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

Chapter 15

4 September 1938

Dear Druella,

Congratulations on your new friend.

Draco has, in fact, already sent a letter expressing his disapproval, and complaining that you sent him a hexed letter over his attempt to protect you from this boy. I presume he sent that complaint to me because his mother would have reprimanded him for failing to check his post for hexes before opening it. Obviously I have done so in her stead, as I am certain you would not have done so without previously having warned him that you would not tolerate such meddling.

It is my understanding that your cousin is primarily concerned that Riddle might enlist you in his feud with his yearmates, ultimately resulting in harm to you, either directly or through gaining a reputation for taking the side of a poor, muggleborn commoner over that of your peers. While I have no doubt that you are perfectly capable of defending yourself from direct harm should you become embroiled in a feud between schoolchildren, I would remind you to be mindful that any retaliation you might offer does not result in serious or lasting harm to any child foolish enough to attack you.

I strongly suspect that noting that cultivating a reputation as a class-traitor may hurt your marriage prospects will only encourage you to do so. Personally, however, I was of the opinion that sending you out into the public sphere and exposing you to extended periods of scrutiny by children of the families we would ideally marry you into would itself ultimately hurt your marriage prospects. I doubt that aligning yourself with this boy will further damage those prospects. I am equally unconcerned about the potential impact of engaging in gross impropriety such as spending extended periods unchaperoned with your new friend, up to and including sleeping out in the forest together.

I would certainly prefer you not sleep out in the forest alone.

Obviously I haven't met the boy, but it is most likely that his yearmates find him "creepy" because children who come into their talent as legilimens at a young age tend to develop a precocious interest in adult affairs, acting and speaking in a more mature manner than their physical age might lead one to expect, due to extensive exposure to the minds of adults around them. I'm quite certain that you are well aware of this phenomenon, given your note that child legilimens mightn't be considered children at all, but you seem to have overlooked that people who are not themselves unnervingly precocious prodigies find such unexpected maturity to be somewhat disturbing, at least on first meeting. One of Draco's comments suggested that it may also be a factor that Riddle has been using legilimency to adopt the attitudes and cultural affectations of Magic Britain much more quickly than the average muggleborn.

I am somewhat concerned about the 'dark-minded' comment. Children raised in adverse conditions, such as one might expect from a muggle orphanage in a particularly poor area of London, may easily develop strongly domineering and manipulative personalities, all the more so when they possess gifts which they may exploit in order to control the people and resources available to them more effectively. This is almost certainly the source of Draco's inspecific insistence that Riddle is "bad news" — it would not be surprising that he recognises the general attitude, even if he cannot put his finger on exactly what about Riddle reminds him of his mother's family. (The House of Black might arguably be a more adverse environment in which to be raised than extreme poverty, albeit in a very different way.)

Draco suggested that Riddle may derive a degree of pleasure from witnessing the pain of others, which I doubt you would stand for, were he to attempt to hurt you, but I suspect you would not make any efforts to dissuade him should he begin to isolate you from and control your interactions with others, despite the fact that such would run directly counter to the express purpose of sending you to Hogwarts in the first place. To be clear, I do not expect that he might do so out of any malicious motivation, but simply because a child raised in a state of deprivation both of material and emotional support would naturally be loath to share anything or anyone who might come to fulfil such needs.

Convincing you to move out to the forest with him, for example, significantly reduces your interactions with your housemates and therefore the likelihood that you will meet other children whose company you might prefer over his. (No, I do not believe it likely that you would in any case, but the point is not the actual probabilities involved, but the potential motivations underlying such a proposal, conscious or otherwise.)

Please ensure that he is aware that isolating you to a degree which curtails your ability to form relationships with other useful persons (e.g., Lady Margolotta, Professor William Marshall) may guarantee that he becomes and remains the centre of your life for the duration of your association, but will, in the long run, hinder your potential, and therefore his. Similarly, should he attempt to come between you and the House, we will be forced to withdraw any support we might otherwise be willing to offer to a clever, talented, and determined young man such as you describe as he begins to make a way for himself in Magical Britain. I look forward to meeting him over Yule.

Yes, young omniglots are considered at risk of mental overload if they are caught in a feedback loop with a parselmouth, though I daresay Riddle can attest that it's not particularly easy on the parselmouth, either. On a similar note, it is not recommended for legilimens to attempt to inhabit the perspective of a seer, especially one who sees more than a few seconds outside of their resident timeline, though it sounds as though you two have likely already discovered why for yourselves. Do try not to break each other, please.

