The best way to ace a job interview is to show up on time and be exactly what your perspective boss is looking to see. But sometimes it just doesn't work that way.
Chapter Five: A Foot in the Door
Albus Dumbledore sat behind his desk with his chin resting on his steepled fingers. Alastor Moody sat across from him with a gnarled smirk on his face. He had news for Dumbledore and, contrary to his usual grim demeanor, he looked almost too giddy to be able to tell it.
"Well, my old friend," Dumbledore said, "what brings you here today? You said it was quite urgent."
The old Auror grinned a grin that would have half the student population quaking in fear as he returned the Headmaster's gaze. "Aye, I'd have to say it was urgent indeed. It seems that the Dark Lord has gone and lost himself one of his Inner Circle."
Dumbledore's mind reeled with the possibilities, depending on who had been captured the balance of power in this war could be drastically shifted. If it was Bellatrix LeStrange then Voldemort had lost one of his best fighters but not a truly key strategic player. If it was Rudolfus or Rastaban then it made little difference in the long run, but if it was...
"So tell me, Alastor, who has the Ministry captured?" he asked.
"But you just said..."
Old Mad-Eye grinned even wider, showing several missing molars on the left side of his mouth. "I said that Ol' Tom has lost a major player. I didn't say that the effing Ministry had managed to catch a cold."
"So what has happened?" Albus enjoyed dragging out the moment as well as anyone, when he was doing the dragging, but this banter was beginning to wear thin.
"Lucius Malfoy has managed to get himself killed," Moody said gleefully.
"How?" asked Dumbledore, trying to think of some means by which Lucius Malfoy, probably the most valuable, and therefore dangerous, of Voldemort's minions could have died. "Did he make some error that Voldemort thought deserved that punishment?"
Moody barked a sharp laugh. "Not hardly. I'd expect Voldemort is beside himself right about now trying to figure out how it happened." The old Auror's eyes twinkled brightly enough to make Dumbledore jealous.
"And you know?"
Moody nodded like a happy house elf. "He caught some stranger diddling around with his Missus. It seems that Lucky Lucy took two bully boys with him and reckoned he was well set to take care of his problem. He was mistaken."
"What happened? Who was it that out-dueled three Death Eaters?"
"There was no duel," Moody snarked. "The way it looks, Malfoy and his pals show up and this fellow just tosses them all out of a window, neat as you please. Then..." Moody had problems continuing around a sudden fit of sniggering. "Then he goes right back to diddling with Narcissa." The old Auror slapped his knee at the image of that. "The team of Aurors sent to investigate had the devil's own time of it getting him to just answer the door."
"Alastor!" Dumbledore said sharply to get the man's attention. "Who was it?"
Moody shook his head, suddenly all business. "Don't really know him. He's new on the scene. Some wanker named Odysseus Harris." Albus started at the familiar name and Mad-Eye noticed. "Do ye know him, Albus?"
"We've never met," Albus said calmly. "However, he has applied to be the new Defense Against the Dark Arts Instructor."
"Then I'd say hire him, and right quick."
"He's a murderer, Alastor."
Moody snorted at the idea. "Who's he kilt, eh? Three stinkin' Death Eaters, that's who! I've done it to more than that and you wanted to hire me as I recall." The Headmaster seemed to hesitate. "You said you've never even met him before." Albus nodded. "Well, what could it hurt to talk to him?"
Albus nodded silently again. Indeed, what could it hurt to speak with the man and see what he was like? A new ally would be welcome and a new enemy should be evaluated as quickly as possible.
Harry Potter sat over his lunch at the Leaky Cauldron and pondered the events of the previous day. They had been quite expensive in terms of money, what with the clothes and the cost of the suite at the Hotel for the night. On the other hand, the two money bags he had liberated from the Death Eaters before disposing of them had actually turned a tidy profit on the deal. Better yet, he thought, Lucius was out of the picture for good now. Voldemort would be missing his key strategist as well as his largest source of funding. Although Narcissa had control of that money now and she could quite easily hand it right over to snake-face. Narcissa, he thought; he would have smiled if his jaws weren't quite so sore. Who'd have thought that it took so much... His thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of an owl at his table. By the lofty look of it, it was a Hogwarts owl. Harry fed it a bit of meat and hastily untied the note it was carrying.
