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First Class

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Wen had thought she was prepared for this. It was what they had all been working towards, after all, her and Helga and Godric and that snake. And after seven long years of mayhem and masonry, the day had finally arrived.

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was now open for business.

Wen had always assumed she'd be a natural at teaching. What else did one do, after all, when one was a fully qualified graduate of the Imperial Academy of Byzantium and not particularly adept at any kind of physical labor?

Unfortunately, Wen had reckoned without the children. It wasn't her fault, really; she had little experience with the tiny bastards. Any parent would have been well prepared for the utter mayhem they unleashed.

After the fourth time their frantic wand-waving set her braids on fire, Wen snapped. With a precise and elegant swish, she summoned all their wands into her outstretched hand.

The students (so tiny; were they really eleven?), bereft of their instruments of chaos, stopped mid-motion and stared.

Wen had not been nicknamed Wen of the Icy Eyes for nothing. The glare she turned on the students sent a shiver of terror straight down their spines.

Wen bit out two words. "Sit. Down."

There was one long moment in which the world hung suspended, and then all at once, seven eleven-year-olds scrambled for their seats, nervously keeping one eye on their magistra the whole time.

Wen graced them with a small frozen slash of a smile. "Good."

Maybe she did have a knack for this teaching thing after all.

***

Godric had always had a knack for dealing with children.

Well. It was more like he had a knack for dealing with people, very small ones included. His allotment of eleven-year-olds trudged into his classroom, arranged themselves on benches, and stared at him. He was pleased to note that they weren't watching him warily; the only nervousness in their eyes was the excited nervousness of a new subject.

"Welcome to your first class," he said warmly. "In case you missed the sign on the door," the class laughed, good, "in here you will be learning the ancient and noble art of healing." Godric smiled. "Let's get to it, shall we? Who here knows any healing charms?"

A few students glanced at each other, nervously.

Godric's smile broadened, involuntarily. "Was my mother the only one who kissed my scrapes away?"

The students stared, then grinned.

"That's a healing charm?" one curly-haired boy squeaked.

"Of course it is! Does anyone know another?"

A rail-thin girl in the back slowly raised her hand, and with that, the class was off.

***

For her first class, Helga took her students outside.

Nothing could be learned trapped in barren stone walls, not like that. Magic was a living thing, the breath of life of the world, and to know magic one had to know the world. Indoor learning was for craft magic, or for sitting 'round the hearth and listening to the old stories. There was time enough for all of that later.

Besides, Helga had siblings and nephews and nieces, and she knew something that many teachers forgot: that children want to learn, that a child left to his own devices will find ten new things by breakfast.

"Seidhkona Helga! Seidhkona Helga!" bellowed a tiny slip of a girl, in a voice more suited to someone of Godric's stature. Helga jogged over.

"What did you find?"

"This," the girl said shyly, twisting her free hand in her skirt and holding out the other.

"Oh, how nice!" Helga said. "Do you know what this is?"

The girl shook her head. The other students, now gathering 'round, peered at the delicate flower in her palm.

"It's a moonflower," Helga said. "There's an old story about moonflowers…"

The children hung on her every word, enjoying the chance to take a breather.

***

Sal peered nervously at the children - his students - and wondered what the hell he was doing.

He wasn't supposed to still be here; he'd been contracted to build and ward the castle, and that was done, so he should have been long gone on another job by now. But somehow, the others had persuaded him to stay on, as a teacher of all things, because they were that short-staffed.

They still were, he mused, as the students fidgeted. There were only the four of them, responsible for only twenty-nine children now, but in a short few months that would change.

He wasn't really qualified for this. Hell, he wasn't qualified for anything, except as an architect.

Maybe, Sal thought, I should take them out and show them how to cut stone. They were all a bit scrawny and undersized, but they'd do.

"Um. Sir?" A hesitant voice broke into his thoughts.

"Yes? Don't call me that," Sal added belatedly.

The six children perched nervously on a bench exchanged nervous glances.

"What should we call you, then?" asked the same little boy as before.

I'm making them nervous, Sal realized. "Most people just call me Sal," he said, opting for honesty. He tapped his fingers idly on the desk Wen had insisted on placing in the room.

Sal sighed.

"This is stupid," he said. He shoved the desk back further towards the wall, kicked the students' table out of the way, and sat down on the floor. "Come join me, and let's talk like real people."

The students exchanged one more flurry of nervous glances and tentatively complied.

Sal traced a glowing pattern on the stone inside their loose circle. "I'm supposed to be teaching you all about magic. Magic, though, is something you never stop learning, so I guess what I'm really here to teach you is how to think about magic, so you know how to learn it yourself."

He kept his eyes off the students, on the patterns he was drawing for them, and a warm little glow lit his heart as, one by one, they shed their nervousness like old skin and leaned in eagerly to ask questions.

***

"So how'd the day go?"

"It was passable."

"Just passable?" Helga asked her friend teasingly.

Wen, stone-faced, simply stared at her.

"Okay. Passable it is." She turned to the man on her right. "How about yours, Godric?"

Godric beamed.

Helga laughed. "I guess that answers that question."

"How was your class, Helga?" Godric asked in turn.

She grinned. "Wore the little worms out running them all over the yard. It was nice and peaceful." Indeed, Helga's bunch were all doing their best not to droop into their dinner.

Helga turned to the last staff member. "How was yours?"

Sal, who was apparently scrying into his cider and had thus missed the entirety of the previous conversation, muttered, "Huh?"

"Your class," Helga said patiently. "How did it go?"

Sal turned a mystified expression on her. "I think I liked it."

Helga smiled, then sat back, surveying the hall happily. All in all, it was an auspicious start.

Even if Wen's hair was a bit shorter of a sudden.