Her end of the year review was the last ordeal Clio had to endure before leaving school for the summer. Just a week before she'd been anticipating her appointment with Dumbledore with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. Now she didn't care. It would be a blessing, she thought, if she were asked to pack her bags and never return. Walking through the corridors past Remus' office, his classroom and all of the places where they'd shared secret kisses was torture, now. Her guitar sat neglected in a corner. She couldn't bare to look at it, much less pick it up.
She cracked a smile on the day that the ecstatic letter arrived from her sister saying that, after nearly a year of unemployment, their father had found a job. The smile lasted for roughly three seconds. Then she thought of Remus without a job and had to blink back tears. She cried again the next day, when their tickets to the Quidditch World Cup arrived with an ecstatic note from her friend, Bernie.
She numbed herself with alcohol each evening, and woke each morning with a throbbing head and roiling stomach. Twice she lurched to the second floor washroom between breakfast and her first class of the day to heave her coffee, all she could stomach, into Moaning Myrtle's toilet.
She pretended not to notice how coolly each and every witch on staff treated Snape; though she wondered whether they'd had suspicions about her and Remus the entire time, or had guessed solely on her handling of his departure. Their solidarity might have meant something to her if she'd been in her right state of mind. At this point she didn't care. She cared for very little these days. It was her need to care for Nox that motivated her to get out of bed each morning, and not her professorial duties.
Finally, on the day of the end-of-year feast, Dumbledore summoned her to his office. Her trunk was already packed. Whether she would have a job in the fall or not, she was prepared to leave as soon as the feast concluded.
"Ahh, Professor Callimachus, please sit down," said the headmaster. He sat at his desk with a plain file folder laid out in front of him. "Would you care for a lemon drop?" he asked, passing her the bowl from the edge of his desk.
"No thank you," she murmured.
"Well, let's begin with grade results. Your pass/fail rate is on par with last year. Judging by your grading rubrics, the difficulty level of your classes was slightly higher this year, which in my mind shows a bit of improvement. This year's NEWT and OWL results also showed a slight improvement. You've actually got your advanced students practicing some rudimentary magic with runes, which is most impressive."
Clio nodded mutely throughout his rundown of the goals that she had completed or made progress toward.
"Now, here are your peer assessments," he said, looking over his spectacles at a sheaf of papers he'd lifted from her folder.
"Professor Burbage says that you have a wonderful sense of humor both with students and staff and are very conscientious with grading. Professor Hagrid says that you have a good heart and solid head on your shoulders." She smiled weakly as he read these. He glanced at the next one, then up at her before skipping it and moving on to another glowing comment from Aurora.
"What about the one that you skipped?" she asked.
"Ah, well, I don't know if you want to hear that one just now."
"Is it bad?"
"No. It's from Professor Lupin."
"Oh," Clio felt her stomach tumble, then rise up into her throat. "I'd like to hear it," she sighed.
Dumbledore began reading rather reluctantly. "He says that you treat your students patiently and respectfully and ..." he glanced over his spectacles at her brightly shining eyes and stopped reading, "Well, that's it, really," he said.
"Now, on to the assessments from our four heads of houses." Clio braced herself, fully expecting to hear harsh words from Professors McGonagall and damning words from Snape.
"Professor Flitwick says that the class he observed on making runic amulets was a delight. He also appreciates your efforts to increase security with runes."
Clio breathed in sharply as he said this, then nodded solemnly.
"You know," Dumbledore added, "Sirius Black used a hidden entrance that you didn't know to protect with your first set of runes."
"So, there's no way to know for sure whether the runes worked," Clio said.
"That is correct," he said, smiling. Clio nodded and looked briefly at his kind eyes before letting her gaze return to her hands.
"Moving on, Professor Sprout says that you try valiantly to make a dry subject interesting." He chuckled. "I'm afraid she's never been interested in runes. She also said that she likes how you coax the students from different houses to cooperate with each other. Professor McGonagall says that although you sometimes use inappropriate language and grammar, your teaching techniques are effective. She appreciates your novel approach."