Dear Mr. Harris,
We here at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry are indeed looking for a new face to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts. Although I am afraid that I am unaware of your reputation, I feel it may be worthwhile if we met and discussed your qualifications in person at your earliest convenience.
Would tomorrow at 9 a.m. be suitable?
Harry didn't bother to read the listing of the Headmaster's titles. He knew them all by heart. Anyway, it wouldn't list 'future corpse' among them, and that was the only title that Harry was particularly interested in at this time.
So, his letter had gotten the old man intrigued after all? Or perhaps he had already heard of the events surrounding dear Lucius's death. News would have had to travel fast in order to reach Scotland by first light, when the Headmaster would have had to have sent this owl, but then Dumbledore had several sets of ears within the Aurors and they would certainly be discussing this topic with great vigor. Either way, he had gotten his interview; now all he had to do was get the job.
Harry was finishing his lunch when a second owl joined him. It was a regal black Eagle Owl whose ownership Harry immediately recalled. The unsigned note read simply: I have secured the room for another night, if you would care to join me. Somehow, Harry thought he wasn't going to make it to Hogwarts by 9 in the morning.
Albus Dumbledore deliberately laid his hands flat on the desk in front of him. If he steepled them any longer he was afraid the Church of England would declare them a sanctuary. It was almost half ten in the morning and he had been waiting for his appointment since leaving breakfast.
With an exasperated sigh, he reached towards the large stack of parchment resting in his In box when a light bell signaled that the gargoyle that guarded the entrance to his office had moved aside to allow someone entrance. Assuming that it was one of the Professors, he absently called out, "Enter" when a knock sounded.
He was quite astonished when, instead of Professor McGonagall or perhaps Severus entering to tell him his visitor had arrived and was lost somewhere in the dungeons, a man he had never met before strode confidently into the room. He was impeccably dressed in Muggle clothes that were obviously of the highest quality. He was slightly taller than average with a lean build that spoke of great natural athleticism. He had not the brutish gait of a bodybuilder but rather the agile grace of a dancer as he walked. His face was that of a young man but the swaths of snow white hair at his temples showed either unexpected age or great tragedy and sorrow. The man stopped in front of the desk and extended his hand.
"Professor Dumbledore, I presume? Your chocolate frog card does not do you justice."
Harry awoke to the sun shining in through the glass door to the balcony, the same door that he had shattered with Lucius Malfoy less than 48 hours previously. He shook his head to clear away those thoughts and by doing so disturbed Narcissa who was sleeping cuddled up against his side. He gently kissed her forehead and shushed her back to sleep before easing himself out of the bed.
After a quick shower, Harry cast cleaning spells on the clothes he had worn last night. They were wizarding robes that he had transfigured into Muggle clothes for his trip to the hotel. He was right in his assumption that he wouldn't be needing them for long once he got there. Now he was faced with a dilemma. Wear them as either Wizarding or Muggle dress for another day and, more importantly, for his interview with Dumbledore in a few hours, or go back to his other hotel room and change. Tangentially, he realized that he couldn't keep living in hotels and that he would likely need to find a flat somewhere, especially if he didn't get the job at Hogwarts.
With a smirk, he chose neither clothing option. Instead, he decided to return to one of the shops outside the hotel and indulge himself in another top-of-the-line outfit. He felt he deserved it after the night he had had. Dashing off a brief note for the still sleeping Narcissa he left quietly.
After his shopping was done, Harry Apparated to the gates of Hogwarts and walked up to the front doors. It was slightly after ten when he arrived but he didn't notice or care. His feet taking the well remembered path to the Headmasters office, Harry allowed himself to savor the nostalgia that being back at Hogwarts evoked. Before he knew it, he was standing in front of the gargoyle and guessing sweets.
