"Sirius Black, a convicted murderer, escaped from prison late last night. He is considered armed and dangerous...."
Dumbledore flicked his wand and disenchanted his Muggle television set. Finally, hours after the fact, Cornelius Fudge had given into reason and alerted Muggle authorities to the danger of Sirius Black. Dumbledore swallowed hard, thinking of the level of security Black had breached in escaping Azkaban. If the man could get past Dementors, Muggle authorities would be no trouble.
The wizened headmaster of Hogwarts took off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose. So much to do, so little time. The fall term would begin in just over a month, and new security measures would have to be put in place. Black's twelve-year imprisonment should have been enough to permanently muddle his mind, but after the things Dumbledore had heard about him, that certainty was no longer a comfort.
He'd been chanting "He's at Hogwarts" for weeks, Fudge informed Dumbledore. After confirming that with his own sources, Dumbledore's nagging suspicion seemed almost proven. McGonagall had already expressed her concern that Sirius Black would be coming after Harry Potter, and the evidence pointed that way.
Dumbledore sat down heavily behind his desk, remembering the last conversation he'd had with Sirius before the night Voldemort disappeared. Sirius hadn't wanted to become the Potters' Secret-Keeper; he knew that Voldemort would be most likely to target those closest to James and Lily. It was too great a risk. Dumbledore wasn't entirely certain how Sirius had found out who the Secret-Keeper had been, but given what had been left of Peter Pettigrew, it was obvious he'd known somehow.
Why would he escape now, if he had gotten his revenge and more twelve years ago? A most curious situation.
He let his mind wander to the school, and issues other than security. He was considering the merits of appointing Hagrid to the job of Care of Magical Creatures teacher. There wasn't really time to do a thorough search outside of the school for a new candidate, and Hagrid would be more than eager. Then there was the latest situation with the poltergeist Peeves, who had taken to tormenting house-elves late at night, disrupting the smooth behind-the-scenes operations at Hogwarts. Dumbledore thought he may have to approach the Bloody Baron again and come up with a bribe to have him corral Peeves.
Last, but certainly not least, there was the issue of the vacant slot for Defense Against the Dark Arts professor.
Dumbledore knew he need look no further than the current Potions master for a suitable candidate. Besides being brilliant when it came to Potions, Severus Snape was in the unique position of having firsthand experience with the Dark Arts. Even poor Quirrell had been no match for Snape's sheer knowledge. But the trouble with Snape lay in his checkered past. He had fallen victim to the Dark Arts almost without reservation, his only saving grace being his sound presence of mind in the face of unspeakable deeds. Besides which, his methods of teaching in Potions were enough to drive some students out of their minds from the stress; Dumbledore could only imagine what horrors Snape would put them through in Defense Against the Dark Arts.
Dumbledore fingered the corner of a rolled parchment lying on his desk. He'd sent off an owl a few days ago, when the name Sirius Black conjured up memories of other former students. The parchment was a note from Remus Lupin, a voice most certainly of the past. He was fine, doing about as well as could be expected.
The full moon still had its unusual effects. Yes, he was still looking for a job.
Dumbledore had already sent an owl, offering Lupin the job of Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. He could already hear Cornelius Fudge screaming about a werewolf teaching at Hogwarts.
He wondered if Lupin had heard about Sirius Black. It had been a cold day, even for November, when Dumbledore had told a young Remus Lupin what had happened to Peter Pettigrew. Lupin knew almost nothing, because he, like everyone else, had assumed Sirius would take the job of Secret-Keeper for the Potters. Dumbledore saw no reason to increase the already piercing grief that Lupin was suffering. He'd told him, and sent him off on another mission to clean out nests of Death Eaters in the far corners of the magical world. In the following twelve years, Dumbledore had only received the occasional owl or exotic bird bearing news of the man still known around Hogwarts as Little Remus Lupin. His last known whereabouts were somewhere in the United States, and this latest letter confirmed it.
It didn't matter, Dumbledore supposed. Lupin would hear about it even on his way to London. And he was grown up, Dumbledore reminded himself. Remus Lupin may have been the last of his small circle of friends standing sanely and innocently, but he knew the score, he knew how to deal with practitioners of the Dark Arts, and above all he could defend himself against whatever (or whoever) dared attack him.
An owl swooped into the open window, and Dumbledore knew without looking at it that the parchment clasped in the owl's beak contained a very positive and enthusiastic reply. Dumbledore didn't jump when the sharp rapping began at his door. He merely said "Come in, Severus."
"You wanted to see me, Professor Dumbledore?"
