Six Years, Six Applicants

Year One

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.

Note: I'm not quite sure how to write stuttering, so I hope Quirrell's lines came off okay.

Albus Dumbledore was sitting in his office awaiting the first of the Defense Against the Dark Arts applicants. Of course, the interview process was rather pointless, given that there was only one candidate aside from Severus. Severus hoped that by applying without fail every single year, he would eventually wear down Albus's resistance and obtain the job. He claimed that if his DADA contract specified that it was only for one year, he could evade the curse, but Albus wasn't about to take chances. Although Merlin knew he had used the position's curse to get rid of troublesome teachers who were protected by tenure.

Still, even if he already knew who would be getting the job, he still felt it would be proper to conduct an interview anyway. Ah! His first applicant had arrived.

"Come in, Severus," he greeted jovially.

"Headmaster," Severus nodded, coming in and taking a seat. "You know why I'm here."

"Ah yes. You wish to apply for the job of Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor for the…" Albus glanced down at his notes. "Tenth time?"

"That is correct," Severus said stiffly. Each year's rejection seemed to make the already surly man crankier.

"Why do you want to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts?" Albus asked.

"I don't," came the expected reply. "But since you continue to emotionally blackmail me into being a professor despite the fact that I cannot stand anyone under the stage of 17 and am thoroughly convinced that approximately 98 percent of the Hogwarts population are a bunch of dunderheads. As such, I would much prefer to teach a subject that I still enjoy and is not slowly sucking the life out of me. Besides, every year you insist on putting Gryffindor and Slytherin together for Potions cuts at least three years off of my life."

"I see," Albus said diplomatically. "What are your qualifications for teaching this position?"

"I was a bloody Death Eater, Albus, and I've survived spending extensive time around the Dark Lord, including several months as a double agent, and that's more than most people can claim," Severus glared at him defiantly.

"That's a good point. What about Harry Potter, though?" Albus was actually genuinely curious about Severus's reaction to the boy. He was not quite so petty as to blame him for the sins of his father, but whether Severus would take the boy under his wing because of his love for Lily or despise him because he wasn't the father remained to be seen.

"What about him?" It really was remarkable just how devoid of emotion Severus could sound when he chose.

"You vowed to protect him."

"And I intend to do so," Severus said stiffly.

"Then I'm sure you'll agree that the best way to protect him is by watching over him at Hogwarts," Albus prodded.

Severus gritted his teeth. It had taken Albus three years to convince his Potions Professor of that, but now he appeared to accept that, albeit reluctantly. "And Defense Against the Dark Arts is taught at Hogwarts. I would be his teacher and see him just as frequently as if I were to teach Potions."

"This year," Dumbledore agreed. "And then next year you would no doubt be out of a job."

"Not necessarily," Severus insisted. "If I simply step aside-"

"Others have tried that," Albus reminded him. "Remember Professors Bones and Greengrass? It made no difference, in the end they were driven from the castle in disgrace."

"This is different," Severus snapped. "I don't have perverse desires towards young children nor do I smoke Gillyweed. The worst of my crimes, being a Death Eater, is not likely to get me fired anytime soon. Anyone who was around back then already know and those remaining allies of the Dark Lord who evaded Azkaban think I'm playing you for a fool and the rest who revere you take your word for my trustworthiness."

"You know," Albus said thoughtfully. "I've been meaning to talk to you about this. They wouldn't have to take my word if-"

"No means no, Albus," Severus cut him off. "I do not, now or ever, want anyone to find out about Lily. ESPECIALLY the Potter brat."

Well, that answered that question. Severus was determined to be bitter to the last. "Severus, please," he rebuked. "The boy is only a child and you've never even met him."

"I bet he looks just like his father," Severus said. "Except…Lily's eyes." He closed his own eyes, no doubt picturing just that, and shuddered. "Besides," he said, abruptly changing the subject. "You're letting Quirrell have a shot at the position for a year and he teaches Muggle Studies."