At the mention of blood pops, the statue stepped aside and Harry rode the spiral stairs upwards. He knocked on the closed door and, at Dumbledore's call of "enter", opened it and walked in.
Harry had thought that he had steeled himself for the sight of a living, breathing Albus Dumbledore but still the realization that his old mentor was not dead and rotting inside some marble tomb shocked him greatly. It also reaffirmed his decision to get involved in this world and not run away from it. Harry locked his Occlumency shields firmly in place and did his best to hide his nervousness. He strode over to Dumbledore's desk as if he owned the school and held out his hand.
"Professor Dumbledore, I presume. Your chocolate frog card doesn't do you justice."
Albus rose and shook his hand. "Yes, I'm afraid it is the price one has to pay for mass production. Not to mention a bit of chocolate smeared across the face of the card by an eager young hand, eh?" Harry chuckled politely at the joke and waited. "And you are Mr. Odysseus Harris, yes?" Harry nodded and, at a gesture from Dumbledore, took the chair opposite the desk.
Dumbledore stared at him, his eyes twinkling brightly, for almost a full minute before speaking again. Harry smiled back calmly and waited, he hadn't felt any Legilimency probes so he assumed the long delay was simply a negotiating ploy to discomfort him. "So, you come seeking the position of Professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts?"
"And you are in need of someone to teach the same subject. It seems to be a fated match. When shall I begin?" Two could play at that game.
Dumbledore chuckled lightly at the joke. "We mustn't get ahead of ourselves. First, let us get to know one another."
"Your reputation is quite well know, Professor Dumbledore, so I assume it is you who wishes to get to know me?"
Dumbledore smiled indulgently. "Indeed, that is the case. You look very familiar, Mr. Harris. Have we met before?"
Harry looked at the broad array of glittering silver instruments that stood around the room as he answered. "No, I haven't had the pleasure until today. I know I certainly would have remembered such a meeting, although I daresay I may not be as memorable to you."
Albus smiled at the flattery and said, "But you do look remarkably familiar." He tapped his chin for a moment with one long finger. "Ah yes! You bare a remarkable resemblance to another member of my staff." Harry tried not to show his surprise. The only person anyone had ever said he resembled was... "Mr. James Potter is our flying instructor. You wouldn't happen to be a relation, would you?"
Harry answered quickly; he hoped not too quickly, "I don't think so. I have no living family that I know of."
"But still, it is possible?" Dumbledore asked calmly.
Harry thought quickly. Since in this world he had died as a baby then telling the truth wouldn't give the Headmaster any real information from which he could learn Harry's identity, and the truth was always easier to remember than a lie. He shrugged nonchalantly and said, "I know almost nothing of my background. My parents died when I was little more than a baby. I was then placed with my only known blood relations, a Muggle family, my mother's sister. They are gone now as well."
"I'm sorry to hear that, Mr. Harris, family can be such a comfort in troubled times." Harry nodded his head in acceptance of the sentiment. "But let us get on with the matter at hand; you have said that you had some experience in teaching?"
"Yes," Harry said, glad to be off the topic of his family, he hadn't thought about the fact that his parents were alive in this world and the idea was a disquieting one, "though only one year."
"Tell me about that, if you please," the Headmaster encouraged, his fingers went to steeple themselves beneath his chin until he noticed the gesture and returned them deliberately to his blotter.
Harry thought for a moment on how to phrase this. "Well, it seems that a number of students, and their families, were displeased with the quality of education they were receiving, especially in the area of how to protect themselves in these dark times. I was solicited and agreed to teach them an independent course in Defense."
"Here in England?" Dumbledore was disturbed that such a thing may have occurred right under his nose. He had to admit that the Defense teachings the students had received over the past few years had been spotty at best but the idea that some of them would go behind his back to gain such training, and managed to do it without his getting wind, was troubling indeed.