Clio breathed a sigh of relief, and nodded again. Surprisingly, she found that Professor McGonagall's approval still meant something.
"Finally, Professor Snape says that you are competent."
"Competent?" she asked blankly. “That's it?”
"Yes, well," and his mouth twisted into a tiny smile behind his beard, "That's about the highest praise you can expect to hear from Professor Snape."
"He didn't mention anything about … having to put out a fire?" she asked.
Dumbledore raised one shaggy eyebrow. "No. He's mentioned on several occasions that you are reckless, loud and overly nosy, but I don't recall hearing anything about a fire." He smiled warmly at her as he continued. "It must not have been significant enough to concern him."
"I guess not," she murmured.
"All four house heads have recommended you to continue teaching here at Hogwarts." He pulled a fresh contract from his desk, and handed her a quill to sign it with.
"Your probationary period is over, so if you agree to accept a full professorship, then you will receive a bit of a pay raise." Clio glanced over the contract, her eyes popping out a bit when she saw what her new salary would be. Now that she no longer had to send money home to her family, she would have more than she knew what to do with. She rolled the quill between her fingers, staring blankly at the parchment.
"Are you happy here, Clio?" Dumbledore asked gently.
"Huh?" She was quite taken aback by his question. No employer had asked her that before. If he'd asked her the same question a week earlier she'd have answered with an emphatic, "Yes!" Now she couldn't imagine being happy ever again.
"Do you wish to stay?" he prodded.
"I like it here. I like teaching here." She felt tears welling up in her eyes. For the first time in a week, she thought of her conversation with Charity about her original motivation for coming to Hogwarts.
Dumbledore removed his spectacles and rubbed at the deeply creased skin under his eyes, which looked smaller and more tired without their lenses. "Time doesn't heal all wounds, but it helps to make them more bearable," he said. "All of us are damaged in one way or another," he continued. "I know that's probably of little comfort to you now, but when you need to talk to someone, you will find them here, I guarantee it."
She nodded numbly, then signed and dated the contract. "Thank you, Headmaster."
"Please, call me Dumbledore or Albus. Either one is fine. Here, take a lemon drop, I promise it will make you feel at least a little bit better," he said, holding out the bowl once more. She took one to be polite, and put it in her mouth. The intense sweet and sour flavor that hit her tongue was like bright sunlight and laughter and the smell of rain after a long dry spell.
She took a deep breath as she rolled the candy over with her tongue. "Dumbledore, what do you know about the Department of Mysteries?"
"Ahh," he said, smiling. "I've been wondering when you would finally ask me that question."
She gaped at him dumbly.
"I'm afraid what I do know is infinitesimal compared to what I don't. Your grandfather would have known much more, although I believe he himself would have told you that there is much he was ignorant of. Yes, he did work there. Doing what, I do not know. I knew him by reputation only, I'm sorry to say." He paused for a moment during which she gazed at him intently, certain that he was about to reveal something highly important. “Have you looked back over his research from Alexandria?”
She shook her head, stunned. "I didn't think of that.”
He smiled again. “You might find something there that will lead you to what he was working on for the Ministry.”
She nodded, already planning a return visit to the Library of Alexandria in her head. “Thank you, Dumbledore. Is there anything else you need from me?"
"That's all. Don't waste this summer. It will pass quickly, and before you know it another school year will begin."
She nodded again and stood to go, holding her hand out for him to shake, "I'll see you at the end of August, then." He grabbed her hand in his surprisingly firm grip, then clasped her shoulder with his other arm. She had turned and was making her way to the door when he stopped her.
"There is one thing you can try to do for me, Clio," he said. She turned back. He settled his glasses back onto his crooked nose before continuing. "I know this is asking rather a lot, but if you could find it in your heart to forgive Professor Snape, I would appreciate it. I believe he would as well, eventually, though he'll likely never admit it."
"Forgive him?" she asked, incredulous.
"Yes. I'm afraid I underestimated the depth of his … feelings for certain people. Some of his behavior has been reprehensible, but as I said before, all of us are damaged in one way or another." His blue eyes twinkled slyly.