"I know; I actually hadn't intended to get rid of him, but after his sabbatical…well…" Albus hesitated. "He's still capable of teaching, but he seems to be one loud noise away from a complete nervous breakdown and he did seem so excited about the prospect of teaching Defense now that he's broadened his horizons and encountered many of the dark creatures he'll be teaching about. In all honestly, this will probably be his last year at Hogwarts regardless of if I give him the position, so why not throw him a bone?"

"Why not throw me a bone?" Severus retorted. "I've been here ten years now."

"Because Quirrell isn't vital to Harry's protection once he enters the magical world and you are not on the verge of a mental breakdown," Albus responded patiently.

"Want to bet?" Severus muttered.

"Now, if that's all, I believe our interview is concluded. I'll let you know about the position just as soon as I-"

"Hire Quirrell. I get it," Severus sighed and headed for the door. Once he reached it, he paused and turned back around. "I'll be back, you know."

"I'm counting on it," Albus told him. "Next."

Pale and twitching, Quirinus Quirrell entered Albus's office. He was wearing a large purple turban that Albus couldn't help but stare at. Honestly, it looked ridiculous. Not that he was one to judge, of course, but still, it was twice the size of his head.

"Y-you're certain that it would be a-a-alright for m-me to t-take this p-p-p-p-position?" Quirrell stuttered. Now, Quirrell had been a member of the staff for the past five years, but he was always so reclusive that he and Albus had never established a first name basis. Now, with his imminent mental breakdown and flight from the castle at the end of the year, it was likely they never would.

"Of course," Albus assured him. "Charity Burbage has recently returned from her two year stint living as a Muggle and has applied for your position. If you qualify to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts, then I'll hire her so it really isn't very inconveniencing to simply move you around from one subject to another."

"I heard that S-Severus also c-came here to ap-p-p-ly," Quirrell said, looking absolutely terrified. Really, Albus would have to have a talk with Severus about not terrorizing already traumatized colleagues. Obviously, it should go without saying, but Severus often needed to have social niceties like that spelled out for him. Not that he didn't understand them, of course; he just didn't feel the need to comply with them unless Albus specifically ordered him to. Albus usually didn't resort to forcing Severus to be nice, but it wouldn't do for him to have to find a new DADA professor before the year ended, now would it?

"Don't worry about Severus; he applies every year," Albus assured him.

That sparked Quirrell's interest. "R-Really? Now w-why w-would that b-be?"

Albus shrugged. "I'm not sure, really. I think it's more a matter of principle now rather than actually expecting to get the job anytime soon."

"I s-see," Quirrell said, looking doubtful.

"Let's talk about you. What are your qualifications for teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts?" Albus quickly segued into more neutral ground.

"W-well, I've been a p-professor for four years. L-last year, I t-traveled the w-world and encountered m-many f-fascinating dark c-creatures and m-managed to rid s-several villages of their l-local m-magical m-menaces," Quirrell said proudly. It was rather odd to hear some stuttering proudly, but there it was.

"Is that where you got the turban?" Albus asked, hoping he came across as merely politely interested rather than trying to contain his mirth. He often had difficulty doing that when confronted with other, younger wizards absurdity. He was told, in fact, that he perpetually had an air of grandfatherly amusement on his face. That was quite useful, really, as no one ever noticed that he was secretly laughing at them if that was his usual attitude.

"W-why, yes, yes it i-is," Quirrell stammered, pleased. "It w-was a g-gift, actually, from an African p-prince for w-warding off a p-p-particularly t-troublesome zombie."

"Oh?" Albus asked, intrigued. "What happened?"

Quirrell looked away. "I-I'd rather n-not t-talk about it if you d-don't m-mind. B-bad m-memories." The more nervous Quirrell was, apparently, the worse his stammering.

"Of course," Albus said soothingly. THIS was his candidate to teach this year? Once Severus spent some time in Quirrell's company, he was going to kill him. Ah well, he'd rather die at Severus's hand than Tom's any day. Normally, Albus wouldn't even entertain thoughts of giving Quirrell the position when he so obviously needed a good deal of therapy. On the other hand, it was just one more year, how much damage could nine little months do? And it wasn't like he had anyone but Severus gunning for the position.

"I think I've heard enough," Albus forced a smile. "Congratulations, Quirrell."

Quirrell promptly fainted.

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