"Gamekeeper? Hmm ..." said Professor Dippet, slowly. "But, Albus, if he is the boy who opened the Chamber of Secrets –"

"He has said he is not, and I believe him," said Dumbledore evenly. "I have a suspicion, however, that the real culprit has been brought into line. So I hope."

"So we all hope," Dippet agreed unhappily. "This whole business has been dreadful ... that poor girl, and her parents ... well. Any more incidents like that and the school could be closed. You really think it is all over with?"

"I think," said Dumbledore, "that we were talking about hiring Hagrid as gamekeeper. And I also think that he had nothing to do with Myrtle's death. There is no deception in him, you know, Armando. Do you really think that the Heir of Slytherin – if such a person exists – would be someone like Rubeus Hagrid? The boy means well, but he never has been Hogwarts' cleverest student. He can barely manage his homework, much less his exams."

"Even so," said Dippet doubtfully, "perhaps it would be best if he went away from the castle. That is supposed to be what expulsion means. Nobody wants to see him around here any more, too much bad feeling ... and he has been accused of a dreadful crime. Why would he want to stay?"

"Because this is the only place he belongs," replied Dumbledore. "Listen, Armando: he has no other home. His father has died, and his mother is ... not present. He has found happiness here. Let him stay. Where else is he going to go? Can you imagine him trying to make his way among Muggles?"

Dippet was silent for a moment, as if picturing the oversized, clumsy thirteen-year-old Hagrid squeezed into a suit, working a desk job at some Muggle office. Was that possibly the shadow of humor on old Dippet's tired face?

"We aren't running a charity ward here, Albus. I know you like to bring orphans to Hogwarts and pay their costs out of the school's budget –"

"—and they return the favor, in the end," said Dumbledore firmly. "They grow up to become fine, productive wizards after they've been through Hogwarts, and later on they earn the gold that helps keep the school running. Instead of making trouble with untrained magic and causing headaches for the Ministry, which they would do if they had not been taught better. Hagrid will earn his way, if he stays here. You can't deny we need a good gamekeeper, somebody who can handle hard labor and isn't afraid of the Forbidden Forest. The house-elves have enough to do indoors, and the forest residents frighten them."

"Well, Hagrid does seem to have an ... affinity for magical creatures..."

"Precisely," said Dumbledore, smiling. "Rest assured I've given him a good talking-to about the werewolf incident. It won't be happening again."

Dippet squinted at his Transfiguration teacher. "You will keep a close eye on him, then, Albus?"

"Yes, I will. I promise you that. He won't be in my House any more per se, since he is no longer a student, but I will gladly vouch for his behavior. If the school governors complain about him, you can feel free to blame it all on me." Dumbledore smiled slightly. "Anyway, they don't need to know about who is helping to trim the grass and feed the giant squid ... they are mainly interested in the welfare of our students, not our staff."

Dippet nodded. "Very well, then. He will be gamekeeper. Though I don't know where is going to live, Albus."

"Oh, I've thought of that," said Dumbledore serenely. "Remember that old cabin Madam Hooch has been keeping the Quidditch things in? We can have that fixed up in no time."

"But what about the brooms and Bludgers and so forth? Where are we going to put them?"

Dumbledore laughed. "Easy enough, Armando. We'll just stuff them into Slytherin's secret Chamber, once Hagrid tells us where it is."