Chapter 8 : International Relations
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When they arrived at the ward, they found a surprisingly cheery Madam Pomfrey applying bandages to the Scamander twins, who sat sheepishly next to each other on one of the beds. The curtains were drawn around Matt’s usual bed and Albus hoped he wasn’t asleep.
“You know, it’s called the Forbidden Forest for a reason,” Madam Pomfrey said as she plastered a bandage onto one of the twins’ arms.
“Our great granddad says they’re not usually violent,” one of the twins said.
“And who is your great granddad?” Madam Pomfrey asked.
“Newt Scamander,” the other twin answered.
Madam Pomfrey burst out laughing and had to wait until it subsided before responding. “Newt Scamander would say that, wouldn’t he.”
“He’s showed us lots of creatures,” the first twin said. “He told us to go visit Professor Hagrid because he has all sorts of creatures he can show us while we’re here.”
“Best you wait until you’re healed before talking to Professor Hagrid,” Madam Pomfrey said as she stood up. “There, you’re good as new. Go on, then. But no more playing in the forest!”
The second twin sighed. “We weren’t playing. We were studying.”
“Fine, whatever you want to call it,” Madam Pomfrey said.
The twins got up from the bed and ran out of the room. Albus had a feeling they’d go straight back into the forest and judging by the look on Rose’s face, she thought the same thing.
“Go on back,” Madam Pomfrey said as she put away her bandaging supplies. “He might be asleep.”
Albus nodded and he and Rose walked to Matt’s bed. Rose slowly pulled back the curtains and they slipped inside. Matt had his eyes closed like he was asleep, but Albus knew from experience that Matt often pretended to be asleep after full moons to avoid interacting with people.
“You awake?” Albus asked as Rose cast Muffliato nonverbally.
“Yeah,” Matt mumbled, not opening his eyes.
“How do you feel?” Rose asked.
“Like dragon dung,” Matt answered. “I think the wolf hit his head on something last night because mine feels like someone’s hitting it with a hammer.”
“We can come back later,” Albus said as he pulled the letter out of his pocket. “But you got a letter from your dad and I wanted to give it to you.”
“It’s probably about Professor Clements,” Matt said. “You can open it and read it. I don’t think I could right now.”
“Okay,” Albus said as he ripped open the letter.
I’m sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you. I was in Australia earlier in the week for a meeting with a half dozen other Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures head of departments (or at least their equivalents) from other countries. A few have been making waves about possibly making changes to the beast, being, and spirit designations. If anything is going to happen, it’s a long way off, but this is a start. I won’t bore you with the details.
Onto your question about Thaddeus Clements. I don’t know him well, but I’m surprised he took a job here during his sabbatical. I doubt he will cause much of a problem for you and I would be very surprised if he was discriminatory against people with lycanthropy. Professor Kendrick wouldn’t have hired him if he was. Amy might remember him. Are you planning on taking his class?
I hope the first few weeks of class went well and if you get this before the moon, know that Mum and I are both thinking of you.
“Wait, is that all it says about the meeting?” Rose asked, grabbing the letter from Albus.
“Um, yeah,” Albus said. “Why?”
“Well, it’s got to be in response to what’s happening here,” Rose said. “Boone and the protesting and all that. Why else would half a dozen people from other countries be meeting about it? This must mean the government wants change, too.”
Matt snorted. “Don’t get your hopes up, Rose. These meetings happen every few years and nothing ever changes.”
“Because before, no one outright wanted things to change,” Rose pointed out. “Now it’s obvious. People will support this.”
“But not everyone,” Matt said. “Even Dad would tell me not to get my hopes up.”
“Moving on to Professor Clements,” Albus said loudly. “He sounds all right. I’m going to take his class.”
“Me, too,” Rose said.
Matt sighed. “I suppose I will, too. I guess it can’t hurt, can it?”
In the end, everyone except John and Kaden signed up for the international relations class. The seventh year class was scheduled for Friday afternoon, immediately following lunch, which was the only time all the interested seventh years all had free. The first class took place on the last Friday of September.
Albus, Rose, Matt, and Amanda queued outside the classroom early before class, hoping to get a good glimpse at who else had signed up and get the good seats in the middle of the room. Unfortunately the door was locked and Professor Clements was nowhere in sight, leaving them to wait outside the room.
