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

Chapter 3

Wherein Dru accidentally terrifies the Headmaster, and is forced to admit that remaining in first-year lessons might be for the best after all.

Dru had intended to spend her first day at Hogwarts exploring the enormous, non-euclidean maze which was the Castle. She was obliged to attend breakfast at least long enough to receive her class schedule — her Head of House, Professor Sanchez, had announced after the new Ravenclaws were introduced that she would hand them out before the post owls arrived; one of the prefects had explained that the schedules couldn't be finalised until the professors knew how many students would be in each House — but after that, she had expected to have the rest of the day free.

As it transpired, she did not.

In fact, she spent the majority of her first morning at the school sitting in the annex of the Headmaster's office, waiting to speak to him and silently berating herself for not bringing something to read. Perhaps it had been somewhat presumptuous of her to assume that she would be granted an immediate audience — she hadn't, in fact, she'd just assumed that it wouldn't be a very long wait — but she'd drastically underestimated the busyness of an institution like Hogwarts on its first day of term.

It didn't help, she suspected, that the entire administrative staff of the school seemed to consist of the Headmaster, the Deputy Headmaster, and the Headmaster's Secretary, but Dru was also certain that petitioners weren't being seen in order of arrival. The secretary, Madam Phelps, waved in two older students (who were waiting when Dru arrived) before it was Dru's turn, but also two of the professors (Dru didn't catch their names, but she recognised them from dinner); a seventh-year Hufflepuff who apparently needed clarification on some aspect of being the Head Boy; and the Deputy Headmaster, all of whom arrived after her.

She didn't wave in a short, stern witch wearing grey healer's robes and armed with a letter. She in fact tried to stop "Kitty" from barging in on the Deputy Head, but the Healer(?) brushed her off: "Oh, Albus is here, too? Excellent, I can tell both of them off in one go," and barged in anyway.

(Dru managed to catch, "Oh, Albus, fancy seeing you here! No, don't go, I understand this is all your fault—" before the door slammed shut behind her.)

The Deputy Head did manage to escape after about eight minutes, calling back over his shoulder, "I'm sure you'll find something for him to do, Madam Turner! Now, I'm sorry, but I truly must dash. Armando, send me a note when you're free for that meeting with John," and muttering under his breath, "God, I hate that woman," before turning to the secretary and asking her to pencil in a meeting with "John" and himself regarding the topics of his (John's) NEWT lessons on Wednesday. Apparently he thought it best to err on the side of caution, regarding the possibility of the Headmaster having a free hour any earlier than that.

Madam Turner stormed out five minutes later, clearly not satisfied with whatever answer she'd gotten from the Headmaster, but before Dru could be called in, Lord Hampton arrived, asking whether he could have just a few minutes of the Headmaster's time. Since Lord Hampton was the Chairman of the Board of Governors for the school, obviously yes, he could have a few minutes.

More like half an hour, really, but who was counting? (Other than Dru, obviously.)

While Lord Hampton was monopolising the Headmaster, Dru's Head of House appeared, giving her reason to speak to the Headmaster as, "The issue with the wards on the Potions labs still hasn't been fixed," and was informed that she could go next.

Professor Sanchez was the only Head of a House who didn't teach an introductory-level course — she taught NEWT Potions — and as their only interaction to this point had been the professor denying any ability to help Dru with the very problem she was waiting to address, her attempts to make small talk while they were both waiting struck Dru as exceedingly awkward and unpleasant. Unnecessarily so (even beyond the fact that small talk itself was always unnecessary), as Dru understood that her request was not within Professor Sanchez's power to grant — she didn't think the professor had been lying to her about that.

She suspected that the tall, serious witch was uncomfortable talking to young children in general — the prefects had mentioned that though their Head of House did have office hours, they usually took care of any problems the younger students might have without bothering her — which was perfectly reasonable...but she didn't seem to have realised that she could speak to Dru as though she were a rather short adult, and thereby circumvent said awkwardness. It seemed rude to draw attention to it, in much the same way it would have been rude to point out how rude the muggleborns had been on the train, so they just spent five uncomfortable minutes exchanging stilted pleasantries and the professor's complaint (that the wards weren't properly neutralising the fresh air they drew in from outside to vent the labs), and a slightly less uncomfortable ten discussing Damocles Belby's article on the potential advantages of open-air brewing environments in the latest issue of Potions Quarterly.