She turned his words over in her head, unconsciously clenching and unclenching her fists. "What's the likelihood of him ever apologizing to Remus?"
"Highly unlikely, I'm afraid," he answered with a grimace.
Clio nodded; it was what she'd expected to hear. She left his office and headed down toward the photo lab to pack it up for the summer. Her mind replayed Dumbledore's words again and again, interspersed with the events from that horrible night. Somehow, the whole mess didn't quite add up. She felt sure she was missing some piece of the puzzle. The gears turned and a theory began to take shape. She changed course and headed toward her classroom, instead.
She hadn't bothered with the cabinets in the back of the room since the beginning of the school year, but she remembered vaguely that they held records stretching back all the way to the school's founding. Finding the records for the past twenty years would be easy. She opened the last drawer and flipped back to 1973. There was the grade ledger and the seating chart. Her heart leapt when she saw the name Remus Lupin in ink, seated next to Lily Evans. They were friends, he'd said. He'd had a crush on her. Lots of guys did, he'd said. And there, on the other side of Evans, sat Severus Snape. She flipped to 1974 and saw the same seating arrangement, and the next year, too. 1976 was when it changed. Lupin and Evans still sat together, but Snape was now farther back and to the side. He might have been able to watch them, or her, from where he sat.
She slid the records back into the cabinet and turned back to the photo lab. Anger mingled together with her pain, and today the head-splitting screech of metal on metal and heavily thunking bass line of Dragonhead poured from her music box. She raised the volume, little by little, to a nearly unbearable level. A miniscule ghost of a smile pulled at one corner of her mouth as she imagined Snape fleeing his office, blood trickling from his ears.
Clio scoured the sinks and counters, not using magic and enjoying the mindless labor. It helped to burn the haze from her mind, and she found clarity for the first time in recent memory. She rinsed and dried every tool, put them all in their places in the cabinets, then locked them away with runes to keep Peeves out.
Snape was waiting in the corridor when Clio emerged. She didn't bother to acknowledge his presence as she drew runes on the door to the lab, securing it for the summer. He was still standing there in the middle of the hallway when she turned to leave. She glared at him for a moment, and moved to the side to slip around him.
"Is that your revenge, then, making my ears bleed?" he asked, gesturing to the music box in her hand.
"I'm not that easily satisfied," she responded acidly.
He said nothing; just regarded her coldly with his dark eyes.
"So, apparently, you never mentioned the fire to Dumbledore," she said.
"That was a small, pathetic excuse for a fire," he said, lip curling. "If it weren't an accident I'd have ended up a little more well done, now wouldn't I? I told you you need to control your wand better."
She stared at him for a long moment. Just like at Christmas, he seemed to possess knowledge of her boggart that he couldn't possibly have. "So, you'll give me the benefit of the doubt, but not him," she said.
"As far as I know you've never colluded with a murderer," he answered.
"Again with that," she muttered. "Just tell me that this wasn't all about some stupid prank from your school days. Tell me that you have some other reason for hating him so much."
"That's all," he said icily.
"Really? And that's why you hate Harry Potter, too? Because of a prank pulled by his father?"
"That's all. You can hate me all you want for it," he said, face going white.
"'That's all,'" she mimicked. "Then tell me this: what do you care if Black or Pettigrew killed people you hated?"
"I have no idea what you're talking about," he said, eyes like train tunnels, face as flat and unreadable as a mask.
"You're a small, pathetic excuse for a man," she said, the disgust in her voice palpable. "Why else would you hide your true motivation?" She turned and walked away from him toward the stairs.
"Stay out of others' personal business," he said after her, silky voice carrying softly up the stone corridor. She turned toward him, walking backwards.
"You might want to try following that advice yourself, next time," she said, then turned away and disappeared up the stairs. Ahead of her were two weeks of respite in the Mediterranean, after that she would have work to do.
Author's Note: Thank you to everyone who has actually read through to the end! Please be so kind as to leave a review. :) Please also let me know if you spot any continuity errors. Another story is in the works, but it may be a while before anything new is posted.