A/N: Disclaimer's in the first chapter. Anapneo is the canon 'clear the airway' spell. Custodiant Spirans is a made-up spell (Keep Breathing) that works like a respirator, keeping the patient's lungs working.
October 7, Hogwarts
The Ministry wasn't the only authority going through an overhaul. Xander may have put bandaids on the worst of the problems Hogwarts had when he took over, but Minerva was determined to bring the school back to its former glory as the best school of its kind. To that end, she'd summoned the entire staff for a meeting. Once the last stragglers had arrived, Minerva stood up.
"Thank you, everyone, for coming. We're here for two reasons ... the first, to go through Hogwarts' rules and ensure they are relevant and non-contradictory, and to discuss additions and changes to the curriculum and security measures for next year. We'll be meeting once a week until we're done with the rules, but I don't anticipate that taking very long ... perhaps to the end of the year. Hogwarts' rulebook is remarkably short."
Across from her, Severus got an expression on his face that had Minerva torn between amusement and alarm. Mostly because Severus had been ... well, far more open of late with his expressions, and it was disconcerting to actually 'see' that Machiavellian mind working. She'd always known he was devious and clever, of course, but he'd long since mastered keeping his face blank even when his mind went into overdrive, so there'd never been any visible indication that he was up to something.
They went through the first bits of the rulebook, which, much to Minerva's relief, didn't actually need any revisions. Evidently, the earliest Headmasters had seen fit to stick to what the Founders had laid down. Minerva had no illusions of that continuing as they got further along, however. Once they'd had about an hour of scanning through, she opened the floor to discussions about the curriculum and security.
"I need either an assistant, or a second fully qualified teacher." Severus said. "Classes of up to fifty children may not be much of a problem for Transfiguration or Charms, but they're a nightmare in Potions, where the slightest mistake can ... and frequently has ... led to explosions or toxic gasses. Contrary to popular belief, I cannot be everywhere at once, nor do I have eyes in the back of my head."
Minerva nodded. "That is a valid point. If you have anyone in mind as an assistant or second teacher, let me know. Otherwise, I'll start looking for someone." She frowned slightly. "And that brings up a similar point. The double classes. Granted, we need to ensure the Houses have some interaction, but the double classes, I think, are a problem for everyone." She got agreeing nods from nearly all the teachers. "So we're going to have to come up with a solution to that."
Charity spoke up. "I've said it before, and I'll say it even louder now. Muggle Studies needs to be compulsory for wizard-raised children."
"And we need a similar class on the Wizarding world for the Muggleborn and raised." Severus said. "That's what started the problem with the purebloods ... the people coming into our world knowing nothing about it and trampling all over everything. I will grant that there are a great many things about our world that could change, and perhaps need to, but there are other things ... " He trailed off.
Minerva pursed her mouth, but again admitted that Severus had a point. Certain things that were done or believed in the wizarding world were that way for a very good, valid reason, and unfortunately-ignorant muggleborns had repeatedly tried to change those things in the past. "A valid point." She said. "Very well, we'll figure something out for that before next year. Anything else immediately come to mind?"
She got a round of headshakes. "Very well. I'd like you to begin thinking about things. I'm sure we can all come up with ideas over the next weeks. I'll not keep you any longer today, as I'm quite aware we all have work to do."
That got her more than a few grins, and everyone headed out.
Severus was pleased. The future was ... looking much better. Minerva seemed determined to turn Hogwarts around. Better, she actually listened, which was something of a revelation after Dumbledore. Faugh, that man! Severus shook his head.
An assistant or two would be a godsend in his classes. He already had some people in mind ... specifically, a Ravenclaw and a Hufflepuff, both seventh years currently, and in his NEWT class. Either of them would be ideal as an assistant, as both of them were careful and methodical in their work, and had a history of catching and correcting the mistakes of their partners and the others in their immediate vicinity. Better, neither of them had been terrified of him. Wary and respectful, but not terrified.