Finally, nearly three and a half hours after Dru arrived, she was called in.

"Come in," Headmaster Dippet said brusquely, waving her toward a chair. He was a thin-faced wizard with a high forehead, his cheeks growing hollow with age under his neatly clipped beard, greying hair left to tumble loose around his shoulders. She hadn't precisely had an expectation for what he might look like, but she supposed he would seem...more collected than he actually did. Of course, knowing the morning he'd had simply in terms of the number of meetings, she couldn't exactly blame him for seeming a bit stressed and frazzled. "Sit down. Miss...Rosier, is it?" he asked, squinting at a piece of paper. "Terrible bloody handwriting — I swear, I'm going to get Marcie one of those new dicta-quills for Yule. Does this say you have a scheduling problem? You're a first-year, how can you have a scheduling problem? And why can't your Head of House deal with it?"

"Oh. Yes, Druella Rosier, and yes, I'm a first-year. Ravenclaw," she added, since that seemed to be how everyone introduced themselves around here — with both their class and their House. "And Professor Sanchez can't help me because, and I quote, 'I'm sorry, Miss Rosier, but I cannot simply assign you to a different class.' Apparently she's never heard of a student being given an assessment to determine their appropriate class level, but Uncle Luc very clearly indicated that you, sir, had assured him that I would be assessed and placed in an appropriate level."

The Headmaster gave her a disapproving frown which said more clearly than words, why are you wasting my time, little girl? "The appropriate level for an incoming student, an eleven-year-old with no formal education, is first."

Dru mimicked his frown — after all, she was the one who'd just spent her entire morning waiting to speak to him. She wasn't going to be brushed off in thirty seconds with an unconditional no and no explanation whatsoever for his apparent duplicity, no matter how much sympathy she might have for the stressfulness of his morning thus far. "With all possible respect, sir, I would like to take a placement exam, please."

"Hogwarts doesn't have placement exams, Miss Rosier. If you want special treatment, you should've gone to Beauxbatons."

"I don't want special treatment," she glowered. (And technically, she'd been expelled from Beauxbatons, so she couldn't go back even if she wanted to.) "I want you to fulfil your word to Uncle Luc, and I want to be placed in a class where I might actually learn something. This is a school, is it not?"

"I'm quite certain I never told Lord Rosier that Hogwarts would offer you a placement exam. I assured him that you would be placed in an appropriate class-level, which, as you are a first-year student, is first."

...It might be true that the Headmaster hadn't specifically promised a placement exam, but Druella couldn't exactly blame Uncle Luc if he'd simply assumed that they must examine students in order to place them appropriately. By what other mechanism could they reasonably be expected to do so? (Perhaps it had been unreasonable for her to expect them to be reasonable. This was, after all, the institution which had educated Elladora.) "One's relative age or youth does not make one less a person or less an individual, Headmaster, and I am not most eleven-year-olds."

"If I had a sickle for every young witch or wizard who has insisted over the years that they have nothing to learn from first-year lessons, I would be richer than the Blacks."

Dru was quite certain he wouldn't be. There were only sixty-five students in her class, which she presumed was approximately average for Hogwarts. Even if every single one of them had insisted as much (which she sincerely doubted), that would be less than four galleons. And she was fairly certain the Blacks had literally hundreds of thousands of galleons to their name. "Might I just say, then, Headmaster, that you look extraordinarily well for having held this position for the past hundred thousand years."

The Headmaster frowned at her. Dru hadn't really expected him to be amused. She thought she was funny, but other people usually didn't.

She glared right back. "I will not claim that there may not be some gap somewhere in my knowledge, given that I've followed Beauxbatons's curricula in my independent studies, rather than Hogwarts's, but I mastered the standard Level Five material which is generally accepted to be equivalent to your Year One when I was eight. Please at least give me a chance to prove myself before you dismiss me."

The old man heaved a heavy sigh, as though this were a great imposition, but eventually ground out, "Very well. Cast a Cheering Charm, if you can. Gods all know I could use one after this morning..."

Dru was fairly certain the Cheering Charm was a Level Seven spell — covered no earlier than Hogwarts's Year Three — which meant the Headmaster was probably expecting her to fail so he could send her away thinking that perhaps she really did need more practise and that the curriculum was more in-depth than she'd thought. Either that or he was annoyed that she'd mocked his hyperbole a moment ago. In any case, though, so much the better.

