many good people die. Most of them would have survived if they had remembered the rule Alastor had built his life around. There was nothing worse than winning a duel against a superior opponent and then, full of elation and zest for life, getting your brains blown out by some two-bit Death Eater who spotted an opportunity. Constant vigilance: it doesn't matter what you're doing.
He had seen the worst war had to offer. He had seen the women crying over their husbands, their children. He had seen newly-orphaned children crying out for their parents. He had seen fathers and husbands desperately trying to revive their loved ones. He had seen the shock and sickness on new recruits' faces as they killed for the first time and then the hardness that grew every battle. He had seen people volunteering for suicide missions, simply because they had nothing left to live for. Constant Vigilance: it doesn't matter how old you are.
Possibly the worst part of war was the way it affected everyone. Even those who thought themselves secure in their financial or literal castles were hit, not necessarily directly, but by wartime economy. Constant Vigilance: it doesn't matter what you believe.
And then there was the woman. The woman who died. The woman who took his heart with her. The woman who was carrying his child the day she died. That sweet, loving creature who had been killed in a random raid on a muggle supermarket that had nothing to do with Voldemort, the Ministry or even the Magical world. A muggle gun had sent a bullet tearing through an artery in her leg. A muggle gun shot by a robber who didn't care who he hurt. Alastor had arrived too late, had arrived in time to prevent her cold, dead body from being taken to the morgue. Constant Vigilance: it doesn't matter if you love.
Alastor 'Mad-Eye' Moody looked at the honey coloured alcohol that glimmered in the firelight. Oh, yeah. That was why he drank. The alcohol numbed the pain that never went away, stopped him from thinking, from reliving the past. Alastor swigged from the bottle, bypassing the hip flask completely. Better. The burn ripped a path down from mouth to stomach and settled heavily in his belly.
Moody picked up the heavy package that sat on the table beside him. He undid the string and unwrapped the waxy paper to reveal the balefully winking barrel of a hand gun. He lifted it out and pointed it to his head. His fingers trembled and lost their strength; he couldn't pull the trigger. Alastor squeezed his eyes shut and tried again. When it didn't work, he slammed it back down on the table. He had never managed to kill himself to join his sweet Elise.
He swigged another gulp of alcohol. Maybe he wasn't meant to die? He was a survivor. Maybe he needed to help the Wizarding world through this most recent war, be a veteran to support the newbies as they got over their hesitance at hurting other humans.
A piece of parchment rustled as he moved and he looked at the letter, recently received from Albus. Maybe he should take up that offer to re-join the Order of the Phoenix. Come out of retirement and the forced rest that his recent imprisonment had led to. But then, he was just so tired of being part of a war; it was why he had retired in the first place. Still, perhaps he could install in some of those naïve and innocent soldiers that life lesson that all should learn lest they be taken unawares, their lives cut short.
Constant Vigilance: the motto of the living.