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

Chapter 7

In which Sean is actually helpful for once, Dru reads her own medical records and realises why she can't sleep, and Tom unintentionally does someone a kindness whilst procrastinating in detention.

Camille wasn't in their room when Dru returned to the Tower, and Jane was presumably still in hospital, so she managed to get most of the way through painting the enchantment to distinguish her third of the room from the rest of it before she was interrupted.

"Druella? What did you do to Jane Willoughby and Enid Hansen?" Sean demanded, entering her room without so much as a perfunctory knock.

"They tried to break into my trunk," she explained, not looking up from her rune-chain. She didn't recall the little almond-shaped links — each one five centimetres long and three at the widest point, overlapping so that the terminal points of each link fell at the centre of the next, with three symbols denoting a simple physical and magical shield and a sustaining rune in each of the quadrants formed by the overlapping links — being this tedious to paint at home, but that might have been because she'd been doing it for the first time then, and not continually distracted by thoughts of potential improvements she might make to the scheme.

The defensive chain she was replicating had been her first serious enchanting project, designed before she'd even finished with the Level Nine Graphic Arts materials, and well before she'd looked into anything resembling proper wardcrafting. Technically speaking, it wasn't a ward, in the sense of being properly integrated into the magical currents of the locale, keyed to specific individuals, or activated by certain conditions. She had to manually empower it every time she wanted to bring it up, charging the sustaining runes (channelling power into all of them through one via sympathetic resonance), which would then support the defensive enchantment for about twelve hours, or until she sapped the magic out of them so that she could leave or re-enter the protected area. The way she had designed it, her person was exempt from the scheme because it was empowered by her magic, which meant she could reach through the enchantment plane to sap the sustaining runes, but her clothing and books and so on couldn't pass through the shield, so she did unfortunately need to sap it whenever she wanted to leave. (It wasn't difficult, un-casting a spell, just annoying and less efficient than it could be.)

She really should re-write it, but she also had more important things to do than optimise a perfectly functional (if somewhat annoying to operate) pseudo-ward. Just painting the one she already had written was taking valuable time away from her search for information on sleep and nightmares.

It only took twenty to twenty-five seconds to paint a single link, but the plane she'd chosen to define as her new wall was three metres wide, and the room had a two metre ceiling, which called for four-hundred iterations of that link. She'd managed to pick up the pace slightly after finishing the ceiling — painting upside down was just tedious — but she'd been working on the project for over two hours now, and she still had a metre of wall to finish. Forty links; fifteen minutes. Plus however much time Sean intended to waste. And then she could go back to the library.

"So you electrocuted them?!"

"They electrocuted themselves. Slightly. Just enough to scare them. Retaliatory hex ward triggered by a physical force spell imparted directly into the locking mechanism of my trunk. Nothing serious."

"They're in hospital, Druella!" Sean snapped, in a tone eerily reminiscent of Ella. "Kelly said they were found unconscious! That sounds pretty darn serious to me!"

James Kelly, Dru thought, was one of the Gryffindor prefects, which supported her assumption that the girls had taken her trunk elsewhere to attempt to break into it. "They were rendered unconscious by the stunning element."

"You should still come down and apologise," her cousin decided, his bossy tone making it clear that he expected Dru to do exactly that, right now.

"I'm not the one who attempted to violate one of my roommates' privacy."

"No, you're the one who put one of your roommates in hospital on the second day of school!"

"If they hadn't tried to break into my trunk, they wouldn't have gotten shocked. I'm not going to apologise."

"Druella, please look at me. This is important."

"I'm paying attention," she assured him. Sort of. Paying some attention, at least. She didn't really need to give her full attention to his complaints in order to rebut them, and she did need to finish this enchantment and get back to her research. She would have more patience for Sean being tedious after she figured out why she couldn't sleep and—

"Dru!"

"What, Sean? Can't you see I'm working on something here?"

"Yes, and we'll get to that in a minute — you're not allowed to ward the prefects and your Head of House out of your dorm—" How convenient, then, that this wasn't technically a ward. There hadn't been anything in the school handbook to that effect anyway, only that she couldn't deny them access for inspections. If they asked, she would of course let them in, but Sean had told her himself that they only did inspections before the summer holiday, to make sure everyone cleared out all of their belongings. "—but I need to know you're hearing me: you cannot put your roommates in hospital just because they're curious about you and want to learn more about you! And what's this about you walking out of your first Potions lesson?"

"Of course I can hear you. I'm even listening to you." Whereas he clearly wasn't listening to her, since she again had to point out, "I didn't put them in hospital, they did that to themselves. Actually, whoever found them did that. The hex isn't dangerous — nothing on my trunk is that dangerous! Do you really think I want to have this conversation with Ella after the twins do the exact same thing over the summer? And quite frankly, I don't care whether they're curious about me or not, that doesn't give them the right to paw through my things. I walked out of Potions because Professor Slughorn De-Spelled me because he thought I was lying about not using cosmetic charms, and incidentally vanished my underclothes."

That apparently threw him for a few seconds. "Why were you wearing—"

"Because, Sean," she snapped, finally abandoning her work in order to glare at him. "I'm allergic to cotton! Ella refuses to allow me to buy linen underclothes because apparently breaking out in hives whenever I touch the awful stuff isn't sufficient proof that I'm allergic to it, it's all in my head, I'm just being dramatic, so I conjure them for myself."

The healers' tests admittedly hadn't detected any such allergy, but there very clearly was one — Dru would never choose to break out in hives! Even if it was all in her head, it clearly wasn't under her control, and it was equally clearly a problem. But Ella had refused to conjure silk or linen underclothes for Dru even when she was small and couldn't do it for herself, and Dru had overheard an incredibly bitter argument when she was eight and Ella realised that Father had taken it upon himself to resolve that particular conflict by regularly conjuring underclothes for Dru himself. Yes, I've been just giving her what she wants, Ella, it takes two seconds to conjure a slip and it obviously makes her less miserable, so what's the thrice-cursed problem here?

(The "problem" was that Father helping Dru was apparently undermining Ella's authority as Dru's mother, and teaching her that she could have anything she liked if she cried about it long enough. The "problem" was probably also that "coddling" Dru by "indulging" her peculiarities wouldn't encourage her to become accustomed to the world being awful and stop acting like a spaz about it, but Ella wouldn't actually say that anywhere any of the Rosiers might hear her.)

"You conjure— But you're eleven!"

And she'd been conjuring her own underclothes since she was nine. (Father, being a reasonable person who didn't like seeing his eldest daughter miserable, had continued doing so until she could, despite Ella's protests that he was "encouraging her" to defy her mother. As though Dru needed any encouragement to tell Ella to shove her opinions up a dragon's arse.)

"Yes? Do we really need to have this conversation right now? I've already been assaulted by one of my professors today, had to apologise to another for missing his first lesson, gotten into an argument with a third about his classroom management and disciplinary policies, incidentally humiliating him in front of the Headmaster and encouraging him to find an excuse to take control of my potions regimen away from me — which he wouldn't even have known about, save for the fact that your precious privacy-invading snoops poking their noses in where they weren't welcome alerted the Headmaster to the fact that I enchanted my trunk rather more thoroughly than the average Hogwarts student, which fact I was called upon to defend, as though I would keep anathema materials in my school trunk! Honestly!"

