A/N: Disclaimer's in the first chapter.
October 14, Ministry
A week solid of meetings to weed through the lawbooks had, Amelia reflected, some unexpected benefits. Normally, the various members of the Wizengamot met four times a year for business, and that was it. While each of the factions had a good idea of what they wanted, and the strengths and weaknesses of the various members of their faction, the same could not be said for other factions. And there was an unstated rule that you stuck with the people in your faction.
A week solid of meeting to abolish the laws that were alternately hilarious and horrifying, rather than trying to pass new laws on various things, had begun to break down a few of those barriers. It was sort of hard to keep your nose in the air when you were all but on the floor from laughing so hard at some idiot law or other, or staring at your neighbors in horrified awe at how completely nuts a law was.
It helped that there was a lot of good-natured betting going on every day, something Amelia did absolutely nothing to stop, had actually placed her own bets in a few categories, anything to do with stuff she hadn't already found to point out to the Wizengamot. It also helped that the worst of the nasty-minded folks were now dead or in jail for life. Without them around to cause trouble or intimidate everyone with subtle threats, things had lightened up considerably.
It was also looking more and more like Amelia would get to stay in her new post. Oh, some folks didn't like her, that was a given, but the vast majority seemed to wholeheartedly approve of her calm, no-nonsense, minimal bullshit style of leadership. The vote wouldn't happen until next week, of course, but it was looking like it would go her way.
Though the small faction that wanted Xander Harris as Minister never ceased to make her laugh. She didn't think the young man was aware of that particular section of his fanclub, but if he was, he was probably utterly horrified. From what little she'd seen of the man, he wanted no part of that sort of power. He was uncomfortable enough with the notoriety he'd gained for his part in defeating Voldemort. Fortunately for his sake, there was nowhere near enough of them to actually manage to get him elected. She was just grateful that Harry was too young to be eligible for any government position other than 'summer helper', or he'd be on the ballots too.
Her only real competition was Rufus Scrimgeour, and he, like Amelia, hadn't nominated himself. He had, in fact, made it clear he was content to stay in the DMLE. That wouldn't stop him from having to take the position if he got voted in, of course, but he'd made it clear he'd be leaning on her for ideas and assistance.
Once the last few stragglers had arrived and settled into their places, Amelia banged the gavel. "Good morning everyone. Let's get this done, shall we? I'd like to try to get to the twelve hundreds today if we can."
Everyone opened their copies of the lawbooks and settled in for a day of hilarity and horror.
October 14, Hogwarts
Severus had, as had become the norm, spent the morning with his Snakes, attempting to impart to them the differences between how they had been behaving and how they should be behaving. Most of them, to his pleasure, seemed to be catching on. A few weren't getting it, either out of intransigence or a simple inability to comprehend. Crabbe and Goyle had not been the only ones in his House too simple to understand complex concepts. How they managed to get into Slytherin would remain a mystery for the ages.
But for now, he put thoughts of his Snakes aside, as it was time for the weekly meeting. This one promised to be more ... in depth and potentially contentious, as they'd all had time to think things over and figure out what they'd like to see changed. It ought to be interesting.
Eventually, everyone arrived, and Minerva called them to order. They spent an hour skimming through the rulebook, which only garnered them two rules that needed to be struck. Severus knew that the further they got from the Founders' time, the more oddball rules would show up, but it was pleasant to see that so little needed to be changed, and what did need changing had more to do with the changing times than the rules being silly.
That done, Minerva opened the floor to ideas for improvement and addition of classes and anything else the teachers wanted to suggest.
"We desperately need new brooms." Hooch said immediately. "I've begged for them for years. The ones we have are getting downright dangerous because they're so old. It's only a matter of time before one of them kills a student, and then we'll have real trouble on our hands."
"Agreed." Minerva said, making a note on the scroll she'd brought with her. "We've come close as it is ... I remember when Neville's broom went crazy and dumped him, his first year."
Hooch shivered, remembering that incident. "That was so close." She said. Then she continued. "On a similar front, I'd like to suggest non-House teams. That is, groups of kids, whether from one House or several, who get together to play Quidditch for fun. It will give everyone who enjoys the sport a chance at playing, even if they're not good enough to make the House teams, and give more kids an outlet for their energy. I have the time to watch over them, since I only have flying classes with the first years once a day and the House games."
