Chapter 1: Acceptance

Hair falling out of her bun and into her face, Kara Lynch dropped the last ingredient into the cauldron of sleeping potion she was preparing. She slid her dragon-hide gloves off and flipped the magical hourglass over. "30 minutes" she muttered to herself. She took the binding out of her hair and walked into the anti-room of her laboratory. It was mid-summer, and even though the basement that housed her workplace was completely underground, the room was unbearably hot and stunk of mold and herbs. She washed her hands and cleaned her face off with a wet towel. She rebound her hair tightly and secured several stray locks of hair to her head with bobby pins.

Kara Lynch's laboratory was housed in the basement of the Pritchard Apothecary in Paris France. The store, owned by one of her many aunts and uncles was one of the oldest in France and highly regarded for its purity of ingredients and ready-made potions. It was here that Kara made a living providing her expertise to her aunt and uncle by mixing up dull and monotonous sleeping potions and acne cures. Once in a while a nice challenge came along, but after sixteen years of the same weekly routine, she found little entertainment in her work.

She sighed heavily looking around the room. No less than ten cauldrons sat simmering on top of red-hot flames. She lifted her arm and wiped more sweat from her brow with the sleeve of her work robes. It was enjoyable work, however monotonous it may be, even in the warmest of laboratories. The last few months however, she had been pondering change. And it was change she was in the mood for today.

Sitting down at her desk she peered at the nearly completed application form for the British Ministry of Magic. She sat down and began to look over the application.

Name: Kharisca "Kara" Lynch

Position Desired: Auror
Explain your qualifications for this position:

She had left this intentionally blank on her first pass, knowing she would have to come back to it. It was the part of the application she dreaded the most. She had plenty of experience after all. She had attended Durmstrang, one of the most renowned schools for the Dark Arts. Her Aunt and Uncle that lived in Bulgaria had raised her to practice various forms of 'black magic'. She was comfortable with the subject and knowledgeable about the people and culture that surrounded it. On top of that, she possessed a very special gift. How could they refuse her? But there would be so many questions and so many tests to prove her loyalty. She was unsure that this is what she wanted.

She picked up a quill, dipped it into her black ink well and wrote:

For the past sixteen years I have been the primary Potions producer for all of France. I am intimately familiar with all Class A, B and C poisons as well as their antidotes. Additionally, I studied the production and uses of the 120 illegal potions under Professor Kris Polishnikov at the Durmstrang Institute. Some of my unique qualifications include those associated with a special gift of mine. I am registered with the British Ministry of Magic as an...

Her quill stopped. She always had a difficult time explaining this to people or admitting it to those she knew would look down upon her for it, which explained why so few people knew. It was a gift frowned upon by the mainstream wizarding world because it was unusual and associated with the Dark Arts. She continued, finally mustering up the courage while reminding herself she could just throw the application away at any time.

...Oracle. I possess Inner Focus and have full capabilities using it. I have the powers of a true seer and mind reading although I have not been trained as such and have little desire to use them. I believe this combination of talents to be well suited for the position of Auror and I have a great desire to provide assistance to the Ministry.

The hourglass marking the life of her newest batch of sleeping potion broke into a cheerful tune. It broke the usual din in the laboratory. She, in fact, had a collection of thirty singing hourglasses. Polishnikov had always mocked her for them, stating they were "girlish amusements", but it was just one of the many unique quirks she brought to the art. One she would not give up.

She rose from the desk, glided over to the cauldron and flipped the hourglass. The room became filled with the sounds of bubbling potions again. The flame under the cauldron in front of her went out. There was no wand waving, no incantations said, just a single thought from her mind put it to rest. Bottles lined up one by one in the air and labeled themselves then stood at attention waiting for her to drip the purple potion into each of them. They then settled themselves orderly into a box to be moved upstairs to the storeroom.

Her task finished, she settled at her desk again. With a heavy sigh she finished the application. Without giving herself time to doubt the motivation or contents of the document she signed it, folded it and sealed it with wax that she melted over a nearby candle. She left the laboratory, having finished with her work for the day. The candles extinguished themselves. There was no wand waving. It was as if a gentle breeze had drifted through the room.

Her bedroom was dark with only one window. A window was a necessity for witches that owned owls as pets but she detested it and covered it with thick purple velvet curtains. Sleeping beside the window on a perch of mahogany wood was a snowy white owl.

"Juliet" she said gliding over to the resting creature that suddenly ruffled its feathers and hooted in response to her name "I need you to take this to London promptly."

Kara tied the application to the foot Juliet offered her and stroked the bird gently on her back. "Thank you." She moved the curtains aside, squinting at the bright sunlight as it penetrated the room. Juliet flew out the window with Kara's fate at her feet.

She paused in front of her full-length mirror. A thin woman of thirty-six with pale skin and dark hair stared back through aqua blue eyes framed by dark circles. Kara was an attractive woman, no doubt, but she carried a Dark Arts aura that rivaled some of the greatest wizards of all time. She reeked of her obsessive work and the stench served as a reminder to her that she found little time for frivolous fun such as Quidditch. Her black flowing work robes were stained. Blotches of red and light blue from Bubotuber accidents stood out drastically against the black material. The edges of her garments were frayed. She opened her closet and pulled out a lovely violet robe. She changed and fixed her hair again. A small voice called her to dinner.

* * *

Two weeks passed. Juliet had been back for nearly seven days, but had come home without a response from the Ministry. Struggling over a new potion in her blisteringly hot laboratory, Kara nearly missed a tawny owl as it flittered from the store above. The owl, clearly exhausted from its journey and suffering in the heat hooted at her.

