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

Chapter 6

In which Druella conjures a handkerchief, gets into an argument with a petty tyrant, and realises that she may have overdone the wards on her trunk, just a bit.

After a quick stop in the Great Hall to find something to bring to the library for dinner (she'd had lunch yesterday, so she should eat something later today, but she honestly might try to skip it — she had no idea how the food here could be so bad), she'd claimed a table at the back of the Theory section, which seemed to be the least-popular for reasons Dru couldn't fathom. Not that she was complaining.

She was complaining about the fact that she couldn't find a single book on the nature of sleep and dreams, despite her certainty that they had to exist. Nearly everything in the general section on dreams and nightmares focused on their interpretation in oneiromancy, and every single dream interpretation guide was completely useless to her, because they all presumed the diviner would have dreams involving actual objects or people they knew, which Dru's generally didn't.

(A sense of betrayal or general foreboding was a negative omen. Thank you, Cassandra Vablatsky. I would never have guessed.)

Beyond those, everything she found seemed to be tangentially related to the subject, rather than specifically about the nature of a nightmare — defence-oriented books focusing on how to deal with creatures which induced nightmares, and so on. But she knew there were curses which caused nightmares, and none of the "nightmare" books in the general section included anything like that, ergo they must be "restricted".

Which meant that Dru needed to talk to the librarian. She'd been avoiding doing so because the librarian, Margolotta Lyntz, was definitely a vampire. Not an upyri like Louis, a vampire — a ritually-created vampire, who had murdered someone to achieve, if not actual immortality, a state of potentially eternal, albeit cursed, un-life. She wouldn't age or die unless someone killed her or she lost the will to live. Her existence was defined by an equally eternal hunger for true life (drinking blood wasn't really about the blood); if she lost that hunger, the spells binding her to her reanimated body would unravel. According to Louis, upyri considered their ritually-created imitators to be abominations, and they weren't welcome anywhere in the Signatory States, including Britain.

Dru suspected that the Headmaster must believe his librarian to be upyri — because while upyri had very few rights compared to mages in Britain, vampires were considered murderers (they did have to murder someone to become a vampire) and preyed on humans, and could therefore be killed on sight.

It didn't seem likely that the librarian would go around preying on students, but Dru was not very good at pretending not to know things, and she wasn't sure how the vampire would react if (when) Dru gave away that she knew she was a vampire, not upyri. She really did need to know if there was anything that might help her in the restricted section, though, and she couldn't just ignore the rules and go in without a pass. The wards wouldn't keep her out, but they would alert the librarian, and if Dru got herself banned from the library, she really didn't think she would make it to the end of the week here, much less Mabon.

It had only taken a couple of hours to exhaust all of the potential non-restricted resources, and requesting access to the restricted section was the next logical step, but she was still attempting to determine how best to phrase that request — the librarian would almost certainly ask why Dru wanted to enter the restricted section, and while Dru thought that the idea of a restricted section is absurd was reason enough on its own, she suspected that a librarian working in a library which had one might disagree — when the vampire in question ghosted around the nearest bookshelf bearing a note.

"Miss Druella Rosier?" Her tone suggested that she was fairly certain of Dru's identity, but simply had to check. She didn't wait for Dru to confirm it before adding, "Headmaster Dippet would like to see you in his office immediately."

"Oh!" She startled, surprised at being suddenly confronted by the object of her contemplation (and any attempt to request a favour being preemptively derailed). "Thank you," she added reflexively. "Did he say why?" she asked, just as there was a small explosion-like sound and a shocked exclamation from somewhere toward the front of the library.

Lady Margolotta's head turned toward the disturbance unnaturally quickly, eyes narrowing with suspicious anger. "He did not," she answered, passing the note to Dru before adding, "Excuse me," and gliding away with much greater intention than she seemed to have when she had apparently been looking for Dru.

The note read:

Margot,

Please send Druella Rosier up posthaste. Wards say she's in your domain. Blonde firstie probably reading something well above her level.

Cheers,

A

Not exactly useful, and she had to take exception to the well above her level comment — obviously if she were studying a subject, it would be at her level, she didn't make a habit of staring uncomprehendingly at books — but she couldn't argue with the librarian's interpretation, so she supposed she ought to go.

Perhaps Slughorn had complained about her leaving his first lesson early. That was, she thought, the only notable upset she had been involved in today. Or else Dumbledore had realised that setting himself a detention with Dru — he'd sent a note up to the Tower informing her that he expected her in his office at two o'clock, Saturday afternoon — was perhaps a bad idea when she'd returned her response (treating his notification as though it were an invitation to tea and politely suggesting that she'd like to discuss the subject of his mastery thesis — which she had been delighted to find was visualisation and modelling in complex conjuration, she'd looked it up in the Ravenclaw House library last night — in greater depth) and was attempting to appeal to someone with greater authority than himself to deal with her.

Not that Dru would be inclined to baby the obnoxious Transfiguration professor even if Headmaster Dippet did ask her to. He'd started their little spat. He could either openly concede defeat and apologise for his rudeness, or continue to suffer the consequences of refusing to do so.

Lo and behold, when she reached the Headmaster's office and Madam Phelps sent her directly in, with what Dru thought seemed an unusually troubled expression on her deeply-lined face, Dumbledore was present as well. He didn't seem contrite or as though he had in any way reconsidered his position on her detention, though. Nor did Headmaster Dippet, his brow furrowed in a frown to match Madam Phelps's.

Her trunk was sitting in the middle of the room, the Transfiguration professor in a plush purple armchair which was almost certainly conjured (no other pieces of furniture were missing for it to have been transfigured from), glowering at the wooden chest as though it had personally offended him.

Headmaster Dippet, wearing his magesight specs, had been behind his desk, but he rose as she opened the door, gesturing for her to have a seat in one of the visitor's chairs.

When he didn't immediately explain her having been summoned or the presence of her trunk, she decided to open with, "Good afternoon Headmaster, Professor Dumbledore. Have you graduated from stealing individual pieces of my property to taking it all in one fell swoop?"

She seemed to have caught the Deputy Head at a bad time, as he choked on his startled inhale at the pleasant accusation.

"What? Albus, what is Miss Rosier talking about?"

"Nothing of any importance, Headmaster," Dru assured him, since Dumbledore was still coughing. "Is there a problem with my trunk?"

"I should say so!" the younger wizard snapped, breath finally recovered. "Given that one of your roommates and one of her friends are currently in hospital due to it!"

"Would that be Miss Willoughby and Miss Hansen?" Dru asked. The Headmaster nodded, as she'd rather expected him to. Only one of her roommates had been present when Dru left her dorm three hours before, and Miss Hansen's involvement would explain the presence of the Head of Gryffindor House. "If they were persistent enough in their attempts to break into it that they managed to send themselves to hospital, I shouldn't think they have a collective leg to stand on in defence of their actions, but as they equally obviously didn't manage to crack my wards, House Rosier waives the right to demand the Headmaster press charges on the matter," Dru assured them.