She took a moment to summon an appropriate state of mind for the light spell, smothering her annoyance and focusing instead on the feeling of excitement and delight she felt learning something new or finding a harmonious solution to an annoying problem, willing magic to carry that feeling over to her target.

Headmaster Dippet's lips twitched into a grin for a moment. Then he frowned again (with greater interest, Dru thought, though she might be reading too much into it), opened a drawer to fetch a pair of glasses, and set them on his nose. "Summon one of the books from the shelf by the hearth." He nodded toward the shelf in question.

"Any book?"

He nodded.

Well...alright, then. She brought over a collection of Shakespeare's sonnets with a beckoning wave of her wand and a pulse of magic.

"Transfigure it into a badger."

That...seemed like a waste, even if it was only temporary. She much preferred books to badgers (especially real badgers), adorable though they might be in nature guides. Still, for the sake of the test... She cast the transformation magic with a little sigh, enforcing her will on the object, convincing it that it was, in fact, a badger (with all that entailed, physically and in terms of vitality and temperament) rather than a book.

Its little striped face looked wildly around the room, clearly concerned about its sudden consciousness and the fact that it was in the middle of a large, open room, on a desk, rather than in a burrow in a forest.

"Stun it and shrink it by half."

The first part was simple enough, a pulse of oppressive energy stifling its newly-discovered consciousness, but the second... "Do you mean reduce it to half of its current external dimensions, or half of its current mass and volume?"

"The former, if you can manage it," he said, inexplicably surprised.

Of course she could. She wouldn't have mentioned it if she couldn't. She used a transfiguration rather than a charm, even though the secondary transfiguration would exponentially increase the rate of destabilisation of the original transfiguration (and would itself be exponentially less stable, cast on a potentially unstable object), because shrinking charms, such as the one she used on her trunk, tended not to interact well with living targets (or targets currently simulating life). It hardly mattered, the original transfiguration was thorough enough it would have held for several days. Dru rather doubted that the Headmaster had time for a test lasting more than half an hour at most.

The Headmaster's frown deepened, despite the fact that Dru had performed the required feat perfectly (or perhaps because of it). He hummed for a moment, thinking, before: "Trigger a reversion of the badger transformation without disturbing the shrinking spell."

Ooh, that one was much trickier. Dru hadn't actually done anything like it before, but she could easily imagine how it might be done. She cast a Visualisation Charm to see the various interactions between the ongoing magics working on the object (the Stunning Charm wasn't a consideration, as it was instantaneous), carefully teasing them apart with a Cursepick Charm until she could reach in and end the first spell. She also had to re-establish her control of the second to keep it balanced until the object's original (albeit shrunken) form restabilised. But after two minutes of careful spellcasting, there was a tiny volume of Shakespeare lying on the desk between the two of them, half the length, width, and depth of the original, and one-eighth of its mass.

Dru grinned, though the expression faded quickly when she looked up to see the Headmaster looking positively grave. (So, yes, the deepening frown was probably due to her performance. Did he not want to admit that she was right, she should be allowed to attend Proficiency lessons? Or had she exceeded his expectations enough to trouble him?)

He cast several analysis charms on it, verifying that the shrunken form was stable before asking her to, "Give three examples of the influence of lunar phase on the preparation of ingredients for potions or alchemical compounds."

"...Would you care to be more specific, sir?" The Headmaster raised an eyebrow. "Do you mean gathering, processing, or charging? How lunar phase affects the potential uses of the ingredient or the necessary counter-actions to neutralise the lunar effects? Special cases, or general? There's an entire sub-discipline of astronomically influenced low ritual, and lunar mediated energetics makes up, conservatively, forty per cent of the research in the area."

"Any three examples, Miss Rosier. As succinctly as possible."

Dru huffed at him. She really couldn't help it. "Silverweed gathered under the waxing or full moon is used in potions to increase one's luck or attractiveness in regard to various intangibles such as love or good fortune, while silverweed gathered under the waning or new moon is used to banish negative intangibles such as anxiety. Mandrake sap collected in the waxing phase is used in fertility potions, while mandrake sap collected in the waning phase is used in contraceptives — there are at least thirty other potions which are allowed to mature for the two weeks leading up to the full or new moon for similar reasons. Exposing ground quartz for the three nights of the full moon allows it to gather magical energy for use in active alchemical compounds, while exposing it to the new moon neutralises it for use in passive balancing compounds."

