A summer is not enough to forget a war. More importantly, it is not long enough to forget that it was a member of Slytherin house that was so willing to hand Harry Potter over to Voldemort. Though some Slytherins returned to fight, that is the one detail that does so easily slip from people’s mind, the whispers that grow louder over the summer don’t bode well. The house gets a chilling reception from the rest of the hall on September first, to the extent that when students are sorted into Slytherin on Minerva’s first night as headmistress, fear flickers through their eyes at the prospect. Some try to hold their heads high and meet the stares pinning their table back against the wall, and then there are the older and wiser members that realise that the battle is already lost.
It all makes Minerva feel old, older than the war itself had done. It is meant to be over, but things do not tidy themselves up and fall into place just because the wands have been lowered. Seventeen years have passed since the end of the first war and they never truly recovered from that. It cannot be that way again, as they would be doomed to repeat the cycle of hate. Voldemort had never acted alone after all. There were always people willing to listen, and act out his plans. The same darkness that had been found in him would fester in these young minds if they were kept on the outside to be feared and loathed by people that didn’t even know them. She has to do something, even if she has no idea what.
Hogwarts needed to be united the way it had been in the final battle and it had to remain so. No longer could a house be a reason to shun another; a coloured tie a burden as much as a badge of honour.
“There is a tense feeling in the air,” Horace comments quietly from Minerva’s left, “It will not do.”
“Aye, but what to do about it? I wish Albus were here. He would know.”
“He did nothing for decades,” Horace reminds her gently, pouring his evident frustration not into his voice but into the piece of pork that he stabs viciously with his fork, “Things were not as bad as this when I started teaching here. Surely you remember? It got steadily worse over time. Banter became bullying and Albus did nothing to stop it. My house closed in on itself for protection, and spawned people like…well you know. It was not always this way.”
“Perhaps we can make things better again,” Minerva mutters to herself, a faint pink tinge filling her cheeks at the quiet reminder that Albus wasn’t perfect as Headmaster and oh how she had known that. Horace should not have needed to remind her. Yet, who is she to reverse the damage that has been done? She represents the old ways, so how can she begin new ones? “Things do have to change though. I’m not sure how but they do.”
“I cannot help you there, Minerva. I’m doing enough being back here at all,” Horace grumbles to himself, “I thought I was finished with teaching and wars and helping traumatised students with death in their eyes. What are we to do if they spend all their times holed up in their common rooms festering misconceptions about each other?”
Minerva froze, as Horace went back to his pork, and slowly looked up and down the table at her fellow teachers. Perhaps, that was just the answer she was in fact looking for.
The teachers file in after the students have been sent to their common rooms, grumbling, and sending withering looks Minerva’s way. It has been a long and trying day, worrying about if the train would get attacked by rogue Death Eaters before it reached the safety of the school, and then the general tasks of the first day back. A teacher can think they are ready, until something does spectacularly wrong in order to prove them otherwise. The last thing any of them want is a staff meeting when the last one had just been held the night before.
Horace suspects why it has been called and settles down with a pinched look on his face, summoning a bottle of brandy from the cupboard and offering everyone who enters a glass. He gets many uptakes on his offer, as he isn’t known for sharing and Minerva nods to herself as she sits down in front of the fireplace. It might relax them all a little and make them more agreeable to her quickly formed plan.
“Right, well it seems I am last here, so what is the point of all this then?” Aurora asks, closing the door behind her and casually throwing up a privacy charm with a swish of her wand.
“Thank you, Aurora,” Minerva begins quietly, “Well, I was looking around the hall this evening, and I couldn’t help but notice the atmosphere between the students. In general, the students seem a little afraid but that is to be expected given the Castle repairs are not completely finished and considering the final battle was fought upon these grounds. However I was then talking to Horace and…”
“Oh, no you don’t!” Horace barks, interrupting her midsentence, “ I am not taking any responsibility from whatever you’ve cooked up since dinner. I was just….observing.”
“Quite,” Minerva states sternly, “Well, your observations were noted. The students spend more and more time locked away in their common rooms these days. Far too often over the past few years have we had to send them away and then locked them in. Students don’t socialise with each other. They rarely make friends outside their houses and I’m worried that it is going to lead to the same sort of problems we had before and during the war.”
“True, but what do you wish to do about it?” Filius asks, “It is the way that things have always been. The houses create friendship, encourage friendly competition and help us organise the school accordingly.”