Sean positively glowered at her. "Yes, Dru. We need to have this conversation now. I understand that you're having a hard time adjusting, but I'm having a hard time believing you're actually trying to fit in!"

"You think I'm not trying?!" Dru repeated, uncertain whether she was more surprised or furious. "You have no idea how hard I'm trying, Sean! None!"

"No, I don't, because as far as I can tell, you've offended every muggleborn in your year by calling them rude and every moment you spend talking to them a waste of time; shown off by getting into a theory argument with your Transfiguration professor and conjuring needles in his lessons, rather than transfiguring them; lost five House Points, earned a detention for yourself, and convinced your entire section that you think you know better than the professors in doing so—"

"I do, he was wrong! It was hardly as though I claimed that I had come up with the theory I cited! I provided references and replicated a demonstration given at a public conference by an actual transfiguration master!" Dru protested.

Sean ignored her. "—you've refused to spend any free time with your classmates; skipped more than half of the meals since the start of term feast; and put two of your yearmates in hospital. So please, Dru, tell me how hard you're trying."

Dru positively glowered at her obnoxious cousin. "I'm still here, aren't I?"

"Good job," he drawled, as though that wasn't any sort of accomplishment in and of itself. "That's the bare minimum, Dru."

"Fine. I'm still here even though Cosette's been trying to turn people against me by telling them I'm a freak and I hate them even when I'm being polite and not mentioning that and tolerating their ignorance and answering their questions; even though I have to attend introductory-level lessons because the NEWT students will hate me for showing them up even more than the first-years; even though Dumbledore has no respect for his students as people and Slughorn thinks I ought to take it as a compliment that he thought I was lying about just looking like this, and used a spell I didn't say was okay to use on me trying to prove it; even though Professor Weatherwax doesn't think I'm human and Father hasn't responded to my letter asking why he's so certain that I am; even though the longest period of solitude I've had in the past four days was the two hours before you barged in here without so much as a by your leave, making it impossibly clear that any illusion of privacy I may have here is only that, to say nothing of Jane and Enid attempting to break into my trunk, or the Deputy Head insisting upon inspecting the enchantments on it, and coincidentally raking his eyes over all of my belongings; even though it's viscerally uncomfortable to give up control of my potions to anyone, but especially someone I've never even met; and the food here is terrible and I haven't been able to sleep for the past three nights!

"I haven't transfigured Cosette into a fish or even so much as asked any of my classmates to just leave me alone or filed an official complaint against those nosey children or my so-called Potions professor or done anything offensive to anyone — other than Dumbledore, but he started it, taking and vanishing my sketches, just because he thinks being old gives him the right to be an unmitigated boor and I, being a 'child', ought to be required to simply take his bullying with a polite nod and say, 'Please, Sir, may I have some more?'

"If he can't stand being shown up by a little girl or at least consider that convincing evidence that I ought to be treated as a person, rather than an inferior whom he need not show even the slightest respect, as far as I'm concerned, that's his problem, and if he expels me, I will absolutely apply to work with Giuseppe Allegheny specifically to drag his professional reputation into the mud and bury him. But I haven't gone out of my way to humiliate him in front of the other students or to make it clear to any of the other professors that I have absolutely no need for their lessons. I'm trying! I am! I swear! Literally nothing about being here is easy for me, Sean!

"And now I need to finish this enchantment so my so-called peers cannot steal my belongings again out of spite or because their first attempt to satisfy their so-called curiosity was unsuccessful; speak to the school healers about regaining access to my potions; probably send a letter to Aunt Caelia asking her to intervene, because I sincerely doubt they will be any more willing to grant that I am capable of managing myself than any other adult and allow me to correct whatever lies and misrepresentations Ella included on their paperwork on my own authority; force down some of that revolting tripe they call food here, since I don't have said potions; and finally get back to trying to figure out why I find it so impossible to sleep in this godforsaken, child-infested hell-hole!"

Sean, to his credit, seemed to realise that he'd crossed a line, refraining from attempting to claim again that she wasn't trying, or wasn't trying hard enough, or whatever he was thinking. (Not that trying harder was an option, she didn't do anything to less than the best of her ability, there was never any harder she could try.) Not to his credit, he didn't take the blatant, glaring hint to leave her alone, instead simply standing there staring at her for several long seconds.

"Either say something or go away, Sean. I don't have time for this," she informed him, glaring down at him from the top of her trunk. It was just tall enough for her to reach and paint on the ceiling, standing in relevé, and she was almost done. Twenty-eight more links ought to do it.

"You are allowed to ask for help, you know, Dru. You don't have to solve all your problems on your own. Have you considered asking Healer Turner for a sleeping potion?" he suggested, which was...actually not a terrible idea.

If she could simply circumvent the problem, whatever it was, she could de-prioritise that particular issue and deal with some of the less pressing social concerns before returning to exactly why she couldn't sleep. And she did need to speak to the Healers anyway. "I had not. Thank you, Sean. Please go away and let me finish this."

"You're welcome. You're still not allowed to ward everyone out of your dorm room."

"Hogwarts Student Handbook, Chapter One, Section Five, Sub-Section Four: Students may not deny access to their school-provided sleeping quarters to their Head of House or House Prefects, for the purposes of inspecting possessions for contraband items and out of concern for student safety. If you or Professor Sanchez or any of the other prefects would like to inspect my possessions for contraband items, you need only ask. If you are concerned that I may fall ill and require assistance which you would be unable to render if locked out by my enchantment, rest assured, it will fail after twelve hours without active maintenance on my part. I am unlikely to perish from any illness within such a time frame. If you are concerned that I may deliberately lock you out in order to commit suicide in peace, I've already promised Auntie that I'll write to her and leave this place before I'm forced to resort to such options. Thank you, Sean," she repeated, over his surprised, too-quick inhale. Had Aunt Caelia not told him about that? Oops. "Please go away."

"Fine," he agreed, a certain wariness in his tone, and an expression of distinct discomfort on his face. "But I expect to see you at dinner."

"Don't. I'll be in the Hospital Wing, asking Healer Turner for a sleeping potion."

(He went, finally.)

When Dru arrived at the entrance to the Hospital Wing, she found there was no one there. Perhaps not entirely surprising, it was only the second day of lessons. There couldn't have been so many misadventures yet this year, but even Jane and Enid seemed to have been dismissed. (Which suggested that the Chief Healer wasn't a complete idiot, at least, Dru supposed — they hadn't actually been hurt.) She lingered at the threshold for a long moment, taking in the ward and trying to convince herself to step inside. There was no reason not to, and she did need to speak to the healer on duty, for multiple reasons.

The room was absolutely pristine, much more so than any other healer's office Dru had ever seen. The bed linens — actual linen, to Dru's surprise — had been tucked so tightly around their mattresses that she could probably have bounced a sickle off one, the water glasses on each bedside table cleaned and inverted to remain so until they were needed, the visitors' chairs aligned precisely at right angles to their respective beds, their backs delineating the space designated for each bay. The curtains separating them — more undyed linen, each one suspended on a track — were tucked away against the walls. They were probably enchanted for privacy, she thought, or possibly for magical isolation; those oddly textured bits were almost certainly runes woven into the fabric (which would keep the magic in the curtains themselves from interfering with any delicate analysis charms if they were meant for isolation, but which was also terribly expensive — prohibitively so for a school hospital wing, she would think), but she couldn't read them, folded back as they were.

