The letters just wouldn't stop. Constant nagging and bothering about anything the government could think of to make him upset, not to mention the newest demand: "Have you found a Defense teacher yet?"
Headmaster Albus Percival Wulfuric Brian Dumbledore was tired. He wasn't as young as he used to be and sometimes, doing the right thing just wasn't easy. He was going to be stuck with some Ministry idiot now because of the Defense position. They were going to have a foothold right into Hogwarts and he couldn't stop them. It was bad enough knowing that he was going to have to be stealthy because the Ministry wouldn't acknowledge the return of the Dark Lord Voldemort but to have to put up with them everywhere, not even having a safe haven in his school, would be quite annoying.
A gentle tap at his window made Albus look up. He couldn't rest despite his exhaustion, and so a distraction was quite welcome. He opened the window and the bird entered. The bird wasn't an owl, but it was a nocturnal one... ah, yes, a nighthawk, with a letter. Albus knew it wasn't from the Ministry or from anyone he knew. Curious, he accepted the letter and noticed the nighthawk waited patiently for him.
Albus opened it and his eyes widened. A curriculum vitae? He looked quickly at the letter attached, which read:
Dear Headmaster Dumbledore,
I am terribly sorry about the late sending of this letter and my CV. Please rest assured it was not deliberate; I just was unable to send it until now. If the position of Defense Against the Dark Arts professor is already taken, then my heartfelt apologies for bothering you when I know you are so obviously busy.
Archimedes S. Hat
Oh. Someone was applying for the Defense Against the Dark Arts position?
Someone was applying for the Defense Against the Dark Arts position!
Albus's eyes widened as the thought fully hit him and he immediately ripped the CV out of the envelope and began to look over it. It was a very comprehensive listing of this man's professional history, including every term of employment, academic credential, publication, contribution and significant achievement-he had even included some samples of his work! Albus was beyond impressed; it seemed as if the man had studied an old-fashioned style of calligraphy and used it a fair bit, since his handwriting was very, very neat.
Home-schooled; well, that was good, there would be no biases against any students because of their House. Albus nodded and picked up a quill. He would schedule an interview immediately for this Archimedes S. Hat and...
Really? If one can't be honest with himself, who can he be honest with?
Albus knew full well that any interview really was just for show. The only other applicant had been his Potions professor, Severus Snape, and he was not going to give the job to him. That was something Albus would only do upon pain of death, and even that was questionable.
He had a Defense teacher. The Ministry would need to find another way to get its claws into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Albus didn't put it past them, but he was curious, very much so, about the obviously brilliant applicant. Why settle for just being a teacher when he had so many accomplishments?
Well, he had been asked that question many times himself. Perhaps, like Albus, this Archimedes didn't trust himself with power. Or perhaps, like Filius Flitwick and Minerva McGonagall, two brilliant people that really had their choice of career paths, he just honestly wanted to teach younger generations. Albus chuckled; better to not question too much and just be relieved that someone had decided to take the post.
"Here you are," he told the nighthawk, who gave his fingers an affectionate rub of its head and a gentle nibble of his fingertips before allowing him to tie the letter to its foot and zooming out the window. Albus hoped the flight wouldn't be long, seeing as he had scheduled the interview for the next day! If he was going to outwit the Ministry, it would have to be very, very quickly because August was almost over. He smiled, scribbling a letter to the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, that stated:
Your interest in the future of the school is very admirable and though I am glad for it, I must tell you that the position for the Defense Against the Dark Arts post has indeed been filled. Though your offer of having a Ministry official step in was rather generous, I am afraid I must decline it.
Headmaster Albus Dumbledore
"Fawkes," Albus said to his familiar, a phoenix who was swan-sized and possessed magnificent red and gold plumage. He knew that Fawkes was a very nice looking bird who didn't like the Ministry's approach to this at all. "Would you mind delivering this to the Ministry? I'm afraid I must disappoint those that want to silence me."
A happy song echoed through the office as the phoenix took the letter and was gone in a burst of flame. Albus smiled and, feeling a bit better despite his curiosity about the newest staff member, he continued working at a much faster pace than he had been before, eager for the next day to arrive.
