Changeling in Exile or, Being Human is Awful, and Hogwarts is Worse

Chapter 14

In which Dru reflects on how awesome legilimency is, revises her to-do list, and discovers that yes, 'being intimidating' actually is somewhat amusing from the being intimidating side (rather than the being intimidated side).

Waking up next to a sleeping legilimens, Dru thought, must be very much like the psychic equivalent of sharing a bed with someone prone to snuggling.

Not that Dru had ever shared a bed with anyone, but the twins did, and it seemed that any time she happened to notice them sleeping, at least one of them was hugging the other in their sleep, using the other as a pillow, or sprawled out with their limbs and hair tangled together.

Except for the fact that she imagined physically sharing a bed with someone would be just as unpleasant as any other physical activity, of course. Being so deeply in contact with someone else's magic, especially unconsciously, was...significantly more intimate than she was accustomed to being with anyone, but it felt...special, rather than uncomfortable. Slightly thrilling in the vulnerability it required — on both sides, she honestly couldn't understand why people found legilimens inherently threatening when she was absolutely certain she could affect Tom through the connection he established between them in much the same way he could affect her — and unequivocally right. She couldn't help but reciprocate his need to know her, and appreciate that this was a way she could interact with someone without any chance of misunderstanding between them and without the awkward impositions of the physical world detracting from the experience.

One of the things no one seemed to understand about Dru was that she didn't want to spend all her time hiding in her room, she wanted to be able to be a part of the world and interact with other people — humans were social animals, and whatever else she was, she was still physically human, and seemed to share their instinctive drive to form connections with each other — it was just...the world and other people tended to be horrifying, disgusting, and just...terribly repulsive when she interacted with them directly. Reading their words, engaging with their ideas and stories through their writing, was generally the closest she could bear to get before the various stresses of physicality (and their insufferable slowness and grating imperfections) began to detract from the experience of communicating with another person.

Interacting with a mind, with someone's magic directly, though, was...cleaner. It neatly avoided all of the worst parts of talking to people, all the tediousness of propriety and the constant feeling that she was somehow inherently in conflict with them and the world in which they existed, not quite on the same page even when she wasn't forced to actively deter attempts to subjugate her or bear the strain of children being deliberately frustrating. It was...deeper, more thorough, and far more natural (at least to Dru) than any other mode of human interaction she'd ever experienced. Not surprising, really, given that she had always been more comfortable with magic than in the physical world.

If sleeping was the closest she could get to being the disembodied magical consciousness she was (quite possibly literally) meant to be, sharing mind-space and memories and ideas and raw emotions with someone was probably the closest she could come to interacting of her own kind, whatever she was, while trapped on this mortal plane. It made sense that she found legilimency fascinating and inherently appealing, even if she'd never given much thought to why before this week.

She didn't at all mind waking up surrounded by Tom's aura, which had expanded throughout the clearing they'd taken for their new bedroom in his sleep. Most of it had assumed the 'frequency' and general character of the ambient magic surrounding them, but a significantly smaller part had determinedly invaded Dru's mind-space, worming its way into her memory structures and even specific archived experiences, apparently unconsciously. She wondered if he was actually 'reliving' those memories in any meaningful way, given how much less focussed his presence was than when he was awake. Maybe it was like dreaming?

When she followed the extension (too diffuse to call a probe, she thought), back to...what passed for his "awareness" in this particular state of consciousness, it felt like an external perception, experienced with the same realness as if it were his — it always did when he eavesdropped on her senses, including in memories — but...rather out of focus, certain details magnified by his unconscious mind, while others were very faint, or entirely absent.

She knew which memory this was — the morning of her seventh birthday. She'd woken early with an idea about how she might make a flying carpet — a temporary one, obviously, she hadn't known anything about enchanting, and it hadn't been terribly intuitive to fly — and had been in the midst of casting stiffening and levitation charms on the knitted woollen blanket she'd used to protect herself from her cotton sheets before she could conjure things when Ella had come to wake her and tell her all about going to Beauxbatons in the autumn. Seven-year-old Dru had been delighted by the idea of going to a school, because schools were places to learn things and Dru loved learning things — her experience there had hurt all the more because it had been so terribly disillusioning.