Since I doubt you will be willing to speak to Professor McKinnon to establish the degree of deviation and specific nature of your Sight if you were not willing to do so to establish that it exists in the first place, I would recommend that you ask Lady Margolotta for permission to explore the school's restricted collections in search of an assessment you might perform on yourself, or ask Riddle to perform for you. She seems like a reasonable individual, and several of your cousins have intimated that she allows students to enter the restricted collections at her discretion.

You will most likely find more practical information, both on assessment criteria and potential compensatory actions a seer might take to ease the burden of their Sight without turning to grounding potions, in resources focused on applied mind-magic and guides to mind-healing practice than in general texts on the nature of the Sight. How useful such measures might be, I honestly cannot guess, nor whether there will be any suggestions you have not already discovered for yourself, but it cannot hurt to explore the possibility.

I will, of course, keep your suspicions regarding your species to myself, though I remain unconvinced that you are not, in fact, human. It is admittedly unusual that you actually enjoyed the experience of being forced to assimilate a new language so quickly, but you are indisputably quicker than average (omniglots are not known to be more intelligent on average than the general population), and little is known about the cross-talent interactions between the Sight and omniglottalism.

Talia suggests that the nature of a seer's existence, with some part of your soul outside of time, might result in discrepancies between perceived, experienced time and actual, external time, which may be an ameliorating factor regarding the potential consequences of being caught in such a feedback loop. She also suggests that if you would like to test whether other omniglots are considered "native speakers" and therefore potential linguistic sources by the magic involved, she would be happy to experiment over the Yule holiday. She and Perry will be in Cairo for the next quarter, and visiting some friends in Carthage before coming home, but they plan to return in time to attend the New Year's Ball, and will almost certainly spend the next several weeks with us.

Regarding "projecting [your] consciousness elsewhere", I seem to recall reading something about spirit-walking which sounded rather similar to that, though I'm afraid I don't remember where. Still, you might look into it along with more information on the Sight in general. Spirit-walking is considered a separate talent more closely related to legilimency than the Sight — it resembles dreamwalking, but without impinging on others' consciousnesses — but there will almost certainly be some information on it in general texts on the nature of the Sight, given that there is some debate on the matter of whether it ought to be considered a form of clairvoyance. I can't think of any reason that a seer with a talent for spirit-walking shouldn't be able to project their consciousness out of the mundane plane, given that the soul of a seer is, by definition, not entirely aligned with this plane.

I must admit, I cannot think of any transfiguration masters who would meet your needs off the top of my head, but I will keep the matter in mind and let you know if I think of anyone. In the meanwhile, however, you might consider that both Armando Dippet and William Marshall hold masteries in Magical Theory. I imagine either might be open to the idea of lending their name and credibility to your project without attempting to claim undue credit, and sponsoring promising students' academic efforts is expected of professors at an institution such as Hogwarts.

I will also keep an eye out for anything which seems as though it might be a useful resource on Tenth Century wardcrafting. Lady Margolotta would likely be a better resource, however. She mentioned in her response to my letter asking her to keep an eye on you that she has a particular interest in the history of magic, and even if she cannot help you directly, she may be able to grant you access to the documents the school retains from the Founders' era.

Regarding our duty to warn our allies among the British nobility of any intelligence we may have regarding the development of events which might negatively impact them, the answer is two-fold. Firstly, you are correct that it would be premature to advise them of my largely speculative suspicions regarding Professor Marshall. Secondly, there is not a single House in the Wizengamot which is not already aware of the state of affairs on the Continent. (At least on our side of things — I don't imagine most of them have been paying attention to the increasing tensions on the muggle side.) Most of them have already made it public knowledge that they oppose the Revolution, vehemently so. It is, after all, a threat to their hereditary power, wealth, and influence.

The fact that Marshall may be a Revolutionary sympathiser or spy is of little immediate consequence, given that none of them are likely to entrust any details of their defensive capabilities or intentions to join in ongoing Counter-Revolutionary efforts to any school-aged child who cannot be trusted not to share that information. Nor are they likely to invite him into their confidence directly, should he gain access to the leadership of any given House through its children. If he is a spy, Marshall is unlikely to discover anything directly of use to the Revolution which is not already public knowledge in certain circles, unless it is that one or more of our allies is secretly harbouring Revolutionary sympathies, which matter our allies would wish to know about, but about which we have no specific information whatsoever. Warning them would only direct any House which does have secret Revolutionary sympathies to contact Marshall if they wish to support his side directly.