She would, of course, be painting a space-ward to keep the nosey girls from making another attempt or simply throwing the entire trunk in the lake or something the next time they removed it from her room — she couldn't think why it would be here if they hadn't taken it up to Gryffindor or to an unused classroom to avoid her interrupting their attempts to break in, and she hadn't considered that she might need an anchoring element to prevent any would-be thieves from taking the entire trunk — but that was simple enough. She could use the same one she used at home to keep the twins on their side of the room. Fortunately she'd brought paint along, with the thought of painting a miniature of the Castle for Felix's birthday.

"Thank you for recovering my trunk, sir. Professor Dumbledore, I rescind my earlier insinuation. It was, however, absolutely my intent to give offence, and I cannot, therefore, apologise. I'm sure you understand." She paused half a beat for effect. "If you require clarification, that is what cheeky disrespect sounds like. I will still happily join you for tea on Saturday, but—"

"You little—!" the professor cut her off, red-faced and clearly furious, before she could assure him that she thought it best to clear the air on the matter while she had him in relative privacy, before their next lesson. "You're not here to press charges, Miss Rosier, you are here because the wards on your trunk malfunctioned, striking two students with a lightning hex strong enough to cause potentially lethal side-effects in retaliation for a poorly-aimed levitation charm!"

Dru blinked at him, strongly taken aback. "Is that what they told you they were doing? A, I was aware that I was bringing it into a magically rich environment and calibrated the sensitivity with that in mind, so unless the magical character of the Valley has changed significantly since the last geomantic survey was performed, the hex in question will only trigger if a physically destructive spell is directed into the internal mechanism of the lock. B, the lightning hex I incorporated most certainly does not have potentially lethal side-effects — it is arithmantically impossible for the amperage of the discharge to exceed ten milliamps without feedback causing catastrophic backlash and burning out the ward during the charging period, instantly halting the initialisation of the spell. Miss Willoughby and Miss Hansen would have been rendered unconscious by an integrated stunning element, not the electricity itself. And C, my wards didn't malfunction. The arithmancy is solid and all of the symbols are internal, filled with Cerami-set and thoroughly varnished. I don't enjoy carving runes, much less re-carving them because carelessness or misadventure somehow resulted in their being compromised."

Dumbledore sneered at her. "You truly expect us to believe that you carved the wards on this trunk yourself?"

"Yes. Well, not you, perhaps, since you seem determined to underestimate me, but the Headmaster, yes."

She turned to the man in question, who nodded reluctantly.

"Armando!"

"I didn't have time to thoroughly examine her knowledge of witchcraft, but if her theoretical understanding of wardcrafting matches the depth of her knowledge on Transfiguration, yes, I do believe that she could have done so."

"The ability to conjure a few needles does not make one a Transfiguration Master, Armando," the professor said haughtily. "In case you've forgotten, the OWL asks for a conjured embroidered handkerchief, for God's sake!"

Before the Headmaster could point out that he'd referenced her theoretical understanding specifically, which she sincerely hoped he intended to do, Dru sensed an opportunity. "If I conjure an embroidered handkerchief for you, may I be exempted from transfiguring any more needles?"

Before he could warn his Deputy that Dru could definitely conjure a handkerchief or drag the conversation back to the reason she was actually here — which admittedly still eluded Dru, surely they could have just tested whether a levitation charm would set off the lightning hex themselves? — Dumbledore took the bet, with what might be the smuggest smirk Dru had ever seen on anyone.

"I couldn't have done so at your age, but by all means," he drawled. "If you can conjure an embroidered handkerchief for me, yes, I will excuse you from transfiguring any more needles. In fact, I will excuse you from transfiguring anything else in lessons for the next five years," he sneered, secure in his knowledge that she couldn't possibly do something he couldn't have done at her age. It was only too bad they couldn't do this in front of her class, to further embarrass him. His employer would have to do.

The employer in question raised an exasperated hand to massage his forehead, but didn't forbid her to demonstrate when she looked to him for permission. She was meant to be in a meeting with him at the moment, after all.

When he waved her on, as though to say, yes, fine, just get this over with, she turned back to Dumbledore. "Would you care to specify a material or pattern, sir?"

"I'll leave that to your discretion, my dear."

Well, fine, then. If she was meant to be demonstrating her competence (and grinding his smug smirk beneath her metaphorical heel), it stood to reason that she ought to perform the most advanced form of the spell she could, so Tyrian purple silk embroidered with little silver moons and stars it would be.

She paused a moment to visualise the alchemical definitions of the different elements of the intended object, as well as the structure of the patterns which would be reiterated throughout the conjuration, building up from the dye binding to the filaments and the twists of each strand of silk thread, through the pattern of the weave — she was partial to satin, herself — the number of iterations required to form a piece of fabric the correct size, and the method of finishing the edges she preferred, working the terminal ends of each thread back into the fabric to create an otherwise unmarked half-centimetre border of double-thick cloth, the exact stitches required to embroider a tiny moon or star and their placement within and between the strands of silk, reiterated to form a delicate border-pattern.

"Whenever you're ready, Miss Rosier," Dumbledore interrupted.

"Please do not interrupt me, Professor. I'm trying to concentrate." Did he really think she would let him rush her and so fail his little challenge?

She returned to her visualisation, calculating the relative energetic requirements of each element and the shape of the spell necessary to condense magic into the correct form in one smooth action. She was, after all, conjuring embroidered cloth, not conjuring cloth and then embroidering it with a second conjuration. When she was sure she had it, she reached out, her wand magnifying the magical 'force' she could bring to bear, her intent clear and sharp, controlling every thaum of magic which went into creating both the conjuration and the spell compressing it into physical form.

The universe bent to her will, a thirty by thirty centimetre square of rich, purple silk appearing with the tiny pop of displaced air which marked a perfectly-executed instantaneous conjuration (extended conjurations, where the magic was compressed more slowly, progressing through the object, were significantly easier — Dru used them for larger conjurations like sheets, which she couldn't channel enough magic to realise instantaneously — but not technically correct), a pattern of stars glittering along the edge, surrounding the moon in various phases — the full and new moons in the north and south corners; half moons in the east and west, with the appropriate crescent and gibbous forms at the half-winds. She had taken some artistic liberties with the placement of the stars in the corners, as compared to the edges, so it wasn't entirely consistent with the actual sky, but she thought it had turned out nicely.

She wafted it across the space between herself and the Transfiguration professor with a breeze charm. He was so busy staring at her in shock that he very nearly failed to catch it. After he did, he spent several long seconds simply staring at it, as though he couldn't recognise what he was seeing.

"This is silk," he muttered stupidly. "Dyed silk. And actual silver."

"And it matches your robes," the Headmaster helpfully pointed out.

"But...how...? Armando, did you just see...?" He passed the handkerchief to the Headmaster, looking utterly lost.

Headmaster Dippet seemed considerably less lost and considerably more exasperated — but then, he'd seen her conjure silver two days ago. "An undyed cotton or linen kerchief with a simple blackwork pattern embroidered in threads of the same fibre, realised through a well-established verbal spell, would have sufficed to earn an outstanding mark in an actual OWL exam," he informed her.

