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Chapter 1: The Interview
Although I've never been the sort of person who obsesses over her appearance, I firmly believe that it's extremely important to dress professionally for work. Today I fasten a necklace around my neck and then smooth down the skirt suit I’m wearing. After a final glance in the mirror, I nod, satisfied that I meet my own exacting standards.
Stepping into the fireplace, I floo to the Ministry. There's still have half an hour before my day starts but I always like to start early – it gives me time to get everything ready for the day ahead. It must be something that I inherited from my Dad, because hardly anyone else is here at this time in the morning. A few aurors are milling around, probably just finishing the night shift. I catch a brief glimpse of my father talking to the Minister himself as the lift doors clang shut and the lift starts moving.
I’m on my own in the lift, which isn’t unusual for this time of day. One office memo is zooming about above my head, and just as I’m about to send it up in flames for being so annoying, the lift stops and a cool voice says “Level Four, the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures.”
This is where I work, so I step out. I’m the head of the Dragon Research and Restraint Bureau. It’s actually a very interesting job. The regulation for dragons in this country is fascinating when you compare it to that of other countries. My Uncle Charlie is a dragon handler in Romania, so I always talk to him about it when I get the opportunity. It isn't often that I see him, but last Christmas he came over and we discussed the topic for a few hours. I could have talked much more extensively about it, but he fell asleep. I think it was a combination of his age and Nana Weasley’s cooking.
Although I find my job fascinating, most of my family start talking loudly about something else whenever I mention it. Mum and Dad are quite happy to talk about it with me, but once Lucy found out that I didn't actually do anything with dragons she decided that it wasn’t worth her knowing about. I don’t particularly mind, because I’m not crazy enough to want to work with dragons. My Uncle Charlie is covered in burns and cuts and he looks about ten years older than he is because of it. We do have to work with the dragon handlers, though. Every once in a while one of them will do something stupid or come up with a crazy idea, and then we have to have meetings with them about it.
That’s what I’m doing today, as a matter of fact. I have a meeting with a dragon handler called Cyrus Campbell in an hour. He wants to open a dragon training centre here in Britain, so that British handlers don’t have to go abroad to work with dragons. The application he submitted to the department included three rolls of parchment explaining exactly why he should be allowed to set up an establishment like that. It was quite impressive, I have to admit. But I since still think the idea is completely crazy and barely feasible, he’s going to have a very hard job convincing me today.
One of the advantages to being the head of the Bureau is that I get my own private office. It’s not really very private, since the walls are only thin, but it’s better than nothing. I don’t really appreciate the office gossip which goes on when you’re sharing a work space with other people (in other words, what happens as soon as I close my office door), especially since a lot of what is said concerns my family.
Ever since Uncle Harry defeated Voldemort thirty years ago, people have wanted to know everything about the Potters and the Weasleys. It doesn’t particularly help that a number of my cousins are currently in careers which mean their faces frequently grace the pages of magazines, and everyone wants to know all about them. When I was out sharing desks with the others, people would always ask me about them and as soon as anyone heard my name, they tried sucking up to me. I much prefer being in my own office where I can avoid all that.
As you might be able to tell, I am not really a people person. The people I get on best with are my parents (which even I realise, at the age of twenty-six, is rather sad) and my best friend, Felicity, who I shared a flat with until last year, when she moved in with her boyfriend. I hardly ever see my sister Lucy – normally it’s just at family gatherings (which, admittedly, happen every month). Even as children we were never close, but now that our lives are completely different, we have very little in common. In fact, our conversations consist of more awkward silences than actual speech.
Much to Nana Weasley's disappointment, I don't spend much time with my cousins either. They think I take life too seriously; I think they don’t take life seriously enough. My favourite aunt, the one I get on best with, is my Aunt Hermione. She’s very high up in the Ministry and is a very sensible and logical person. She did marry Uncle Ron, though, so I’m not sure I’d entirely trust her judgement.
I skim quickly through Campbell's application so that I'm confident discussing it with him, and then pour myself a cup of coffee. After everyone arrives (thankfully on time) I brief my team on today's schedule.
“Oh,” I add finally, remembering something. “If any of you see a handler, will you send him to my office? I’ve got a meeting with him in half an hour.”