The magic was crystal clear, as sharp and real as it was in the actual memory, while Unconscious-Tom seemed to have only the slightest impression of the furnishings of the room, for example, and Ella was somewhat thin and...distorted, as though she had been using a poorly-cast unobtrusive charm of some sort. Memory-Dru's emotions and physical experience were reasonably clear, though the thoughts of the moment were barely present at all. The memory as a whole also didn't feel as immediate as when Tom legilimised her while he was awake, but more as though he was reading about and imagining the experience, she suspected.

He was also, she realised, filling in some of the details with things he had seen in other memories. Ella hadn't started coiling her plait into a bun like that until the year before last, and the twins had still been sleeping in their baby cage (albeit with the walls sadly removed), not the proper bed which now occupied their half of Dru's bedroom. And he wasn't actually committing any of this to memory as he felt it, allowing the poorly-transmitted experience to fade away like a passing thought as it progressed, transitioning from Ella insisting that seven-year-old Dru come down and eat with her siblings, even though it was her birthday, into a related memory of a similar, earlier argument.

Wake up, Tom, she thought at him experimentally, startling him back to consciousness as she drew attention to the fact that he wasn't alone in his mind-space — that she had again followed the smooth transition between the part of his mind attuned to hers, back to the part of it existing at its natural base frequency.

She had the distinct suspicion that this was not supposed to be how omniglottalism worked.

The talent, from the brief mentions she had managed to find in the books on magical talents in the general section of the library, was generally an unconscious one, triggered by hearing someone speak another language, and it normally only entailed skimming and copying background knowledge related to their use of the language in the moment. It did function on the same principles as more general mind magic (which was almost certainly why there were only brief mentions of it in the general section — mind magic, like the nature of sleep, was integrally related to the nature of consciousness, and therefore Not for Children), but from what she'd read, it was highly unusual that she'd actively delved into his memory and dragged the knowledge she wanted to copy to the surface. That might have had something to do with the parsel-magic, but the warnings regarding the "inadvisable" mixing of talents didn't suggest anything other than that the omniglot would become the focus of a potentially overwhelming feedback loop.

Leveraging the talent into something like legilimency, deliberately projecting some part of her own consciousness into Tom's mind, had not been mentioned, even in passing, nor had the possibility of lingering probes seeking out background knowledge that was only very tenuously related to anything linguistic and not actively being recalled by the target mind. It had been mentioned that omniglots had an unusual capacity to organise and store referential information — theoretically, they could learn hundreds of languages — which made Dru suspect that she had been leveraging that aspect of the talent into helping her memorise other things for years — though again, it was all meant to be unconscious, nothing the omniglot was actually aware of.

She could only assume that the manifestation differences between her experience and those described in the texts was due to the fact that she wasn't metaphysically human. Omniglots did still get mentally fatigued trying to learn too much at once — one of the books recommended taking frequent breaks and naps when actively attempting to learn a new language — and there had been no suggestion whatsoever that her odd form of non-sleep was related to omniglottalism, so Tom's reasons for insisting she wasn't human still held.

In any case, they'd spent the better part of the past two nights and the intervening day in each other's company, in direct mental contact because Tom was almost painfully desperate to interact openly with the minds around him. She might go so far as to say that it felt as natural and right to him to communicate directly from mind to mind as it did for her to learn things. She found legilimency to be a relief, a way of facilitating interactions which wasn't inherently flawed, but he found it positively elating, simply sharing her thoughts and feelings and especially her perceptions, spreading his consciousness across more than one body and experiencing sensory input from her perspective as well as his own.

She didn't have the heart to deny him that. Not when he'd literally never met anyone who would so much as reluctantly allow him to legilimise them, much less who was actually comfortable with prolonged mental contact. It would be cruel, like insisting that a young veela communicate without projecting emotions.

It was overwhelmingly obvious that he preferred to communicate telepathically as well as aloud, interjecting silent asides and tugging different emotions and memories to the forefront of her awareness to emphasise a point here or there, and Dru strongly suspected that he was using empathy to read the emotional states of people around himself, rather than interpreting their facial expressions and body language. The memory of his first meeting with Dumbledore did make that rather obvious, she thought. The Deputy Headmaster had thrown up occlumency barriers against the eleven-year-old legilimens who had just ordered him to tell the truth (such a horrible compulsion to use on a person, how dare he — honestly Dru thought that attempt to verify that Dumbledore was who he said he was had been perfectly reasonable), instantly rendering himself completely unreadable and Tom uncomfortably lost.