Unlike most of the Castle, the walls and ceiling were neatly plastered and the flagstone floor had been sealed with an alchemical lacquer. Every inch of the space had been thoroughly scrubbed — there was not a speck of dust to be seen anywhere, much less any more substantial mess or clutter — and she could practically taste the sterilisation charms on the air, even from outside the door. Potions and non-magical healing paraphernalia — bandages and so on — were organised on their shelves with the same regimented attention to detail as the beds and the chairs (a degree of precision not seen elsewhere in the Castle, suggesting that the Chief Healer insisted that the elves do things this way, or that the healers simply tidied their domain themselves); unlit alchemical light-globes — the fancy ones, enchanted to hover wherever they were placed when activated — stacked in a neat little pyramid on a table beside what was almost certainly the door to the Healers' personal offices, at the other end of the ward. It sat slightly ajar, the only thing in the room remotely out of its proper place.

Still, no matter how clean and (relatively) inviting it was, she couldn't shake the reluctance to step inside. She simply hated healers' offices.

"In or out!" a vaguely familiar voice called from beyond the door. (She must have triggered a tripline ward. Oops.) "And state your business," added the grey-clad Healer Dru had seen whilst she was waiting in Headmaster Dippet's outer office on Sunday, pushing the door fully open. "Or stop wasting my time!"

Well, now Dru wanted to go in even less, but since she'd been spotted and didn't want to waste the Healer's time, especially if she could give Dru a draught of Dreamless Sleep, she stepped onto the ward.

And blinked in surprise when the visceral disgust which always threatened to overwhelm her in Healers' offices...wasn't there.

"Fae-struck, Missy? I know I'm pretty, but I'm on dinner-break, so out with it."

The healer — Healer Turner, Dumbledore had called her Madam Turner on Sunday and earlier, in the Headmaster's office, but she was clearly a healer, and Sean had called her Healer Turner — certainly was not pretty — short, stocky, her face square, heavily lined and sun-damaged, with small eyes and a slightly crooked nose. Her unnaturally straight hair had gone a steely grey — Dru would guess that she was in her nineties — and she cut it mannishly, just above her shoulders. She was wearing grey healers' robes again, a shade lighter than her hair, plain, low-heeled boots, and an irritated frown. She had to be joking, for all she sounded terribly annoyed to be interrupted.

But that wasn't important because the only thing Dru could think to say was, "It's nice in here."

The healer's eyebrows rose a few millimetres. "Is it, now? I'll have to work on that." What? "Who are you, child, and what do you need from me?"

"Druella Rosier, first-year Ravenclaw."

Before she could explain that she couldn't sleep here— Though, actually, she might be able to sleep here, as in, in the Hospital Wing. Maybe it was that she knew most of the patients treated here weren't actually ill, but suffering the effects of some misfortune or misadventure, but not only was it not making her uncomfortable to be here, it was actually more comfortable than the rest of the school. Like her half of her room was more comfortable than the rest of Elladora's home, she realised, the chaos outside not reaching what was clearly a very regimented space. It wasn't quite as comfortable as being at home, in her own space, but at least she didn't feel like she was somehow under attack simply existing here. —the healer interrupted with, "If this is about the nutrient potions, I've already spoken to Caelia."

"No— Well, yes, I was hoping to speak to you about that, but— You know Aunt Caelia?"

"You're the fourteenth Rosier to attend Hogwarts since I started here. We've met once or twice." Oh. Right. Clearly Druella needed to get some sleep even more than she'd thought — that should have been obvious. "She's written a letter to the effect that your House will not hold Hogwarts accountable if deviating from school policy by allowing you to administer your own potions somehow results in your injury." The Healer must have floo-called and been lucky enough to catch Auntie when she had a few free minutes to step through, Dru thought. Before she had time to decide whether she was actually relieved that she wouldn't have to come here to get her potion every day, when she found herself thinking that she would have liked to have an excuse to come here and escape the chaos of the rest of the school for a few minutes each day, the healer added, "Since they weren't being administered on a healer's orders, however, we will need to do an assessment to determine whether they are necessary and formulated correctly for your specific case." Dru winced at the confirmation of her fear on that front, though the healer seemed not to notice. "Not that I doubt Caelia's work, but she's not a licensed healer, and I could lose my licence if I issue orders on a potion regimen with no documented basis for doing so."

Dru let out a little sigh, resigning herself to the inevitable before she asked, "Might I schedule the examination for tomorrow morning? Second period would be ideal. I'm certain Professor Dumbledore won't mind my absence." If she must sit through a painfully tedious, likely humiliating general physical, the least the healer could do was give her an excuse to skip Transfiguration.

Healer Turner gave her a curious, speculative look, as though she knew there had to be a story there, but all she said was, "You will need to fast for twenty-four hours beforehand, so—"

"I know. I took a nutrient potion before first period this morning, but I haven't eaten yet today." And if they did the assessment at midmorning tomorrow, that would be a perfectly legitimate excuse to skip dinner and breakfast as well, and she might actually be hungry enough by lunchtime that she could ignore how awful the food was here, she realised, her mood brightening slightly. If she could actually get a sleeping potion for tonight, too, tomorrow might actually be reasonably tolerable.

"When was the last time you ate?" the healer asked, with a disapproving little frown.

Dru hesitated, anticipating even greater disapproval, but there was really no help for it. "Lunch, yesterday. Which is perfectly normal for me, I'm not starving myself, I swear."

Surprisingly, the frown drifted in a somewhat contemplative direction. "...How certain are you that you're actually human?"

Well, out of all possible responses, that wasn't the worst she could have offered. "Father has assured me that I am, and Professor Weatherwax ruled out every species of fae or demon she knew of on the basis of an exposure test just yesterday, but I've yet to hear back from Father regarding the specific evidence on which he based his assurances."

Apparently this was very funny for some reason.

"I'm not having fun," she assured the healer, vaguely annoyed.

"I didn't think you were," Healer Turner said, fighting to keep a straight face. "I also didn't expect you to be seriously investigating the question."

Dru wasn't entirely certain why. "People suggest that I'm not human two-point-seven times on average on days that I interact with people other than close family." And point four times on days that she only interacted with close family. Though days when Felix was home from school did admittedly skew the data. Ella, like Father, seemed to think Dru was human, just a complete freak. "Why wouldn't I seriously investigate the possibility?"

Yes, she had been insisting for years that she was human, based primarily on Father's assurances, and she would hate to find out she'd been wrong the whole time, but she would love not to be related to Elladora and her children, and she could probably claim that the things people found most odd about her were perfectly normal for...whatever she was. And she would probably be ostracised from polite society. There were really no down sides. Aside from admitting that she'd been wrong about something as basic as her own species for the past...eight or so years. (She didn't think she'd given the matter much thought before the age of three.) It wouldn't be her fault if she'd been given false information. She was sure she'd get over it.

