AN: Despite how much I hate them, I find that, with this story, author's notes are extremely necessary. I will try to make them as short as possible; I want to let the story speak for itself.
Warnings: First off, I am an American writing about (mostly) British characters in a British setting; there will likely be mistakes regarding British culture and I will be using the American spelling. This story does contain OCs, such as Wales and Scotland. (All I know about Welsh and Scottish culture, I learned from the internet; some of it may be incorrect.) There is a possibility of others. There is also a possibility of random non-canonical pairings, because sometimes characters go beyond the author and make up their own minds. I try to stay as true to Prisoner of Azkaban as possible, but, as anyone with common sense would know, adding characters, events, and settings to a story tend to make it less canon.
Chapter One: An Old Friend
Arthur Kirkland pushed open the massive door with one hand. The wood splintered under his fingers, unlike the last time he forced this door open. The once freshly polished oak had felt smooth and hard below his hand. It swelled with the pride of its duty, barely budging for anyone's entrance except for its owner's. It used to fill the stairwell with the smell of the raging forest. Now, the softening wood reeked of age and felt like the bark of the tree it began life as. Arthur easily pushed his door aside.
Past the doorframe, the extravagant walls were lined with portraits of old friends. All of which turned their attention to the guest. Most of the framed faces smiled. A few greeted the nation with a kind "Hello", which he returned with a respectful nod. Two of the paintings scoffed and turned back to their separate business and one searched Arthur's grave face for recognition.
"Arthur! It's been too long," Albus Dumbledore stood behind his grandeur desk, wearing a calm smile. His blue eyes, weary and continuously bright, glinted through his half moon spectacles. A smile hid behind Albus's long, silver beard. He skipped around the clutter of papers on the desktop and past the radiant phoenix, toward Arthur. Before pulling the man into a gracious hug, Albus shook his wrinkled hands out of periwinkle sleeves.
"Albus," Arthur laughed, breaking the hug. He further ruffled his blond hair and crinkled his pasture-green eyes. Grasping tight to his brown overcoat, which he had taken off upon entering the castle, Arthur gawked at his friend. "The years have been kind to you."
"Ah," When Albus shook his head, his white hair seemed to sparkle in the light of the floating candles above. Arthur noticed the wrinkles revealed by the man's wide smile, despite the cover of the beard. "But they have been kinder to you, my friend." Albus gestured for his guest to sit down, before returning to his seat behind the desk. Arthur obliged. The phoenix rustled its orange feathered head into the crook of his wing. "I'm afraid age is finally catching up to me. My legs are not as fast as they once were; they've grown tired of running."
"Wait a couple thousand years," Arthur joked, straightening his pea-green tie. He raised his eyes to Albus. In contrast with his youthful face, Arthur's worn eyes showed the decades of hardship and war. They looked as if they fought through Hell and trekked the long journey back on several occasions. They twinkled with millions of experiences and shined with immortal wisdom. Then, he smiled. As suddenly as it came, the weariness was replaced by the laughter of all of England's children. "Then you can complain about being old."
"I suppose old age catches up to everyone one day," Albus mused. He leaned forward in his chair and opened the top drawer of his desk to pull out a small silver tin. He placed the container between the two men and closed the drawer. "Some sooner than others. But, as I will always believe, one is never too old to share a couple of sweets with an old friend." Albus opened the tin and took out two hard, yellow balls, wrapped in shiny plastic. "Lemon drop?"
"Of course!"Arthur laughed accepting the treat. He popped it into his mouth and bit down, wincing at the pain, but refusing to stop until the candy broke, much to the amusement of Albus, who chuckled as he sucked on his own. Arthur attempted to keep his mouth closed as he laughed along with his friend. He quickly devoured the small lemon sphere and grinned heartily. A silence fell between the two, as Albus finished his candy.
"Now, Arthur," Albus started, his voice serious. He watched the other man with careful eyes. "I think it's time we focus on the meaning of this visit. I trust you received my owl?"
"Yes, I have," Arthur blinked at the headmaster. "I would like to fully accept the offer you've given me, but, I'm afraid, this is not possible." He waited for a reply that did not come, before continuing. "I believe I can manage this position but I would need certain… privileges. As you know well, I cannot abandon my current post. I can't simply stop being the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland." Arthur almost laughed at this statement.
"I don't expect you to," Albus was nearly shocked. "I understand that you would be taken away from the position at Hogwarts to perform your duty as our country, and I'm willing to allow you whatever privileges you require."
"That's wonderful," Arthur smiled brightly. "Then, I accept! I won't need much. I'll need private quarters to do my paperwork. Oh, and I will have to be dismissed once a month for world meetings. They take about two days, plus travel time. I might also need to be dismissed for emergency meetings or other random requirements my boss dreams up, but that's highly unlikely. There's also my cat. I'd like to bring him along."
Albus smiled and opened his mouth to speak, but he was interrupted by a persistent knock. Both men, as well as the portraits surrounding them, stared curiously at the door. "Come in," Albus greeted the unseen guest. He stood, followed by Arthur, who nonchalantly reached into the pocket of the overcoat in his hand.
A tall, pale man, wearing robes as dark as his chin-length hair, entered the room. The frown on his thin lips deepened at the site of the headmaster's guest. He audibly sniffed the air with his long, hooked nose and glared with idle curiosity at Arthur, whose cheeks turned slightly pink.
"Severus," Albus's voice was warm. The man in the doorway turned his attention to the headmaster. "What brings you here today?"
Severus Snape glared pointedly at Arthur. "Private matters."
"Ah, Severus, we were actually just finishing up, yes?" Albus asked. Arthur nodded, avoiding the eerie glare of the greasy-haired professor. "But, before you leave Arthur, I would like you to meet our Potions Master, Professor Severus Snape. Severus, this is our new Muggle History teacher, Professor Arthur Kirkland."
Arthur stepped toward Professor Snape with an extended arm. They shook hands, eyeing each other; Arthur smiled wearily and Severus gave an air of indifference.
"A pleasure to meet you," Arthur broke the hand shake and pulled on his coat.
"A pleasure," Severus repeated dryly. He shot a carefully hidden look of worry at the headmaster. Arthur caught this and reached into his coat pocket. His fingers tightened around a long wooden shaft. The room filled with heavy silence for a few odd moments, until Severus glanced back toward Arthur. "Weren't you leaving?"
"Oh, yes, sorry," Arthur's tone failed to be apologetic, but Severus only looked disinterested. He simply watched Arthur, who loosened his grip and pulled his hand from his pocket, refusing to speak until the stranger was gone. Arthur walked toward the door, where he gingerly placed his hand on the knob. A nervous gulp was barely heard by the other two men in the room. Still clutching the dull, golden knob, he turned with eyes shining with immortal wisdom. "Albus." The name slowly drifted between the two friends. He paused for a moment, chewing on his bottom lip. "I know what the Ministry isn't telling me... They've been covering it up." The words were heavy and loaded. "I can… sense it. There's danger coming… Albus, whatever happens, keep Hogwarts save. Keep the students safe… Especially since the recent escape…"
"Indeed, I understand," Albus agreed solemnly. Severus stared from one colleague to the other with a sudden look of interest. "Unfortunately, I do not think Sirius Black had a fair trial."
"I know," Arthur whispered gravely. "Just promise me that you'll keep them safe."
"You have my word," Albus bowed his head sincerely. Arthur's smile did not reach his distant eyes; eyes, which lurked on the painful past. He stood, hand on the doorknob, staring at his old friend, for a long minute. Then, he was gone.