It hadn't taken very long at all for Dru's awareness to begin creeping back toward Tom's mind. Even if she hadn't discovered an instinct she hadn't previously suspected of herself to seek out any new knowledge a mind in direct contact with hers might contain, she would still be curious about her newly-acquired friend. His experiences before Hogwarts had been radically different from hers in almost every way, and she wanted to know everything. Beside which fact, turn about was fair play. He certainly had every intention of exploring every metaphorical inch of her mind. If he wasn't comfortable with her "legilimising" him back, he was going to have to learn how to make her stop.

She didn't think he was going to, though. He was far more acutely aware of the vulnerability inspired by allowing another person free access to his mind, as attested by his initial (successful) attempt to scare her awareness back to her own mind-space, but he had realised quickly that she only wanted to understand him, reciprocating his interest in her.

He hadn't done it again, or attempted to harm her within her own mind-space in retaliation for her intrusions, as he could and would if anyone else attempted to sneak into his mind and steal his secrets. She'd even offered to teach him occlumency, simply to assure his privacy from everyone else (which would obviously also allow him to block her out, as she could him...if she wanted to, which she really didn't), but he'd refused on the grounds that deliberately making a wall around his mind would be unpleasantly similar to being trapped within his dreamwalking wards.

He seemed to have an instinctive grasp of how to redirect and hide thoughts within his own mind — she was positive he wasn't allowing her free access to all of his mind — so she hadn't pressed the issue, though she had made him swear on his wand not to reveal any secrets he learned by legilimising her, after he'd stumbled across the fact that Lady Margolotta was an abomination, which had taken an embarrassingly short time. (It hadn't really occurred to her that she now held other people's secrets which she didn't want to reveal when she'd so-casually let Tom into her mind in the first place.)

He returned to consciousness suddenly, focusing on the foreign, unexpected mental contact before anything else, though she quickly felt him recognise her, relaxing and thinking something along the lines of oh, it's Dru (albeit not quite so clearly articulated). Then he slowly became aware of the magic surrounding them, insulating them from the hard, cold ground and the slow drizzle which had begun at some point in the night, the scent of wet, mouldering leaves heavy on the moist air, and the fact that he actually felt well-rested for once. The dreamwalking wards really did make him uncomfortable, and sharing others' dreams, she gathered, wasn't as restful as just...sleeping, especially when there were several other minds within his range, like at the orphanage.

Obviously he was in contact with Dru, but she didn't dream the same way as normal people. (Apparently.) She wasn't sure how much of her experience of drifting he'd been able to perceive. She certainly hadn't been able to perceive his presence with her...wherever she projected her consciousness, but that could have been because she wasn't properly conscious at the time, either. If he had been drifting with her, at least for some part of the night, it didn't seem to have hindered his rest, as he still felt far more refreshed than she gathered he usually did, sleeping in Slytherin.

The first thing he actually deliberately thought back was a sleepy, Morning, Dru. I was with you for a while. You sleep like dissolving into magic. Like not being. It's...not uncomfortable. Just...sort of makes me question whether either of us actually exist and what consciousness actually is.

We think, therefore we are, Dru reminded him. What is consciousness? was an altogether more difficult question to answer. I'll let you know if and when I figure it out, but I suspect you'll get there first. You are the legilimens out of the two of us, after all.

He groaned, stretching and rolling off the blanket he had brought from his bedroom and spelled with warmth and cushioning charms as a sort of makeshift bedroll. Dru had done the same, though with a conjured felt blanket, rather than the down-stuffed cotton one from her bed. Back in a mo', he 'muttered', breaking the contact between them as he walked off into the trees to relieve himself.

Bodies continued to be disgusting, and while there were spells for that — designed for hospital patients on strict bed rest (Dru had learned them last year, resulting in the greatest improvement in her quality of life since she'd mastered basic conjuration) — they were a bit tricky, and Dru wasn't at all comfortable letting him 'watch' to learn those particular spells. He could continue using a toilet like a child until he figured them out for himself. (Or urinating on trees like a bloody animal.)