Snape was more subdued than usual, his demeanor calm and collected, yet expectant. Dumbledore almost hated to tell him that the position of Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher had been filled. He waved Snape into a chair. "Severus, I wanted you to be the first to know. I've hired a new professor to fill a vacant slot here at Hogwarts."
Snape's black eyes flashed, and something resembling a smile graced his face. "Really, Professor? And who will the new Care of Magical Creatures professor be?"
"Well, actually, Severus, that has yet to be finalized. I wanted to talk to you about the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher."
Snape's face fell considerably.
"You see, Severus, I feel you are best suited to the job of Potions master. There hasn't been a more effective and capable wizard or witch to hold that position in over a century. I would be wasting your talent, giving you a different job."
This ignited the more familiar side of Snape's personality. He straightened up and opened his mouth, clearly with an argument ready, but he refrained. Instead he ground his teeth together, and managed to choke out a question instead.
"Who will be filling the post, then, Professor?"
"I'm glad you asked, Severus. I've hired Remus Lupin."
Snape snapped his head up even straighter, holding Dumbledore's gaze for a moment with his glittering viper-like eyes. When Dumbledore didn't look away, Snape jumped to his feet and turned to leave.
Dumbledore spoke again. "Severus, stay. I need to talk to you about this."
Snape whipped around. "Talk? You want to *talk* about this? I held my tongue when you let Quirrell stay on after that disastrous year he spent battling Dark creatures. I said nothing at all when you hired that phony Lockhart. And you want to *talk* about Remus Lupin?!"
"No, Dumbledore! I will not listen! Hiring Lupin, especially now that Sirius Black is loose and could very well be headed for Hogwarts? I do not have to agree with you, Professor. I only work here." Smoke could have been curling from Snape's nose, as furious as he was. His fists were clenched by his sides, and he had turned an even paler shade of white.
"We, none of us, are free from Voldemort, Professor. Black and Lupin were friends here once, and we have no reason to believe that changed. Black could be out thanks to his old master; we don't know how he escaped Azkaban." He held up a copy of "The Daily Prophet", the banner headline reading 'MURDERER ESCAPES PRISON!' "We don't know why he escaped."
Dumbledore sat in his chair, watching Snape intently. "Severus, I know what I'm doing. I've been questioned before, and even I will admit to making mistakes in who I place trust. But I have no reason, no legitimate reason," he emphasized as Snape pursed his lips, "to doubt Remus Lupin. Sometimes, Severus, we have to trust the men we are least willing to."
Snape cast his gaze to the floor, bringing his hand up to his other arm, holding it as if he were in pain. He looked back up at Dumbledore.
"Blind faith, Professor. But what if this time, you're wrong?"
"Then I'm wrong. I'll learn from it. Until that time, however, I will hire whom I deem worthy."
Snape stood there in silence a moment longer. "Alright then. I won't promise what you know I can't, but I'll refrain from being a child about this. Remus Lupin and I have worked together before; perhaps we can do so again."
"I certainly hope so, Severus." Dumbledore reached into a drawer on the left-hand side of his desk. "Now that we have that settled, I have a favor to ask of you. Are you familiar with the Wolfsbane Potion?"
Dumbledore worked out a schedule with Snape, who grudgingly agreed to brew the potion monthly for Lupin as an added safety precaution. Just because Dumbledore was willing to hire a werewolf didn't mean he was willing someone get hurt as a result, and that included Lupin himself.
Snape left the office a short time later, leaving Dumbledore to his thoughts. He was looking forward to telling Professor McGonagall about Lupin; she always claimed she had no favorite students, but most everyone knew better.
He turned around to the cabinet and opened the doors, revealing even more of a mess than that which littered his desk. On a relatively clear shelf, however, sat a bowl filled with some kind of misty substance.
Dumbledore reached for it, placing it carefully on his desk. He touched his wand to his forehead, and pulled it away trailing a silvery wisp that looked like a hair. He placed the wisp in the bowl, where it swirled and joined the others.
If anyone had walked in the room right then, and had that person stopped and listened very carefully, he would hear the faint sound of boyish voices.
*professor dumbledore! black, potter, lupin, and pettigrew, they all tricked me, tried to kill me!*
*it wasn't moo...i mean, remus' fault, professor. it was mine.*
*don't listen to sirius, it was me.*
*potter, you wanker! shut up! it was my idea, after all*
*it was all of us, professor...*
*peter, shut up!*
Night fell over Hogwarts, and Albus Dumbledore heaved a sigh.