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In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, “Professor Moody" mentioned that he would only be teaching for a year, and only because he owed Dumbledore a favor. What was this favor and what made it so important that it made Moody agree to give up a year of his life to teach DADA?

This is that moment:

"You'll be Arthur Weasley's son, eh?" Moody said. "Your father got me out of a very tight corner a few days ago.... Yeah, I'm staying just the one year. Special favor to Dumbledore.... One year, and then back to my quiet retirement."

-- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

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I don't think there is necessarily an indication that Moody owed Dumbledore a favor. Here is the relevant quote from Chapter Fourteen:

"You'll be Arthur Weasley's son, eh?" Moody said. "Your father got me out of a very tight corner a few days ago.... Yeah, I'm staying just the one year. Special favor to Dumbledore.... One year, and then back to my quiet retirement."

All this says is that Moody agreed to teach for one year as a favor to Dumbledore. It doesn't say that he owed a favor to Dumbledore. People do favors for others all the time, especially when they like and respect the person. Moody might simply have agreed to it because Dumbledore asked him.

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    @InventPalooza It’s not a random act of kindness. I don’t think he would do it for many other people. But Dumbledore is his friend, they have worked together against Voldemort and the Death Eaters for many years, and he presumably highly respects him. – Alex Mar 17 at 1:12
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    To show that Barty Crouch Jr knew the actual reason, you could add this quote from the end of the book from Crouch: "I kept him alive, under the Imperius Curse. I wanted to be able to question him. To find out about his past, learn his habits, so that I could fool even Dumbledore." – Julien Lopez Mar 17 at 8:26
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    @InventPalooza People don't always do a favour in return for a previous favour. Sometimes they do a favour in order to call back a return favour at a later date. – Nicola Talbot Mar 17 at 12:17
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    @InventPalooza - ""Special favor" implies that Moody owed Dumbledore something." No, it doesn't. Not in colloquial English (American or British). All it means is he's doing a favor for Dumbledore. The "special" modifier just means it's not a favor he'd do for just anyone, but it doesn't mean he owes Dumbledore. Just that he respects him, likes him, or whatever, and is willing to do him a favor he may not be willing to do for someone else. – T.J. Crowder Mar 17 at 16:39
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    @TJCrowder: And, really, only the British dialect matters. It's what Rowling would use, and it's what her British characters in Britain would be using. – JRE Mar 18 at 12:20
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I have a translation of the 4th book by A-ba-ba-ha-la-ma-ha, a highly respected publishing house in Ukraine.

— То це ти син Артура Візлі? — спитав Муді. — Твій батько пару днів тому витяг мене з великої халепи… Так, я пробуду тут тільки рік. І то лише заради Дамблдора... один рік, а потім знову на пенсію.

Ukrainian

"Special favor to Dumbledore...." was translated into "І то лише заради Дамблдорa..." which in Ukrainian unambiguously means "only for Dumbledore's sake".

Though, it really doesn't matter. Don't forget that it was said by Bartemius Crouch Junior who was disguised as Moody. I don't know the real reason* why Moody was invited to Hogwarts as a teacher** and I am afraid the author didn't mention it anywhere.

Nevertheless, "Special favor to Dumbledore...." is a clever reply. It lulls the pupils into thinking that Dumbledore and Moody are good old friends, and consequently raises fewer questions about Moody's past and why he is a teacher.


* The real reason why Dumbledore invited Moody to the school​ is the Triwizard Tournament.
** The position is vacant. I guess having an auror as a teacher is less suspicious than hiring an auror for security purposes.

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    Would this "only for Dumbledore's sake" also cover if Dumbledore says "Moody, help me, please, you are my only hope", or does it imply some obligation like repayment for something that Dumbledore did for Moody? – RalfFriedl Mar 18 at 6:34
  • @RalfFriedl for sb’s sake means in order to help sb, it doesn’t imply “obligation” or “sb’s only hope” – Andrew Tobilko Mar 18 at 8:32
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    I wouldn't take a translation as being a better source than the original in determining intent - you're highly reliant on the interpreter and their personal interpretation of the line. – Baldrickk Mar 18 at 11:57
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    Come to think of it, a paranoid auditor is the most likely candidate for turning back a curse on a position. – Joshua Mar 18 at 15:55
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    This is an interesting take but the authorised German translation (from a highly respected publishing house, and a professional translator) is notoriously riddled with errors (missing half a chapter in the first edition of book 4!) and, if I remember correctly, the French translation likewise has issues. This emphasises what others have said: leeway in translations is in no way authoritative. – Konrad Rudolph Mar 18 at 16:23

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