While he was gone, she performed her own morning ablution charms and slipped her outer robe back on. She charmed her hat to resist water before donning it as well. The rain wasn't too heavy, and it was coming straight down, so that should be good enough. She had been conjuring new underclothes in the morning, moving the realness of the soiled set to the fresh one, and then vanishing the old one since Wednesday, but that could wait until she returned to her room. Folding up their blankets and deactivating the palings she'd put up to keep off the rain and insects and ward off predators concluded the breaking-down of their camp.

It really was very pretty out here. About half of the trees were deciduous, their brilliantly-coloured leaves falling to carpet the moss and rocky ground, while the conifers and underbrush maintained the sense of impenetrable solitude which came of not being able to see more than a few metres beyond the edge of the circle in any direction. There was a bit of a fog this morning, and the sun hadn't risen enough to reach them here in the valley, much less beneath the trees, but it was light enough to see their way back up to the school, and Dru wanted to be sure to catch Mister Forrester after breakfast.

The tall, gangly, staff-wielding wizard who had brought the first-years across the lake was the groundskeeper and official liaison to the centaurs out here in the forest. They needed to speak to him and ask how to find the centaurs because technically the old stone circle Tom had chosen as their unofficial new 'bedroom' was within centaur territory. If the tribe demanded that they leave, they could, of course, find somewhere else — the forest was huge — but Dru would prefer to stay. The long-established circle made it easier to cast larger, stronger, and longer-lasting palings over the space — some of its stones had long-since fallen and all of them had been colonised by moss and lichen, especially green in the grooves of the runework, but the circle itself was still intact, centuries of rituals ingraining the idea of a border, a separation of the mundane outside and the altered space inside, into the very fabric of the magical environment — and the fact that it was in centaur territory meant that they were far less likely to be stumbled upon by someone out for a ramble or collecting potions ingredients, or what have you.

Which meant they needed to speak to the centaurs and ask their permission to settle this one small corner of their territory. And also to forage for fruit and nuts and berries on their land, if the negotiation seemed to be going well. Dru was certain that the centaurs had planted and cultivated the little orchard Tom had shown her on their way out here last night. (There were food-bearing trees out in the human part of the Forest as well, but not entire groves of them.) And as it transpired, apples that hadn't been grown for profit, bought and sold and handled by who knew how many other people before they reached Dru, were much more palatable than those which had been. It still felt a bit wrong, taking more mundane, physical matter into herself, but not as though she was somehow poisoning herself by doing so.

If the centaurs were willing to trade, she would certainly prefer to gather food from their patches and groves, and possibly plant a garden out here for herself — she should be able to cobble together a small greenhouse, she thought (it would be good practice for her eventual architectural conjurations for the Castle). Of course, she didn't know what she might have to offer that they might want, but for food that wasn't inherently terrible, she would be more than willing to let them name their price.

Similarly, she didn't have any good ideas of gifts to bring to open the discussion — both because she didn't know what they would like, and because she really didn't have anything other than her own school things here. They would have to present themselves as desperate petitioners begging for refuge in the centaurs' lands, she suspected, rather than more equal visitors or traders, but that was hardly inaccurate, honestly. As long as they were very respectful, she suspected the centaurs would be amenable to allowing them to stay. It should be a point in their favour that they were asking for permission, rather than simply taking whatever they wanted, as humans had a reputation for doing among the non-human beings of Europe, and especially Britain.

Tom was inclined to ask forgiveness rather than permission — he had argued that if they didn't tell the centaurs, they might never even notice the intrusion — but Dru didn't think he realised exactly how rude that would be. If and when they were discovered without having asked permission to be here, they would almost certainly be barred from returning. And the centaurs would probably complain to the Headmaster about it. Their tribe held a treaty with Hogwarts guaranteeing their autonomy — Professor Weatherwax had explained it in Dru's first lesson — and humans from the school entering their lands without permission was prohibited by that treaty. While she didn't think that they would be punished for violating the treaty, she did think that if the centaurs drew attention to the matter of their unorthodox sleeping arrangements, they would be forced to return to the school.

Such were her thoughts as she and Tom made their way up to the Castle and briefly parted ways, planning to meet back in the Entrance Hall before the post arrived.