If I were a spy in Marshall's position, I would focus primarily on sounding out whether there might be any such potential sympathies and/or identifying the Houses most likely to muster a large-scale defence should the Revolution reach Brittany, and directing others within my network to focus on those Houses specifically, gaining access to individual households through servants, tradesmen, itinerant artists and musicians, friends of distant cousins who happen to be visiting Britain for whatever reason, et cetera. (Private tutors, perhaps.) It is hardly reasonable to warn our allies to be wary of every new person who appears on their doorstep. Those who are inclined to take such a warning seriously have been taking precautions to thwart potential infiltration since it became clear that the Revolution would not be quickly quashed (or, in some cases, maintaining an unreasonable degree of paranoia for the past several centuries).

The only relevant warning I think I might give regarding Marshall being a spy is that it would behove you to wait to apply to be his apprentice until you have finished with your current project, because if he is discovered and run out of Britain, you, as his apprentice, likely would be as well, regardless of your inclination to stay and help the Castle. Revolutions do indeed seem like the sort of project which has a tendency to entirely consume one's life.

Fortune's favour, Dru.

Always yours,

Caelia

5 September 1938

Dear Aunt Caelia,

Yes, I did warn Draco that his opinions were unwelcome, and that it is none of his business with whom I choose to associate, on Wednesday. In all honesty, however, I would not have hexed him over the matter had I not been very tired and out of sorts. I have already apologised for doing so, with the caveat that he is still on notice, and I will not hesitate to do so again should he attempt to follow through on his plan to persecute Tom for associating with me.

I had not considered that attending school might prove to be an opportunity for potential buyers to realise how incredibly bad a match I would make for their sons. Had you suggested it several weeks ago, I am quite certain that I would have been far more willing to embark on this mad scheme. Possibly even eager.

And no, I don't imagine I would dissuade any efforts Tom might make to isolate me from my peers, though I might refer to such as insulating me from said peers. The less I am forced to interact with them, the better. Though he may not need to make much of an effort to do so.

I must confess, I rather lost my temper with my roommates yesterday, when they attempted to interrogate me about my whereabouts the night before. I didn't actually hex them, but I did take a page out of Professor Marshall's book and made a show of being implicitly threatening in order to pressure them to agree that it would be best for everyone if they simply don't mention my absence from our room to anyone else.

Tom is extremely uncomfortable with the accuracy of your analysis of his motivations. I don't think he likes being of a type with anyone else. He also doesn't like admitting either of these feelings, but it is rather impossible to hide one's emotional state when one is in direct mental contact with someone. I have shared the relevant part of your letter with him, and I think I can safely say that he will take your warning to heart. He also seems to be rather flummoxed by having so easily acquired an invitation to spend Yule with us, having only known me for three days. I presume that was an invitation to come home with me for Yule and/or a guarantee that if Ella refuses to let him stay in her household, we will be welcome in yours for the duration of the holiday, given that I can't imagine how else you might meet him.

Of course I would like to experiment with omniglottalism over the holiday. What an extraordinarily silly question. I was unaware that Natalia is an omniglot. Please thank her on my behalf for the kind offer, and convey that I look forward to making her acquaintance in person. (There were rather too many people fawning over her after the wedding ceremony to make an attempt to meet her then. I did send a letter offering my congratulations to her and Cousin Peregrine, and welcoming her to the family.)

I have not yet begun to investigate the nature of my Sight or spirit-walking, though I have added both to my ever-growing list of topics to research, along with Tenth Century wardcrafting, fae and/or demons which might possess humans (as I am no longer convinced that I am human, regardless of whether I may be), omniglottalism, and Aradian magic. Lady Margolotta has indicated that yes, I may access the Restricted Section, so long as I do not flaunt the privilege, which of course I would never.

I must also confess, I feel a bit stupid for not having realised that I might ask Professor Marshall to collaborate on the transfiguration paper myself. I will ask him when I finally have time to actually work on it, perhaps in a week or two. It remains to be seen whether he is in fact a spy, but it is good to know that even if he is, there is no real need to tell anyone. I will keep your advice in mind regarding the timing of applying for an apprenticeship with him.