Pomona nodded. "It would also allow give the House team captains a chance to see who might be playing well enough to qualify as substitutes for the main team, or who might improve enough to qualify if they were given some help."
"I suggest we make it clear that participation in the unofficial teams is contingent upon one's scholastic achievement, the same as it is for the House teams." Severus pointed out. "So as to ensure they do not let their schoolwork fall by the wayside in favor of playing."
"A valid point, Severus." Minerva agreed. "And this is something I think the children would be all too happy to see implemented."
Charity spoke up. "We might want to think about accommodating some of the Muggle sports." She said. "Football, cricket, things like that. The muggleborn and raised will appreciate it, and some of the purebloods might discover they like the games."
Minerva nodded. "That is definitely something worth considering. Unfortunately, I have no idea what requirements those sports have."
"Most of them would be playable on the Quidditch pitch." Charity said. "We'd have to purchase or enchant some equipment, but not all that much." They'd also have to figure out a way to mark the boundaries of the playing field for each game, but that wasn't going to be too terrible an issue.
Hooch nodded. "I can nominate helpers for the various muggle sports from among the ones most interested in playing them, since I know nothing of them. It'd be a simple matter."
"On another similar issue." Flitwick spoke up. "I strongly suggest we bring back the music and art classes. I never understood why they were removed from the syllabus in the first place, since those classes frequently pointed out children who would excel in certain fields like home construction and design, as well as portrait making. A class on basic writing skills, like how to format and write a proper essay would be wise as well."
That last one got a rather vocal round of agreement from all and sundry, as everyone save Hooch had been subjected to some rather horrifying attempts at essays over the years.
"Regarding security concerns." Severus spoke up. "I believe the current method, utilizing the portraits and house elves as well as teacher and prefect patrols, is sufficient to police the children on the grounds and in the castle. However, I think we need to take a long, hard look at the castle's defenses and ensure it is impossible to bring Dark artifacts onto the grounds, or for someone not a teacher or student to sneak onto the grounds. Both have been problems in the past." At least they were assured there were no Dark artifacts lingering in the castle, thanks to the house elves' purge of the things.
"Agreed." Minerva said. "Perhaps it will be possible to garner the assistance of the Council people to that end. I've seen some of the things they've pulled over the last few weeks, and it equals or betters anything we can do."
"I have also acquired the assistance of Messrs. Trumble of Hufflepuff and Norton of Ravenclaw for my classes." Severus said. "Mr. Norton has expressed an interest in continuing as my assistance after his graduation, and I have accepted. That should be sufficient for my needs."
Minerva nodded. "That's good to know, Severus. With the addition of the sports, which will draw people from all Houses, and the music and art classes as electives which we can deliberately mix and match, the need for the double classes is pretty much abolished, so we shall discontinue those next year. We can always leave the Great Hall open for people to hang out in. All we'd need to do is ensure someone is there to keep an eye on everyone."
"We might also wish to consider something I've been told is done in muggle schools." Charity said. "It's called a job fair, wherin persons from various careers come to the school and discuss their careers with the children." Charity piped up. "That way, the children know early on what jobs they like the sounds of and might be good at, and what classes the jobs require. It would also introduce them to jobs outside of government positions or whatever career their family generally tends towards, since not every child excels in the fields that are required for the 'family job', whatever it might be."
"At the very least, we can compile the information to have on hand." Minerva agreed. "I would want to know what all is involved in this 'job fair' idea before I agreed to it."
Charity nodded. "I'll let Wesley know to talk to you ... he knows all the details."
"Excellent. Anything else of note?" Minerva asked. She got a round of headshakes. "Very well. I'll look into finding teachers for the new subjects, as well as assistants to help keep an eye on things. Hooch, with any luck, you'll have those new brooms before next month."
Hooch sighed in relief. "Thank you, Minerva."
The Council group had met the week before to exchange news of their discussions with the various kids. The decision had been made to introduce Draco to the muggle world on the weekends, and to bring him to the Council HQ at first, as there was still magic there, if a different kind than Draco was used to, and did not have the bewildering plethora of ... stuff ... that the wider world had to offer. This made it a reasonable stepping-stone to the wider world. If Draco couldn't handle HQ, he'd never be able to handle even a small town, nevermind someplace like London. Given that Draco's Saturdays were spoken for by Severus, he'd be arriving at HQ early in the morning on Sunday. And every last one of them was looking forward to the first foray.