“Maybe we’re the only ones,” Amanda said as they waited.
“We’re still five minutes early,” Rose pointed out.
Sure enough, over the next five minutes, more and more seventh years queued up behind them. None of them surprised Albus. Both Justin Brink, and to Albus’s delight, Emily Rhodes showed up. Elaine Asterly, Parker Wayland, and Ronald Bones from Hufflepuff were there. From Slytherin, Leigh Montague and Scorpius Malfoy were the only two.
“Malfoy?” Matt whispered.
“He’s probably hoping to get a ministry job like his father,” Rose said.
The door opened, revealing Professor Clements, still dressed in robes that didn’t quite fit him any longer. He said nothing, but stepped aside so everyone could follow in. Albus led the way, enabling him to claim the table in the middle of the room. Rose, Matt, and Amanda took the remaining three chairs at it and they waited while everyone else came inside.
Malfoy brought up the rear and Albus was surprised that he walked past their table without so much as a glance, then sat by himself in the back. Leigh Montague joined Justin and Emily at one of the tables in the front.
“Everyone stand up,” Professor Clements announced.
No one stood. Albus turned to Rose, who looked just as confused as he felt. Everyone else was turning around and looking at each other as well.
“It’s not a joke,” Clements said. “Stand up.”
Albus shrugged, then stood. He’d had some bizarre first lessons before, but this was turning out to be the strangest. The rest of the class murmured amongst themselves as they stood up. Professor Clements smiled, then took a few steps toward them.
“Now, I’d like you to arrange yourselves in order of height, from shortest to tallest, along that wall,” he said, pointing to the wall to their left.
There was more murmuring and confusion, but everyone did as Professor Clements told and arranged themselves by height. Albus was third in line. Parker Wayland was first, followed by Justin Brink. Rose was next, and then came Justin Brink. Leigh, Scorpius, and Emily were all very close in height, but Leigh beat the other two by a fraction of an inch and stood on Justin’s other side. Scorpius stood in between the two girls. Amanda came next and Elaine was the only one shorter than Matt, although only by an inch.
Professor Clements put his hands behind his back and walked over to them. On his way there, his stomach collided with a chair and it nearly fell over. He saved it and pushed it under the table without missing a beat.
He walked right up to Leigh and Scorpius and looked at them. “Everyone from this young man over, take a step to your right. And everyone from this young lady over, take a step to your left.”
They did as they were told, no one meeting Clements’s gaze. Quite a few, especially Matt, Leigh, and Scorpius, looked like they regretted signing up for this class.
“The taller six may take seats at the front two tables,” Clements announced. “While the shorter six may sit at the back two tables.”
Albus and the others waited for Clements to explain, but he did no such thing. Instead, he returned to his desk and then gestured to the tables in front of him. Albus hesitated, then walked toward the front tables and took a seat. Rose followed, sitting next to him. Then the rest of the class sat down. Leigh joined Albus and Rose.
“The taller students will have no homework tonight, while the shorter students will have to complete an essay on wizard-muggle relations since the war,” Clements said.
“That’s not fair!” Scorpius shouted.
“No, it isn’t,” Rose agreed.
It was probably the first time in history that Rose and Malfoy had agreed on something, Albus thought. But he also agreed. What was Clements getting at?
Professor Clements leaned back against his desk, crossed his arms over his ample stomach, and smiled. “And that, my seventh years, is your first lesson in equality. I split you into two groups based on something arbitrary. Your height is something you have no control over, correct?”
“Correct,” Rose said.
“And how did that feel?” Clements asked, consulting his attendance list. “Mr…Eckerton?”
Albus turned to look at Matt, whose face had gone white. Clearly this new professor had missed the memo that Matt didn’t like being called out in class when he hadn’t raised his hand.
“Well?” Clements asked.
Without saying a word, Matt picked up his bag and left the room. Albus realized with a sickening jolt that this lesson may have hit a little close to home.