Well, she'd get over the self-recrimination for not having insisted on seeing the evidence for herself years ago. She probably wouldn't get over Father lying to her. But not knowing whether he had was even worse than knowing it for certain, so. On the balance, yes, she wanted to know.

Healer Turner shook her head like Dru was being very silly. "Well, in that case, I'd like to do a blood test to establish your species before your physical — interpreting the results of any other tests without controlling such an important variable would obviously be less than helpful. Though it might explain some of the stranger points in the medical history your mother sent in."

Morrigan, preserve my sanity... "May I see what she included?" Probably a lot of speculative rubbish, she expected. And she wouldn't be surprised if Ella had neglected to include Healer Beauregard's assessment — the one where he declared her to be perfectly healthy...until Ella told him how little she ate, then changed his mind.

The healer looked rather surprised, but apparently couldn't think of any reason Dru shouldn't be allowed to see her own records. (Aside from Ella not wanting Dru to have more leverage in arguments about her own health, which Healer Turner obviously wouldn't know about.) After a second, she tipped her head toward the office door, selecting a vial and a glass-bladed knife from a cabinet before she followed.

For the second time in two days, the pad of her right middle finger was sliced open, this time much more deeply — enough so that Dru felt it necessary to make the bleeding stop as soon as Healer Turner had her sample, rather than waiting for the blood to clot on its own.

"Oh, that's not peculiar at all," she muttered, as she turned back from labelling the vial, wand in hand, clearly intending to heal the cut, which was already sealing itself back up.

Dru didn't see why she was so surprised, glass knives were sharp enough there was hardly any damage to the tissues at the edges of the wound and it had only been inflicted a few seconds before. Drawing the capillaries and skin back together and bridging the tiny gap with magic while she prodded her body to fix itself was hardly difficult.

"I seem to recall seeing a note to the effect that you are not a metamorph."

"I'm not, but the Wound-Sealing Spell isn't exactly difficult to emulate reflexively..."

"I assure you, most people find silent, wandless healing charms very difficult to cast, even on themselves," Healer Turner informed her drily, her tone not unlike the one Headmaster Dippet had used explaining that the handkerchief she'd conjured for Dumbledore was a bit much.

Dru had nothing to say to that, though she could feel her face growing warm under the healer's speculative gaze. Well, she could say that most people were apparently borderline incompetent at magic, but it was probably better to just leave it at, "...Oh."

"Indeed." Her head tipped toward an armchair — set at a forty-five degree angle to the unlit grate, far enough back so as to not obstruct passage through the floo — as she handed Dru a thick folder.

Had Ella literally sent copies of the records of every healer Dru had ever seen?

The file was prefaced by a three-page form completed in Ella's distinctively messy script, asking about her history of illness and familial conditions which might have been passed to her through blood, even if they hadn't yet manifested, as well as injuries, major healing procedures she'd undergone, and chronic physical and magical conditions.

She didn't make it halfway down the first page before she found a mistake (or possibly a deliberate untruth). "May I borrow a quill?" Obviously she could conjure a quill, but it would be odd to ask simply to borrow some ink, and if she conjured that, her corrections would eventually vanish. "Ella seems to have forgotten that her mother's elder brother is a squib. And it's Felix who had dragonpox when I was five — I was exposed, but didn't catch it."

She also hadn't included Dru's cotton allergy (presumably because she didn't think it was a medical problem, but the fact that the aetiology might not be medical didn't change the fact that Dru would almost certainly have an adverse reaction to, say, cotton bandages), or her intolerance of potions containing speedwell (which she might not be aware of), or her sensitivity to low-magic environments (which Ella seemed to be convinced Dru had been faking to get out of shopping) and her unusually high resistance to transfigurative spells and mind-magic (which she probably considered irrelevant, but the form asked for any irregular responses to external magic). She had also listed herself as the first person to be contacted in the case of an emergency. Dru immediately changed that to Aunt Caelia — if she were involved in an emergency and presumably in distress, the last thing she'd want would be Elladora hovering around making everything more difficult.

She had listed Dru's elimination of her body hair under "lingering curse damage", which wasn't strictly accurate, but close enough Dru let it stand, and added a note at the end about her eating habits, to which Dru added a note that she wasn't starving to death, Ella was just being dramatic (mostly to amuse herself, since Ella accused Dru of being dramatic approximately twice a day).

The form was followed by the letter from Auntie:
To any and all whom it may concern:

Druella Annette has the permission of House Rosier to assess and manage her own health and wellbeing, including the right to approve her own treatments without consulting an adult member of the House, and to brew and administer her own potions in accordance with her healers' orders. I am fully satisfied that Druella's knowledge and comprehension of matters related to healing practices in general is sufficient to affirm or refuse consent with informed confidence, and that she is sufficiently responsible as to comply with healers' orders without supervision. The House understands that this is contrary to school policy on the matter, and shall not hold the school responsible for any damages resulting from this deviation from the policy.

Caelia Celestine, Lady Rosier

After the signature, she had added:

As a personal addendum, it would behove any healer interacting with Druella to approach her as they would a reasonably well-read adult lay-person, rather than to assume ignorance or childish incomprehension of the matters at hand.

It would also behove them to take her at her word, regardless of how incredible they might find any given claim, and to give merit to her observations and suggestions regarding her own treatment. I assure you: she does not lie, she is not being deliberately difficult or obstructive, and she is not prone to hyperbole. If she tells them that a given condition, situation, or side-effect is intolerable, she means it literally. Her experience of the world is not theirs. She is not simply unwilling to suffer what they might perceive as little more than some minor discomfort, but will truly be unable to function under such conditions.

I have not requested that the school or individual professors make special accommodations for her because I truly believe such measures to be unnecessary. Druella is a bright girl, and I believe that she is capable of developing her own strategies to meet the requirements set for her with minimal disruption to existing social structures and without demanding extra effort on the part of others.

I only ask that you, and any other healer who may treat Druella in the course of her education, offer her the same degree of respect you would offer to an adult displaying the same symptoms and patterns of behaviour, rather than dismissing her perception and perspective simply due to her age, or because her priorities and preferences are radically different from your own. So long as she does no harm to others with her eccentricities, I would you consider those eccentricities matters of preference, rather than symptoms which require a healer's intervention.

(Translation: Dru might be a bit spastic, but the House doesn't have a problem with that. Don't try to fix her, don't treat her like a child or a mental incompetant, just take her at her word, leave her alone, and let her figure out how to exist in the world on her own.)

She turned the page quickly, blinking back tears. She really, truly wasn't in a good state of mind to face genuine supportiveness at the moment. Her current facade of competency and relative normality was a fragile thing held together by little more than necessity and force of will. If she spent too long contemplating the suggestion that it wasn't strictly necessary for her to try so hard to fit in, that Auntie, at least, didn't think it was a bad thing that Dru was a freak, it was perfectly acceptable if she tried her best and simply couldn't manage, the whole thing might simply fall apart.

Auntie really was Dru's favourite person in the entire world. Later, when she was safely alone, she would let herself cry and compose a letter expressing her gratitude (and perhaps requesting that Aunt Caelia tell Sean everything she'd just told the school healers). For now, though, she focussed determinedly on her file, pushing the near-overwhelming emotions away.