He swept into the badly-denuded Slytherin common room, mentally cursing Dumbledore yet again. He would always wonder just how many of the children currently missing he could have saved if Dumbledore hadn't been so obstructionist. The remnants of Slytherin House were all waiting for him, since he'd warned them he'd be meeting with them today.
"Your essays." He began. "Were ... interesting." And he wasn't being at all sarcastic about that. Seeing the Hogwarts Battle from their perspectives (as they'd watched all the memories), had been ... quite educational. "You have all had a chance to peruse the memories of the battle at your leisure. I will now open the floor to any questions you may have had that were not germane to the assignment you were given."
"Sir?" One of the first years asked. "I just ... how is it possible for a vampire to be ... not evil?"
Severus sighed. "That question, I cannot answer, as neither the Council members among us nor Spike himself has seen fit to explain it. I would imagine there is quite the story behind it." There had to be. Vampires just weren't good guys. And Severus still flat-out refused to believe that Spike had a soul. That was just pure nonsense.
"The stuff we've seen ... what's her name again ... " A second year started, frowning a moment. "Ahhh, Willow, that's it ... the stuff we've seen her doing ... is earth magic really that much stronger than our kind?"
Severus snorted. "The answer is yes and no, from what I have seen. Miss Rosenberg is, I will grant, incredibly powerful, but she seems to be somewhat limited in her range of spells. They all fit into rather broad categories ... that is, destruction of things, by fire, explosion, or some other very destructive means, the earth magic version of teleportation, and I have been informed that she has some small skill with potions." Plus, of course, her ability to destroy anything that went against the laws of nature, like the horcruxes, but he wasn't about to bring that up.
"I have not seen her perform any spells that would fit under the aegis of Charms, nor Transfiguration. And those spells she does employ seem to be wide-area spells ... that is, she doesn't seem to be able to target one person, or part of one person, with her spells." Severus continued.
"So she's traded accuracy and variety for sheer power." The second year summed up.
"So it would seem." Severus agreed. "A not unwise trade off, given her usual targets."
"No kidding." Daphne said. "From what I saw, our people had a time of it dealing with the demons because our spells tend to only be able to affect one thing at a time."
"I wonder if it's possible to do both sorts of magic." Another first year said.
Severus shook his head. "I haven't the slightest idea. If it is at all possible, I would imagine that the younger a person is when they attempt to learn both methods, the better. After a time of working with only one type, it would likely become quite difficult to learn the other method."
And from the grin on the kid's face, he'd taken that comment exactly as Severus had meant it ... encouragement for the boy to seek Willow out and try to learn her version of magic. With just over a month of instruction in 'normal' magic, two weeks of which had been ... well, rather nonexistent ... the first years stood the best chance of learning Willow's brand of magic, if it was possible for them to learn it at all, which Severus was by no means convinced of.
"How is it there's more than one Slayer? I thought there could be only one at a time?" Daphne asked.
"That is a far easier question. It would seem the 'one Slayer at a time' legend was based upon the fact that nonmagical means of medical intervention weren't all that good at preserving life, until fairly recently." Severus said. "If a Slayer was that badly injured, they simply didn't recover. But Muggles are clever, and in the last hundred years, they've developed a number of ways to pull someone from the jaws of Death. One such method was employed on the Slayer by Mr. Harris some decade ago or so. The Slayer had been dead just long enough to 'call' her replacement, so when she revived, there were two. How there are hundreds of them, I do not know." Ok, so that was a blatant lie ... they'd been told that Willow had done that, in order to keep the world turning when a particularly bad nasty had tried to end the world. But again, there were just some things the kids didn't need to know.
"Wait ... Muggles can keep people from dying?" That came from a thoroughly skeptical Draco.
"Not every time, but yes, they have developed ways to increase the chances of survival for someone in need of medical intervention on that level." Severus said. "The particular method Mr. Harris employed is roughly equivalent to the Anapneo and Custodiant Spirans spells. There are other things they do as well, to attempt to fix severe problems."
