Chapter 1 – Dumbledore's Idea
There was a knock on the door.
A man entered the room. He had stringy black hair and wore a long, black cloak over his clothes, making him look remarkably like a bat as he walked over to the desk.
The elderly man sitting at the desk glanced up. "Ah, it's you, Severus. I gather you received my message?"
"Yes, Dumbledore. That is why I am here."
The man Dumbledore glanced down at the letter he held in his hands, eyes thoughtful behind a pair of half-moon glasses. "Hmmm... interesting..." he murmured to himself as he read.
"I think this is a bad idea, Dumbledore," the black-haired man said bluntly.
"And why is that, Severus? A student exchange program would be an exciting opportunity for our school to participate in," Dumbledore pointed out.
"True, but I don't like this idea of a multi-world program. There are so many types of magic out there; it will be very difficult for the students to relate with each other anyway."
Dumbledore paused for a moment. "I do agree with you on that point; however, Winding Circle works with magic quite similar to our own in concept, though of course the method they use it is quite different. I think the students will have more in common than they think."
Professor Snape shook his head. "I still think this is a mistake. Otherworldly relations are not the best to be engaging in at present, especially with the Dark Lord's return."
"It is unlikely that teenaged witches and wizards from a world other than our own will be siding with Lord Voldemort."
Snape winced. "Please, Dumbledore, do not say his name in front of me."
"Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself."
"Yes, yes, you have said that many times," he sighed. "That does not mean it is wise to use it on a regular basis."
"Still..." Dumbledore looked once again at the letter in his hands. "I think I will be agreeing to do this, at least for one year. Our experience last year with Durmstrang and Beaxbatons was so positive; I think it would be wise to try this as well."
"Whatever you say, Dumbledore."
Dumbledore smiled at Snape. "Put aside your prejudices on the matter; not all strange students will have negative impacts on our own."
"I'm not prejudiced," growled Snape, looking positively furious at the accusation.
"If you say so," murmured Dumbledore as he pulled out a quill. Dipping it in the pot of ink at his side he quickly scrawled something at the bottom of the letter. Rolling it up, he tapped it with his wand, and it vanished with a faint pop.
"Now, I think a Portkey just might work for transporting the students. I will give you the information you need to set one up, Severus. If you can talk to the other teachers as well and let them know that we can expect the exchange students about one week after school starts, that would be good."
Snape nodded stiffly and turned to walk out of the room. He was almost out of the door when he was called back.
He turned and faced Dumbledore. "Yes?"
"When the exchange students arrive, please try not to frighten them too much. I've seen how some of our own students act around you." Dumbledore chuckled. "It is not a fate I would wish upon strangers."
The side of Snape's mouth twisted up in what was almost a smile. "As you say, Dumbledore. I cannot guarantee anything though." Turning, he walked out of the room.
Sitting back in his chair, Dumbledore pondered the exchange program he had just signed up for. "So much to plan..." he said softly. Dorms, food, lessons... ah well. That he would do tomorrow. Now was his resting time. He pulled a little paper bag out of his desk drawer. Opening it up, he looked around inside before pulling out a lemon drop and popping it into his mouth. He lifted up a book from the top of his desk and flipped it open to where he had been reading it.
A faint snort interrupted him, and he glanced up. The black-haired portrait of Phineas Nigellus glared down at him.
"In my day," he said in his thin, reedy voice, "a proper Headmaster did not loiter around when there was work to be done!"
"Your day is over, Phineas," Dumbledore replied as he turned back to his book. "Hogwarts has experienced many changes since your time; and, I feel, will experience many more." Turning the page he continued to read.
Phineas snorted again and muttered something under his breath.
"Besides, this book is absolutely fascinating, all about the theories of Time and how it differs in parallel universes," Dumbledore pointed out as he ate another lemon. "It's an amazing topic."
"I'm sure it is," Phineas said in a bored tone as he sat back down in his chair.
Once again the office was quiet. It was a kind, restful quiet; yet of course, such times of quiet often occur before times of noise.
This time, it was the calm before the storm.