After Aunt Caelia's letter, records from various healers had been placed in chronological order, beginning with the record of her birth and the standard health and protection rituals done by the midwife who had delivered her. (Ella had redacted part of the notes, which Dru suspected meant that the midwife had said some unflattering things about the new mother.) The first two annual growth progress reports were perfectly normal, with notes to the effect that she was somewhat ahead of the expected cognitive milestones. These were followed by three visits in quick succession as it appeared Ella had grown concerned over Dru developing a tendency to go off by herself and a marked reluctance to interact with her. (Good to know Ella had always been awful.) The healers apparently hadn't found anything amiss, though one of them had tactfully suggested that House Rosier was known to be somewhat antisocial and eccentric, and Ella might simply have to resign herself to the fact that Dru took after her father's family.

Her disinterest in eating and sensitivity to cotton had developed over the next year, resulting in several visits which culminated with Healer Farris informing Ella that sometimes children were just picky and if Dru was hungry she would eat, there was no cause for concern unless she started losing weight or otherwise failing to thrive, and a recommendation that she would probably grow out of both issues over the next few years. That was the last visit to Healer Farris, so he'd presumably been a bit more direct in person than he had been in his notes. (Healer Beauregard's report, which should have been between the third and fourth Farris visits, was indeed not included.) Of course, it could also have been the case that, pregnant with the twins and then busy caring for them (and, to a lesser extent, Felix), Ella had been at least temporarily willing to accept that Dru's increasing oddness did not require urgent attention.

There was a consultation when Druella turned five, regarding whether she could be allowed to begin practising basic wizardry — Ella had thought she wasn't ready for a wand, but Dru had pestered her (and kept stealing hers to practise with) until she gave in and asked the healer if it was alright. She'd clearly hoped that she would say no, but Dru had passed the aptitude test Beauxbatons recommended prospective students take before deciding to enrol and, according to Healer Devlin, Dru was more than capable of the degree of control necessary to begin learning wandwork. She wouldn't recommend pushing a five-year-old to begin practising even the most basic wizardry, but since Dru clearly wanted to (and had in fact already been stealing Ella's wand for the better part of a year), she didn't see a problem with it. (Dru distinctly recalled feeling triumphant glee at the expression of annoyed resignation on Ella's face when the healer had said there was no reason she couldn't have a wand of her own.)

It wasn't really a surprise that over the next couple of years, until Dru left for Beauxbatons, Ella's main complaint at regular check-in visits was that Dru spent far too much time (in Ella's opinion) practising charms, surely it wasn't healthy for a child to practise spellwork six or more hours a day. (It wasn't unhealthy, even if it was a bit unusual — and one would think that by the time she turned six, Ella would be accustomed to the idea that Dru was a bit unusual. It wasn't as though she'd practised magic much more obsessively than any other art she happened to be studying at any given time.)

Using wish-magic or something like it to make permanent alterations to her body, on the other hand, was considered unhealthy by healers as well as Ella, no matter how superficial those alterations might be. They couldn't make her stop, of course, but they did give her a very stern lecture when Ella noticed that she'd gotten rid of her body hair, and in her notes it was much clearer than it had been in person at the time that Healer Devlin had found the whole incident highly disturbing — possibly more so than Ella, and Ella had a screaming fit over it, practically hysterical because she was convinced that Dru was going to hurt herself somehow, altering her fundamental identity. Healer Devlin had just spent a full page and a half of notes going on about how this was completely impossible and she had no idea what Dru had done or how.

None of that was particularly surprising or problematic. Dru remembered all of the visits to Healer Devlin, and at least a couple with Healer Farris. (She didn't think he'd actually ever addressed her directly, so she hadn't paid much attention to what was going on, and she hadn't begun properly archiving her memories until she'd begun studying various subjects more methodically, so some of her earlier memories, before the age of five, had a tendency to blend together.) She didn't disagree with any of the conclusions they'd drawn, aside from the fact that obviously she wasn't going to hurt herself making her body more tolerable. (She made a note to that effect, of course.)

The Beauxbatons section of the file was nearly as thick as all seven preceding years together. The first document was a copy of a form much like the one at the front of her Hogwarts file (completed similarly poorly). The second was a copy of the list of childhood illnesses she'd had before enrollment. Or rather, that she'd been exposed to — she'd never actually been ill from any of them. The third was more interesting: an affinity and latent talent test. She hadn't realised Beauxbatons had done one, though in hindsight, it wasn't surprising that they would have, and she did actually remember it. She simply hadn't recognised its purpose at the time, and it had been filed away and subsequently ignored as irrelevant to anything outside of Beauxbatons, along with all the other bewildering introductory activities she'd been herded through in her first days there.

She didn't seem to have an affinity for any particular elemental magic, though not because she wasn't drawn to any of the various disciplines — the examiner had noted that she was comfortable with all of the elements they'd tested, she simply hadn't shown a preference for any of them. Which was objectively odd, but not terribly surprising given the result of Professor Weatherwax's light and darkness test yesterday. Dru would say she was most comfortable doing basic elemental manipulation exercises with aether, actually, rather than air or light or what have you, but there weren't really 'elemental' equivalent spells for raw magic (that was just...freeform magic), and they hadn't tested for an especial aptitude for soul-magic.

She also didn't seem to have any latent talents, or at least not any that they tested for — metamorphy would almost certainly have been obvious before the age of seven, and she'd entirely failed to respond to the test for mind-magic, which was based on the subject's responses to various external mental pressures, a legilimens poking at her and trying to "draw her out."

She wasn't entirely certain she'd understood what they were asking her to do in the exercises meant to determine whether she had a latent talent for weatherworking or energy healing. She'd been confused at the time, and frustrated, trying to get them to explain more clearly what they wanted her to do when they asked her to move heat from one object to another (but not with a Warming Charm) and attempt to feel the energy in the examiner's body, or somehow show her what they meant. She'd been rather upset about it because she'd known that she wasn't doing well in this particular set of tests, and she didn't like not doing well, which had, according to the examiners' notes, resulted in their drawing an early end to the test. In any case, however, it likely would have been obvious what they'd meant if she did have such a talent, so she presumably didn't.

Then there was a short questionnaire addressing various aspects of the Sight — magesight, clairvoyance, and psychometry — which she clearly didn't have, even if her aversion to food and touching people could indicate a degree of psychometric awareness.

Psychometry was almost always a peripheral focal effect of a very strong talent for clairvoyance or intuitive recognition. Clairvoyance in general — whether precognitive, historical, or farsighted, linear or branching — was far more obvious and in extreme cases (such as those resulting in psychometric echoes strong enough to make food intolerable) debilitating to a seer simply going about their daily life than any degree of psychometric perception, their awareness of past or potential future events or simultaneous potentialities making it impossible to distinguish reality from...everything else without potions to limit their Sight. Honestly, Dru wasn't entirely certain how intuitive recognition was supposed to be different from...just normally recognising a thing? Surely one either knew what a thing was, or one didn't? And even with novel objects, it was rarely difficult to deduce their purpose from their form and context...

In any case, however, if a seer were capable of following what was actually going on around them in any given moment, it was highly unlikely that they would be aware of psychometric echoes strong enough to affect their ability to function. (It was far more likely that Dru was simply peculiar, neurotic, and overly sensitive in an entirely mundane way.)

