Late at night the Great Hall was dark and silent. It would be too much to hope that the students were actually abed, but they were confined to their common rooms. Albus Dumbledore felt the weight of the castle's history upon him as he looked up at the enchanted ceiling. The cloudless night offered a stunning view of the stars. Was he doing the right thing?

Despite it only being his second year as headmaster, he had already made numerous changes to the school. Not as many as he would have liked, but more than enough to anger the pure-blood supremacists. Their fury was a sign that he was doing something right. His academic, magical and social achievements were enough to secure the support of the majority of the magical population.

What he was planning now was different. He was going to modify one of Hogwarts' oldest pieces of magic, altering an enchantment that had not been touched since the time of the founders. One didn't need the mindset of a Black or Malfoy to disapprove. If someone modernized Van Gogh's Starry Night in a similar manner, he would consider it vandalism.

But Hogwarts was a building in use, one that was constantly adapted to the needs of its inhabitants. Often the castle did this of its own accord. The ceiling was supposed to give an accurate picture of the heavens. That the founders could not have anticipated the celestial sphere being touched by humankind didn't change that it had.

What would the founders have thought about it? Not his planned addition to their ceiling, but the reality it reflected.

Would Ravenclaw, to whom the ceiling was generally attributed, be impressed by the scientific challenge? Or appalled that the heavens were defiled with earthly metal? Her surviving writings suggested that she was an avid Aristotelian. Earlier discoveries might already have left her despairing. Astronomy remained a vital subject for magical understanding, but the Earth was not the centre of the universe, nor were the heavens a realm of perfect forms of imperishable aether.

Gryffindor and Hufflepuff would probably have similar thoughts, admiring the spirit of adventure and dedication, but would surely have hated the Cold War that motivated projects like Sputnik.

As for Slytherin... It was certainly an ambitious pissing contest, but his thoughts on muggles achieving something wizards had not could be guessed. Slytherin would probably counter that wizards had no need for such things, that the pointlessness of the endeavour was the reason they had nothing in space and that the muggles were now even closer to killing everyone.

Had the magical community wished to create a satellite, they likely could have. Rockets would require some power and skill to replicate magically, but were theoretically simple. Achieving an orbit would be harder, but perfectly doable. Magic made things easier.

Slytherin's final accusation was unfortunately all too true.

Some of Dumbledore's correspondents worried that, if the existence of magic came to light, muggles might use nuclear weapons against wizardingkind. He did not share that fear. Important magical places were either unplottable or in the middle of important muggle cities. The British government would not be willing to see London destroyed so that the Ministry of Magic could be incinerated in nuclear fire. The American and Soviet governments no doubt felt similarly about New York and Moscow.

However, these cities would be targets if, by malice or miscalculation, it came to nuclear war between the muggle nations. The magical communities in Hiroshima and Nagasaki had died alongside their muggle neighbours. It would be the same today, only even more devastating and far reaching. Such a war was not winnable, not by any muggle power or even by those pure-blood fanatics who wished the death of all muggles.

Dumbledore sighed. This was a fascinating time to live, but frightening as well. The type of rocket that carried Sputnik into space could be used to deliver death on Earth. People were working against that threatening apocalypse though, campaigning for sanity and diplomacy. There was some international cooperation on humanitarian and scientific issues. The satellite itself was simply a metal ball with some electronics inside and four antenna attached. It looked somewhat charming, in a quirky way.

Removed from the political context that put it up, Sputnik was a symbol of humankind reaching for the stars. While that satellite probably did not transmit pictures back to Earth, future ones would. Images of Earth from space would hopefully be a revelation to those viewing them. Seeing Earth as a whole, as a small speck in the universe, would surely evoke a sense of awe, grant a perspective on struggles, provoke a realisation about the artificialness of borders and the necessity of working together.

That would have to wait though. Sputnik was the first human object to orbit the Earth and would get a place to mark the achievement. His addition to the ceiling was supposed to be a reminder that the lack of magic did not stop muggles from achieving impressive things, in addition to it simply being a neat idea.

Dumbledore looked at his notes again. The original enchantment was beautiful, as well as durable enough to survive unharmed despite exposure to centuries of fledgeling witches and wizards, withstanding accidents and attempted vandalism. Altering it was no easy feat, particularly as he wanted to otherwise preserve it. He had spent the two and a bit weeks since the launch studying the ceiling. This delay was a bit annoying, but he could not risk mistakes.

A few complex incantations and wand movements later it was done.

Dumbledore smiled. Sputnik was not to scale, but otherwise looked like the images from the muggle magazines. It was enlarged sufficiently so that it could be seen, although small enough not to be a blemish. It moved slower than the real thing and its orbit was altered so that it would pass over the section of the sky covered by the ceiling a few times a day.

Sound effects were briefly contemplated, but not implemented. Right now the beeping seized the world's attention, but it would soon become an incredibly annoying background noise.

There would no doubt soon be many more satellites in the real skies, but he would probably not be adding them. Interfering too much with the old ceiling could prove troublesome. He was doing this for symbolism and had no desire to clutter up the sky. The real Sputnik would in a few months burn up re-entering Earth's atmosphere, but its representation would remain for those students who wished to see humankind's first foray into space.

Dumbledore looked at the ceiling once more before leaving the hall. Would the students notice?

The End