There were a few other questions, and then Severus was able to give them their next assignment and wrap up the meeting.
Draco watched Snape leave, still mulling over what he'd learned. Muggles could ... really? It seemed impossible that they could do something like prevent death without magic. And yet Snape was vouching for it.
Abruptly, he snorted and gave his head a shake. What was he thinking? Really now, muggles just weren't worth the bother. They were lesser creatures ...
Draco sighed and slumped. Yeah, he wasn't really managing to sound all that convinced, even in his own head. Not after seeing what these people were capable of. Especially Harris. That man was downright scary on a level that Draco had previously thought only Snape could reach. After the last couple of weeks, Draco could well believe the one-eyed man could and would find a way to do whatever he put his mind to, even if that meant shattering a millennia or so of belief in something.
Maybe Harris had a point after all, and he ought to ... well, get to know the Muggle world a bit. It was bound to be pathetically inferior to the wizarding world in most respects, but it ought to be an amusing diversion at the least. Perhaps he'd bring up the possibility of visiting the muggle world come the Christmas break?
October 7, Black Manor
Narcissa took a deep breath as she approached the steps of the old Black Manor. The place looked like crap ... but then, it had been effectively abandoned for roughly a decade or so, since Walburga's death. None of the living, non-incarcerated Blacks had been able to effect entry, which really should have told the Wizengamot something.
If Sirius had been truly guilty, he would have lost his position as the heir of the Black line, and the next closest male relative would have become heir ... in this case, Draco, since he was the only magical male with enough Black blood in his veins. Unless Marius had, by some miracle, bred a wizarding child and the child hadn't approached the rest of the family. Only the Head of the family or his heir could re-open the family mansion after the wards had shut the place down and fuss with the family vaults. That Narcissa, as the mother of the next heir after Sirius hadn't so much as tried to open the place, or take control of the Black family vaults as regent for her son should have been a huge clue that something fishy was going on.
It had taken her over a week, and multiple owls, to convince Sirius to meet with her. He was, rather understandably, suspicious of her motives. Hopefully, she could convince him of her sincerity. It helped that she truly had no interest in fomenting rebellion or following some maniacal idiot ... should another one raise their head at some point. She was, above all else, a Black, and Blacks did not lower themselves to such depths.
The door opened before she could touch it, and a pinch-faced Sirius stood in the opening, eyeing her mistrustfully.
"Come in, Narcissa." Sirius invited, though he looked like he'd very much prefer to leave her standing on the doorstep until doomsday.
Narcissa flicked a quick glance at Sirius' right hand, confirming that the Black ring was on his finger, which meant he had, indeed, taken his rightful place as Head of the family. She was somewhat surprised that he had done it, given his extreme distaste for everything the Black family stood for, but then again, the only other viable choice would be Draco, and Sirius wouldn't want the considerable political and monetary power the Black family wielded to fall into the hands of someone who might support the sort of agenda Voldemort had espoused.
Sirius led her to one of the parlors, and they sat stiffly, and largely in silence for a time before Narcissa finally broached the subject that had brought her here.
"I find myself, cousin, in a rather uncomfortable position." She told Sirius. "Most of the Malfoy fortune has been seized, and even if I sold the Malfoy mansion, I would not be able to support both myself and my son for very long."
Sirius sighed. "I'll save us both a lot of pussyfooting around." He said. "The only way I'll take you back under the Black banner and support you and your son is if I get an Unbreakable Vow ... from both of you ... that neither of you will betray the Family, support evil, or practice it yourselves." He grimaced. "Put in better, more defined terms, but that would be the gist of it."
She'd expected as much. "I cannot speak for Draco at this juncture, but I will contact him and inquire as to his willingness to meet your terms. For myself, I have no qualm with doing as you ask."
Sirius nodded. "Do that. We'll talk again when you find out what his decision is."
Narcissa didn't try to mistake the rather blunt unspoken dismissal for anything but what it was. "Until we speak again, then, cousin." She said, and got to her feet to leave the manor.