...Oh.

She forced herself not to shrug self-consciously. She knew that multi-part conjurations, such as an embroidered handkerchief, were a standard competency topic, but she hadn't realised the fact that it was multi-part alone was meant to be the skill they were testing. She'd thought that simply meant she ought to expect to be asked to create a multi-part conjuration, any part of which might have its own requirements paralleling those of the single-part conjuration topics. Still, there was nothing wrong with completing a task to the best of her ability, even if that happened to be well beyond the expectations of others. The only thing she could think to say was, "If I was meant to use a specific spell, Professor Dumbledore ought to have said."

"He should have indeed. I wonder, Albus, whether you think you could conjure a similar object with the economy of magic Miss Rosier employed. Given that you have never had to concern yourself with the energetic requirements of any spell, I confess that I don't believe you could."

Druella felt her face grow warm. She was certain she wasn't more technically proficient at conjuration than an actual transfiguration master — especially since Professor Dumbledore was an alchemist as well. Half of conjuration was understanding what one wanted to make on an alchemical level. It could be sort of...brute forced, if one threw enough magic at it, forcing the conjuration into reality in spite of the instability stemming from not having a foundation congruent with the laws of physical reality, but surely a transfiguration master who was also an expert alchemist was more than capable of analysing and visualising his conjurations properly now, even if he hadn't been when he was eleven.

Professor Dumbledore, however, didn't defend himself, still staring at the square of silk as the Headmaster handed it back. He actually looked a bit ill.

"That's impossible," he muttered. Falsely, as he'd clearly just witnessed it being done and was currently holding it in his hand. Granted, the handkerchief was far more impressive than a few needles, but the professor should have a better understanding of the concept of impossibility than say, Sean. Her stupid cousin claiming anything he couldn't do was "impossible" was one thing. It was quite another for a man she was certain could do the same thing she had just done to deem it impossible, simply because he couldn't have managed it at her age.

"How did you do that?" he demanded, turning back to Dru with a somewhat disturbing degree of vehemence.

What? He'd just watched her do it, that should be more than enough to win their little wager. But fine. She could explain the basic concept of free conjuration.

"To begin with, I used the description of raw silk filaments and the various interactions of different textile components with Tyrian purple from Sanderson's Alchemical Arithmantic Analyses, volumes one and six, and the O.H.E. definition of silver. I know you argued against using Old High Elvish to describe alchemical elements in your thesis — that was one of the things I thought we might talk about on Saturday — but I find it captures the magical properties and the aspects of becoming with greater nuance than straightforward arithmancy, especially when dealing with situational variations such as those inherent in conjuring worked hot metals."

She cast illusions of the formulae in question.

"I habitually reduce descriptives to symbols I find easier to visualise — in this case, different coloured filaments, proportional in size to the real elements described — rather than defining the chain longhand throughout the entire visualisation process." This was standard practice, though most authors necessarily used letters or shapes and alchemical notational forms to represent the concept in text. She altered the illusion accordingly, multiplying the much smaller dye element and wrapping the resulting elements around the silk to form a single filament. "Then it's simply a matter of working up through the implications of spinning, weaving, and finishing to determine the final makeup and distribution of elements throughout the final product."

She redoubled the illusion twenty times, forming threads and demonstrating how they were woven together, widening her focus and decreasing the scale of the visualisation as she built it up.

"After the base layer of the conjuration was outlined, I mapped it onto a Kopeli grid to track the precise location of each silver thread in relation to the base conjuration. I will confess I'm not terribly familiar with embroidery techniques, I simply copied the stitch patterns from one of the tapestries at home. The stars follow a simple A-B square reiteration scheme, where B can be described as A bilaterally transposed forty-five degrees toward the midline around the z-axis. The moon phases are anchored at the origins of the A and B patterns, following the lunar progression from the Standard Shape Descriptions.

"After the silver elements were placed, I transformed the visualisation to map the magic required to realise each point on the Kopeli grid."

In visual form, this looked rather like a rugged mountain range surrounding a very square valley, the silver presenting the greatest source of variation within the otherwise very regular model.

"And then it's a relatively simple matter to use Selwyn's Energetic Inversion to determine focal loci and the necessary force and rates of compression to realise an instantaneous conjuration in the defined form."

It was practically impossible to model that visually, though, given that it involved magical forces apparently overlapping in three dimensions and a substantial part of the energy involved in a conjuration was extraplanar. Instead she twisted the illusion back to (reduced) arithmantic descriptions of the product and the specific spell-form used to realise it — as well as an energetics model illustrating that with the degree of realism she had included, the stability of the product was great enough to reduce the overall initialisation energy necessary down to something she could actually cast.

"Admittedly more complex than most everyday conjuration, but theoretically simple enough," she concluded, satisfied that her explanation should demonstrate sufficient theoretical understanding of the process to pass muster. Though honestly, if she didn't understand the theory behind the magic, she wouldn't be able to cast it, so a verbal explanation was inherently redundant.

Both the professor and the Headmaster were staring at her again, their gaze growing uncomfortable in the increasingly awkward silence. Say something, won't you?

When they didn't, Dru added, "...Do you still want me to attend lessons? I would prefer to do so and simply work quietly on more frivolous projects at the back of the room because I've been informed that shared experiences like attending lessons together are essential to the development of relationships with one's peers, but I understand if you'd rather I occupy myself elsewhere, since I won't be practising transfigurations, and I still have no intention of attempting to do your job for you."

"What?"

"What do you mean, what? It was a very straightforward question, Professor. Should I come to my assigned lesson tomorrow or not?"

"Yes," the Headmaster answered, as Dumbledore continued to blink at her like an idiot. "You should continue to attend your lessons. Please try to refrain from breaking any more of my professors while you do so. Albus, sit down and stop gaping like a fool. And explain to me exactly what Miss Rosier means when she says she has no intention of doing your job for you."

He did, falling heavily into his chair again, apparently grateful for a change of subject, even if that subject was his own boorishness. "I simply suggested that if Miss Rosier had mastered the matchstick-to-needle transfiguration and did not wish to practise it, she might help her classmates, rather than doodle."

Dru nodded, elaborating on his explanation with, "I refused to do so because it would be a waste of my time and theirs for me to attempt to teach anyone in my year how to perform an introductory transfiguration, and because I was under the impression that teaching my peers is the job of my professors. I was informed that this was a cheeky response — though Professor Dumbledore refused to explain how it was cheeky, or why I ought to care about losing House Points — and accused of disrespect, presumably because a petty tyrant always accuses his detractors of his own sins."

"I am not a petty tyrant, you insufferable child!" the man snapped, annoyance apparently breaking him out of his shock.

