On Becoming Wandless
See Chapter 1.Rating:
See Chapter 1.AN:
Feedback appreciated as always. See end for any additional notes.--- --- ---[Early February]
It had turned into one of those days he woke up dreading more often as he grew older. Meetings that seemed to last forever with nothing being accomplished, while important research languished on his desk, making him long for those terror filled days back in Sunnydale when the Council had ignored him and he them. Life had been a lot simpler if more uncertain for all of them back then.
His thoughts were interrupted by Randall poking his head into his office. He really needed to get him to use the phone more often. Randall tended to wait until he was free and come into his office when he wanted something. The personal touch was nice but not really efficient.
"Mr. Giles? There's a Riley Finn at the front desk asking to see you. Shall I have them send him up?"
"Is he alone?" Randall nodded. "That'll be fine. Just have them tell him to leave any mystical weapons he might be carrying at the desk with them." At Randall's surprised look he explained "He's a demon hunter with the US military. He worked with us in Sunnydale a few years ago and he occasionally assists the Cleveland office if they need to involve the government. I would be very surprised if he was unarmed."--- --- ---
"Riley! How is your wife? What can I do for you?" Giles welcomed him into his office with a hearty handshake. With the encouragement of the old Scooby gang, the new Council had an open invitation for Riley and his wife to join them if they ever felt like leaving the military but this was the first time either of them had visited the London office.
"She's doing well. I was on my way elsewhere and something came up. I had several questions for you and thought I would drop by." Riley answered with a warm smile, the implication being that it was too sensitive for anything other than a face to face meeting. "And hopefully have a chance to see your facilities here."
"I'm sure we can find someone to give you a tour when we're finished." He motioned Riley to a seat. "What were your questions?"
"The last time I was in Washington I spent a few minutes with a bureaucrat from some Pentagon agency I'd never heard of before. I've given up trying to keep track of all the obscure offices that think they should be involved with the activities of my team," he grimaced and rolled his eyes. "but this is the first one who has come to see me about the Watcher's Council."
"Really? Our non-military contacts in the US government normally come to us directly if they have questions." He gazed pensively at Riley. "And our only contact with the military is through you."
"I don't believe she'd ever heard of you before this. And she wasn't really aware of what my team does either." He shrugged. He preferred it that way. "Something had come across her desk and she was looking for answers. Fortunately, any questions about the Council and slayers eventually end up on my desk."
"Yes. And we appreciate your assistance. What kinds of questions did this person have?"
"Apparently we have a mutual agreement with a British government ministry that allows some of their people to legally work in the States and they reciprocate. She needed information to complete the paperwork."
"And this concerns us how?" asked a puzzled Giles.
"You've apparently started hiring English witches?" Riley questioned.
"Y..yes... in a manner of speaking. Willow is going on a sabbatical in a few months and her coven found someone to help out while she is gone. " He paused for a moment to think. "She is English, though I fail to see why the US government would be involved."
"Apparently this witch isn't your run-of-the-mill Wiccan. They needed to know who exactly you were before they would allow someone with her training permission to work in the US. And before you ask, they did not tell me what training she has had or where she got it. Or even what she did for the British government."
"I'm assuming your answers were sufficient?" Riley nodded. "Did you need anything from us to pass along to this agency?"
"No. You're all set. Though I'm curious about what makes her so special that the government notices. They don't usually pay much attention to obviously nonpolitical people."
"She does come well recommended. She is on sabbatical herself from a Ministry job, though I couldn't tell you what she did there. It isn't germane to our needs. You'll probably run into her in Cleveland at some point and can ask her then, though I can't guarantee she'll tell you. Is there anything else I can do for you?"
"No. That was it."
"Good. Why don't I find someone to give you a tour?" Giles picked up his phone. "Randall? Could you help Mr. Finn find either Izzy or Fred and let them know I would appreciate it if they gave him a real tour? Thanks."
After Riley left with Randall, Giles sat back in his chair with a sigh and cleaned his glasses. It looked like he would have questions for Miss Weasley when she showed up in another week to fill out her employment papers.--- --- ---
Confidently striding down the street, on her way to her first meeting with Mr. Giles since returning from Westbury, Ginny wasn't sure where the previous five weeks had gone. Intellectually she could remember everything that had happened but emotionally it had seemed to pass in the blink of an eye. And she knew the experience had changed her but she couldn't really pinpoint the moment it happened.
