On paper, what Clio Callimachus lacked in experience was balanced by ambition and intellectual ability. The old man hummed to himself as he studied her resume through half-moon spectacles.
She'd earned International Standard NEWTS in Ancient Runes, Astronomy, Charms, Defense Against the Dark Arts, History of Magic, Potions and Transfiguration from the Salem Institute, then completed a year of additional study of Ancient Runes through the Runic Archives in Oslo, and a year-long field internship studying runestones throughout Northern Europe. For the past two years she'd worked in the Department of Ancient Artifacts at the Library of Alexandria as the youngest runemaster to be employed there this century. In addition to English, she claimed to speak fluent Greek and Norwegian.
She had published a paper on the use of ancient runes to create modern magical devices, and was one of just a handful of runemasters who boasted the ability to decode the even more ancient Greek precursors to the Germanic runes. The sample lesson plan and reading list she'd included were quite interesting. She was also an accomplished amateur photographer, and had won an award for her photos of sea nymphs; this was only relevant because the school's photography club was in need of an advisor.
If he was truthful, what had caught his eye about her resume among the stack that cluttered his desk was her family name. He lowered the paper, peering over his glasses at the young witch seated before him. Right now, in person, she projected cool detachment. She watched him impassively, legs crossed demurely beneath indigo robes, tanned fingers steepled in her lap, dark hair pulled back in a loose knot at the nape of her neck, lips set in a serene not-quite-smile. The only accessory she wore was a heavy black ring on her right hand.
At 22 she could be mistaken for a student. Her golden brown eyes roamed methodically over the papers cluttering his desk and the portraits on the walls, returning periodically to his hands, the top of his head, the tip of his beard, and occasionally meeting his own. Though she hid her nerves well, Dumbledore could feel her fear at being declared a fraud and summarily kicked out, could hear her imagining the school's heavy iron gates booming shut just inches from her nose. He guessed that her grasp of Norwegian was not as thorough as she claimed, but doubted that would cause her so much distress.
"Very impressive," He said kindly, then, gesturing to the rain-streaked window and the gray landscape beyond, "What made you want to come back to Britain?"
"Oh, well, the Mediterranean is gorgeous," she said in low measured tones, her fluttering fingers betraying her nerves, "but I missed the seasons." She spoke with the careful enunciation of an American who has spent years trying to rid herself of an undesirable regional accent. Her Midwestern drawl still poked through at times, revealing itself with hard R's, short A's, long O's and occasional creative interpretation of syllables.
"My grandmother has a cottage in Galloway that's my very favorite place, out of everywhere I've visited." A sly half-smile edged it's way onto one side of her face as she continued. "Plus, I suppose I can't help but be drawn to any place with so much fascinating history."
"Fascinating, yes. Dangerous, too," he replied, eyes twinkling, thinking that he may have her figured out.
She looked at him curiously, wondering if this was a test. "Danger lurks everywhere in this world," she replied.
He smiled, "I believe I taught your grandmother Transfiguration many years ago, when I was a new professor."
"Yes, Hogwarts also holds a certain amount of personal interest for me," she responded cautiously, the fingers on her left hand reaching for the ring on her right and twisting it. "Gran's always spoken very highly of you. You taught my father, as well."
"Yes, I remember John Callimachus, he was one of the finest beaters the Ravenclaw quidditch team has ever had. There's a picture of him in one of the trophy cases from the year he set the school record for most unseatings in a single season."
She nodded and murmured, "I'd like to see it."
"You haven't taught before. I wonder, what makes you want to teach now?"
"I haven't taught formally, but I tutored many of my Ancient Runes classmates at Salem. I actually assisted with the younger classes during my seventh year. I enjoyed working in the Library, but I've always known it was temporary." She paused, left hand going for the ring once again. "Teaching will provide more challenge and more variety, I think."
"Yes, I agree," he said, feeling confidenet in his assessment. "Very well. Still, you'll be responsible for educating 150 students this year, leading the 5th years through their OWLs and the 7th years through their NEWTs That's a big responsibility."
"It is, but responsibility is something I'm well acquainted with," she said. Her words sounded scripted, as if they might have come straight from a manual, but her eyes didn't lie. They flared with an intensity that Dumbledore supposed some men might find captivating as she abandoned her carefully prepared answer.
"I think runes are, unfortunately, very underrated by the magical community. Both as a link to the past and as a way of practicing magic going forward. It's important for wizards and witches to understand the roots of their culture and the magic they perform, and to understand the roots they need to understand the language they're recorded in." Her hands curled into fists, then relaxed.
Dumbledore's eyes twinkled warmly behind their lenses. What she'd just said was all very true. It was the reason she was the youngest runemaster to be employed at the Library of Alexandria. Barring a cultural shift, the ranks of living runemasters would continue to dwindle. "And how will you impart that understanding?"
The half smile returned as she spoke, and the passion in her voice was unmistakable. "Well, it's in the lesson plan, but I believe in a holistic, hands-on approach. We'll start with the basics, learning the alphabet, identifying how runes are used in familiar artifacts around the castle, and what purpose they serve. And then begin translating texts, comparing the familiar English versions side by side with the original runes when possible. It's fascinating to see what gets lost in translation. I will also have them working with texts written in the precursors to the runes, so they can see how they developed over time." She paused, color rising in her cheeks.