"Firstly, I am not the insufferable child here. My three-year-old brother knows better than to walk up to someone and snatch something out of their hands rather than using his words to communicate his displeasure. And secondly, you attempted to cow me by destroying my property when I refused to yield in an academic argument about a topic on which the preponderance of evidence is against you, and gave me a detention on the grounds of insubordination, which clearly indicates that you think you have some right to dictate punishment regardless of whether it is deserved — what descriptor would you prefer I use, if not tyrannical?"

"Regardless of whether it was deserved—?! You were being insubordinate! You are being insubordinate right now!"

"Refusing to voluntarily subordinate oneself to a tyrant is not insubordination. It is resistance to conquest. Insubordination implies that you are a recognised superior whom I have chosen to disobey. Which you are not. Nor, for that matter, did I actually disobey you. I simply treated you as I would anyone who attempted to bully me into submission. Well, any adult, I should say — I'm not allowed to make actual children cry." More to the point, she didn't really know how to cut people with no accomplishments to mock and no greater ambition than to turn their hair into a larger bird's nest than their so-called friends'. How could she mock them more thoroughly than they were already making mockery of themselves with their very existence?

Plus, children actually could physically harm her without risking anything more than a slap on the wrist from their parents, while if Dru retaliated, she would be punished far more severely, because Ella liked to have it both ways and insist that Dru be treated like an adult when it suited her: it wasn't fair for Dru to use magic against children; she was smart enough to know better; and if she didn't have the self-control to behave herself, perhaps she oughtn't be allowed to read anything she liked, but should be more closely monitored in the Family Library, her access restricted to materials legally deemed suitable for her age.

"You are a student of this school, Miss Rosier! I am its Deputy Headmaster! And you were in my classroom, where I am the professor and I make the rules!" And you wouldn't characterise yourself as a petty tyrant? "I am your superior, and if I say you were being insubordinate in your attitude, you were!"

"You are not my superior, Deputy Headmaster. You are supposed to be my teacher, and I your student, which relationship demands a degree of respect on both sides. In fact, I was willing to grant you a degree of respect beyond basic politeness by default as a potential teacher and for your work in alchemy, with which I was already familiar before meeting you, but you squandered that good will with your patronising condescension and heavy-handed attempts to force me to bow to your imagined superiority. If you want my respect now, you will have to earn it, and you will not do so by dismissing me or treating me as you would a child too slow-witted and weak-willed to stand up to your bullying."

"I don't care how clever or talented you are, young lady! That does not give you the right to talk back to adults, especially those in positions of authority!"

"'You hold all the authority of a shadow-puppeteer,'" she quoted. "'Sadly I can no longer suspend my disbelief.'" The line didn't sound quite so scathing in translation as it did in Gobbledygook, but she somehow doubted that Dumbledore spoke the language well enough to interpret it, much less that he was sufficiently familiar with goblin poetry to recognise the pivotal moment of the Silverlake Saga, wherein Bogrod, heir of Clan Silverlake, came to see that his uncle and mentor was never truly the great leader he'd believed him to be, but was in fact losing the hearts of the people to his rival for good reason, and chose to reject him for the good of their people. (According to Mica, the goblin woman who had taught Dru and her cousins to speak the language, it was a classic.) It was simply what came to mind in the moment, hearing Dumbledore make an appeal to his own non-existent authority.

"What on Earth is that supposed to mean?" the man sneered down at her — he'd risen from his seat as though physically looming over her would make his insistence that was in any way superior to her more convincing. He obviously realised he'd just been insulted (again), even without the context, so Dru supposed it didn't really matter under the circumstances.

"Authority lies in the willingness of others to obey that authority, either through respect or coercion. What recourse have you if I refuse to acknowledge your so-called authority? Take points in an effort to bring the social pressure of my peers to bear against me, as though they were ever likely to accept me in the first place? Give me detention, as though detaining me isn't more of a punishment for you than it is for me? Expel me from an institution I have no need or desire to attend? I suppose you could attempt to hamper my life outside of school with negative recommendations and the like, but I don't care how clever or talented you are, you will never have the sort of connections throughout our society that my House has, and even if you did, I daresay I could find one or two masters willing to offer me an apprenticeship for the express purpose of picking an academic feud with you."

"The privilege of nobility does not extend to Hogwarts, Miss Rosier," Dumbledore sneered, clearly under the impression that she'd meant something other than that it would be practically impossible for him to hurt her socially or economically in the outside world when she'd mentioned her House. "Nor does it exempt you from showing proper respect to adults, even if we are only commoners!"

"The fact that you are a commoner has nothing to do with my lack of respect for you. The fact that you seem to believe that having spent more years on the mortal plane makes you somehow inherently superior to anyone, on the other hand, very much does. Whether you choose to attribute that attitude to your common upbringing is entirely up to you. I certainly did not intend to imply that it is the difference between our social strata which gives me the right to talk back to you or which exempts me from showing what you consider your due respect. The fact that I am a person, and that I have enough self-respect to refuse to abase myself in pursuit of your favour, gives me that right."

"You are not a person, you are a student!" ...Well, that at least explained a good deal of his attitude, even if it was a terrible opinion for an educator to hold. "A child! You are here to learn, not to prance about acting as though you already know everything there is to know and disrespecting the knowledge and authority of teachers with decades more experience than you!"

Dru gave him the very best sneer she could muster. It wasn't particularly impressive, her features didn't lend themselves well to sneering, but it was the thought that counted. "Children do not suddenly become people when they reach the age of majority, Professor, nor does reaching adulthood magically bestow wisdom and maturity on an individual. You are not socially, morally, intellectually, or in any other way my superior, and you do not have the right to demand respect when you have shown me none."

This was an argument Dru had made to Ella several times. She appreciated it about as much as Dumbledore seemed to, which was to say, not at all.

She continued to speak over his attempt to interrupt, slightly surprised that it had taken this long for him to do so. Yes, adults did tend to habitually allow their conversational partners to complete their thoughts before responding (even if they often didn't seem to actually listen to those thoughts), but they also tended to overcome their ingrained reluctance to interrupt relatively quickly when they realised that the longer they allowed her to speak without doing so, the more thoroughly she could tear them apart.

"As far as I am concerned, we are able to converse at the same intellectual level and engage in academic debate on even footing, which makes us equals in the only arena in which we interact. If you are so offended by that, feel free to snub me in return, like the civilised adult you purport to be — but perhaps you ought to reconsider whether you wish to continue to pursue a career in academia, if you are so reluctant to have your knowledge and experience challenged by younger scholars."

"Scholar?" he repeated, absolutely scathingly. "You've been in school for two days!"

"Would you like a list of prominent historical scholars who were self-educated? It would include all four founders of this school I have attended for two days."

"You little— You—" the Deputy Head stuttered, too furious for words, apparently. "Armando!"

"Yes, Albus?"

When Dru turned to look at the Headmaster, he was clearly trying not to laugh. Presumably they made quite a picture — the grown man red-faced behind his red beard, barely-contained magic trembling in the air around him, shimmering like a heat-haze, still clutching the handkerchief as he shouted at her, insisting that he was, in fact, her superior; and Dru, sitting quietly with her feet tucked properly under her chair, hands folded, maintaining the perfectly neutral, well-modulated tone that she tended to revert to in speaking to her mother, almost mocking in its inoffensiveness, blandly unconcerned. She was certainly out of sorts herself, but presumably she had much more practice at hiding her emotional state than the professor. She didn't expect he was often so openly disrespected, or at least not nearly as regularly as she was.