There was a note that they should keep an eye on her as a potential omniglot and perhaps keep her away from any parselmouths just to be on the safe side (Dru wasn't sure why, she'd have to look it up later), given that she claimed to speak six languages already — she'd really only spoken French, English, and Gobbledygook, but she'd been able to read and write Latin, German, and Punic passably well — but she hadn't stayed at the school long enough for them to make a determination one way or another.

The academic placement test had apparently suggested that she could have started with Level Seven lessons in both magical and mundane subjects, which Dru hadn't realised. The administrators had suggested that she start at Level Five and explore Levels Five and Six more broadly than the official curriculum required over the course of several years, because she might have the requisite theoretical knowledge to start at Seven, but it was "impossible" that she would have the channelling capacity to do so before the age of eleven or twelve at the absolute earliest, which she supposed was a decent reason. Not that it was entirely accurate — they clearly assumed that she wouldn't bother learning to cast the more advanced spells properly — or even really mattered, given that Ella wouldn't even let her take Level Five lessons.

Over the course of her first and only term, Madame Drapeau, the housemistress responsible for her, had written notes approximately weekly expressing her concern about Dru failing to make friends within her dorm, her eating habits, and her determination to sneak away from the group whenever possible. After losing Dru for an entire day and a half (she'd been hiding in the upyri dormitory, which was much quieter and more tolerable than her own), she'd written a letter to the Year One Coordinator asking him to please contact her family and advise them that Dru wasn't settling in well, it might be advisable to take her home and wait another year or two before sending her away to school, which explained why Ella had written to Dru, apparently unprompted about a month into the term (well after Dru had given up begging her to bring her home), telling her to stop complaining and get used to it, she was staying in school and that was that.

Every single teacher on her mid-term progress report had noted that her control of her magic was excellent — possibly unnaturally so — and she had no trouble answering questions when called upon to do so, but that she was clearly bored and miserable in their lessons. So, it was nice to know in hindsight that at least some people had known she was having problems, even if they hadn't actually done anything about it.

She'd been caught researching methods of suicide in the third week of November, largely because she hadn't realised that it would raise suspicions to ask the librarian where the books on poisons were when she couldn't find them in the catalogue. After that, there were half a dozen meetings with the school mind-healer, letters to and from Uncle, and her letter of expulsion.

Some of the transcripts were rather amusing in hindsight. Seven-year-old Dru had been very annoyed with Madame Drapeau (and everyone else) suddenly taking her seriously, when she'd been telling them for months that she couldn't stand it there. Apparently even though she'd been very clear and meant exactly what she'd said, she hadn't said it with enough emotional investment for them to believe that she actually meant it. Realising that people were calling her (entirely reasonable) consideration of suicide as an option to escape the school "attention-seeking behaviour" because she hadn't been overly-dramatic enough to catch their attention when she'd simply told them that I can't live like this hadn't been funny at the time, but she could appreciate the irony now.

Honestly, she'd only started researching suicide because she'd been certain by that point that no one was going to save her. It hadn't even occurred to her that they would care, given that her pleas to leave had been summarily dismissed by anyone and everyone. She'd told them that she could not live there. They had insisted that she stay — she had tried to simply leave without permission, more than once, but she'd never made it off campus before being caught and reprimanded for sneaking away from Madame Drapeau again — which really left death as the only logical option. That, she felt, ought to have been obvious. Equally obviously, she wasn't trying to get their attention by that point — she'd given up on any hope of adult intervention and decided to take matters into her own hands.

Also, Hogwarts must have written to Beauxbatons directly for these copies: there were several disparaging comments about Ella in the margins, responses to things Dru told the mind-healer, which would be highly unprofessional to say aloud, and which Ella almost certainly would have obliterated before handing them over.

Dru simply drew neat lines through the incorrect assumptions about her motivations and the conclusions based on those incorrect assumptions, annotating them as "wrong, see transcript dated 20.11.1934" (which was the first time she explained exactly what she'd been thinking and why, though they inexplicably refused to believe her) in the margins.

The part of the file she'd known she was going to have problems with began directly after her return from Beauxbatons.

Dru did occasionally wonder if her life would be easier if she'd let Uncle tell Ella that she'd been absolutely serious about researching methods to end her miserable existence if they insisted that she remain at school. That she hadn't been exaggerating in any way, shape, or form when she said that being at Beauxbatons was literally torture.

She still thought probably not, but looking through the transcripts and session notes of the mind-healers Ella had dragged her to when she returned home, she wondered if it would have been...at least marginally less unpleasant if the healers hadn't entered into those sessions understanding that Dru had (as Ella had told them, and Dru suspected she still believed) simply been escalating her demands to be brought home by using herself as a hostage because she simply didn't like adjusting to the school's rules and routines and being forced to talk to people her own age.

Ella, Dru suspected, was still annoyed that this 'ploy' had 'worked', despite the fact that even her mind-healers had found Dru to be deeply unwell. (In addition to treating Dru as an adult when it came to matters such as Dru using magic to defend herself from the torments of children, Ella also had a marked tendency to ignore facts and even the opinions of healers she otherwise respected when they didn't align with her own assessment of Druella's health.) If it had been up to Ella, she would have called Dru's 'bluff'. She'd once overheard Ella and Gertrude commiserating over Ella's situation (poor Ella, having to face the horror of living with a child who refused to be treated like a child), saying that one simply couldn't set a precedent that children could do or have whatever they liked if they simply added "or I'm going to kill myself" to their demands. (As though Dru had ever once done such a thing.)

Still, Ella did 'love' her children, including Dru, in her own horrible, smothering way. Most of their conflicts before Beauxbatons centred on Ella being unnecessarily concerned about Dru's health or wellbeing. If Ella had genuinely thought that Dru was suicidal, she imagined that her response would have been very much like that of the teachers at Beauxbatons — ensuring that she never had another moment of solitude ever again, lest she somehow manage to murder herself as soon as they looked away from her for two seconds. (Which might legitimately encourage her to find a way to murder herself as soon as they looked away for two seconds. How hard was it to understand that she'd just needed everyone to leave her alone?)

In any case, she'd been dragged to three additional mind-healers, all of whom had been informed at the outset that she was antisocial and had issues with authority, and was being brought to them to address "problem behaviours" such as attempting to manipulate Ella into removing her from school and refusing to interact with her peers.

Unlike the mind-healer at Beauxbatons — a veela man who had been infuriatingly persistent in his certainty that he knew better than Dru what she'd been thinking and feeling those last few weeks at the school, but who had at least had had the good grace to stay out of her mind when she told him that she didn't want him actually legilimising her — the so-called healers Ella took her to insisted that they needed to legilimise her to do their jobs properly. The fact that Dru had not been cooperative about letting them had only reinforced their initial impression of her as "a contrary little bint" (the first of the three had actually written that in his notes, the unprofessional sod).

Obviously she wouldn't have been able to keep them out entirely, but she'd resisted them competently enough that they'd decided it would be best to sedate her before performing their examinations and making any adjustments to her behavioural responses.