The Headmaster nodded slowly. "Which language should one use for a defensive place ward, and why?"

"I would use Old High Elvish if I were writing the ward from scratch with the expectation that I would be the one maintaining it." The expression as the old man's eyebrows rose nearly to his hairline was almost reason enough to choose that particular language, but honestly, Dru just preferred it for practically all runework. "That it would be a defensive place ward is irrelevant, though I suppose it does have the defensive advantage of being a relatively rare enchanting language. I'm aware that it's commonly considered too unwieldy for enchanting, but I like the precision," she admitted with a small shrug. "If there's already an established ward-scheme, obviously I would use the same script used in the established wards. If I were to hypothetically draw a ward on commission for someone else to maintain, I suppose I would probably ask whoever would be maintaining it which language they prefer." She was aware that practically no one read Old High Elvish well enough to maintain a ward scheme written in it, but she really didn't have any other preference beyond, "I would prefer not to use futhark." There were far too few symbols, their associations so broad as to be practically meaningless.

Headmaster Dippet's lips twitched, because that particular opinion was not unique to Dru. She might be rather odd in her preference for Old High Elvish, but professional wardcrafters often refused to use futhark for any large-scale warding projects. "Describe the Five Principal Exceptions to Gamp's Law."

Dru hesitated again, uncertain how much detail the Headmaster wanted her to provide. "Would you like me to discuss the Exceptions, or simply to list them?"

"Oh, by all means, please discuss them," he said, with an odd note in his tone Dru couldn't quite interpret.

"Very well. Gamp's Law states that if one can visualise the product of a conjuration or transfiguration, that product can be realised. Gamp himself stated that there are five exceptions to this rule: food; objects with magical properties; constructs which are truly alive, under the definition provided by the philosopher Hafeez in his Sixth Century treatise on the subject of animation and resurrection; enchanted objects; and inherently unstable constructs.

"Of the five so-called exceptions, two — food and objects with magical properties — are demonstrably false." She drew her wand and conjured an apple to do exactly that. The Headmaster's eyes had gone wide in surprise when she mentioned Hafeez. Seeing her conjure so much as a bloody apple made his jaw drop, despite it not actually being a terribly impressive demonstration, especially given that she followed it up with a tiny, one-gram sphere of silver. Apples did have magical properties, but they were much more difficult to assess and far less well-studied and clearly characterised than those of a hot metal like silver, which was the substance she'd practised with when she first started trying to sharpen her conjuration conceptualisations to include magical properties.

The Headmaster, apple in hand, simply stared at the little bead sitting on the desk beside the miniaturised Shakespeare while she continued with her answer, as though he'd never seen conjured silver before. Honestly, it wasn't as though she'd reified it.

She could, it was easier than all the references she'd found made it sound like it ought to be. (Tiring, yes, but not debilitatingly so.) But changing the universe like that — permanently, albeit in a very small way — always made her feel a bit...odd. Almost...naughty, as though she'd done something which was definitely not allowed. (By people, or the force of their collective expectations, not by magic — magic didn't care about the exact shape of the mundane world any more than the ocean cared about the precise distribution of sand grains along a shoreline.) The feeling was strong enough she'd never told anyone she could do it, change what a thing was, even before she learned what it was called and realised that other people couldn't and would probably find it disturbing that she could, given that the books made it sound like a major feat of pre-Merlinian magic that only the greatest of sorcerers could accomplish. (Read: not six-year-old girls who barely had the channelling capacity to cast a lumos, but were stubborn enough to simply decide that an object ought to be fundamentally different than it was and impose their will on the magic which defined it until it accepted its new reality.)

She was quite certain, though, that there were other people who could conjure alchemically simple substances with the associated magical properties intact. Maybe not other eleven-year-olds, but other eleven-year-olds hadn't, by and large, bothered learning how to conjure apples, either.

"Given that life is considered a special case of an object with magical properties since Moreau's Seventeen Sixty-Three essay on the nature of life as a magical and magic-generating phenomenon became widely accepted in Western academia, and other objects can be conjured with magical properties attached, the life exception is therefore seriously in doubt theoretically, if not practically. It seems much more likely that it is the caster's conceptualisation of the nature of the object, the complexity of the property, and how well it is understood which determines whether it can be conjured, and we mortals simply don't understand life well enough to conjure it.

