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You chew a sandwich, slowly and thoughtfully. It is made up of a great majority of shredded meat cooked in some manner of sauce. Flavor and texture indicate it is most likely pork. Even with the sauce, however, the sandwich comes off as a little dry and takes some chewing to swallow. Not inedible, at least, though there are any number of things you would rather consume. You decide not to say this aloud, however, in the interest of politeness. You swallow the last of it before moving along.
"Do you believe that the unusual situation... fluctuating and potentially wildly differing teaching styles... have perhaps affected the outcomes of examinations to some degree? Negatively or positively." You ask, already having a good idea of what the answer will be, but having decided to start the round of questioning here.
"Well... I don't really see how it couldn't." Remus says, seeming mildly surprised. "Since at the very least, there will always be a period of adjustment to the new instructor."
"Happily, however, many students take this as an opportunity to develop particularly strong study habits, particularly among our Badgers and Ravens." Albus says, through a mouthful of sandwich. Left unsaid is how the other two houses' study habits generally fare.
"Of course... I had suspected as much, I will admit. No matter. Tell me, Lupin, were I to require inter-group co-operation between multiple divisions of students, how well would you expect such an endeavor to go?"
Both Remus and Alistair flinch at the thought, you note, while Black looks slightly aghast at the notion. Albus, by contrast, seems to have had his curiosity piqued as he is listening attentively now, seeming pleased, somehow.
"The... least volatile combination is generally to have Hufflepuff paired with Slytherin, as it happens. Not on an individual basis, of course, but as a whole. Unfortunately, Slytherin will then tend to sit back and direct what the Hufflepuffs do, without bothering to clarify things if necessary, or really assisting in any way, if there's any way it can be avoided." Lupin says, carefully. "Unfortunately, this leaves Ravenclaw paired with Gryffindor, from which the results can be catastrophic, particularly in more delicate classes such as Potions. While Ravenclaws take great pride in their more rapid learning, you see, Gryffindors tend to disparage it somewhat, leaving them trying even harder to prove their intellectual superiority and impress their peers. In many cases, through dangerous means that they would generally shy away from, but the Gryffindors only half-listen to the explanations of, and then run with without thinking twice."
Black lets loose a short bark.
"Nothing ever turns out too bad, though." He says dismissively. "Nobody ever gets badly hurt, or anything."
".... Not permanently, no. Madame Pomphrey is a very skilled healer, after all." Lupin says, displaying a more advanced level of caution and wariness than Black seems capable of. "Any damage that gets inflicted is almost always reversible inside of two or three weeks. Presuming that the student in question doesn't decide that they like their new tail, or the third eye, of course, which has been known to happen on rare occasion."
"I see." You say. "And other combinations?"
"Well... you would think that Gryffindor and Hufflepuff would work out well, but it's actually quite terrible in practice." Lupin says, seeming a little more at ease the longer the discussion remains on business matters. "Gryffindors go boldly forward, after all, even when they aren't quite sure what they're actually supposed to be doing. And with Hufflepuff generally having... something of a mild case of hero-worship for the generally more sociable and well regarded house, they tend to go along with whatever the Gryffindors decide to do, no matter what fool idea it is. You would also think that the other two, Ravenclaw and Slytherin, would match up reasonably well. There's the expected power plays and snide remarks, of course. The problem is when they match up too well, I'm afraid. Slytherin will be focusing on nudging Ravenclaw into finding ways to cut corners, or do a thing better or to greater effect for less cost, and Ravenclaw's intellectual pride won't let them back down from the challenge. And sometimes, this works out very well indeed. Other times, you find that you have to relocate to the other side of the castle, while the previously used wing undergoes repairs and maintenance, and classes may be closed for a week or two, until Madame Pomphrey has had a chance to make sure everyone's bits have been put back on properly, and will stay there."
"It all works out fine. Nobody really cares what happens to the Slytherins." Black says lazily, reaching for another sandwich.
"I can assure you, Sirius, that if the ambitious and cunning child of an old, ambitious, and cunning family has to spend a few days in the hospital wing in order to have their legs grown back, people will, in fact, care." Lupin says, frowning.
"Well, they shouldn't." He replies, already munching. "Rotten through and through, every one."
Albus coughs, very deliberately, and Sirius settles down from what looks like it would have built up into a brief but blistering rant over how, apparently, a full quarter of the local magical population was irredeemably wicked from birth or some such nonsense.