Harry quickly moved to calm his fears. "Not to worry, Headmaster. I have never taught any of the children that are attending your school."
The old Wizard breathed a sigh of relief. "And were you successful in this endeavor?"
"I like to think so. The students responded well to my presentations. They quickly gained some level of competency and those taking their OWLs and NEWTs later said that my tuition was of great value in their results."
"And what sort of things did you teach them?"
"Some basic shields and attacking spells," Harry began, mentally going over the topics that the D.A. had covered that year.
"Dueling, then?" Dumbledore put in.
"Not dueling per se," Harry corrected, "I have no real experience with formal dueling. More combat and what they could expect to happen should they be attacked by Dark Wizards." Dumbledore nodded for him to continue. "We also did some work with dealing with dark creatures, mostly Dementors."
"And what did you teach your students about Dementors?" The Headmasters interest was obviously peeked at this topic. Harry surmised that in this world they had also gone over to Voldemort and were a greater risk to the general population than the Death Eaters.
"The Patronus Charm, obviously. In the short time we had to work a few of them actually were able to cast a fully corporeal form."
"Really?" Dumbledore sat forward in his chair. He knew how difficult the Patronus was to cast, most fully trained Wizards were not able to cast a corporeal one, if he could teach at least some of the students, it would greatly increase their safety. Harry recognized this as a big bargaining chip.
"Only a few, however, most were not able to get much past casting a broad silver mist but still that would be enough to buy them time to escape as long as there weren't too many of the creatures." Harry decided that the soft sell would get him better results than appearing to brag.
"Indeed," Dumbledore said, "that would be of great value to our students, however..." Dumbledore frowned as if he truly regretted what he was about to say. "I'm afraid that the parents of our students would be greatly upset if I were to bring someone like you onto our staff."
"Like me?" Harry asked calmly, now they were getting to the heart of Dumbledore's uncertainty.
"How should they feel if I were to hire someone who would murder a man just to seduce his wife?"
Harry laughed out loud at this and from his shocked expression it was the last reaction the Headmaster was expecting.
After getting himself back under control, Harry replied, "It is a good thing you taught Transfiguration, Professor, rather than logic." Dumbledore looked at him askance, so Harry continued, "Your understanding of causality is dreadfully flawed."
"How so, Mr. Harris?"
Harry leaned forward in his chair and coldly looked Dumbledore straight in the eye, the determined twinkling shrinking back under the strain. "I did not kill Lucius Malfoy in order to seduce his wife. Rather, I seduced Narcissa in order to create a situation where I could execute her husband."
"Execute?" the Headmaster asked.
Harry nodded, still not breaking eye contact. Suddenly, Harry felt the tingling behind his ears that signaled the start of a Legilimency probe. He slammed even more power into his already solid shields and Dumbledore rocked back in his chair in response.
"My skills at Occlumency are extremely hard won, Headmaster. I would advise you not to try that again."
Dumbledore nodded. "Are your skills at Legilimency equally formidable?"
Harry relaxed slightly. "Not nearly as subtle as yours, I'm afraid. I'm rather like a bull in a china shop in that regard. I can bash my way into most people's minds but it isn't without some damage being done. Consequently, I don't do it often."
"But you have done it?"
"When it was necessary."
Dumbledore nodded in thought for a moment. "But let us get back on topic. You say that you didn't murder Mr. Malfoy but instead executed him?"
Harry snorted in derision. "Malfoy was a Death Eater. How many innocent people do you suppose he had killed? How many women, both Muggle and magical, do you think he raped and tortured to death over the last twenty odd years?"
"Lucius Malfoy was never convicted..."
Harry cut him off. "The fact that he could buy his way out of Azkaban is irrelevant." Harry suddenly smiled and changed tack. "Actually, it isn't. It is the fact that Lucius was able to so successfully manipulate the legal system that made my actions necessary."
"Mr. Harris, it is the role of government to decide..."
Harry interrupted again, "It is the role of government to protect the rights and the lives of its citizens. When the government fails in that role it is left to the people to do it for themselves."