Yes, she now preferred clothes made from natural materials and no, she had no real desire to eat meat after spending a month with the predominately vegetarian coven. But, she really didn't dress that much differently and she still liked to do the same kinds of things like clubbing, and cooking, and playing quidditch. But Hermione and her family had noticed that she was different. In the two days she'd spent at the Burrow since getting back they'd been unable to say exactly what it was. But they all insisted she was. Today's meeting would be the first real test. Would the people she was going to meet believe she was a Wiccan trained witch?
She'd intentionally taken a longer than necessary route from her flat to the Council offices in order to put her thoughts about the past month in the proper perspective before her meeting. Humming to herself as she walked, Ginny mentally reviewed the past few weeks.
The week before she'd joined the Westbury coven had gone by quickly. Turning in her sabbatical request after the meeting with Mr. Giles, Ginny had immediately begun putting her office in order in anticipation of it being approved. But even if it wasn't approved she'd had no qualms about quitting. That had been her original plan before this opportunity had arisen. She didn't think she would want to return to her old job after this anyway.
Separating the tasks she could complete before she left from those that would have to wait for her replacement had been a daunting task. The surprise from her coworkers when they'd found out about her sabbatical request hadn't helped but she'd dived into it with enthusiasm.
There had been very few memorable highlights that week. She'd spent an afternoon with Percy going over the Ministry paperwork that would allow her to travel and work outside of England, without having to constantly inform the Ministry of her whereabouts. She hadn't realized the Ministry kept such a close eye on anyone who'd completed Auror training who wasn't working directly for the Ministry. He'd been interested, in a brotherly fashion, in her reasons for the sabbatical but had made no effort to discourage her.
The goodbye luncheon her office held for her had come as a big surprise. Even though none of them knew where she was going, they seemed to genuinely care about her future. And expected her to return to them inspired and ready to share what she'd learned while she was gone. She hadn't had the heart to disabuse them of the idea.
Buffy's e-mail to her during that week had been very supportive. Although they'd kept in contact with Hermione as an intermediary while she was in Westbury, when she'd returned it had taken her a day to read through and reply to all of the personal messages that Buffy had sent her without expecting a reply.
The Westbury coven had been a surprise. She'd had only a vague idea of what a coven was or what she would be doing but reality certainly didn't come close. She suspected that in some ways it was the same experience someone joining a cult would have had.
The first thing they'd done had been to take away everything familiar that she'd brought with her, including her wand and her owl. They'd provided her with clothes that appeared to be made entirely of natural fabrics which, while not exactly the height of fashion, were colorful and helped her fit in with the other women in residence. She'd been given a room to herself, sparsely decorated with flowers and other natural objects, with a view of a large grassy meadow.
The first two weeks had passed in a blur as they imprinted her with a astoundingly large quantity of information, including Wiccan history, philosophy, common spells, and the religious roots of elemental magic. Based on how she'd absorbed new information in the past Ginny was sure some kind of magic was involved with the rapidity with which she was learning. She couldn't quite narrow down when it had been applied and assumed it was a subtle wiccan spell that she wasn't sensitive enough to notice.
Before the first week was over it felt like she'd always known, at an intellectual level, all of the information they'd been feeding her. The second week ended with a ceremony at night in the local holy circle where she became a member of the coven, a necessary part of the transformation she was undergoing. It had initially been a frightening prospect but by the time it actually happened it felt perfectly natural.
She was relieved when, upon later discussing the changes she'd felt in herself with the coven elders, they'd told her that what she felt wasn't a loss of her old self. She was just becoming aware of another aspect of the world around her. When she finished training with the coven the part of her self that others sensed, her aura, would tell anyone sensitive to such things that she was wiccan.
To alleviate her initial confusion they'd had to explain that they really couldn't just disguise her as a wiccan. In order for other magic users or sensitives to perceive her as wiccan, and for her aura to reflect that, she had to become one to all intents and purposes.
With the assistance of a little magic they were just compressing the time that kind of change took down into weeks instead of the year or more a new wiccan normally spent before their aura had that distinct wiccan look. Several of the tests they'd originally done on her had been to see if she could handle this kind of forced learning and aura molding. Fortunately, she'd been deemed capable of benefiting from the unusual learning techniques they needed to employ.
She'd been reassured that it wasn't an irrevocable change. If she really wanted to go back to her pre-wiccan self when she was done working for them it was possible, though that kind of change was rarely undone.
The remainder of her time with the coven had been spent assimilating the knowledge they'd given her while they taught her how to use her inborn magic in place of the elemental magic of a normal wiccan. The ability to use true elemental magic had been one of the few things they couldn't force feed her. They could enhance her awareness of it with a variety of exercises and meditative techniques but she would have to rely on her own internal abilities and power.