You may already have received a letter from Headmaster Dippet, informing you that I will no longer be attending Transfiguration lessons with Professor Dumbledore and that any disciplinary matters in which I am involved will be addressed by Professor Sanchez, the Head of Ravenclaw House, or by the Headmaster himself. He asked me to do so, but I imagine that the school would also wish to send an official notification.

Detention, as you may have gathered, did not go well. Prof D— attempted to coerce me into writing the sentence "I will obey my professors." two-hundred times. Obviously I refused to do so. When I attempted to explain that I do not lie, nor do I make promises I have no intention of keeping, he vanished the sentences I had already written. ("Unquestioning obedience is for soldiers and dogs.")

It might have been wrong of me, but I was so very annoyed with him for having the gall to take and destroy my property again that I conjured a replacement and reified it. The ripples from the vanishment of the original hadn't yet settled out of the ambient magic around us, so I think it not quite so wrong as if I were to conjure and reify an item in a vacuum. The overall amount of permanent, physical mass was maintained as if I were to move the 'realness' of an object to a replacement and allow the original to vanish naturally, albeit with a brief temporal gap. Obviously his subsequent attempts to disrupt the conjuration failed because it was no longer conjured, and I stimulated the identity with which I had imbued it in order to resist it being vanished again, which led him to the conclusion that I was somehow preventing him from doing magic, and entirely overreacting.

He brought me up to the Headmaster's office and accused me of being an inherent threat and completely incorrigible, demanding my expulsion. The Headmaster (much more reasonably) asked what I had done and why I wouldn't promise to obey my professors unconditionally, and informed me that he had ordered Prof D— to cancel my detention as a peace offering and end our little feud. Since Prof D— refused to do so, the Headmaster took it upon himself to end it, by removing us from any compulsory interactions with each other. Prof D— may also be in some trouble over never having provided Tom with a copy of the School Handbook and Muggle-Worthy Excuses information when he introduced him to our world, though I was dismissed before they began to discuss the matter in any depth. (Tom is now also exempt from Transfiguration lessons. I don't doubt that he will be capable of mastering the Level Six curriculum independently and rejoining his class next year.)

Healer Turner did excuse me from meals in the Great Hall, and also warned Tom about legilimising me, though Tom seems to think she did so more out of some sense of propriety than because he might hurt himself. We categorically do not understand why it should be improper to experiment with mind-magic, nor do we care. I have decided that I like communicating directly from mind to mind, and Tom reminds me of the veela at Beauxbatons in the way that he naturally integrates mind-magic and empathic manipulation into verbal conversation. I cannot believe that it would be healthy to ask him to contain himself at all times and resist the urge to make contact with any other mind.

We visited a centaur village on Sunday to beg permission to seek refuge in their lands. The place we have been sleeping is a long-disused ritual circle in their territory, and I greatly desired to remain there for several reasons, including that other humans are unlikely to stumble across us there.

Mister Forrester, the groundskeeper, is of course aware, as we were obliged to ask him for an introduction to the centaurs, but he is sympathetic to our desire for space and privacy and quiethe lives in a cottage just on the edge of the forest, himself — and says that enforcing curfew is none of his business. He tends to the grounds and the boundary wards, and liaises with the non-human inhabitants of the Valley on behalf of the Headmaster. The goings-on of students are none of his concern, so long as we are respecting the treaties with the centaurs and the mer-folk who inhabit the lake and not practising destructive spells on the trees or anything of that sort.

To make a long and rather anxiety-inducing conversation negotiating the matter very short, we have agreed to act as friends and neighbours, willing to assist their band in any small way that we can in exchange for permission to stay. I also offered an open-ended favour in exchange for permission to gather food from their plots, but they refused, instead asking that I contribute by assisting them in harvesting fruits which cannot be reached from the ground, and are therefore impossible for centaurs to gather.

They were somewhat suspicious of our motives at first, though after Tom told them I am a seer, they entirely understood why I would not wish to sleep in the Castle, and why I would so dearly prefer to gather my own food. They have somewhat of a reputation as astrologists and oneiromancers, but they do also have seers among them. That is, centaurs may be born seers in much the same way as humans — there are not currently any seers with any of the three small bands which share the forest — but they are aware of the condition and understand the sort of accommodations which make it much easier for seers to exist and participate in society.

