The Stag and the Dragon

Kenya Starflight

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Most of my fics are either one-shots, like "Reminiscence" and "The Artist" (okay, it's a two-shot, but the bunny wouldn't leave me alone on that one), or novella-length stories that I eventually complete, like "Eye of the Storm" and the "Reborn" trilogy. This one's going to be a bit different – the plot bunny has only seen fit to produce a few chapters in what should rightly be a much longer narrative. I will add more as inspiration strikes me, so I implore you to be patient.

Also, I've never been good at writing parody fics, so while the basic idea seems to be a parody, the story won't be. Live with it.

Prologue – A Second Dark Lord

It was a rainy August day at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The sky was a marbled slab of ivory and silver, and light rain misted the grounds. The grass sparkled like an expanse of emeralds with the moisture. Hogwarts itself towered over the countryside, looking cold and foreboding to the unpracticed eye.

Inside Dumbledore's office, though, it was cozy and warm, with a blazing fire going in the fireplace and mugs of mulled cider ready and waiting on his desk. Former Headmasters and Headmistresses dozed in their paintings, silver instruments puffed and spun lazily, and Fawkes, the brilliantly colored phoenix, slumbered quietly on his perch, head tucked under one magnificent wing.

But the silence between the Headmaster and Transfiguration Professor McGonagall was anything but warm and comfortable.

Dumbledore leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes, still holding the application for employment in his fingers. Not a scroll of parchment like most, but a Muggle sheet of paper, with crisp laser-printed lettering and a peculiar-looking seal or insignia serving as a watermark. The document itself was unremarkable – aside from the fact that it was a Muggle artifact, of course – but it was what it contained that had so stunned himself and McGonagall.

The applicant was requesting the vacant post of Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor.

"Is this right?" McGonagall said at last. "Should we really trust this... man?"

"He is certainly qualified, Minerva," Dumbledore replied, opening his eyes to skim the letter again. "He has extensive experience with the Dark Arts. And above all, he is willing."

"Does he know that no teacher in the past four years has lasted an entire term?" she demanded.

She referred to the supposed curse that seemed to rest on the post of Dark Arts Professor. Professor Quirrel had been a host for Lord Voldemort's soul and been killed in his confrontation with Harry Potter, Lockhart had been a conceited braggart who'd had his memory destroyed when his attempted Memory Charm on two students backfired, Lupin had to be dismissed after the jealous Snape leaked his identity as a werewolf to the press, and Moody had been kidnapped and held prisoner by an insane imposter set on resurrecting the Dark Lord and killing Harry. With such a record, it was small wonder that no one had applied for the post this year.

"I have informed him of the risk – and he is willing to take it."

"But have you SEEN this man?" she went on as if determined to find fault with the applicant. "If he's not a dark wizard, he certainly looks the part. Should we trust him? And will the students trust a teacher who..."

"Wardrobe choices notwithstanding, Minerva, we have no choice," Dumbledore told her kindly but with a quiet firmness. "As I said, he is willing to take the job. No other qualified person has stepped forward. Moody refuses to return after that fiasco last year. Lupin would be an excellent choice, but the parents won't have a werewolf instructing their children. This applicant is willing, able, and ready. It is either take him... or settle with the Ministry of Magic's appointed teacher. And after meeting Madam Umbridge at Harry's hearing two days ago, I can assure you that the second choice will be disastrous."

She sighed in defeat. "Very well, Professor. He is waiting outside. Shall I send him in?"

"By all means," Dumbledore replied. "I've wanted to meet our applicant in person ever since I found out his identity."

McGonagall stood and strode out of the office.

Dumbledore folded the document and slid it into a stack of parchments. Minerva did have a point. From all accounts, this man could be dangerous. He certainly had a reputation all his own among his people. But if it meant keeping the Ministry's prying eyes out of Hogwarts a little longer, it would be worth taking him on. The safety of the Order of the Phoenix – and Harry Potter – was at stake.

The door swung open, and the applicant entered, jet-black robes trailing after him.

"Good afternoon, Mr. Vader," Dumbledore greeted.

Darth Vader seated himself in the chair McGonagall had vacated as if it were a throne, fixing the Headmaster with a solemn gaze. Firelight gleamed in amber curves and angles across his armor, highlighting the details of the scowling metal mask he constantly wore. The rhythmic hiss of his breath filled the office and dulled every other sound. A sable cloak lent him a regal air, while his heavy gauntlets and armored boots suggested a military man. Muggle-style controls and buttons on a heavy chest panel betrayed the fact that he was half-machine, a fact that might have repulsed another wizard but only intrigued Dumbledore.

His black-shrouded gaze met Dumbledore's eyes, and for an intense moment there was a silent battle of wills, a measuring of talent and intentions.

Then Vader nodded once, as if acknowledging Dumbledore's strength. "Headmaster Albus Dumbledore," he replied in a resonant, metallic voice, addressing the wizard as an equal.

"I understand you wish to work as a professor in our school," Dumbledore went on.

"Correct," Vader intoned.

"Your resume has proven quite extensive." He withdrew the application again. "Twenty years experience in dealing with the dark arts is quite a history."

No answer except the constant pulse of his breathing.

"Perhaps you would like to tell me a little about yourself," he pressed, hoping to establish a connection with this man.

A pensive silence. "What do you wish to know?"

"To begin with, what led you to contact Hogwarts for employment?" He gave a swish of his wand, and one of the mugs of cider floated toward him. Vader raised a hand in a negative gesture, and the mug returned to the desk.