But that was tomorrow. Today, Xander and Wesley were sitting down with Daphne, who had written home and gotten her father to send her copies of a few of their oldest history books. Xander had dragged Wesley into it because the man had started life as a reasearch Watcher, knew more languages than Xander did, which was good since some of the books would not be in English, and wouldn't lose patience with the books as fast as Xander was liable to. So Wesley would do much of the reading while Xander filled Daphne in on the stuff she wanted to know and she passed on what information she knew that wasn't written down anywhere.
"What I don't understand is Spike." Daphne said. "I mean, vampires are evil. They kill people. It's been that way since, well, forever."
Xander laughed. "Yeah, Spike's an oddball, that's for sure. Honestly, I don't know for sure why. Not like he's about to explain to anyone." Which got a laugh from Daphne. "But some of it I do know." Well, the steps that had gotten Spike from enemy to ally, anyway. He still didn't know why it had been possible, and probably never would. Spike was just ... Spike.
So he filled her in on that and tried not to laugh at the look on her face.
"He has ... a soul." Daphne said, eyebrows trying to merge with her hairline.
"Yeah, I know. He's actually the second one to get one. First one was his sire, Angelus. Called himself Angel once he got it." Xander wasn't about to go into that story though. "Unfortunately, Angel got dusted in Los Angeles when some serious baddies tried to take over the world there. Most of his team died too." Xander sighed. "Wesley was one of two to make it out of there alive, and he almost didn't. He was in intensive care for weeks afterward." The other survivor had been Gunn, who was still in L.A. and worked with Wesley, who was the city's Watcher, and the girls assigned there. "That said, the soul just gives Spike the option of not killing. Doesn't force him not to, just like it doesn't force us not to."
They talked for a while after that about the old Council, and how it had done things, which had Daphne shaking her head in dismayed horror. Xander grinned at her.
"That would be why we were glad when they got blown up. I mean, people dying is never a good thing, but those idiots needed to be gotten out of power, and there was no way we would have managed it on our own. Not with such a small group." He said. "Them getting blown up allowed Giles to rebuild things from the ground up, and it's a lot better now."
Outside, in an out-of-the-way spot, Willow and Octavian were having a spirited discussion about some of the things Octavian had read in the books Willow had provided him.
"So ... deities are real, then?" Octavian asked.
"Some are, yes." Willow said. "I can't speak for all of them, but there are several that can be appealed to for aid when doing earth magic. If you do, you have got to know what you're doing ... and you have to be sincere. They kind of get a little pissy when you appeal to them simply for form's sake. There's also always a cost to appealing to them, but what the cost is depends on which deity you're appealing to. That, we won't get into for a while, since most of the stuff that requires an appeal to a deity is higher level earth magic. It's just something that's good to know now, because it's possible to build a relationship with a particular deity before you start asking them for help with magic, and if you end up showing a propensity for magic governed by a specific deity, we can discuss you making nice with them."
Octavian nodded. It made sense. If he knew now that deities were real and could be appealed to, he would be less likely to do something to piss them off, which was always a good thing. And if he proved to be able to learn earth magic, not having the deities mad at him would make it infinitely easier to make nice with them and, eventually, to get their assistance.
"Now, the first thing you need to learn is how to get in touch with earth magic at all." Willow said. "Which is why we're outside. It'll be easier to do here than it would be in Hogwarts, where you're surrounded by wand magic." She patted the grass beside her. "I want you to close your eyes and try to quiet your mind. Don't think about anything in particular. Just let yourself feel."
Octavian arranged himself comfortably and began to do as she asked, following her softly-spoken instructions. After a while, he managed to calm to the point where her voice was the only thing he was really aware of. Then, unexpectedly, at the very edge of his awareness, something shimmered. Instinctively he reached for it mentally, wanting to see what it was, only for it to skitter away from him. Which was enough to push him out of the meditative state that Willow had encouraged him into.
"I ... think I felt something." He told her, blinking rapidly as he regained awareness of his surroundings. "Like a sort of shimmer way in the distance. But it disappeared when I tried to get a better look."
Willow smiled at him. "That's actually good. Encouraging. It'll get easier the more you do this. I'll meet with you every day, say, after dinner? to help you meditate until you can do it on your own."
Octavian nodded. "That will work." He agreed. "And thank you."
"Not a problem." Willow told him.