Professor Clements, however, didn’t seem fazed. “Throughout history,” he began, “groups of people have been ostracized, discriminated against, even brutally murdered based on arbitrary things like race, religion, gender, disability, magical ability, and more. It’s not just wizards who have done it, either. It’s muggles, too. Wizards against wizards, muggles against muggles, wizards against muggles, the list goes on.
“It’s hard for you to imagine what it’s like being on the receiving end of discrimination, which is why I split you up, to give you a bit of a feel. In the past, this little experiment has been done over many days or even weeks, but Professor Kendrick didn’t like that idea.
“But we have to try and understand and learn from past mistakes in order to make the world a better place. International relations is about creating peace between countries, between societies. None of that will happen if we don’t know our past and if we don’t understand our neighbors.
“I was given the opportunity to teach this class and I think the timing is crucial. I don’t know how many of you keep up with the news, but there have been tensions building over the past couple years over a particular group of ostracized people. Recent events have pushed this issue to the forefront of everyone’s minds and it’s likely it will come to a head very soon. Does anyone know which particular group of people I am talking about?”
Albus’s eyes felt like they were going to explode out of his head. Clements hadn’t been clueless when he called Matt out in class. He’d done it to force Matt from the room, so he wouldn’t have to listen to this discussion.
Rose, of course, shot her hand into the air, but so did Amanda, and Clements called on her.
“Lycanthropes,” Amanda said quietly. “And whether they should be given being status in the Ministry.”
“Correct,” Clements said. “I wish to make something clear before we continue. I am open to healthy debate in this classroom. I welcome your well-reasoned, well-researched opinions and will happily moderate and encourage differences of opinions. However, what I will not stand for, is outright discrimination. If you are spewing hate or unfounded claims, I will have to ask you to leave the room. If it continues, I have the right to remove you from the class altogether. Understood?”
“Yes, sir,” the class mumbled.
Clements smiled. “Good. What we always need to keep in mind while debating is that we don’t know about the struggles of our neighbors. Keep that in mind. Now, before we part, does anyone know why this particular issue is such a concern for international relations?”
Rose, Amanda, and surprisingly, Malfoy raised their hands. Clements called on Malfoy and Albus held his breath.
“Because the status of a…creature or being or whoever, isn’t set by individual ministries,” Malfoy answered. “It has something to do with the International Confederation of Wizards, I think.”
“Correct,” Clements said. “A ghost, for example, cannot be a spirit in one country and a being in another. Status has to be agreed upon by all countries. For the most part, this situation works well. No one is going to argue that a ghost isn’t a spirit or a dragon isn’t a beast. But lycanthropes, who were most likely not lycanthropes at birth, are classified as beasts, and much of the world views this as wrong. For next class, I’d like you to research the beast, being, and spirit divisions and jot down a few notes about what each of these mean. What rights do each of the three sections possess? What rights do they lack?”
The bell rang and Clements gestured to the door. The class was quiet as they packed their bags, but low murmurs began as they moved toward the door. It was definitely the strangest, most interesting first lesson Albus had ever had.
“He’s not one to shy away from stuff, is he,” John said after Albus, Rose, and Amanda explained what had happened in Clements’s class.
“Not in the slightest,” Albus agreed.
“I wonder if he’s going to do the same lesson with all years,” Rose said as she emptied her bag onto the table, quills landing on top of John and Kaden’s set up of Exploding Snap. Two of the cards ignited, leaving ash all over Kaden’s left sleeve.
“Hey,” Kaden said. “And what are you doing, anyway? It’s Friday afternoon.”
“Well, I’m going to need to spend all of tomorrow in the library doing research for Clements’s homework. So I’ve got to do the Charms essay tonight.”
“I’m surprised you don’t already know all about the different divisions,” John said as he fixed his cards.
“I know a brief overview, but it’s a very complex history,” Rose explained. “Werewolves haven’t always been classified as beasts. They’ve gone back and forth since the divisions were first created. And the most recent switch wasn’t that long ago. It was in the 1940s.”
“If they’re always switching, what’s the point in even having the divisions?” Kaden asked.
“It’s helpful for other beings,” Rose said. “Ones that aren’t human. Goblins, house elves, merpeople, centaurs. Although centaurs have generally refused to be a part of anything. They don’t want being classification. But it has a lot to do with rights and who should be allowed to have a say in government and such. At one point, trolls were considered beings and thus had a say in government.”