She was also considering whether she ought to try to find Professor Marshall to ask him about Aradian magic, work on convincing Lady Margolotta to let her (and Tom, obviously) into the Restricted Section, or continue exploring the Castle — she hadn't had much time to do so since last Sunday — or attempt to secure a meeting with the Sorting Hat, or perhaps practise piano for a few hours (if there weren't too many people in the Common Room — it had been a very stressful week, and there was no reason Tom couldn't come up to Ravenclaw if he wanted to spend more time in her company before reporting for his detention) or stay out in the Forest gathering walnuts or find Professor Weatherwax to ask her how Dru might go about constructing a small greenhouse for herself, what food plants would do best out of season, and so on, and also whether she knew anything about demons and/or fae which might be bound to human bodies somehow after speaking to the centaurs.

The Restricted Section was, sadly, probably the lowest priority. The questions she had been researching throughout the week had all been answered, or else rendered less than urgent over the past two days: she knew why she couldn't sleep now; she had confirmed that she was in fact a seer and not in fact human, even if she didn't know what she was, and the books she'd been skimming hadn't been especially helpful anyway; and Healer Turner had indeed been willing to write her a note excusing her from meals in the Great Hall, which meant that she no longer needed to enchant an amulet to deflect attention from her eating habits.

The healer had also attempted to pressure Dru into exploring grounding potions and chided her for allowing Tom into her mind — apparently largely-untrained baby legilimens were advised to avoid seers for much the same reason that omniglots were advised to avoid parselmouths — but Dru was managing just fine without a potion, thanks ever so, and Tom could decide for himself whether he wanted to risk drowning in potentialities by paying attention to things she told him to ignore. As he'd told Healer Turner, he knew what he was doing, he didn't need or want her advice, and that recommendation was obviously meant for other legilimens and seers — stupid ones, who didn't have enough self-control to keep track of their own sense of self and weren't quick enough to follow what was actually happening in any given moment, respectively.

As he'd told Dru, silently, the healer was less concerned about the fact that they might hurt themselves than the fact that two eleven-year-olds experimenting with mind magic as they were struck her as being inappropriate in the same way as two children openly exploring each other's nether regions. Neither of them were entirely certain why this should be the case, or for that matter why it should be inappropriate to investigate the workings of the human body. (Aside, of course, from bodies being generally unpleasant, and that was obviously just Dru.) Nor, it seemed, was Healer Turner. Dru had asked in order to change the subject when she'd grown annoyed with the unwanted advice, quickly bringing an awkward, stuttering end to the conversation. She had been excused from communal meals, anyway. That was the important part.

Though she should probably tell Sean about that. She'd gotten distracted yesterday because the Healer had (after shooing Tom off to go tidy up the magic in a corridor somewhere — he did still have a set number of detention hours to serve, and had decided to continue serving them on the weekend as well as on weeknights, just to get them over with as quickly as possible) taken her down to the kitchens to alert the elves to the fact that Dru might come to them directly for meals, rather than eat in the Great Hall. She wasn't entirely certain, but she was fairly confident that the sickly sweetness that clung to every bit of Hogwarts fare was due to the fact that it was prepared by the elves, who had been horrifyingly exuberant and delighted at the thought of serving separate meals for her. She wouldn't be venturing into their domain again if she could help it. By the time she managed to extract herself from their overly-enthusiastic welcome, she wanted nothing more than to get out of the school and find some peace and quiet. She'd certainly had no intention of looking for Sean then.

Professor Weatherwax would probably be easier to find than Professor Marshall. She'd told them in class on Friday that if anyone wanted to talk to her, she spent all Sunday out in the greenhouses, while Dru still didn't know where Professor Marshall's office was, much less whether he would be there on the weekend. And as intriguing as a hint that there was much more to know about the way she did magic than she had imagined might be, it was hardly an urgent concern, any more than continuing to research the fae or simply attempting to look up Aradia in the Library. (Also, she might just want a good excuse to talk to Professor Marshall more outside of lessons. But she could wait until Tuesday.)