I am thinking of trying to build a small greenhouse for myself, both to be able to grow vegetables out of season, and because, having no physical resources with which to work, it will be a practical goal to work toward while I practise architectural conjuration and experiment with different methods of sustaining such conjurations. This, I imagine, should help me to identify the purpose of different elements in the Castle's wards, even if I cannot gain direct access to the ward-stones. Even if I do manage to gain physical access, and am not forced to attempt to pick apart the active front-end of the wards in question, I sincerely doubt that I will be able to read them, at least without extensive study. I do not know what language the Founders are most likely to have used for their wardcrafting, but it almost certainly is not any of those commonly used for wardcrafting today, and equally certainly has not been modernised and maintained, for several centuries at least. If it had been, the Castle would never have fallen into its current state, because people would know what it is supposed to be.

I do still intend to wait and see if the Sorting Hat can give me any hints before I begin truly delving into architectural wardcrafting and geomantic theory. I have scheduled a meeting with it after Herbology. (I am composing this letter during the period which was formerly occupied by my Transfiguration lesson.)

I spent the majority of Sunday afternoon exploring the Castle at greater length, in search of a good place to practise my dance exercises and set up a rudimentary potions lab. After some time, I settled on a small, out of the way tower, well away from any of the wings occupied by the classrooms, the dormitories, and other heavily frequented areas. It is reached via a secret passage and an invisible staircase leading to a trap door in the ceiling of an otherwise unremarkable store-room. I have set monitoring charms to see whether anyone else uses it regularly, though I sincerely doubt that they do. I only noticed the stair because it had begun to gather cobwebs in its corners, suggesting that even the elves do not venture there often.

Thank you for your kind wishes. You know I do not hold with Fate and Fortune, but if they are inclined to smile on me anyway, I probably could use any help they are willing to offer: Professor Marshall's challenge to teach my classmates a spell is beginning to loom larger on the horizon, as my more urgent problems have largely been addressed.

I have decided, having spent all of Friday's Charms lesson studying how Professor MacLaine attempts to communicate elementary concepts to my classmates, that I would do well to ask him for advice after today's lesson, regarding my presentation of the Trigger-Drop Jinx for Defence next week. I have also decided to attempt to teach Tom at some point this week, without the aid of legilimency, as a sort of rehearsal practice.

It is not altogether difficult to teach him things with legilimency — allowing him to eavesdrop and feel how I shape the magic to effect a given spell — but I have not yet attempted to teach him anything as I would a non-legilimens. I suspect that it will be more difficult and therefore somewhat frustrating, even if he is a quick study compared to most other children, and clearly has a greater intuitive awareness of his magic than anyone in my class. And of course teaching them will be more frustrating yet.

If you (or anyone who happens to be nearby while you are reading your post) have any advice to offer on the subject, it would be most welcome.

Your niece,

Druella

Caelia: How do I make it clear to this kid that I will not tolerate him doing anything which hurts Druella, without making an enemy of him and inclining him to convince her to forsake the House? (Which he almost certainly is capable of doing, given that Druella apparently has no compunction about allowing him to legilimise her at will, and equally little experience resisting such manipulation — Draco's concerns about Riddle using her are not entirely unfounded.) How do I make it clear that I will absolutely notice if he begins attempting to subvert her loyalty, without painting myself as an enemy and a threat?

Oh, I know, I'll pretend not to be overly concerned, appeal to his self-interest, explicitly tell Dru to tell him that I am setting boundaries and also explain his motives to her in neutral, non-judgmental terms, on the assumption that he will learn that I have done so, and therefore have enough insight into him that I am not to be trifled with, through legilimency even if she doesn't let him the entire letter directly. I'll explicitly position myself and the House as potential allies, and emphasise the value of staying on our good side by casually offering him a place to stay over the holidays, which must be very high on the list of things a muggleborn orphan would want from his allies.

Albus: Baby legilimens tried to compel me to tell the truth?! How DARE he! Unacceptable! *scares baby legilimens by pretending to set everything he owns on fire* *baby legilimens clearly gets the message that Albus can ruin his life the second he puts a toe out of line* Mission accomplished.

Caelia: This man actually manages one of your school Houses? Gods and Powers...

In other news, I spent all of yesterday doing yard work, and now I can't move, which sucks. Our internet went out at like seven and didn't come back before I went to bed at one, which also sucks, and is why this post is late. Aaand that's it for this one for now. There's a chapter of the Plan for tomorrow and then I'll start posting A Sense of Urgency (Speed Run) on Monday.