"An interesting sentiment."
"A lesson we here in Britain should have learned from our American cousins two hundred years ago."
"Vigilantism?" Harry questioned. "And how would the Ministry classify the actions of your Order of the Phoenix if not as vigilantism?"
"And how would you know of the Order of the Phoenix?" Dumbledore asked, suddenly sitting forward in his chair.
Harry looked over at Fawkes, resting calmly on his perch but watching Harry intently. He just couldn't resist tweaking the old man's nose a bit. "The existence of that secret organization is strictly between you and the members of the Order so naturally, everyone knows about it." Dumbledore looked at him in confusion and Harry grinned knowing that this Dumbledore would never remember the conversation his Dumbledore had with him after the Philosopher's Stone incident in his first year. The Headmaster, however, seemed to thrive on nonsensical answers and continued on with the interview.
"And what is your ultimate goal, Mr. Harris?" he asked.
"I hope to better prepare the students to be able to defend themselves and their families," Harry responded smoothly.
Dumbledore smiled. "An admirable sentiment but I was asking after your personal, long term goals. You see, most of the teachers here come to us later in life. They have already lived productive and full lives outside of these walls and now wish to transfer that experience to a new generation. You, however, are a, if you don't mind my saying so, very young man, so why would you choose teaching when you could be doing so many more exciting and glamorous things with your life?"
Here again, Harry quickly concluded that honesty was again the best and safest policy. "What I intend to do, Headmaster, is to destroy Voldemort and as many of his Death Eaters as I can. The fewer innocents that can not defend themselves there are involved, the less distracted I will be. You see, it was Voldemort that murdered my parents. He did it personally. He orphaned me as he has orphaned far too many others. I will see him destroyed."
"So, you seek revenge." It was said as a statement and not a question.
"I seek justice and peace, just as you do."
"And should you succeed, what then?"
Harry smiled a bittersweet smile and said, "If I manage to survive then I shall gladly retire, either here to teach or to a small cottage in the highlands where I could be left alone."
"You would be famous," Albus baited.
"Infamous, rather." Harry answered, not taking the hook.
"Still, aren't you a bit young to retire?"
"I've seen enough blood and violence to last me a very long lifetime, Headmaster. Solitude would be a relief."
Albus nodded his head, accepting that these were indeed his own feelings on the matter. "Still, it is a lofty ambition for one so young."
"You think me too young to teach then?"
"You would be the youngest member of our staff," Dumbledore replied sagely.
"But not the youngest you've ever hired." Harry suddenly understood that Dumbledore had already decided not to hire him and he was simply searching for a suitable excuse to give for doing so. Harry tried desperately to think of a way to salvage this. He had to get onto the Hogwarts staff, he needed access to the Library if he was going to understand this world enough to save Sirius and then maybe even stop Voldemort. "You hired Severus Snape when he was barely twenty one years old, but then again it wasn't his teaching skills you hired him for, was it?"
"And what do you mean by that?" Dumbledore's eyes grew wary.
Harry realized that this was not the most productive means to gain the old man's acceptance but in for a penny, in for a pound. "You hired a repentant Death Eater in order to protect him from the others still roaming free." Dumbledore nodded. "But who protects the students from your supposedly reformed Dark Wizard? You can't honestly say that Snape has made the best Potions instructor."
"Another reason to avoid hiring one so young," the Headmaster said coolly. "And how old are you, Mr. Harris?"
"Twenty one," Harry said with a gulp. Dumbledore smiled at him. "But I will be turning twenty two shortly," Harry could have kicked himself for saying something so childish, like that would make a difference in anything.
Dumbledore smiled indulgently, as if he were dealing to a student rather than a peer. "Well felicitations, Mr. Harris. And when exactly is your birthday?"
Harry grimaced at the tone of the headmaster's voice and then suddenly grinned. 'Check and Mate' he thought as he spoke, "July thirty first, Headmaster. I was born as the seventh month died."