“What’s his name?” Mona, one of the newest recruits to the office, asks me.
“Oh, Campbell. Cyrus Campbell, I think it was.”
I can tell you one thing; I did not expect the reaction this gets. Mona and the other woman who works in the office, Cynthia, both scream, and even some of the men look surprised.
“Erm, yes, I’m sure. Why?”
“Molly, you know who Cyrus Campbell is, right?” Mona asks very seriously.
“Yes, of course I do. He’s a dragon handler who wants to set up a dragon training camp in Britain. Do you think I wouldn’t read the application, when I’m meeting him today?” I’m actually a little offended by this suggestion, because everyone I’ve worked with knows that I do my job properly, but Cynthia is shaking her head, and Mona looks completely disbelieving.
“No, Molly. Cyrus Campbell is a dragon handler who used to be the lead singer of The Unspeakables.”
I blink. This name rings a bell (and not because of the Department of Mysteries), but it takes me a moment to realise why. Hayley used to have a poster of The Unspeakables by her bed when we were at Hogwarts. She went to see them once over summer in fifth year, and it was four months before we got her to have a conversation about anything else. Even Dom got fed up with it in the end.
Mona and Cynthia are looking at me, obviously waiting for some sort of reaction.
“Oh. That’s cool?” I offer.
Cynthia rolls her eyes and Mona looks horrified, but I don’t have time for their ridiculous excitement now.
“Listen, I need you to get back to work. Mr Campbell will be here in twenty-five minutes, and I will be in my office until then.”
I’m tempted to close the blinds as I step back inside my sanctuary but I have a feeling that Mona and Cynthia might attack Campbell if I give them the chance, so it’s best I know when he arrives. Through the clear glass I can see Mona pulling out a compact mirror and applying another layer of make-up, and Cynthia is using her wand to make sure her curls are still in place. Some people have no idea how they’re meant to behave at work. Dad always says that it’s impossible to get half of the people in the Ministry to behave like professionals, and I have to agree with him.
My suspicions are confirmed when Campbell actually arrives, five minutes before his appointment is due to start. Mona and Cynthia stand up immediately and rush over to him, gushing like a couple of teenagers (in all fairness, Mona is still a teenager, but Cynthia’s in her thirties, so she has absolutely no excuse). There are three witches stood outside in the corridor who look ready to pounce as soon as he leaves. Even Mike, who is normally the most laid-back person I know, is sitting up straight in his seat and seems to be trying to look cool.
Sometimes I despair for my co-workers. I never did understand this obsession with famous people that seems to be everywhere. Maybe it’s because I’ve grown up in a famous family, and I know that celebrities are just like everyone else (although I think the majority of my cousins have an extra dose of craziness), but personally I don’t see what’s so special about them.
Campbell doesn’t seem to be anything extraordinary. He’s attractive enough, of course (I doubt that he would have been so famous if he wasn’t); tall and muscled (what dragon handler isn’t?) with longish black hair and a bit of stubble. He seems completely used to this sort of reaction, but it’s time for the meeting anyway.
He looks up at me and nods, grinning.
“It was nice meeting you, ladies,” he winks at Mona and Cynthia, who are now giving me death stares (and probably plotting more ways of getting Campbell alone as soon as our meeting’s finished). Typical rock star.
I sit down behind my desk and wave my wand towards the windows, pulling down the blinds as he sits down. Two of the women who were waiting in the corridor have walked into the office in the hopes of trying to see him again, so it seems like the best option if I want any chance of conducting this meeting in a professional manner.
“I’m sorry about my colleagues, Mr Campbell. I think they’re just a little…star struck.”
“Don’t worry about it; I get that all the time. And please, call me Cyrus.” He flashes me a smile of extremely white teeth.
“Er, yes, okay. Well, let’s get started, shall we?” I ask him. I don’t normally use first names unless I know the person well. Certainly not with a dragon handler who used to be a rock star. I’ll just conduct the rest of the meeting without actually addressing him by name. Yes. Much more professional.