Obviously the Castle was the most important problem on her plate at the moment, but she suspected that Headmaster Dippet and Madam Phelps would be out of the office today (she really didn't know who to talk to about a meeting with the Sorting Hat, but she was leaning toward simply asking the secretary if she could pencil something in), and while she could, of course, start exploring or looking for more information on the history of wardcrafting at any time, she suspected that she might do so more productively after speaking to the Hat.

Since she'd managed to sleep two nights in a row now, she was feeling much less worn than she had for much of the past week. She would certainly enjoy it, but she wasn't desperate to do something soothing like playing the piano, and, she realised on entering the Common Room, there would probably be too many people around to relax, anyway.

So, talking to the centaurs, and then Professor Weatherwax? Tom would be reporting to detention, obviously — he was checking bindings and alphabetisation now, on days when he was serving detention in the Library, because apparently teaching him the Copyist's Friend was cheating even if she hadn't technically actually written the cards for him — but she could speak to the professor and then continuing to explore the Forest alone for a bit. She could probably write a note to the secretary about meeting with the Hat, or catch her tomorrow before lessons, and speak to Sean before she caught up with Tom, he'd been downstairs, so—

"Druella? Where've you been?"

She certainly wasn't considering the fact that she had intended to use attention deflecting charms to avoid her roommates, and had entirely neglected to do so. Drat.

"Good morning, Miss Smythe. Miss Willoughby. I've been out."

"Well, obviously," Camille said, apparently confused. "But when did you leave? We thought you were just hiding in there," she added, nodding at Dru's partitioned-off section of the room.

"You didn't have to ward us out, you know."

"You needn't have removed and attempted to break into my trunk, Miss Willoughby. And yet, here we are," Dru noted, glad to have something to respond to other than Camille's question, but not sufficiently pleased as to forgive her roommate's trespass without so much as an apology from the other girl.

"Gods, are you always such a frigid harpy, Rosier?" Camille snapped in defence of her friend. (Dru didn't think she and Jane had known each other before coming here, but a week was more than long enough for normal people to befriend anyone they happened to be thrown into a dorm room with.)

The question was probably rhetorical, intended to encourage Dru to soften her attitude toward the nosey girl, but she didn't actually mind having a reputation as a frigid harpy, so. "Almost always, yes," she admitted, reaching through the barrier to lay a finger on one of the reservoir runes and draw the magic out of the enchantment.

She had to bite her lip to resist the urge to giggle, both at the utterly shocked expression on Camille's and Jane's faces, and the bubbly little thrill of un-casting a spell. She was hardly unaware that people found her overly-formal and uncompromising to a degree they considered unreasonable — presumably because she was a child and children did not have the right to take offence, even to the actions of other children. If she, Jane, and Enid were all adults and they had so blatantly attempted to violate her privacy, no one would blame her for equally blatantly snubbing them until they apologised.

After a few seconds of baffled silence, in which Dru unbuttoned her outer robes — she knew most children simply pulled them on over their heads (most children's robes didn't open at all, in fact) but that was what Buttoning Charms (and Lacing Charms) were for — shrugged them off, and flicked open the curtains on 'her' bed, Jane, rather than just apologising, said, "It was Enid's idea. I told her we shouldn't. And if you'd just talk to us, we wouldn't have needed to go snooping trying to figure out why you were so queer about old Sluggy De-Spelling you, would we!"

"You clearly weren't so averse to the idea that you refused to participate," Dru noted, "and what part of 'my reasons are my own' was unclear?! And for that matter, what did you think you might possibly find in my trunk which would explain those reasons? School books and spare stockings are hardly revealing!"

"We– Enid thought we might find your diary," the girl admitted, apparently still unashamed of her actions. "I thought you probably keep it with you. And if it wasn't something bad, you wouldn't be hiding it, would you!"

Ooh, that little... "Firstly, I don't have a diary. I do have journals, in which I keep notes about magical projects and research." She didn't forget things, but she did occasionally neglect and lose track of various trains of thought when they were usurped by something more urgent or interesting (such as that she had intended to use an unobtrusive charm to avoid conversations such as this), so it could be helpful to make notes of potentially-important factors when she was working on something. "They're written in Latin and under encryption charms; even if you could read them, I sincerely doubt you would understand them; and they contain nothing that would answer your question." She had made rather extensive notes when she first began attempting to conjure gloves for herself, but they didn't directly address the reason she had wanted to do so. "If you attempt to steal one to verify those facts, I shall be terribly wroth with you."