"You know I agree with you on the use of corporal punishment to compel obedience, but in this case, I would like to make an exception. Miss Rosier clearly has no intention of reforming her behaviour because she believes she has no incentive to do so, but—"

"If I will not allow you to insult me with impunity, what on Earth makes you think I will allow you to physically maltreat me?" Dru interrupted, preempting what she felt certain was a request to do exactly that. "If you attempt to set me a detention kneeling on peppercorns or sentence me to a dozen lashing hexes or some equally barbaric punishment for having the gall to demand that I be treated as a person, I will write to Lady Rosier requesting that she fetch me from Hogsmeade and vacate the Castle immediately."

"You—"

"Albus, do shut up. You're embarrassing yourself. We will discuss the matter of your classroom management after the matter of Miss Rosier's trunk has been dealt with. Miss Rosier, entertaining as it is to watch you reduce my Deputy to inarticulate fury, I did not summon you to debate whether children ought to be treated as such."

"Of course not, Headmaster," Dru agreed, still in the same pleasant, Society tone, further infuriating said Deputy by suddenly and completely ignoring him, enough that she was actually concerned for a moment that he might lose control of his magic — not in a destructive way, but simply flooding the room with power, as Ella tended to do when she was upset. "My apologies. Why exactly did you summon me? I presume you and Professor Dumbledore are more than capable of testing whether a Levitation Charm would have triggered the hex as Miss Willoughby and Miss Hansen claimed without my assistance, you clearly didn't expect me to address the issue of charges for their attempted trespass, and I understand the house elves brought our trunks to our rooms on Saturday. I can't imagine they couldn't have returned it just as easily."

Headmaster Dippet fixed her with a very serious frown. "I summoned you to ask what, precisely, requires such a high degree of security, Miss Rosier."

"...Nothing more or less than my privacy, Headmaster." What did he think she had in there? Back-issues of the Árthra?

"You are not in trouble, Miss Rosier. Nor is your family," the Headmaster assured her. "Not if you tell me today. I would simply ask you to hand over any restricted materials you may have brought with you to be returned to your family. If, on the other hand, I find later on that you've been hiding your possession of restricted or anathema materials, even after this warning, I will be forced to take some punitive action." He fixed her with a very serious expression. "Are you absolutely certain there is nothing I ought to know about in that trunk?"

"I know the law, I didn't bring anything illegal to school," she assured him in turn. "If my trunk is more highly secure than you expected, it is only because I have younger siblings," she explained, frowning at the absent hellions. "None of whom are particularly clever, but all of whom are insufferably persistent in their campaign to violate my privacy whenever possible. It seemed reasonable to design a scheme to withstand their inevitable efforts to break in over the summer, as well as whatever security threats my possessions might face here at Hogwarts."

"A claim we have every incentive to believe, of course," Dumbledore said snidely. "And which you would have no incentive to lie about."

The Headmaster sighed over Dru's offended, "I don't lie, Professor."

"She doesn't have an incentive to lie, Albus," Headmaster Dippet informed him, with a disapproving little frown. "Unless you doubt that I would stand by my word."

For the first time since her arrival, Dumbledore actually looked slightly ashamed of himself. (As he should, so carelessly impugning the honour of his own lord along with Dru's.) "No, Armando, of course not. I...spoke without thinking. My apologies."

Headmaster Dippet didn't offer forgiveness, or in fact acknowledge his subordinate's apology in any way — which Dru suspected meant that he intended to take the younger wizard to task, but not in front of a student. "Moreover, Miss Rosier clearly has no sense of proportion or idea of what is or is not a reasonable degree of effort and complexity to put into a project," he added, nodding at the handkerchief still crushed in the other wizard's hand. (Dru flushed slightly.) "Knowing that she designed the ward herself, that she simply overdid it a bit is a reasonable explanation which I have no reason to doubt."

Dumbledore sniffed. "Knowing that she designed it herself and has obviously made it far more complex than necessary, I think it only more likely that there is a flaw in the design or in the execution of it. I have yet to see any proof that this artefact does not pose a danger to anyone who casts a sloppy charm in its vicinity."

"If you'd care to test my enchantments, you are more than welcome to cast a Levitation Charm at my trunk yourself, Professor," Dru pointed out again. "The Zap Trap is only activated by casting a destructive spell directly into the locking mechanism."

"If the enchantment is faulty, the trigger action may be variable," he snapped impatiently.

If it were damaged or poorly carved, he meant. If it were improperly written, it would be a consistent error.

"It's not," Dru insisted, throwing open the trunk. There was hardly anything in it. There were a few pairs of clean stockings (spider-silk stockings were inexplicably worth the cost, but linen underthings and sheets weren't, for some unfathomable reason) and a spare pair of boots, but all of her robes were in her wardrobe now. Most of what was left was her potions kit; ingredients for her nutrient potions; half a rack of completed nutrient potions and various other useful, non-controlled potions for headaches and the like; school books for her Monday-Wednesday-Friday lessons; real ink and paper, as well as her oil paints and half a dozen canvases for miniatures; her ballet slippers and maillot; a handful of reference books; and a few personal journals and grimoires, all of which were also enchanted or under encryption charms to prevent Ella snooping through them before she'd had a trunk or been able to put up an effective barrier to keep her out of her room.

She levitated the lot of it out of the chest, revealing the entire interior, every side of which bore sigils (most of them repeated several times over throughout the scheme) carved by her own hand not two weeks ago. There were several entwined arrays governing the resizing (and interior space expansion), the weight-reducing aspect, the active defences, and the usual passive protective enchantments — rendering the trunk impervious to water, fire damage, and physical force.

Truthfully, it was less well-optimised than she would have liked, but she'd been on a time-limit. It looked relatively simple, but that was only because she had used High Elvish for the anchoring symbols. That particular language was intended to communicate a rather absurd amount of highly specific information in a single word, which meant the number of separate symbols necessary was drastically reduced compared to practically any other enchanting language.

The element which was under suspicion of failure, for example, consisted of only three symbols.

The one signifying and shaping the actual hex was the most complex — she'd actually reduced it from the "longhand" description of the hex. One of the greatest advantages of enchanting with Old High Elvish was that creating a new root symbol which signified a specific hex and then modifying it to fit its purpose in the scheme as she would any other root was theoretically sound. The fact that the new sigil was impronouncible was immaterial. (If she were to read the scheme aloud, she would have to use a filler-root and project a magical impression of the spell in question, but no one actually spoke High Elvish, anyway.)

The one which stripped the intent from the external (attacking) spell and routed the energy into the quartz crystals which served as the shared reservoir for the defensive arrays, the input direction and magnitude of which in turn served as the specific hex-trigger, was nearly as specific as the Zap Trap Hex Rune, but it was also a well-established construction — she'd simply broken down an Egyptian version and recreated it in Old High Elvish.