“Of course,” he says. “After all, that’s why I’m here.” He flashes another smile at me before launching into an extremely enthusiastic pitch as to why he should be allowed to set up a dragon training centre in Britain. Punctuated by lots of smiles, which he has obviously practised a lot. He would have had to, being a rock star, I guess. He talks for ten minutes straight, his eyes are bright and his face is animated with his idea. It’s times like these that I thank Merlin I’m the head of the Bureau. If Mona or Cynthia was conducting this interview, they would give in immediately. Dragons would already be flapping around the countryside and breeding like rabbits. An interview would simply be a way of ensuring they got the chance to meet the famous Cyrus Campbell. They would probably agree to anything he asked them to do (and sadly, I do mean anything) because of his supposed good looks and the amount of money in his Gringotts account (which I was guessing would be a lot).
Not that he isn’t good looking. He is – he has to be, being an ex-rock star. His skin is actually pretty good for a dragon handler. Uncle Charlie’s skin is absolutely awful; all leathery and wrinkly (though that might be because of his age) and he has scars and burns all over. Campbell has a suspicious lack of scars and burns, considering he’s been a dragon handler for four years now. Maybe that means that he’s a really good dragon handler. Or that he doesn’t actually do much handling. Either option is entirely possible, but I suppose I should go with the first, since he seems pretty passionate about what he’s saying.
But I digress. Professionalism, Molly.
When he’s finished speaking (after another flash of his teeth), I start speaking.
“Well, I've read your application very thoroughly and I must admit that it's very impressive. Your plan is very well thought out and I can tell that you've put a lot of time and effort into it, but I'm afraid I still have a lot of reservations about it. I can’t imagine that it would ever be possible to begin a dragon training centre in Britain without breaking the International Statute of Secrecy. The Ministry would be faced with the biggest challenges since the Second Wizarding War. Do you really think that your plan would justify such a dramatic change in our world?”
“Well, I like a challenge. It makes life more interesting. Don’t you think the Ministry could handle it?” he asks, flashing me yet another smile. I didn’t realise when I was getting dressed this morning that I was going to need sunglasses for this meeting. I’m going to be blinded before long.
“It’s not a question of what the Ministry can handle, Mr Campbell.” Damn, used the name. Cue the –
“Call me Cyrus, please.” Knew it.
“It’s not a question of what the Ministry can handle,” I repeat. “What the Ministry can handle is really none of your concern. I am asking you whether you can justify the resources that the Ministry would have to dedicate to such an establishment.” My tone is getting colder now, but I’m getting impatient. Campbell is trying to charm me into this, just like he would with any other woman. It’s a shame for him that I’m one of the only witches of my age who are completely unaffected by his looks. Therefore his application will not succeed.
Well, those two things don’t necessarily follow each other, but they’re both true anyway.
Campbell actually looks surprised at my tone. Perhaps he’s actually realised that his charm is not going to work. And that he’s not got a chance with his stupid dragon training centre.
“I think it can be justified. This centre would give every British dragon handler a chance to learn the skills they need and do the job they love without leaving the country and their families behind them. I think that would be more than enough justification for any extra work that the Ministry had to do.”
“Don’t you think that, if someone is passionate enough to become a dragon handler, then they would also be prepared to live and work abroad to do that? British wizards have done the same since dragon handling was outlawed in this country. I can’t really see any need for a dragon training centre here in Britain.”
His face drops. He actually looks disappointed. I almost feel sorry for him. Except that it really is a ridiculous idea.
“Well, I can see you’re not going to be persuaded. There’s not much point in wasting any more of your time. Thank you for your time.”
I’m quite surprised at how polite he’s being. Not at all like a rock star. Or dragon handler, for that matter.
“I am sorry, Mr Campbell. Your application was very well thought out, but a training centre here in Britain would really be impossible.”
“Maybe in the future,” he says hopefully. If I was him, I wouldn’t hold out much hope.
“Perhaps,” I say. Because even though Lucy is convinced I am a cold-hearted bitch, I do actually feel sorry for him.
“Well, if we aren’t going to be working together on this centre anymore…” he stops again. I look at him expectantly.
“…Would you like to go to dinner with me tonight?”
Author's note: This is my first attempt at fanfiction, and I'd love to know what you think! Did you like Molly? What do you think of Campbell? What do you think Molly's answer will be?
Oh, and unfortunately, I don't own Harry Potter.