"My... former employer's wish," Vader replied. "He informed me that I was to take a year off from my regular duties. I'm not a man to sit around idly, so I sought a less strenuous career to occupy my leave time. And when I learned of the opening here, I decided to apply."

"I see. And what exactly was the nature of your former employment, might I ask?"

His visored head cocked as he considered the question. "I was the Commander of the Imperial Starfleet and the second-in-command of the Galactic Empire."

"Impressive," Dumbledore noted, a definite understatement. He began to wonder if hiring Vader would be a good idea after all. Did the Galactic Empire want to keep tabs on the school as much as the Ministry of Magic did?

"And what of your magic qualifications?" he asked.

"I am a Force-user," Vader replied. "I studied as a Jedi Knight from the age of nine until I was twenty-one. From that point forward I trained as a Dark Lord of the Sith. I am adept in all the arts of the Force and am qualified to train others in such arts."

Dumbledore remained silent. He knew all this, of course. Many Muggles but few wizards on this world did. But as far as he knew, the Galactic Empire was just as ignorant of this fact as the wizarding world was. The Empire was, in a way, just as bad as wizard-kind, not wanting any contact whatsoever with the Muggle world.

The Ministry of Magic and the Galactic Empire, for the most part, acknowledged each other's existences (and each naturally considered the other inferior), but otherwise they kept to themselves. By mutual consent they tended to their own affairs and kept themselves apart from Muggle-kind. But thanks to a wizard and Seer descendent named Lucas who'd fled to the United States and disguised himself as a Muggle to escape a sentence in Azkaban for some minor crime or other, the Empire had a distinct disadvantage compared to the wizard world – they were common knowledge and something of a joke to Muggles.

Dumbledore wondered how Vader would react if the Muggle-born students recognized him and started tongues wagging. He wouldn't be pleased to know that the sordid details of his past had been leaked by a Seer-turned-filmmaking-mogul. He wondered if he should warn Vader of this to prevent a messy situation down the road.

"Very good," was all he said to the applicant. "But you must understand that the class you will be teaching is primarily defensive in nature. We wish to teach our students how to protect themselves from the Dark Arts, not use them."

"I understand, Headmaster," he replied, nodding.

"We do have curriculum guidelines that you are free to look over and use to your discretion," he went on, raising his wand again. "Accio Parchment."

A heavy scroll shot across the room, missing the top of Vader's helmet by about half a foot before landing with a puff of dust on Dumbledore's desk. Vader gave him a look that, even through a layer of steel, plainly said, "I'm not impressed."

"Understand that these are only guidelines," he went on, handing the parchment to Vader. "You are free to build your own curriculum as you see fit, but keep in mind what I've said before – no Dark Arts instruction."

"You were abundantly clear on that point," he replied, unrolling the first foot or so of the scroll and glancing over it briefly before tucking it under his arm. "I will prepare an overview and allow you to inspect it before the term begins."

"That would be most appreciated." He paused to take a sip out of his mug. "A final warning, Professor Vader – I assume you know of the man known as Lord Voldemort?"

Vader drew himself up straight, obviously surprised. "I was informed that no wizard spoke his name."

"A ridiculous superstition," Dumbledore dismissed. "Fear of a name only increases fear of the name's bearer. And frankly, it's quite absurd for any adult wizard to refer to anyone as 'You-Know-Who.'"

There was a distorted electronic snort, as if Vader had begun to laugh but thought better of it. "The Ministry informed us of this so-called Dark Lord when he rose to power. They warned us that he might attempt to extend his reach toward taking over the Empire." He made a sound of disdain. "And we were told he had been killed in a freak accident."

Dumbledore shook his head. "Then I regret to inform you that Voldemort is alive and active, and he seeks to destroy those who opposed him before and retake his power. The Ministry, however, maintains that he is dead and insists that anyone who claims otherwise is delusional and dangerous." He leaned forward and spoke in a tone of warning. "We at Hogwarts are doing all we can to protect our students and keep the Ministry from establishing a foothold here, but I fear for the wizarding world at large, for the more the government denies his existence and covers up signs of his return, the easier it is for Voldemort to rebuild his dynasty of terror."

Vader was silent, brooding over this information. "And you would have me join your cause?"

"I had hoped..." Dumbledore began, then fell silent.

"I am loyal only to the Emperor," he informed the Headmaster. "Unless this self-styled Dark Lord proves to be a threat to the Empire, there is nothing I can do. However, rest assured that, while I cannot directly join you, neither will I aid the Ministry of Magic in maintaining their pointless conspiracy."

He was disappointed at the Sith's answer, of course, but he counted himself lucky that at least Vader would keep the meddling Ministry out of Hogwarts for the time being.

"Very well," he replied, pulling his watch from a pocket in his robes. "I would enjoy chatting with you some more, but I have an appointment in London in half an hour that I cannot afford to miss. Do you need help moving into your new quarters?"

"My men will handle it," Vader replied.

"Then may I welcome you to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and we are eager to see what you have to teach our students, Professor Vader."

"Thank you, Headmaster." He stood, his jet-black form towering over Dumbledore, and with a respectful bow he swept out.

Dumbledore sighed. "I only hope I made the right decision, hiring a second Dark Lord to defend the Order of the Phoenix from the first Dark Lord."

"Quite a frightening fellow you have there, sir," droned the sleepy voice of Dilys Derwent from one of the portraits. "Hope he doesn't scare the wits out of your first years..."