The moderating rune which governed the reservoir, detecting the direction of incoming magic and directing magic from the reservoir to power the retaliatory strike, was the simplest of the three, but that was a relative term. Any other enchanting language would use at least four or five flow-gate and trigger elements to accomplish the same functions.

This reduced the number of runes she needed to carve and the optimisation problem which arose from attempting to set multiple wards on the same object, some of which would, in an ideal placement scheme, require different runes to be placed at the same point within the space to be warded. A greater number of symbols reduced the overall area available and necessitated a greater degree of compromise than using fewer (albeit more complex) symbols.

She'd also avoided a confusing tangle of overlapping directing lines by inscribing each rune in a circle, with short sympathetic "leaders" extending toward the other relevant elements. She wasn't certain whether that was a professionally accepted technique or not — she hadn't seen any references to anything like it in her reading, but she'd hardly had time to do a thorough review of the relevant literature, and it seemed so obvious she wouldn't be surprised to find that she'd reinvented the metaphorical wheel — but it functioned perfectly well, while looking much neater than standard warding and avoiding bleedover and interference where physical lines would have crossed. She'd just had to ensure the angles were precisely matched and use a system of matching "continuation" symbols marking the respective connections when there were several in close proximity.

If there were a problem with the scheme, she would expect it to be there, with one of the connections allowing energy from one input to short-skip across an unintended connection to one of the other elements of the overall design, but she was certain there wasn't. She'd tested it very thoroughly, both in concept and with the finished product. (If she accidentally killed one of her younger siblings, she would be in so much trouble...all the more so because Ella probably wouldn't believe it was an accident.)

The reservoir crystals, all white quartz, had been carefully carved into hexagons along their natural faces and embedded into the top of the trunk with their points converging at the centre of the face to form a six-pointed star a hand-span in width, each "leg" of the star terminating in its own inscribed circle to be referenced, in addition to the hexagram containing the entire reservoir construction. She'd carved out sockets for the crystals so they would sit flush with the plane of the wood and lacquered them into place with the same clear protective finish covering the runes, though those she had filled with undyed Cerami-set first, the neutral compound levelling the surface without interfering with the enchantment, so the carefully carved energy pathways beneath their protective coating looked very much as though they were painted in white on the soft, cheap yellow pine of the actual box.

In Dru's opinion, the overall effect was rather pretty. Somewhat minimalist, compared to the enchantments on most similar artefacts — professionally enchanted trunks with similar effects hardly had any empty space on the interior sides of the box — and admittedly unusual with all of the circles, but there was a certain elegance to it, even as under-optimised as she knew it was. (It was a good first attempt, functional and reasonably efficient, but she was sure she could do better.)

The trickiest part had been the physical locking mechanism, which the books she had consulted suggested ought to be designed and forged specifically to fit into the ward scheme. Dru, with limited time, no resources or experience in forging locks, and no good ideas of how to integrate the existing latch, had cheated. She'd punched out the lock that came with the trunk, taken it apart to learn how it worked, and conjured a new one with the necessary symbols "inscribed" into its mechanisms more neatly and precisely than if it had been forged, reified it and set it into place with an integrated binding element. (She'd cheated with the reification, too, exchanging the realness of the original lock for the new one, which felt more...balanced. And less like she might sort of be breaking the rules of magic somehow.)

(...Well, now. That was an idea. She could sacrifice a few outer robes to reify her underclothes, which would solve the problem of their being De-Spelled. She'd have to think about it a bit more, consider whether there were any reasons she shouldn't, but...)

She had no real intention of using the physical lock — the locking element of the enchantment, which simply sealed the lid to the body of the trunk, was controlled by a freeform-manipulation switch keyed to her own magical signature — but one of the books had suggested that including a physical "vulnerability" in order to concentrate intrusion attempts was a good strategy for relatively inexperienced wardcrafters. Anyone who attempted to attack the locking mechanism directly would only be doing so if they intended to break open the chest. There was no other reason to do so. Setting a trap to be triggered by a direct attack on the locking mechanism was a good way to take out an inexperienced thief, and held an insignificantly low probability of entrapping anyone who wasn't attempting to break in. (Which was clearly exactly what had happened to Willoughby and Hansen.)

"What in God's name is that supposed to be?" Dumbledore asked, in a tone which fell, Dru thought, somewhere between incredulous and disdainful.

"...I'm not certain I understand the question," Dru admitted. They'd been discussing the trunk and its wards for some time (disregarding the conjuration tangent and the argument about the professor's imaginary authority), obviously they were defensive enchantments, so...

"Seven bloody hells," the Headmaster muttered, peering down into the empty box. "You actually use High Elvish for enchanting?"

"Yes?" She had told him as much, and he was looking at it right now...

"What are all these— How does this even work?" Dumbledore asked, gesturing at the scheme as a whole. "None of your runes are properly associated!"

"Yes, they are, I just used sympathy to define the channelling pathways rather than a physical channel. Is that...not a thing people do?"

"No," the Headmaster informed her, in very nearly the same tone that he'd pointed out how excessive her handkerchief was. "It's not. If I hadn't seen the scheme active, I wouldn't believe that it works at all."

"But it seems so obvious... And it's much neater than carving physical lines."

"How long have you been studying wardcrafting?" the Deputy Headmaster demanded, completely ignoring Dru's somewhat bemused reaction to their astonishment.

She startled at his vehemence. "Oh! That is, I've been studying enchanting for two and a half years — I started using High Elvish around Yule of Thirty-Six, after I mastered the Level Nine course materials for Beauxbatons's Graphic Arts course to my own satisfaction — but wardcrafting specifically? Since August third."

That had been when Ella had refused to let her buy a trunk with proper defensive enchantments on it already. And judging by the matching expressions on the wizards' faces, that was a wrong answer, in the sense that it was seriously unsettling. She elected not to add that she'd started carving these on the eighteenth, because she'd needed to leave time for the Cerami-set and lacquer to dry.

"I wouldn't really say I made a comprehensive study of wardcrafting, though. It was more of a brief overview of the subject, just enough to figure out exactly what I needed to know to design the schema from first principles. In any case, as you can see, the runes are still in perfect condition," she pointed out. "As for whether there's a mistake anywhere in the scheme, I'd suggest you try to break in if you'd like to test precisely how the enchantments function. That will be much faster than trying to learn Old High Elvish well enough to interpret my work."

She began moving her things back into the trunk — by hand, to check whether anything had been damaged by rough handling — apparently drawing the Deputy Headmaster's attention to them.

"Hogwarts's policy, Miss Rosier, does not allow students to manage their own potions regimens."

What? Dru hadn't noticed that in the school handbook! Had it been in some paperwork sent to Uncle Luc that he'd neglected to mention? No, he would have pushed it off on Aunt Caelia, and she would definitely have mentioned it. It had probably gone to Elladora. "Why not? I assure you, I am perfectly capable of uncorking a vial myself and taking a potion without supervision."