“They also create divisions. Being part of a house doesn’t ensure you friends. Take the recent case of Miss Lovegood, for example. She has been bullied within her own house for years yet because it was behind the closed doors of the dorms, which we, I mean which the Head of Houses respect the privacy of most of the time, we did not know of it!” Minerva argues, “Why Ginny Weasley was one of her few friends and yet their time together was limited to wandering the halls where they were regarded with suspicion or being locked away in the library where they can hardly talk! The cold comes swiftly as you well know.”
Filius ducks his head quickly, ashamed, and Minerva feels guilty for pointing out the things that have slipped through his fingers as Head of Ravenclaw house.
“So, what do you plan to do?” Pomona reiterates, sending reassuring smile towards Filius, “I know you. You would not call us here without a plan.”
The group share smiles and then Minerva’s fades sadly. Severus would have chosen that moment to make a dark remark. No matter how his end came, she can’t deny missing him. He was such a part of her day to day life and now he is gone, just as Albus is.
“I think we should create more opportunities for the children to interact, outside of the classroom and on the field. Sport unites the teams yes but well…things have got a bit nasty in recent times. I was thinking of something like a common social area. Not the hall or the library but, I don’t know, somewhere else where students of all houses can congregate and play games, talk, do homework outside the silence of the library if they wish. Just…somewhere that they can be together, and form friendships that don’t rely on the emblem on their breast.”
“Albus would never have done such a thing. The house system is a traditional part of Hogwarts that has served us well for centuries,” Pomona chides, folding her arms across her chest, “How could we ever control something like that? We can’t expect Prefects to take care of their common rooms and then be responsible for this social area as well.”
“Exactly, and look where it got him. Every year the sorting hat talks about house unity and working together and every year, students ignore it. Only the impending destruction of everything we held dear brought them together, and the Slytherins who did come to join the fight disappeared as quietly as they appeared. Life does not slot into house systems and colour co-ordinated uniforms, Pomona! Anyone who has worked outside of Hogwarts knows that. Could you name the houses of all your colleagues right now? Look around you!” Minerva states impatiently, “Oh, I am easy, and so are all the Heads of Houses but what about the others? Could you say 100% which houses they were in? Of course not, because it doesn’t matter. We need to instil that in the children.”
“You were always the one to say that your house was like your family,” Filius points out, cocking his head to the side, “But, one can have a family and then a large circle of friends outside of that.”
“Exactly,” Minerva states triumphantly, waving her arm in his direction and settling back into her seat, “I really do think that something like this would do the world of good.”
“I like it,” Hagrid booms. “The children make friends on the train. This lets em keep em easier.”
“Thank you, Hagrid,” Minerva says, smiling softly, “I brought you all her because if we can agree on something, we could get it into place as soon as possible and that will allow those friendships to remain.”
“We could also encourage students to sit at different tables at dinner. They can make more friends and connections that way,” Horace adds, taking a long drink of his mead and looking around at his peers thoughtfully, “Timetables go out in the morning and then, well is there really any need for them to be sat together all the time?”
“There is not actually a rule that says they do have to sit at their own tables,” Poppy adds in, “I just don’t think the children are aware of it. There is no harm in reminding them.”
“I just hope the older children don’t discourage it. I can see the first years sitting with friends from the train but I doubt we shall see Ginny Weasley at the Slytherin table any time soon,” Filius remarks seriously.
“That aside,” Irma says quietly, cutting in, “Where would this area be? The school is still being fixed magically so theoretically…it could go anywhere really.”
“I was hoping for more input on that. On the one hand, I had thought near the library because then it would be like a larger area where the houses can mix. Silencing charms in place of course!” Minerva confesses, reassuring Irma before the worried look can take hold on her face, “It also happens to be more in the middle of the school, so no one house can accuse us of favouritism or having to leave too much earlier to make curfew.”
“There is still the question of who will supervise,” Septima adds, “I am happy to go down at certain intervals to check. I doubt the children would relax with a teacher hovering over them constantly though. The prefects could be aware that they are the most senior in the area but, well why not have the ghosts check on them? If there is an issue, they can find a teacher immediately.”
“I wouldn’t mind nipping down the corridor a couple of times a day if it was indeed near the library,” Irma murmurs, as if she knows she is not entirely happy with the idea but will warm to it in the end.
“I’m sure the ghosts would like to make themselves useful. Well, most of them. There is also the fact that the older ones should be responsible enough to look after themselves and to stop the younger ones doing anything untoward, whether they are prefects or not. It would teach them all a good sense of responsibility,” Minerva comments, turning to Horace, “Do you think your house would participate?”