Looking up at it she snapped "In a moment".

"This Wolfsbane recipe cannot be right" she muttered to herself as she read out of a new leather-bound book entitled "Taming the Wolf" by Lineus Malkin. "It turns orange, not blue after the addition of Cactus Milk. I guess we'll see where this goes." It was common for her to talk to herself. She spent long hours alone in her laboratory. Sometimes it was the only thing she heard above her singing hourglasses and the simmering of cauldrons.

In her mind she recalled her days at Durmstrang and Professor Polishnikov's approving or disapproving looks. It was in times like this, when she was trying new potions, that she missed his company. She had spent a lot less time experimenting when someone with the right answers was always around.

She stepped over to the owl, releasing it of its burden and sending it on its way. Breaking the seal, she read

Dear Ms. Lynch,

We have read your application and wish to meet in person to discuss employment opportunities. Please arrive on July 16th at 10AM to the Apparation point noted below.

Sincerely,
Brandon Gillson,
Ministry of Magic, Defense Department

"Excellent" she said out loud. "Two days away!" A feeling of excitement overwhelmed her and she was startled as the Wolfsbane potion began snapping and spilling over the sides of the cauldron. This was expected though. After all, the book said so and the books are always right.

She awoke early on the morning of the 16th, a sense of dread filled her mind and she had difficulties concentrating. She picked out a conservative blue robe that she wore only on formal occasions such as this. Her hair was fixed as usual, a bun on the back of her head with several loose strands dangling. It was impossible to control them; they had a mind of their own.

At 9:55 AM she Apparated to the destination indicated on the letter. A nice woman in yellow robes greeted her with a smile and beckoned her into a white room with only a table, three chairs and two old men. Both stood and introduced themselves.

"Hello Ms Lynch. I am Brandon Gillson, head of the Department of Defense." She shook his hand. He had warm eyes, she thought. It would be excellent to work for him.

"And I am Albus Dumbledore, from the Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry". Kara was in shock. Why was Albus Dumbledore here? Certainly she knew he was involved in the defeat of Voldemort, and prior to him Grindelwald, but why would he need to interview her?

"The Albus Dumbledore?" she asked in amazement. "It is a pleasure." They shook hands. The rest of her body shook too.

"It is I am who am honored Ms Lynch" he replied. He beckoned her to sit down.

"Now Ms. Lynch" Mr. Gillson began "We have looked over your application and you are certainly qualified for the position of Auror. However, we have a different position in mind for you."

Kara's face fell. Her worst fears entered her mind. They want me in a lab somewhere, making antidotes, experimenting. I don't want to be a lab rat all my life. Keeping calm and relaxed she replied

"What sort of position, Mr. Gillson?"

"A teaching position at Hogwarts" Dumbledore replied. His eyes smiled at her and she could see the deep sincerity in them. He was not kidding or testing her. Her first thoughts went to a position teaching Potions, becoming like Polishnikov. What was said next surprised her.

"We have lost our Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor for the fourth straight year in a row and we are having difficulty finding a suitable replacement."

If she had been staring into a mirror, Kara would have no doubt realized the look on her face was extremely unbecoming. Shock and disbelief could be easily read as her mouth stood agape and her brow furrowed. Dumbledore simply smiled at her, he had no doubt been expecting this. But internally she was a bundle of confusion and fear. The job of teaching future Aurors was certainly better than being one, but there were doubts there as well.

"Are.... I mean are you sure Professor Dumbledore? I didn't attend Hogwarts and I've no direct teaching experience".

"It says here, Ms. Lynch, that you have studied under Professor Polishnikov, including a two year apprenticeship - which..." and his eyes twinkled. He caught the inside joke easily. "I hear is something Kris has never done before or since. And Professor Nabokov; I assume he instructed you in developing your Inner Focus?"

She was dreading this topic. And now, to have to discuss it with Albus Dumbledore, who was arguably the greatest wizard of his generation and an opponent to the Dark Arts, was humiliating. How did he know that Nabokov specialized in training people with her gift? She looked down at her hands, pondering her response.

"Professor Nabokov tutored me in my Oracle training, yes. Professor Dumbledore, hiring an Oracle.... " She didn't want to offend him. "Well it is a controversial appointment is it not?"

"As you know Ms Lynch" Mr. Gillson interrupted "those who are registered as Oracles are protected. No one need know of your special gift. The Ministry does not reveal such information to the public or to anyone who works here."

The look of doubt was obvious on her face. "We have discussed the appointment Ms Lynch, it is clear that you are more than qualified for the position and I simply will not take no as an answer." Dumbledore said to her with a loving, but resolute smile on his face.

"We will need to inform two other staff members, both are very trustworthy, but otherwise no one else need know. And naturally, you will want to buy a wand before you start". He winked at her.

How did he know she didn't have a wand? Surely he knew that because of her Inner Focus, she didn't need one. But what had convinced him that she didn't own one? Logically, she should in order to keep her appearance of not being an Oracle up.

After a few moments of internal struggle she came to a decision. It wasn't at all what she was hoping for or expecting, but it seemed an even more perfect solution to her problem than ever. Being with students again, not in a laboratory for ten hours a day and increasing her time spent socializing would all be good for her. "I accept" she replied.

After discussing details with her, they saw her back to the Apparation point where she set off back to France. Come September 2, she would be the new Dark Arts professor.