Actually using elemental magic was a decades long endeavor even for most wiccans but in her case, because of the magic she already had access to, it would have taken much longer and they really didn't have the time to start her down that path. So they'd spent a large amount of her time with them teaching her how to reach inward while giving the outward appearance of performing wiccan magic.
One of the triumphs of the early part of her training had been learning how to read the auras of the people around her, a skill they considered necessary for a wiccan in her position. For now she could only get the crudest impression of someone's aura but she'd been assured that she would eventually be able to do more with practice and training.
Even now, weeks later, Ginny could still remember her surprise that one of the techniques they'd taught her to align herself with the magic in the environment around her had involved an ordinary seeming Tarot deck. They'd started by teaching her the traditional methods used to do a Tarot reading, and the history of the various cards and reading techniques. This had led to a demonstration of how she could discover the magical skill and power held by someone else by watching the way they gave a reading.
From there they'd shown her how it was possible to identify the coven a wiccan belonged to or the family a gypsy was a part of with a similar technique. They'd then moved on to what they considered the true value of the cards, to center a wiccan within their inner self and to then become aware of all the magical currents in their environment.
One of the hardest physical tasks, besides getting used to the meatless diet the coven insisted was vital to maintain her wiccan aspect, had been learning how to focus her magic without using her wand. They'd waited until they were confident that she'd absorbed everything else she needed to know before starting. The effort it had taken to learn how to perform the same level of magic she was used to wielding, but without a wand as her focus, had left an indelible impression on Ginny.
She'd been so exhausted while she'd worked on mastering the techniques that made wandless magic possible that she'd needed help getting back to her room every night and was surprised they didn't have to physically drag her out of bed in the morning. She could see why there'd been no mention of that kind of ability during her entire time at Hogwarts and later during her Auror training.
Ginny's thoughts were brought back to her current situation when she was brought to an abrupt halt at the entrance to the Council of Watchers offices by a strange feeling. There was something about the building that she hadn't noticed the first time she'd visited. Focusing inward as she'd been taught, she could sense some kind of force surrounding the building she was standing in front of and several others next to it. She could feel some kind of structure to it but didn't recognize the spell that must have created it in either her newly minted wiccan knowledge or from her ten years of wizarding magical education.
There didn't seem to be any evil intent there but she reflexively pulled in her newly developed wiccan senses as she passed through it, in a move that felt vaguely like the mental equivalent of pulling tight a robe. It wasn't quite the same kind of thing she'd learned as an Auror that could be used to shield her presence from other wizards and which, even now, operated at a subconscious level if she felt threatened but it was close. If it was some kind of alarm she was sure it had gone off when she walked through it.
As someone she vaguely recognized from her previous visit showed her to a different room than the one she'd been in before, Ginny mused that they still didn't seem to be able to detect the wand she now carried more as a security blanket than out of any real need. She wasn't sure how to bring it up or even how to rectify the situation without knowing how the obvious detection spells she'd sensed when she'd entered the building had worked. Something she could hopefully deal with once she arrived in Cleveland.
Ginny looked in amazement through the papers she'd been left to fill out before her meeting. While they all seemed harmless, the confidentiality agreement had a vaguely familiar spell attached to it so she put it aside while she filled out the other papers. Glancing at the salary agreement she was amazed at how much they would be paying her. She'd been assuming something equivalent to her Ministry salary but this was much more. Obviously the Council was not poor if they could afford to pay a temporary person like herself so much. Hopefully Hermione could explain the fine print about taxes and health insurance and the other muggle things she wasn't familiar with.
She'd just finished filling things out when she noticed that Mr. Giles had arrived.
"I see Randall has provided you with the paperwork he loves to share," he said as he motioned her back to her seat. "Most of it's merely a formality. Many of the governments in the countries we have offices in need something from us so they can get the taxes they feel is their due. Once you are entered into our computer system you shouldn't have to worry about any of that. Did you have any questions before we get started?"
"Yes I do. Thanks." She smiled at him gratefully. "The salary seems very generous."
"Well, in the past the Council was very tight-fisted with paying certain staff and the results left a lot to be desired. We've tried to rectify that in the past several years. Given the resources of the Council we really aren't paying you that much. And if we didn't pay you that much there wouldn't be much left once the accountants finished extracting their pound of flesh to pay the tax collectors." He grimaced at the necessity of such things. "Also, although the Cleveland office can provide housing not everyone takes advantage of it. Cleveland isn't the most expensive city to live in but it isn't free."
"Okay, I hadn't actually thought about that aspect of moving. What about this?" She pulled the confidentiality agreement out of the pile. "I understand the intent but was wondering about the spell on it?"