"Well, that and we don't think we can realise living conjurations. Chati's Paradox demonstrates that the subjective nature of spell definition and the self-fulfilling nature of magic limit a mage's abilities based on their expectations. In much the same way that telling someone that they cannot conjure food limits their ability to conjure anything they intend to eat or to be eaten by someone else, telling them that they cannot conjure anything which truly lives presents another substantial barrier to doing so.

"On which topic, if it is possible to conjure animated constructs, whose animation aspect is technically a coordinated, codependent spell suspended within the conjuration, I would argue alongside Kister and Moulton that declaring an object conjured with the requisite physical symbols to form an enchantment and empowering that enchantment as the object is realised to be anything other than an enchanted construct is purely a matter of semantics.

"And finally, inherently unstable constructions are theoretically impossible to conjure because the energetic requirement to initialise the realisation of a conjuration is inversely related to the internal and external stability of the conjuration." That much was simple enough to deduce from the basic arithmantic description of free conjuration. "It is possible to suspend an unstable conjuration through extended casting, of course, but the conjuration cannot be fully realised, unravelling due to insufficient energetic input before the spell completes and releases the object, allowing it to change or affect the mundane plane in any way." That Dru had discovered for herself, experimenting when she hadn't been able to find anything more about the Fifth Exception than the obvious arithmantic explanation.

Then she'd had the idea that it might be possible to reify a suspended conjuration. She'd suggested as much to Aunt Josephine, who happened to be in the library with Dru when the thought had occurred, and Auntie Jo had told her that experimenting with the Fifth Exception was anathema because inherently unstable constructs were that dangerous. Dru had tested whether she could reify a stable suspended conjuration (which she could), but stopped without attempting to reify so much as a sample of heavy carbon because, she would need to use Aunt Caelia's potions lab to test whether she'd actually managed it — she didn't have the alchemical equipment to do so at home.

Aunt Caelia would almost certainly ask what she was doing and why, and even more certainly would disapprove. Admittedly with good reason, Dru could see how conjuring unstable alchemical elements or a substance which was inherently inimical to mundane matter could be horrifyingly destructive. Even if Dru didn't make anything destructive, proving the concept would make it easier for someone else to do so in the future — not only because it would confirm that it was possible, but also because the nature of magic made it easier to cast a spell the more times it (or a spell with similar effects) had already been cast. It didn't matter by whom, or even whether the caster was aware that they were reinventing the wheel, the pattern would be out there, in the universe. It would no longer be a new idea to magic. Granted, Dru almost certainly wouldn't be the first mage to cast such a spell, but she would still be contributing to the reinforcement of the pattern, which was probably not in the best interests of humanity in general.

She was pretty sure she could do it if she really wanted to, it would just be highly irresponsible.

Even theoretical speculation about how one might be able to accomplish the realisation of an inherently unstable conjuration (assuming one could simultaneously sustain and reify an unrealised conjuration — it was a very tricky balancing act, even with an inherently stable object) was somewhat irresponsible, so she left her answer at, "The fact that trying to circumvent the Fifth Exception is anathema suggests to me that someone has actually managed to do it, or at least that certain regulatory bodies believe it's theoretically possible. If it weren't, why would they bother?

"So out of the Five Exceptions to Gamp's Law, two are false, one is a special case drawn into doubt by the falsification of the general rule, one is semantic, and I personally suspect that there is reason to believe the fifth has also been at least theoretically demonstrated to be false. Shall I go on?" She could, continuing to discuss the reasons people generally acted as though the First Exception wasn't false, or the ethical debate surrounding the Third Exception, but it appeared that she needn't do so.

Headmaster Dippet shook his head, speaking slowly, as though choosing his words very carefully as he went along. "No, that will do, Miss Rosier. Why are you here?"

"Why am I Hogwarts, you mean?" He probably did. Asking the meaning of life in a placement exam would be going a bit far, and he had yet to give any other indication that he suspected her of being non-human.

"Yes, Miss Rosier," he said drily, fingers rising to massage his right temple. "Why are you at Hogwarts? You must know that you will gain nothing from attending lessons here, and I cannot imagine Lord Rosier thinks otherwise."

"I am here to practise interacting with my peers," she said, nearly managing to keep her bitterness out of her tone.