Druella had never felt more violated in her life than she had after the first appointment with 'Healer' Forbes. From his notes, he'd considered her mind disturbing for multiple reasons, most of them centering on the fact that her memories were well-organised, but also because it simply wasn't normal for a seven-year-old to have so much referential knowledge, much less to comprehend it and how it all related. He'd examined a few of her memories of Beauxbatons (which she'd known even before she read his notes, he'd left them untidy), promptly decided that she was a spaz, and attempted to set a few compulsions to change her reactions to various situations, encourage her to be more respectful of her mother and more socially outgoing. He'd counselled Ella that Dru had been suffering from a legitimate bout of melancholy at school, but with careful handling she should be able to move past it.

Dru, on regaining consciousness and realising that he'd done something to her had immediately flown into a panic, barricading herself into a corner of his office behind some sort of accidentally-produced shield, and hadn't calmed down enough to dissolve it and leave until she'd cried herself to sleep and removed all traces of his meddling from her mind.

Ella had been "absolutely humiliated" by Dru's behaviour. Forbes had politely informed Ella that he would not be taking Dru as a regular client.

Dru had been even more reluctant to attend her initial appointment with 'Healer' Donovan. Ella had had to use a sleeping charm on her just to get her into the floo. To Donovan's credit, he had at least noted that it was exceedingly odd for a woman to show up with an unconscious child for him to legilimise. It wasn't, however, sufficiently odd that he had refused to do it — he justified it with a note that many children are anxious about visiting a mind-healer for the first time. He was more thorough in his examination than Forbes, digging into exactly what situations made her most uncomfortable and why she'd been so miserable at Beauxbatons, resulting in a list of specific triggers for her neuroses, most of which were related to disorderliness and a lack of control. She had to give him points for accuracy, at least. He noted that it was odd that Ella claimed Forbes had made adjustments, which didn't seem to have had any affect on Dru's behaviour, because there were no traces of any such compulsions.

He'd advised Ella to let her have privacy in her room, but also to try introducing her to her peers one-on-one in more controlled settings, and to give her more individual attention to "strengthen their relationship" so that Dru would be more willing to respect her, the last of which was perhaps the worst possible advice Dru had ever heard.

As a rule, the more time she spent around Elladora, the more Dru despised her. They had practically nothing in common and, if possible, Dru absolutely did not want to spend any time alone with her at all, especially after being knocked out so that she could be dragged to the second mind-healer in the first place. She hadn't been privy to his notes at the time, so she hadn't realised that there was a reason behind Ella's sudden determination to have tea together every day or something equally tedious. She'd just spent the three weeks which followed feeling as though she was being stalked whenever she left her room and dragging Felix around with her so that she could use him as a distraction to get away from Ella until the next lesson which would give her an excuse to be elsewhere.

If that wasn't bad enough, he'd also set his own suite of compulsions, somewhat more subtle and elegant than Forbes's, but still glaringly obvious, the dissonance they caused by encouraging her to relax in social situations, rather than attempting to maintain rigid control of herself and the interaction at all times, almost painful. She would admit that being able to relax a bit sounded nice in theory, but in practice, no. Just, no. She simply couldn't, compulsions or no compulsions. She'd gotten rid of them the first time she'd managed to fall asleep again — after waking up back at home having had her mind meddled with (again), she'd been understandably reluctant to be unconscious anywhere near Elladora, but she'd only been able to stay awake and on-guard for about thirty hours before she just passed out.

The last of the three had been Healer Maupin, their only appointment a few days after Dru's eighth birthday. Since Donovan's advice and adjustments had been just as ineffective as Forbes's, Elladora had found another option rather than take a follow-up with him. Dru had agreed to attend the appointment because she didn't want to be knocked out and dragged in. She had refused to let the healer into her mind, however, and ended up being sedated again anyway, because it was supposedly less traumatic to simply be rendered unconscious and have one's mind violated than to have one's mind violated while conscious, figuratively kicking and screaming the whole time. (Dru suspected it was only less traumatic for the legilimens.)

Healer Maupin had been marginally less awful than the other two, if only because she hadn't set any compulsions while poking around Dru's mind, and had included her in the discussion and advising part of the consultation. Mostly because she'd wanted to know how Dru had gotten rid of the compulsions Forbes and Donovan had set, which of course Dru hadn't been able to explain beyond they weren't supposed to be there, so I un-did them. She'd gotten rid of them the same way she got rid of redundant information and memories she didn't need, just 'untwisting' them and releasing the intent from its form, allowing the mind-energy which had made it up to sink back into its usual patterns.

Maupin had told Ella that there was no point continuing to try to compel Dru to act more normal, because said compulsions clearly weren't going to stick. She had also, however, been the most focused of the three on trying to address Dru's anxiety (which wasn't nearly as bad when she didn't have to interact with mind-healers or Ella) and "melancholy" (which would have been almost entirely ameliorated if Ella would agree to let her live with Uncle Luc and Aunt Caelia, but she wouldn't) with a regimen of calming and mood-brightening potions, as well as continued love and support. Even worse than Donovan, she'd suggested they all do more activities together as a family — perhaps Ella and Father could attend a dance or piano recital, since it seemed no one paid much attention to Dru's artistic accomplishments...?

Dru had cut her off there, because while she did like dancing and playing the piano, she didn't like performing, she got more than enough attention for being a freak without seeking it out, and no, calming potions would not make her feel less uncomfortable about people watching her, she just knew it, and she didn't want to spend more time with Ella and the littles, and Father had his own things to do, she was quite happy with their relationship, actually, if Healer Maupin could convince Ella to ignore her existence except to conjure her underclothes (literally the only nice thing about Beauxbatons had been that their uniform robes were lined with linen, and therefore actually comfortable) and exchange the occasional pleasantry when their paths crossed in the sitting room as well, that would be a much greater improvement than more love and support, why don't any of you understand, I just want you to leave me alone? I need you to leave me alone! Please!

She hadn't been back to Maupin for a second visit because she had had an adverse reaction to the mood-brightening potion Maupin had ordered her to take, attempting to smother Cassius on the third day of the regimen — because if he were dead he would be quiet, and three younger siblings was more than enough, anyway. (Which was, in fact, an opinion she still held — one younger sibling was more than enough, honestly — though she knew better than to try to act on it.)

Out of those three reports, Dru couldn't honestly say that any of them held any merit worth preserving. She annotated all of them as "rubbish — please disregard". If she thought she could get away with it, she'd just burn them, honestly.

She'd also burn everything from Healer Campbell, her supposed primary healer who, throughout the mind-healer ordeal, had seen Dru several times — the first because Dru wasn't ill when the rest of her household was (they'd been exposed to a particularly virulent ashwinder auge at the Farleys' New Year's party; Dru had refused to let it infect her, because why would she?), and then approximately every two weeks after that because, like Ella, he refused to believe that Dru was perfectly fine and not starving myself, why won't you listen to me? His assessment of her mental state included the terms paranoid, delusional, neurotic, and obsessive as well as chronically and acutely anxious in social situations and alarmingly controlling of her person and environment, and prone to hysterical outbursts. (She would argue that she wasn't paranoid or delusional, and he would be hysterical too if people kept making his life worse for no reason at all, and no one ever listened to him when he told them as much.) He was convinced that she was starving herself in order to maintain her figure for ballet, and attempted to convince Ella to forbid her to continue attending lessons, all the more so when he learned that Dru's regular partner was upyri. (Racist boor.)