"Because that's not suspicious at all," Camille scoffed, before Dru could reach her second point, which was that liking one's privacy wasn't a crime.

"What on Earth do you think I could be hiding?!"

"If we knew, we wouldn't be asking, would we?!" Jane snapped, as though she thought Dru was the one being unreasonable here!

"If you had a shred of common decency, you would have accepted it when I told you that my reasons are my own and asked you not to ask! Slughorn's spell aggravated a medical condition which is personal and absolutely none of your business, full stop!"

"And where were you last night?" Camille asked immediately. "I couldn't sleep, so I know you didn't just get up early to go out," she added accusingly.

"I have no intention of telling you, specifically because that's not your business, either."

"We could tell Professor Sanchez!" Camille shot back. "You're not allowed to be out after curfew, much less all night!"

"Go ahead," Dru bluffed. The prefects had been fairly clear that their Head of House didn't care to deal with specious 'problems' within the House. There was, of course, a chance that the professor would be annoyed with Dru for causing a 'problem' in the first place, but she suspected there was a better chance that she'd be annoyed with Camille for bothering her with such a ridiculous non-problem.

"Is it something to do with whatever Professor Dumbledore dragged you up to talk to Uncle about yesterday?"


"Dumbledore dragged her up to talk to the Headmaster? You didn't tell me that!"

"Yes, he was quite upset. What did you do to him?" she asked Dru, as though she had any right to interrogate her.

Oh, that was a bad idea, Dru thought, as her roommate's words and intonation reminded her of her own, only a few days ago. "Intimidating" (or more colloquially, "scaring the bejesus out of") her roommates so that they would leave her alone would be immature and petty and absolutely not at all an elegant solution to the problem of their continued harassment — a threat of violence, even one unspoken, was a bare half-step removed from actually committing violence against them directly.

...But Auntie had suggested using an environmental charm to deter her 'peers' from annoying her, and as long as she didn't actually cast any magic on them, she would, in good conscience, be able to claim, "Do? I didn't do anything" to them, as well as "to him, Miss Smythe..." if and when anyone ever confronted her about making a soft breeze coil around their feet, cold and unnerving, or letting her eyes glow with power, just for a blink, as she projected her annoyance into the aether around herself, willing it to express her displeasure with these contemptible children who dared question her...

The early-morning sunlight streaming through their windows seemed to dim, the temperature around them falling precipitously. She could taste lightning on the air as she added, "Professor Dumbledore and I had a philosophical disagreement. It has been decided that it is in the best interests of all parties if we are not forced to endure any further interactions with each other." She paused half a beat for effect. "Do you want to share a room with me?" Both of them shook their heads frantically, which, yes, she could admittedly see how this little show was amusing from this side of it. "Very good. In that case, it will be in all of our best interests if you refrain from mentioning to anyone the fact of my absence from this room, will it not?"

They nodded, equally frantically, wide, fearful eyes darting toward each other. "Uh-huh," Jane agreed.

"Excellent. In that case, I believe this conversation is over. Leave. Me. Alone."

They practically tripped over each other, rushing to vacate the room, even as her annoyance faded from the atmosphere around them.

That was cruel, Tom thought at her, delighted amusement shivering through her mind as he caught up on the events of the past three-quarters of an hour.

It was no more than they deserved.

I know. I didn't say it was a bad thing. Also, Marshall? Right proper bastard, he added, tugging at the memory of the effect she'd emulated. Oddly, he seemed to mean it as a compliment. 'Course it's a compliment, that was bloody hilarious. Wish I could've seen old Sluggy running for the hills. Oh! There's Forrester! Let's go...

[a week was more than long enough for normal people to befriend anyone they happened to be thrown into a dorm room with]

...Dru thinks, as though it didn't take her all of twenty minutes to invite Tom to legilimise her and maybe another half hour to decide that yes, moving out to the Forest together sounds like an excellent idea. I'm sure there's absolutely no way these two lonely, isolated kids are going to become terribly codependent disturbingly quickly.

I was originally going to narrate through the discussion with the centaurs, but decided the highlights can be covered in Dru's next letter to Caelia.