"In any case..." Lupin continues. "Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff are generally quite a neutral mix. Ravenclaw give the instructions, Hufflepuffs carry them out, and everything generally proceeds very smoothly, unless there is some sort of private vendetta between individuals or there are communication errors. In contrast, matching Gryffindor and Slytherin... I can't really say it works out well, but it surprisingly works much better than the other general options do. There's the expected heated words, overt threats, and generally more subtle attempts at sabotage, but as it happens, the Gryffindors are too busy keeping an eye open for tampering to rush ahead with things unprepared, and the frequent checking and re-checking of matters assures that whatever small mistakes are made are almost always caught and fixed before anything can go too wrong because of them. And Slytherin is generally too busy plotting the downfall of Gryffindor, in such cases, to get particularly... ah, 'creative', with their own work. So things normally proceed exceptionally smoothly, despite all expectations to the contrary. I'm given to understand that professor Snape only teaches double-classes at all with these combinations?" Lupin finished, questioning Albus at the end.
"Ah, yes. After the... sixth? Perhaps seventh complete destruction of his laboratory and classroom, Severus quite put his foot down and became most insistent on those arrangements, for the sake of the general structural integrety of Hoqwarts." Albus said, jovially sipping his tea as though he weren't talking about what sounded like they had to have been fairly large explosions inside of his school.
"Shame Snape wasn't still in there when they went." Black grumbles, though another pointed cough and stern look from Albus silences him once more.
"The group dynamics seem fascinatingly volatile." You say, voice flat as you consider them. "Is there any means you might suggest that would perhaps motivate them to settle down and pursue a common goal before personal interests?"
"The best way is really to make the common goal in their best personal interests." Lupin replies. "You'll find that the students will generally pursue House Points with an unusally single-minded devotion: Rewarding their success with those points generally has good results. Although... the pursuit of those points can lead to some unfortunate situations. Particularly in more volatile student combinations, as I've said."
"I see. And is there any further purpose to these points, some manner of reward that makes their collection worthwile?" you ask.
"Well, the house with the most total points at the end of the year receives the House Cup." Lupin says, with some level of fond pride coating the name of the object. "Which is held in the offices of their Head of House until the next time its awarding is decided, at the end of the next year."
"Ah, I see. Nothing. Very good." You reply, vaguely pleased with the concept. "An unexpectedly psychological tactic, to ensure scholastic drive by endangering no more than the students' personal and collective pride, and offering nothing more than, effectively, temporary and fleeting senses of superiority."
"Er..." Lupin says, staring at you oddly. "Well, performance of the House's team in Quidditch competitions also plays a part in the awarding of House points, and the cup is itself a physical item..."
"Which the Head of House as you have just said, is allowed to hold in trust for a period of time. And not permanently keep. The students themselves, in point of fact, recieve nothing but the entitlement to feel advanced levels of smugness for a time." You reply.
Lupin looks helplessly at Albus, who intervenes.
"The cup is, indeed, the same slightly tarnished award that has been used almost since the founding of Hogwarts itself." He says. "But well-deserved pride, and fond memories of victory, are by far superior to any mere physical reward that might be offered."
"Particularly in the sense that they do not damage the school's budget without need." You reply. "But enough of this. Lupin, you had mentioned that you tended towards a preference about instruction regarding creatures, yes? How well was this received, if I may ask?"
"Oh... well, there will always be grumblers." He replies. "People that will insist that all creatures should be covered in the Care classes, despite.... well, Lethifolds or Dementors, just for example, can't really be 'Cared' for, only really defended against." Lupin explains. "There's a lot of situations where there are gray areas and uncertainty about whether.... Hippogriffs, say, should be covered properly in Defense or Care. On the one hand, if you know how to approach them and aren't foolish enough to attack their vanity, I've found them fairly harmless, even affable creatures. On the other, they have long, sharp beaks and claws, and can shred most of your organs in a single blow, if you're too close to them and unlucky, should they decide to take a swipe at you. They could really fit in either class well enough."
You make a considering noise, then turn to Albus.
"On that note... I'd like to know if I can expect a great deal of potential interference from outside sources that I will have to work around, whether from protective parents or otherwise. Should I bring in creatures that might be considered dangerous for scholastic purposes, that is."
"Ah, you will find that in spite of some personal grievances after the fact, so long as none are permanently injured, the family of students are generally quite understanding and accepting of potential hazard and risk that might come up in the course of teaching students." Albus replies. "But... well, I am afraid Cornelius was rather less than pleased to find that I had located an instructor after all. I'm afraid there is some new legislation he is attempting to push through. I have, of course, done my utmost to stamp it out, but it seems to unfortunately be steadily building support among the Wizengamot."
"I see." You say. "On other matters, is there a specific place you would prefer for a lecture hall to be constructed, or any additions or stipulations you wish to make regarding its creation? As well, I am curious as to the policy on guest-lecturers, as I may consider at some points bringing in individuals with more specific experience in given areas than I myself might have to my name."
"Hmm.... well, as to the construction, I believe I will leave such decisions in your own capable hands." Albus says, after only a little thought. "Regarding guests, I will request that you notify me in advance so that a brief meeting can be arranged before you bring unknown individuals into my school. However, I do not believe there will be any serious problems with doing so: it is not a common choice, but neither is it unknown."
[ ] What do you do?