“The older years? No chance. The younger ones though, might be more easily to persuade. As Hagrid said, friendships have been formed already so if we can protect them if the youngsters wish, it sets an example. As for the rest, I’m not sure. Perhaps if the others houses take up the offer, my snakes will follow in time,” Horace comments thoughtfully, aware that one change over a few years won’t be enough to reverse decades of damage when it comes to relations within Hogwarts.
“You seem focussed on the Slytherins,” Septima comments quietly in question.
“They are the house I hope to benefit most,” Minerva admits, “They socialise outside of their house the last. They discriminate against muggle born students without really knowing anything about them, and in turn students from the rest of the school discriminate against them without actually knowing more than what house they are in. Something like this would bridge the gap, I hope. The other houses mingle a little more but still, there needs to be more.”
“I hope you don’t plan on abolishing the system all together. I know other schools don’t have them,” Pomona states anxiously, wringing her hands in her lap and looking to her fellow Heads of Houses in order to gain their support.
“Merlin, no!” Minerva gasps, “The houses are a tradition as old as Hogwarts herself! I just feel that we need to adjust to changing times.”
“It is going to cause upheaval,” Hagrid grumbles, “Mind, we’ve had a lot of that recently.”
“What is a little more, eh?” Horace booms, draining his drink, “I say we announce our intentions to create some sort of social area tomorrow, and then meet at lunch near the library to have a look at how we can later things. Filius, your expertise will be needed of course.”
“There are other places we could work with of course,” Aurora murmurs thoughtfully, almost to herself, “There are many abandoned classrooms around the castle. If we could find a group of them and take out the walls, it might be easier in the long run.”
“So everyone supports the idea then?”
“Even if we didn’t,” Aurora begins with a smile, “You have that Gryffindor determination about you. It won’t stop you. You are right though. This is a new Hogwarts. We survived a war we might not have and it is time to make a difference, take the chances we’ve been given.”
“I’m not sure about it all,” Pomona admits sharply, “But I feel we should at least try. Nothing will change if we do nothing at all and….things do need to change.”
“So tomorrow then?”
“I will see you then. Now, if you don’t mind, I have some young eagles to attend to,” Filius comments wearily.
“I was already too old for this when I retired the first time,” Horace mutters while hauling himself out of his armchair and bidding them all good night. The rest of the teachers slowly filter out of the room, some alone and heading straight for their rooms, and others in deep conversation with each other over the new plans.
Minerva smiles to herself sadly, hoping that her plan will work. Before, they had just tried to return to normal and had not confronted the fact that normal wasn’t working in the first place. This time would be different but it made her fearful at the same time. There was a lot of work ahead of her, and every day that passed without things changing counted against her.
“You have that look again, dear. The one that says you are overthinking things. Come on, up to your office for a scotch with you,” Pomona says quietly, reaching for Minerva’s hand and helping her up out of her seat, before leading her out into the corridor.
“It is strange not to be going to the Gryffindor common room,” Minerva admits sadly, “I miss it.”
“I can imagine that you would. How many years were you the head of the house?”
“Too many,” Minerva lasts, “So many I’m not sure how not to be. I have many new distractions though. I will content myself with them.”
“Oh, content yourself indeed,” Pomona smiles, “As if all the tasks of a Headmistress are just for passing the time.”
“Well you know me, I like to keep active,” Minerva retorts with a laugh.
“You do realise that Argus will just say that all of this is merely another opportunity for the children to make a mess,” Pomona laughs, pausing at the top of the stairs in perpetration to go and speak to her Hufflepuffs on the lower floors.
“Argus is lucky he still has a job. I mean really, what do we really need the man for? The elves are more than capable. I would never relieve him though, not at his age but, really.”
“Ah, the elves. It was quite something to see them rise up in the battle,” Pomona comments. Minerva nods her head and gestures around her in reply.
“We must remember, it is their home as well. They had just as much right to defend it. Did rather well too, didn’t they? Determined little buggers,” she declares proudly, much to Pomona’s amusement.
“Indeed. It is amazing what strength people find when they need to. Why, I would never have thought some of my Puffs capable of what they did that day, I mean, Hannah Abbott taking out Nott!” Pomona beams.
“Aye, it was mighty impressive what those children achieved. Potter taught them well,” Minerva states sadly, “From now on, the actual Defence teacher will be doing that.”
Pomona laughs, starting to make her way down the stairs, “Now Minerva, one thing at a time.”
“Indeed,” Minerva mutters, before heading off through the corridors towards her office. There were many things that needed done but she had to start somewhere, and the beginning seemed as good a place as any. Uniting Hogwarts was her first priority, and then they could move forward, together.