Headmaster Dippet nodded, sounding rather resigned as he explained, "It's a matter of student safety, Miss Rosier. It's not that we don't trust you to remember to take whatever potions you are under healer's orders to take. It's a much greater concern that if an accident should occur, the school hospital must know what potions you are currently taking in order to avoid any remedies which are contraindicated."

Much as Dru wished she could say that was absurd, she really couldn't. It did make sense that the school healers would need to know that sort of thing. They probably needed to know about pre-existing conditions as well, which meant that Dru should probably go talk to them and ask to see whatever Ella had put down, because Dru had been managing her own medical issues (with Aunt Caelia's guidance) for over two years, and there was really no telling what specious information Ella might have included from various healers she'd dragged Dru to over the past six years.

But there was no reason a healer should have to physically control and administer a student's potions. It should be more than enough to have a note in their records. (Not that nutrient potions really had many contraindications, anyway.)

"I'm afraid I will have to confiscate those," Dumbledore added, sounding unbearably smug over having caught Dru doing something "wrong". "They will be given to Madam Turner in the hospital wing. Your parents or Head of House will have to request that your primary healer send administration instructions, and you will report to the hospital wing as needed to take them. They can discuss with Madam Turner whether the school will brew future batches, or whether they will have your brewer send future batches directly to her."

"What?" she said reflexively. What she meant to say was, "No!"

"Excuse me, Miss Rosier?"

"I don't— I've been managing and brewing my own potions since I turned nine. I don't even have a primary healer."

Ella would say that she did: one Healer Campbell, who routinely told her what she wanted to hear about Dru (that clearly she was not perfectly fine, and Ella was absolutely right to refuse to leave her alone and just let Dru figure out how to deal with her various neuroses on her own). But in practice, she hadn't been to visit Healer Campbell since the healer had suggested that they may need to consider institutionalising Dru if she continued refusing to eat and answering honestly when the healer asked whether she'd considered killing herself lately. (It wasn't as though she was actually planning to, it was just helpful sometimes — when life was especially chaotic and miserable, for example, or when she was being forced to speak to healers who had no interest in actually improving her quality of life — to remember that she could.) Dru, terrified, had told Aunt Caelia, and Aunt Caelia had told Ella that Dru was not going to starve to death if she hadn't already, and that Ella ought to leave her alone. She'd told Dru that Ella couldn't institutionalise her without the consent of the House, and that trying to scare her into eating more had been a rotten thing to do. Dru was fairly certain that this was the largest factor contributing to Ella's dislike of Aunt Caelia.

Aunt Caelia did acknowledge that Dru probably wasn't getting all of the alchemical components her body needed, but that was a bioalchemy problem which could be solved with potions and did not require Dru to talk to a mind-healer, much less be locked up in hospital under constant observation. Which was good, because Dru hated mind-healers even more than she hated body-healers, and couldn't imagine that her sanity (already admittedly tenuous, from constant exposure to Ella and her children) would withstand a total lack of privacy and control over her environment. Plus, bodies were inherently disgusting, but arithmantic models of bodies were perfectly neat and orderly, and the bioalchemic analyses Aunt Caelia had done to determine which nutrients Dru's diet was most severely lacking were fascinating.

"I'm not taking anything restricted or even controlled. They're just nutrient potions. I'll give the school hospital copy of the recipe, even the arithmantic breakdown and residual analysis if they want them, but please don't make me go to the healers every day!"

The men exchanged a very concerned look.

"Miss Rosier," the Headmaster said, in an infuriatingly mollifying tone, "even fully qualified potions masters have regular healers to monitor their health."

"It's not a complicated regimen with complex interactions and potential side-effects, Headmaster!" Dru protested. "It's a dietary supplement! Do you monitor the snacks other students buy in Hogsmeade or that their parents send to them?"

"Chocolate Frogs and Licorice Wands are rather more difficult to overdose on than nutrient potions," Dumbledore drawled. "And rather less likely to be poisonous if improperly prepared." Dru got the impression that he was enjoying this, seeing her so very disturbed — as though he was pleased that if he couldn't subject her to corporal punishment, she would suffer another way.

She would, she knew it. She just...had a feeling that, much like the conversation with Uncle Luc which had begun with Elladora puts forth a good argument and led to her attendance here, this argument was already doomed. Nothing was certain until it actually happened, of course, but as insulting as it was and as threatening as it felt to have her control of her potions taken away from her, there was no reason she couldn't go to the Hospital Wing to take them. It was barely a minor inconvenience from an objective perspective — far less of one than having to attend lessons or share a room with strangers — and certainly not valid grounds to claim that she simply couldn't stand attending this school for another day.

She just didn't like healers' offices and hospitals. Even aside from the healers themselves, there was something about them that just felt...gross. She was certain that it was only her own paranoia, but she felt as though she was being contaminated by all the sick people around her, simply existing in their general vicinity. Even if she didn't touch them, they were still breathing the same air. And even if there weren't sick people present... Healers' offices were where one went when one was unwell. Just being there implied some degree of failure, that one was unhealthy and could not resolve that problem for oneself, but required professional help. Plus, subjecting herself to healers' endless, inevitable criticism always made her feel weak and helpless.

And she would have to subject herself to their criticism, she already knew it. They would want to know why she was on a regimen of nutrient potions, and then they would object to her not eating; or they would take one look at her and, like Professor Weatherwax, decide that she couldn't be human; or (more likely, and from a certain perspective worse) they would believe that she was human, but would demand to do their own alchemical analyses and give her a physical exam before they would allow her to take her potions (since she hadn't been ordered to take them by a healer).

That in and of itself wouldn't be a problem, she was confident that she had legitimate reason to take them, and the healers would eventually agree if they did their job properly. But if they gave her a physical exam, they would notice all the little things Dru had done to make her body more tolerable over the years — making herself properly symmetrical was the most obvious, but a healer's inspection would also note that she'd gotten rid of her body hair and used magic to regulate her body temperature.

They would notice that she was somewhat tall and unusually physically fit for a witch her age — dancing was, among other things, excellent exercise — which wouldn't strike them as odd until they put it together with not eating enough, at which point it would become decidedly odd. Dru was admittedly on the slim side, the proportions that she planned on growing into more in line with Madame's ideal of womanly beauty than Ella's or Society's at large (which tended toward softer, more sensual, considerably fuller figures), but she was hardly skin and bones, on the verge of starvation, as she understood most people would be if they ate as little as she did.

And they would be unwontedly concerned, in much the same way as Ella, that, all evidence to the contrary, Dru was terribly unwell physically as well as mentally. The latter was a much more legitimate concern, but not one that they would likely be able to do much of anything about.

Well, they could leave her alone and just let her work out her own solutions to the world being so terribly at odds with her very being (and vice versa), but they wouldn't. They never did.

"If I were to poison myself with an improperly brewed potion — not that I'm in the habit of brewing potions improperly, or failing to recognise whether they're brewed correctly or not — that would be entirely my own fault, and no concern of yours."