"Oh." Ginny could tell he was surprised she'd noticed. "It's just a precaution. You can't sign it if you don't actually agree to it. It doesn't actually enforce the agreement. That would be a bit onerous."
Thinking about the Ministry of Magic's approach to similar issues, Ginny smiled at that and signed the document before placing it back in the pile.
Once she'd done that Giles placed several books in front of her. "The research libraries in all of the field offices are excellent resources if you know what you are looking for but these will give you the basic grounding in who we are and what we do to get you started. Once you get to Cleveland you'll also want to talk with everyone there to get their unique views of the material presented here."
Ginny noticed that the slimmer of the two hardbound volumes was labelled 'The Slayer's Handbook' while the other was something simply called 'Watchers'. "Thank you. Is there an equivalent volume concerning the things I'll be doing?"
"You can get that information from Willow. You'll find some older texts in the restricted section of the library that cover how the Council has used magic in the past but Willow has her own methods and spells that she prefers to use that seem to work just as well if not better."
"I can't wait to meet her and get started!" Ginny enthused. "When am I expected in Cleveland?"
"We thought it best if you get there when the entire Cleveland staff is present so you can meet them all at once. If you can be there by the fourteenth?"
Thinking about the things she needed to do in London before leaving, Ginny nodded affirmatively and answered "Yes. I can do that."
"Why don't I give you a quick tour of the office here?" Giles asked. "And if you don't mind, once we've done that there are several tests we would like to perform so we can have some idea of your abilities. And then you can go."--- --- ---
Thinking about it later that evening Ginny was amazed at the things she'd seen during the tour. From her previous visit she'd known that the slayers were a major focus of the Council but she hadn't realized how much the activities and facilities of the Council seemed to be centered around them.
Hermione was amused at her excitement. "So, are you looking forward to going to Cleveland?" she asked her.
"Yes! You should have seen the kinds of things they do," she enthused.
"Unfortunately, I'm not one of the privileged few. Mr. Giles still hasn't allowed me near their library," Hermione grumbled.
Ginny let this pass without comment. When she'd seen the library at the Council she'd known that Hermione would have been in heaven seeing it and didn't really want to rub it in that she now had free reign to visit a similar one in Cleveland.
"So, did you meet any slayers while you were there?" Hermione probed, wondering if Ginny would recognize the one she'd met in October.
"No, apparently they are out of town this week. I'm sure I'll meet them some other time. There's a training facility in Cleveland so I'll meet a lot of them there." She thought about something that had come up during the tour. "Something odd came up this afternoon."
"What? Something related to the Council that you can tell me?" Ginny had explained the Council's approach to confidentiality earlier but Hermione wasn't sure how it really applied to her.
"Sort of. Those papers I filled out for Percy's office must have done something."
"What do you mean?"
"Mr. Giles mentioned that one of the Council's contacts with the American government was asking about my connection to the Council."
"I wouldn't be too concerned. It must have been the American Department of Magic. It sounds like they aren't as discreet as they should be. I'll let Percy know tomorrow so he can check into it."--- --- ---
While travelling muggle style had been exhilarating she was glad she'd travelled light. Most of her personal possessions weren't really appropriate around muggles and the rest, mostly clothes, she would need to pick up when they arrived at the airport in a few days. Hopefully there was a branch of the floo network nearby so she wouldn't have to travel that way very often when she wanted to visit family. Unfortunately, any travelling she did for the Council would still require muggle methods if she didn't want to draw attention to herself.
Going through muggle Customs in Washington had been interesting but paled in comparison to the uproar her appearance at the American wizarding branch of Customs had caused. The confused Customs officials had insisted she was wiccan and shouldn't be there, refusing to let her through until she pulled out her wand and threatened to curse them in what she conceded was a rather creative, if slightly unrealistic, manner. While she'd eventually gotten through Customs, the unfortunate side effect was that she'd been forced to register her wand, something she'd hoped to avoid since they could now keep track of when she used it.--- --- ---
Standing in the entrance to the Council's Cleveland office after being dropped off by the taxi she'd taken from the airport, Ginny was relieved to have finally arrived. Now she just needed to pull herself together so they wouldn't see how nervous she was. The only people who knew she was arriving today were Mr. Giles and Willow Rosenberg. And while she hoped they'd managed to keep it a secret from everyone else, she hoped Buffy wouldn't react badly when she saw her and realized she'd been keeping secrets from her.
Noticing the young woman sitting at the receptionist's desk, Ginny walked over to her, unbuttoning her coat and removing her hat as she said, with as much nonchalance as she could muster after such a long day "I was told you needed a witch."--- --- ---Continued in A Girl and her Toys--- --- ---