"And someone thought it best that you do that here? That's a terrible idea!" the old man exclaimed, as though she didn't already know it.

"Yes, well, it was one of Elladora's, so that it is terrible cannot truly be unexpected. Uncle agreed as a sort of test of my ability to adapt to public life. He requested that I be placed in an appropriate level for lessons rather than suffer through the first-year curriculum in the hopes that doing so would alleviate the stress of constant boredom on top of the pain of being forced to constantly interact with children."

The Headmaster harrumphed. "Well, I regret to inform you that you will be nearly as bored in NEWT lessons as you would be in introductory lessons, and moreover, the NEWT students are highly unlikely to appreciate effortlessly being shown up by an eleven-year-old. Granted, the first-years aren't likely to appreciate it either, but someone will have to be the best in the class and, to be perfectly frank, they won't know enough about magic to realise how terrifying you are. The NEWT students will."

"Terrifying?" Dru echoed, rather taken aback, both because she didn't think of herself as intimidating in the least, much less terrifying, and because the Headmaster didn't seem scared. A bit unsettled, perhaps, but...

"Yes, terrifying. No child your age ought to be able to summon a book across a room, much less transfigure it stably enough to cast a secondary transfiguration on top of the first, and I've met transfiguration masters who wouldn't be able to disrupt the first without destabilising the second. If I hadn't watched you do it, I wouldn't believe it possible for an eleven-year-old. And that's not even considering your mastery of conjuration. I'm currently weighing the likelihood that you are in fact an eleven-year-old human child, because it is far more likely that you are not what you seem than that any child could possibly initialise any of the spells you've cast today."

"Of course it's possible," Dru said, somewhat offended. "If you cast the spells properly, which most people admittedly don't, but I can show you the arithmancy if you like..."

"I'm familiar with the arithmancy," the Headmaster assured her. "And there's a wide gulf between proper, proficient casting, and technically perfect casting. No one casts zero-residual spells. Casting in the real world is affected by too many environmental variables — zero-residual spells don't exist outside of theoretical arithmancy exercises."

Obviously they did, Dru didn't have the channelling capacity to waste energy on residuals. Which the Headmaster obviously knew, or he wouldn't have mentioned it. His specs must be enchanted with a magesight spell.

She frowned at him, but he ignored her. "You also cast every one of the spells you demonstrated silently — a skill we don't insist our students master until they begin their NEWT studies, including free conjuration, which is itself a post-NEWT topic, of true silver which is, again, mastery-level casting!" he insisted, ever-so-slightly hysterically. (Oops?) "Moreover, I doubt there are ten individuals in the entire school who are aware of the field of lunar mediated energetics, including the Potions professors, and there probably aren't ten individuals in all of Britain who would consider using Old High Elvish as an enchanting language to be remotely reasonable.

"I can only assume that your family don't find you terrifying because they're accustomed to you, and hope that if you remain with the first-years, they too will be accustomed to you by the time they have learned enough to realise that literally no one does magic that unnervingly perfectly."

Honestly, Dru suspected that her family didn't realise that she'd made a point of learning to cast all of her spells perfectly. Neither of her parents had magesight or were very interested in Druella's accomplishments, and she didn't often use magic around any other adults. She attempted to avoid people as much as possible, so often only saw other adults in the context of lessons or formal functions. Some of her cousins, especially those around her own age, were aware that Dru was well ahead of them academically, but most of them (including Sean) really had no idea how far ahead she was compared to even the other Rosiers her age. Uncle Luc probably hadn't given a single moment's thought to whether it was unusual that Dru could cast advanced spells. He had attended Beauxbatons approximately fifty years ago, but she doubted that he recalled what most children were capable of at any given age.

Aunt Caelia did know that Dru cast her spells perfectly, but if she'd ever been particularly impressed, much less terrified, she'd hidden it well enough Dru hadn't noticed. She probably hadn't been. Aunt Caelia was unnaturally gifted herself — literally, she was one of the Lestranges who was a product of blood alchemy, in her case used to give her magesight and make her cleverer than average (without straying into Rosier-like eccentricity), as well as to resolve a fundamental incompatibility between her parents' magic which would have kept them from conceiving (blood alchemy was absolutely fascinating) — and most of her generation had been "tinkered with" in some way or another, so she was accustomed to being surrounded by "outliers" (which Dru infinitely preferred as a descriptor over freak or changeling).