Perhaps his wish had been granted, because all too quickly the next morning, while Albus was working on some finances for the school, a gentle knock sounded on the door. Albus looked at his watch; 10am. Archimedes was right on time. "Come in!" he called.
As well as being very prompt with time, Albus noticed as the man walked in, Archimedes was a very tall person, taller than even Albus himself. He was a rather slender man, with eyes that were such a light brown that for a moment, due to the sunlight streaming through the window, they seemed almost golden. His nose wasn't crooked like Albus's, nor was it large or noticeable; it seemed nice and normal. His light brown hair had such a light touch of gray that unless one were analyzing him, like Albus was doing, it would have been missed. He seemed to give off an air of both intelligence and determination, and Albus found, to his surprise, that he liked the man instantly despite the clothing that could really only be described as "scruffy."
The man gave a faint smile and spoke, his voice was a bit familiar but Albus couldn't imagine why-perhaps he sounded like someone else? "Good morning, Headmaster."
"If we're going to be working together, I would ask you to call me Albus." He stood up and shook Archimedes's hand. A solid grip and an amused smile was the greeting, back, and Albus noticed a few things. There was no trace of the Dark Arts around Archimedes, unlike Quirinus Quirrell. He didn't seem boastful and loud, as Gilderoy Lockhart had been, yet he wasn't as tentative and unsure as Remus Lupin had been. He wasn't grousing about teaching or anything, as Alastor Moody had done either; all in all, Albus was surprised, but this man just seemed like a decent choice.
"Ah, I'm sorry. Good morning, Albus," Archimedes corrected. "I'm not late, am I?"
"No, you're right on time," Albus said, amused. "Lemon drop?"
"Oh, thank you." Archimedes took one and seemed quite blissful as he ate it.
Wait; he took one? Albus perked up immediately as the realization sank in, rather happy. So few people actually accepted the offer of the lemon drop that having someone do so was a very pleasant surprise. "Please sit down," Albus said.
"Thank you." Archimedes sat and Albus was surprised once more when Fawkes flew over to the man he intended to hire and just sat in his lap, stretching out his head, obviously a silent demand to be pet. Archimedes seemed to instinctively oblige, causing Fawkes to sing a rather happy, sleepy song before just laying his head on the man's shoulder.
Albus tried very hard not to show surprise. Fawkes was a beyond excellent judge of character and he had never done that with anyone else besides Albus himself. He allowed others to pet him and had healed others or sung to them, but on the first meeting, he had never just put himself on someone's lap expecting to be pet. The man didn't seem thrown off at all though, which was a good quality in a Defense teacher, to seem as if nothing threw him off, as if all things could be taken in stride.
The interview was quick, of course, but despite the swiftness of it, he was indeed impressed. Archimedes Hat knew how to make someone feel comfortable, that was obvious, and there was no denying his intelligence or manners, because for the first time, when Albus asked if he had any questions, the man looked nervous. He looked at Fawkes, who was still relaxing in his lap, and the phoenix gave a gentle coo of sorts before nudging Archimedes.
"I was curious about a few things, including the classes themselves," Archimedes finally said, looking back up at Albus, his hand still continuing to scratch Fawkes. "I looked over the standard class schedule and spoke to a few former students. I wouldn't mind if my class could possibly be shared-I know about the Houses and I would like to have them share classes, if it is possible?"
"Certainly," Albus said, surprised that a teacher would actually want more students in a class. He looked over the possible variations and winced. "Oh dear."
"What is it?"
"Well... it seems the only possible combinations involve a lot of Gryffindor and Slytherin classes." Albus looked at Archimedes, "They have quite the rivalry."
"I don't mind," Archimedes said simply. "I've dealt with many people before that let such things get to them. Besides, how will they get over this rivalry if it is never addressed?"
Albus opened his mouth and then closed it; that was a very valid point indeed. "I suppose if you don't mind, that will be just fine." He smiled, "You said you were curious about a few things. Might I ask what the others were?"