John burst out laughing, the force causing another one of his cards to explode. He brushed the dust off his face and turned to Rose. “Seriously?”
“It was hard for witches and wizards to decide how everyone should be categorized, which, honestly is another problem. Why should witches and wizards be in charge of this whole thing?”
John sighed. “And do you think Matt’s going to stick with this class? Where is he, anyway? Do you know where he went after he ran off?”
“He had an appointment with Healer Norlam right after class, so he probably just went straight there,” Albus answered.
“I don’t know if he’ll stick with it,” Rose said. “It sounds like Clements wants to focus on this for much of the year, since it’s become such an issue in politics.”
“And what was Malfoy’s reaction to everything?” Kaden asked.
“Honestly…he seemed a bit distracted,” Albus said. “He didn’t seem to be paying much attention, which was odd. Everyone else was paying as much attention as they normally would to a Quidditch match.”
“Something’s off about him this year,” John said. “It isn’t like him not to be in the middle of everything.”
“He hasn’t been the same since his grandfather died,” Rose reminded them. “But I guess he does seem a bit more withdrawn than last year.”
John shrugged. “I’m not complaining. Nice not to have him breathing down our necks all the time. And he seems to have dropped his grudge against Matt. Maybe Matt’s dad scared him enough during his internship last year that he won’t try anything again.”
“Let’s hope so,” Kaden said.
“Maybe he’s just worried about next year,” Rose suggested. “I’m sure he’s got a lot of family pressure.”
“Still, if Clements’ class was that intense, you’d think he would’ve had some reaction, especially since he interned last-“
John stopped mid-sentence as the door opened and Matt walked in. Everyone turned to look at him. He looked tired, but not overly anxious.
“What?” Matt said, as he walked in and sat down on the couch next to Albus. He sighed. “Fine. I know you’re going to ask. I’m going to stick it out in Clements’s class for now. Healer Norlam thinks it would be good for me.”
Albus raised his eyebrows in surprise. Even just last year no one could’ve convinced Matt to stay in a class that was directly talking about werewolf rights.
“Healer Norlam thinks I need to get used to it,” Matt said quietly. “Everything that’s going on with Boone and the Ministry…it’s not going away. Healer Norlam thinks it’s going to keep going until there’s a vote with the International Confederation of Wizards.”
“Wow,” Amanda said, shaking her head. “I mean, that’s good.”
Matt shrugged. “I guess. But it’s that whole, things have to get worse before they get better. People have strong opinions on this and they aren’t going to keep their mouths shut.”
That was true. Already there were at least two editorials in the Prophet each day preaching one side of the issue or the other. Albus knew Matt refused to read them, but if any of their classmates were staunchly against werewolves being classified as beings, Matt wouldn’t be able to avoid that.
“Also,” Matt went on, “unrelated, but Healer Norlam is starting group therapy on Friday afternoons.”
“Here?” Rose asked.
Matt nodded. “Yeah. I guess I’m not the only one who’s been seeing him.”
“Are you going to go?” Rose asked.
Matt shrugged. “I haven’t decided. Healer Norlam thinks it would be good, but I don’t know. I wouldn’t talk about why I get anxious…not in front of everyone. And then, what would be the point?”
“Maybe you don’t have to talk about that,” Rose said. “Maybe you can just talk about how you deal with it, and get ideas from other people.”
“That’s what Healer Norlam said,” Matt said. “Clearly you chose the right career.”
Rose laughed. “I hope so, anyway.”
“Well, he said it’s open to anyone…so if any of you want to go…it starts the first Friday in October at four,” Matt said, giving Albus a significant look.
Albus chewed his lip. Clearly Matt wanted him to go, probably for moral support. He’d never seen a psychiatrist before, not professionally. He’d gone to a few group therapy sessions with his family when he was a kid, mostly to help him deal with his father’s PTSD and other issues related to the war. Would it be strange, since he didn’t have any mental illness himself? Or would it be help him learn new ways to help Matt?
A/N: Not technically a late update! It's still Tuesday for another two and a half hours where I live. Thanks for all the lovely reviews!
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