They'd had a very serious discussion two weeks ago about whether Dru ought to press Uncle to let her take her Competencies next spring as a condition of attending Hogwarts, wherein Aunt Caelia had warned Dru quite frankly that the attempts of her various tutors over the years to tempt her into a more serious artistic career would pale in comparison to the interest which would likely be shown in a twelve-year-old with Druella's potential. If she did not wish to be courted by every academic in Europe who wished to make a name for himself by associating himself with her and her future accomplishments, she would be well-advised to have a career path in mind and approach potential masters before taking her exams.

But Aunt Caelia might be the only person other than Dru herself who knew quite how good Dru was at magic (and even she didn't know that Dru could easily reify her conjurations).

The Headmaster hadn't really asked her to do anything difficult aside from breaking that underlying transfiguration, and that had really just been a matter of being very careful with the overlying spell and being able to control multiple spells at once. Headmaster Dippet might know Transfiguration masters who couldn't do it, but Dru would bet most cursebreaker-healers and professional duellists could.

Maybe that was just as well, though. He already seemed thoroughly unnerved — she hadn't thought so before he'd called her terrifying, but the faint note of hysterical disbelief in his voice had grown noticeably stronger when he'd said "including the Potions masters" (which...might be fair? Dru only knew anything about lunar mediated energetics because Father found the intersection of astronomy and low ritual fascinating and had a tendency to leave whatever he was reading in the sitting room when he was finished with it, and she had a tendency to read whatever she found lying around in the sitting room before she put it back in its proper place) — and quite convinced that her peers would hate her without Dru going out of her way to show off. (Which she rarely did — she received quite enough accusations of freakishness and uncomfortable admiration without actively encouraging people to think her abnormally talented.)

"So you won't let me take more advanced lessons?" she asked, dragging the conversation back on-topic.

"I certainly don't think it would be in your best interests to do so, no," the Headmaster frowned. "Not if you truly intend to try to develop any non-antagonistic relationships to speak of with your peers." And that was rather the entire point of this mad endeavour. "The older students will almost certainly envy your abilities, while those your own age will resent you for receiving special treatment and have trouble seeing you as one of them if you are exempted from their lessons. Sharing experiences is an integral part of developing familiarity with other people."

While Dru had her doubts that any of her fellow first-years would truly consider her to be one of them regardless of any efforts she might make to fit in, she supposed the Headmaster might have a point about shared experiences. And she certainly didn't intend to seek out the company of children outside of lessons. At least in lessons, they would be expected to focus their attention on attempting to learn something, rather than tormenting Dru. It might be both the path of least resistance and the least miserable option to simply attend the first-year lessons: spend thirty hours a week bored out of her mind, and the remainder of her waking hours hiding, as Draco had suggested, in the Library. Or a nice, quiet tower somewhere.

One of the few advantages of Hogwarts over Beauxbatons, according to her cousins, was that at Hogwarts, housemasters didn't insist on being aware of their students' whereabouts at all times — with only four houses, it would be impossible for them to keep track of everyone anyway — or that they move in groups with their housemates, so she would be allowed to go off alone, she wouldn't have to sneak into the abandoned parts of the castle to find some degree of privacy. She probably would anyway, to ensure that her solitude wouldn't be interrupted by some screaming child running through the corridors or Cosette coming to deliberately ruin Dru's day, but she wouldn't have to sneak away from her roommates as she'd quickly taken to doing at Beauxbatons to do so.

She sighed, attempting to express her immense frustration and annoyance without actually complaining (which was unbecoming and ill-mannered), before conceding, "I suppose you have a point, Headmaster. My apologies for wasting your time. I'll see myself out," and rising to do exactly that.

"Not at all, Miss Rosier," he insisted, relief warring with bemusement across his features. "Fortune's favour."

Dru didn't believe in luck, but at the moment, she rather wished she did. Twenty-five hours in, and this whole school adventure was going just swimmingly.


Dru: Terrifying? I'm not terrifying...

Also Dru: I'm pretty sure I know how to conjure radioactive isotopes and I really want to do it just to prove to myself that I can, but I won't because I would be furthering the eventual development of magics which might literally be a threat to humanity as a whole, and that would be irresponsible.

Also Dru: The least-miserable option is to attend Level Five lessons? Morrigan, how has my life come to this...