"Well, I was curious about the types of extracurricular activities that are available for students."
"Ah," Albus said, musing. "We have Quidditch, of course, a Charms Club, a Gobstones Club, and a Chess Club."
"Oh." Archimedes seemed a tad distracted and he looked back at Fawkes again, who was gently singing to him. Albus wondered if the phoenix was singing a soft song of encouragement.
"What is it?" Albus prodded gently.
Those light brown eyes seemed a bit golden again due to the light, but it was obvious that he meant every word, "If it's possible... perhaps I could start a dueling club? And literature and music ones as well?"
"We had a dueling club a few years ago," Albus mused, remembering it. The students had liked it, but the teachers... one competent teacher wasn't enough to watch such a large group and so the group had fallen apart after one meeting. But perhaps this time... "It seemed to go over well, though the teachers didn't continue it for long. Severus Snape was one of the heads of it-perhaps he wouldn't mind having it again. As for the literature and music clubs, I don't see why not. It sounds like an excellent addition to what we have, though we will have to make room in the budget for instruments and other supplies, as well as have the house elves clean out the rooms we will use for them."
A smile that seemed to light up the room and also brighten up Albus's day appeared on the newest teacher's face, "Then I would have to say I would be delighted to teach here, Prof-er, Albus. However, I do believe I will be arriving with the students since I need time to find more suitable attire."
Albus nodded and then decided to check one final thing before he let the man leave. He waited until Fawkes had returned to his perch and the new Defense teacher was at the door. "Archimedes?"
"Yes?" The man faced Albus.
"With all of the media coverage this summer... tell me, what is your opinion of me and what I have been saying?"
Archimedes chuckled, "I think you're trying desperately to lead a horse to water and make it drink." He looked sad now, and continued, "The subject you want me to teach requires me to take any and every threat seriously. I have to have these children aware that some people really do lose themselves to the magic and that they might know the next Dark Lord. Human nature doesn't change. Herpo the Foul, Merwyn the Malicious, Emeric the Evil, Owle Bullock, Morgan le Fay, Godelot, Loxias, Grindelwald, Voldemort... do you really need me to continue?"
The sadness etched on Archimedes's face made him seem much older, even causing Albus to feel young for a moment compared to such a depth of emotion, and the man continued, "War, peace and revolution is how the world works, Albus. Voldemort is only one wizard in a list so long it would take years to compile. My job is to teach children how to handle any dark magic user, not just him. So my opinion? If it's not Voldemort, another dark wizard will be here soon enough, as much as I wish it wasn't so, and I will do my job to the best of the ability to teach my students to defend against any dark threat."
It was a very depressing statement, but even Albus couldn't deny the truth of it.
Archimedes glanced at Fawkes and back at Albus, "As for you personally, you don't strike me as a liar. Harry Potter never seemed to embrace his fame and I've seen the quality of news stories, the start of rumors and speculation. It's disgusting and pathetic. Do I think you're perfect? Of course not, you're only human. Do I think you're trying to do the right thing? Yes."
A gentle song of approval from Fawkes and Albus sighed, relieved. He wouldn't have any issues with his staff members. And for someone to see that he was only human was yet another pleasant surprise. "Thank you," Albus said it quietly, the simple words truly heartfelt.
"All I did was say the truth," Archimedes replied, giving him a faint smile. "Have a good day."
"And you as well. I will see you September first."
"Until then." Archimedes left the office.
Albus stared after him for a few seconds, until Archimedes was gone, before he looked at Fawkes. "No need to ask what you think. You absolutely adored him."
A song of agreement caused Albus to chuckle and shake his head. At least his other staff members, especially Severus, would have things to keep their frustrations at bay with the obvious slander being encouraged by the Ministry. Albus was positive that dueling against a competent opponent would allow Severus to release some of his frustrations, and Minerva would love a reading group for the same problem-something that would allow her to loosen up a bit among the students and yet actively debate with them.
Being a tad more optimistic for the upcoming school year despite all of the troubles it was bringing with it, Albus returned to his various Headmaster paperwork, actually a bit eager for September first to arrive.