"I realise that you probably won't agree," the Headmaster began, in that same infuriating tone, "but whether students come to harm at Hogwarts, regardless of who is ultimately at fault, is very much our concern. And beyond that, it is highly concerning that your family allows you to manage your own medical care."

"You're right," Dru said, as scathingly as she could. "I don't agree. And why shouldn't I take care of myself? I know myself better than anyone else does, and healers don't believe me when I tell them that their solutions to my so-called problems only make things worse."

The most egregious examples which came to mind were the healers who had advised her mother that Dru needed love and support to overcome her Beauxbatons-induced depression, and encouraged Ella to pay her extra attention and arrange less overwhelming opportunities for Dru to make friends and not leave her alone because loneliness would make her more melancholy, when Dru had literally never felt lonely in her life, and the only thing she wanted from Ella, at all ever, was for her mother to leave her alone. (She didn't even think she'd felt melancholic, really, researching suicide, just exhausted and desperate for some peace and quiet.)

Special mention went to the idiot who had suggested that they try to tempt her to eat more with sweets, focusing on getting her to eat more of anything before trying to force her to eat more healthy foods, when Dru actually despised sugar and had, in her opinion, made it very clear that she wanted nothing to do with it. Healthy foods were actually generally more tolerable than sweets — bread and dairy products could be hit or miss, and most meat was bad enough to make her physically ill (she rarely ever even tried to eat it anymore), but salads were generally fine.

"Oh, I don't know," Dumbledore drawled. "Perhaps because you're a little girl, not a trained and certified healer? Madam Turner will write to your Head of House regarding a proper medical examination, after which she will decide whether to institute a potion regimen for you or not."

Dru capitulated with a sigh, too exhausted by the prospect of the inevitable discussion with the healer to argue any longer. She had won the right not to practise transfigurations in Dumbledore's lessons, which was something, and at least she wouldn't have to contend with Ella as well as the healers. If she was lucky, Aunt Caelia might come up and explain to them that Dru was in fact capable of monitoring her own health, and in her (Auntie's) professional opinion, they ought to just leave her be. (Aunt Caelia wasn't technically a healer — she'd trained as a forensic alchemist and potions analyst — but there was a great deal of overlap between the two disciplines.) In fact, Dru might write to her herself, pre-empting the healer doing the same. "Very well. May I be excused, Headmaster?" she asked, packing away the last of her things, less the completed potions. She could always brew more, if the healers decided to be difficult.

It would be tedious, and she might begin feeling somewhat poorly after a week or so without them, but she would manage.

"Yes, Miss Rosier, you may go."

"We still haven't established that that trunk is safe to allow in a dormitory," the Transfiguration professor reminded his boss with a petulant pout.

The Headmaster, clearly as ready to be done with this meeting as Dru, cast a levitation charm at her repacked luggage. It rose smoothly into the air, as Headmaster Dippet's left eyebrow rose smoothly into an expression which said more clearly than words, stop being a brat.

"Somehow, I can't bring myself to doubt that Miss Rosier's ward-scheme functions exactly as designed. Obviously it was not triggered by a stray Levitation Charm, and I have no reason to believe that Miss Rosier lied about the actions necessary to trigger it." He set the trunk back down equally smoothly before repeating, "Yes, Miss Rosier, you may go."

She shrunk the chest and placed it carefully in her pocket. She hadn't included a gyroscopic dissociation element because she hadn't expected to carry it around with her after it was partially unpacked.

The Headmaster didn't wait until she fully closed the door to take the younger wizard to task over his behaviour. "I don't like it any more than you do, Albus, catching my own great-niece lying about attempting to violate another student's privacy, I'm not looking forward to speaking to Gareth and Joy about the matter, but I'm going to do it because holding a leadership position in an institution such as Hogwarts requires impartiality. Perhaps the Hat was right about appointing you as Deputy Headmaster as well as Head of Gryffindor House!

"You are going to talk to Miss Hansen's parents. Count yourself lucky you don't have to tell them that House Rosier is demanding a public apology from their daughter over an attempted theft, due entirely to the fact that you were more concerned with attempting to assert dominance over a bloody eleven-year-old than advocating for your student's interests in a remotely diplomatic manner!"

Oh, yes, I suppose I could have done that... The thought simply hadn't occurred to her that she might use Dumbledore's student's trespass as leverage against him, as though he were the Head of an actual House, not just Gryffindor. Though it was hardly as though she'd actually needed the additional leverage, given that she was in the right and Dumbledore was a petty tyrant. Perhaps if Headmaster Dippet had decided against all rationality to take the side of his professor, but...

"On which subject, you are almost sixty years old! You hold three Masteries and the Deputy Headmastership of one of the best schools in Europe! And you just got your arse handed to you in a pissing match with a child, because you haven't learned at any point in the past fifty years to pick your thrice-cursed battles and admit when you're outmatched!"

"I was not outmatched!"

"Then why were you the one attempting to escalate the matter of a student who has mastered the lesson doodling — presumably not distracting her classmates in any way — to one demanding corporal punishment?"

"Damn it, Armando! I was trying to make an example of her to deter future distractions! What was I supposed to do when she started quoting Giuseppe bloody Allegheny and questioning my expertise on the nature of conjuration? yield the floor and allow her to teach the bloody lesson?"

"No, I pay you to do that. Why were you discussing conjuration in the first lesson of the year, anyway? Next time a first-year student attempts to engage you in a mastery-level argument about the theoretical foundations of your subject in the middle of an introductory lesson," he said scathingly, as though it had been absurd for Dru to do so, "I suggest you de-escalate by offering to continue the conversation during office hours and go back to teaching the students who aren't prepared to participate in a Mastery-level argument! For that matter, I suggest you not engage in an argument with anyone familiar with Allegheny's work, period — unless you have a new proof to offer, in which case I'd like to hear it myself!"

So would Dru, but he didn't have one — and, she realised, she was now lingering and listening at doors for the gratification of hearing the Headmaster defend her, which was hardly acceptable behaviour, even if the secretary wasn't in the outer office just now to catch her at it. She debated for a moment whether she ought to latch the door properly, but decided that doing so would likely only draw attention to the fact that she had still been out here eavesdropping, and give Dumbledore more ammunition should he decide to continue their spat. Up until now, she was quite certain she had been in the right at every turn. Listening at doors, however, was decidedly less defensible behaviour than refusing to placate the wounded pride of a pompous boor.

And she had more important things to do, anyway.

[holding a leadership position in an institution such as Hogwarts]

I don't think it's likely to come up in-story, or at least not any time soon, but this is only Dumbledore's third year as Deputy Headmaster. The Sorting Hat didn't want Dippet to appoint him as his deputy because it would either interfere with his ability to support his Gryffindors to the best of his ability or with his ability to be impartial in maintaining discipline throughout the school. Certain others, including Margolotta and Kitty, just think he's a shite choice because he's a patronising arse, and insufferably full of himself.