The old man smiled, his bright blue eyes sparkling and said, "I see. What about practicing rune magic? Tell me what kind of magic would you teach the students?"
"Well, I've found runes are very useful for protective magic. Protective amulets and talismans are fairly straightforward. Seventh years could work on more advanced artifacts." She checked one pocket, then another (cheeks coloring again) until she found the one that held a small blue wooden runemarked box. She set it spinning in the air with a quick and subtle hand motion. With a second motion it began to play music, choosing the same song by the Weird Sisters that he'd heard that morning over the WWN. She snapped her fingers to shut the music off. "A music box like this is, unfortunately, not included in the NEWTs, so it would be extra credit."
"Thank you, Miss Callimachus. Now, I must make a request of you, a simple task, really." He reached into his silken purple robes. "I would like you to try your hand at translating a text for me, if you don't mind."
Clio wasn't surprised at this request. She focused on deep breathing and a quiet mind, trying desperately not to think about screwing everything up on the last question, if she hadn't already screwed herself royally already … 'danger lurks everywhere' … could she sound any more pretentious? And why had she even mentioned Norwegian on he resume? He pulled a very old leather-bound book from his robes and placed it in front of her on his desk.
"No, of course not," she said, picking it up and smiling as she read the title on the cover. "The Tales of Beetle the Bard. Where would you like me to begin?"
"You're familiar with the stories, I take it?" he asked, and she nodded. "Why don't you pick out your favorite, then."
"All right, that would be 'The Fountain of Fair Fortune.'"
"Why is that?"
That sly half-smile made another brief appearance. "I suppose I like the heroines, and it has a happy ending."
He smiled and gestured for her to proceed. She read the entire story to him, glancing up occasionally to gauge his reactions, and checking whether he was ready for her to stop. Her voice was deep and melodic, and she read the runic text without pause, as easily as if it were English. He appeared to be listening very interestedly, so she kept going until all three witches and the muggle knight had gained their fortunes.
"Thank you, that was a splendid reading," he said once she'd finished. She waited for him to comment further, or to ask her more questions about her teaching methods. Instead, he changed tacks.
"Who would you find more repulsive to work with: a werewolf or a Death Eater?"
She stared at him for a moment, cool reserve cracking, left hand clutching desperately at her right. "Is this a purely hypothetical question?"
When he didn't respond, she proceeded to answer the question with the first coherent thought that popped into her head. "Well, a werewolf is really only a werewolf once a month, while a Death Eater is a Death Eater every day, so I'll go with Death Eater."
Dumbledore chuckled. "Very reasonable thinking. Now, how would you feel about working with both a werewolf and a Death Eater?"
This had to be another test, she thought, anxiety beginning to visibly creep through her aloof exterior. Why had she answered his previous question so flippantly? "That would depend on the circumstances, I suppose. I would hope that this hypothetical Death Eater is no longer enamored of Big V, as He-Who-Must-not-Be-Named was not-so-affectionately known at Salem."
He chuckled again, "That's correct. Big V, I must say, is much catchier than He-Who-Must-not-Be-Named. Although, around here I always encourage people not to shy away from simply saying Voldemort."
Clio nodded, regretting the euphemism, even if he had chuckled at it. "Voldemort it is, then."
He stood up abruptly, so she stood as well, turning towards him as he circled around his desk, presumably to escort her out. Instead he stuck out one soft, worn hand, swallowing hers up in a warm handshake.
"Congratulations, Miss Callimachus, or Professor Callimachus, I should say."
Clio was stunned. "Wow, thank you."
"Now, do you have any questions for me?" he asked pointedly, his blue eyes piercing her soul.
She saw no point in subtly under the absolute power of his gaze. "Yes, there is one, about salary..."
"Ahh, yes," he said, and with a flick of his wand conjured a parchment scroll and writing quill.
"Here's our standard probationary first-year contract. You'll be evaluated at the end of this year and then offered a regular long-term contract based on your performance and recommendations from the other staff. Paychecks will be deposited directly into your Gringotts account on the first of each month from September through June." He paused to clear his throat.
"I can also offer an advance equal to one half month's pay to take care of relocation expenses and any other loose ends. Room and board here at school are complementary, of course. If this meets with your approval than you may sign at the bottom,"
Clio nodded as she quickly scanned over it. "Do the rooms come furnished?" she asked, attempting to sound casual.
"Yes, although you're welcome to provide your own furnishings, if you prefer. As you've already stated, however, the castle is full of fascinating artifacts. Our house elves do an excellent job of choosing items to suit the castle's inhabitants."
Her head snapped up. "House elves?"
"Yes, we couldn't keep the school running without them. So far I've been unable to convince any of them to accept a paycheck," he sighed.
She nodded and since the words were all running together in her excitement anyway, skipped to the bottom of the contract and scrawled her name. She wasn't fooling herself; she'd have signed it even if it meant having to wash Dumbledore's underwear for the entire year.
He smiled and clapped her on the back, "Now, you'll have plenty of opportunities to explore the castle and all the fascinating artifacts it contains, but right now I'd like to show you to your classroom and office."
She smiled back, still waiting for those gates to slam closed in her face.