Fortunately, ballet lessons were practically the only "social" activity Dru participated in voluntarily, so Ella was loath to force her to quit, and Dru had told Aunt Caelia about Campbell's threat to have her institutionalised relatively soon after that. She'd taken it upon herself to see to Dru's physical wellbeing from that point, and Dru didn't know for sure, but she suspected that Aunt Caelia had told Ella that whatever was "wrong" with Dru was the same thing that was wrong with about half of the house. There was nothing that could be done to "fix" her and if she didn't stop torturing Dru by dragging her to mind-healers against her will, Aunt Caelia would use that as grounds to remove Dru from her household.

While Ella probably wouldn't have minded just losing Dru — Auntie said that she wouldn't just let Dru come live with her instead because it made her feel like a failure as a mother (which she was, as far as Dru was concerned), but Dru was sure if she had no choice in the matter, Ella would quickly decide that her failure was Dru's fault and overcome her shame — House Law gave parents primary authority over their children's upbringing, unless the Lord or Lady of the House decided they were unfit to raise a child at all, so if Aunt Caelia had to take Dru away from Ella she would also be forced to take all of Ella's other children and have them fostered with other households. Again, Dru didn't know that Aunt Caelia had threatened to do so, but she couldn't imagine any lesser threat being enough to bring an abrupt end to Ella's years-long crusade to find some way to make her freakish eldest daughter act at least remotely normal.

The folder of medical records therefore also ended abruptly about three years ago.

"You can safely disregard practically everything after I left Beauxbatons," she informed the healer, turning back to the very first form to make a note about her adverse reaction to that mood-altering potion, which was probably the only accurate, important detail in the last twenty pages of the file.

Healer Turner gave her a funny little smirk over the now-mostly-empty plate she had returned to while Dru read through the file. "Yes, Caelia suggested as much as well. She also suggested that I ask Professor McKinnon, who is our mind-healer on staff, to interview you and write a new psychological profile from scratch, given that your previous mind-healers were apparently influenced by your mother's biases and preconceptions." Dru would rather he didn't. Not that she didn't agree that Ella's mind-healers had been biassed and awful, and their conclusions varyingly inaccurate, but she'd rather not talk to another one, even if it was only to set the record straight. "Did you actually read those?"

"What?" Dru asked, thrown by the abrupt change of subject.

"Did you just read the reports in that file for the first time, or were you already familiar with them?"

"Oh, no, I wasn't familiar with them. Ella never let me see what healers wrote about me, and I doubt she has a copy of my Beauxbatons file." If she had, she would be forced to recognise that Dru hadn't just been faking her mental breakdown to get herself expelled. "Why?"

"Are you aware that you read unusually quickly?"

"...No?" She was aware that it had only been a few minutes, and she probably had gone through the reports more quickly than she would have processed say, a theory text, or something containing a great deal of new information— "I hadn't seen the actual reports before, but I was there for the events in question...?" she attempted to clarify, trailing off somewhat questioningly because...obviously she'd been there (excepting, arguably, Donovan's appointment), and she knew what her mind was like, she didn't need to linger on their descriptions of how odd she was.

The healer apparently realised that she was being very silly, or that Dru had no idea why it should matter — and apparently it didn't, or at least not enough to bother trying to explain. "Never you mind. What was it you came here to ask me about in the first place, if it wasn't the nutrient potions?"

"Oh! Yes!" Dru had all but forgotten, distracted by the chance to see what the healers had been saying about her behind her back all these years. "I can't sleep. I've been experiencing night-terrors since I arrived here, severe enough that I haven't been able to get more than ten consecutive minutes of sleep at any point in the past three nights. This is a new development — I normally like sleeping — and I suspect that all the books on the nature of dreams and nightmares are restricted for some reason, so I haven't been able to research it properly yet."

"Dreams and nightmares are considered integral to the nature of consciousness, which is a restricted subject."

...Dru truly hated the concept of restricted subjects. She elected to ignore the confirmation that yes, she would have to convince the vampire librarian to let her into the restricted section in order to research the subject properly. She would deal with that problem when she reached it. "I'm certain the night-terrors are not related to my anxiety about being here, which is certainly no worse than the anxiety of anticipating coming here, and while I am uncomfortable sharing a living-space, meditating and putting that fact out of my mind before attempting to sleep doesn't help. My cousin Sean suggested that I come ask you for a sleeping potion. Dreamless Sleep would be ideal, given that I'm not having trouble falling asleep, and I'm specifically being woken by nightmares."

Healer Turner did not seem to agree, giving Dru a very sceptical look and drily informing her that, "You seem remarkably coherent for not having slept in three days, Miss Rosier."

Dru frowned at her. "I haven't had a problem organising my memories and experiences, just with the part of sleep where I actually get to relax. I can meditate, and that helps, but it's not as refreshing as actually sleeping, especially since I could use a respite more than usual, surrounded by children and chaos all the time here. Obviously I can still carry on a coherent conversation—" Though it was getting more difficult to distinguish the actual conversation and (mostly) ignore her calculations of potential directions it might go, always there at the periphery of her focus. (If she could figure out how to stop doing that while she was researching dreams and consciousness, that would be lovely...) "—but I can feel my thoughts slowing down, I've been missing obvious connections and solutions such as simply asking you for a sleeping potion, and my patience for dealing with idiots is wearing dangerously thin."

"Indeed." Dru had no idea what that was supposed to mean, but she was inclined to be annoyed. There was no need to sound so sceptical, curse it! She wasn't entirely oblivious to her own mental state! "I presume you are aware that Lemnum Lethaeo is a highly-controlled, addictive substance, with a host of unpleasant side-effects, especially for children."

"I presume you are aware that licensed healers are permitted to order patients to take controlled potions," Dru snapped, "and I am willing to risk temporary memory loss and melancholic apathy to get a good night's sleep." Mostly because she couldn't really imagine experiencing memory loss — she didn't forget things unless she deliberately obliterated the memories in question — and was fairly certain that the potion wouldn't make her more apathetic about life than not sleeping would. "I'm not asking to take it regularly, just once, so I have more time to figure out what exactly is wrong with me and can go back to sleeping normally!"

"The fact that Caelia gave you permission to approve your own treatment and take your potions without supervision does not mean that you may diagnose and write orders for yourself, Miss Rosier." Dru pouted at her, quite unable to stop herself. It should, she knew what she was asking for and she had good reason to do so! "Lemnum Lethaeo is not an initial treatment option, regardless of how desperate you are to sleep or that you only intend to take it once. I do agree that a sleeping potion is a reasonable next step, but a measure of Blue Lotus Tea augmented with a half-measure of Hypnos's Draught is far less likely to have adverse side-effects."

Blue Lotus Tea was a moderately-effective calming potion, really, with sleepiness as a common side-effect. It was one of the lethe-type potions, like Dreamless Sleep, but far less powerful and not addictive, meant to help one put one's troubles out of one's mind. Hypnos's Draught, on the other hand, was a relatively strong sedative, often used to overcome insomnia or frequent waking throughout the night. Dru wasn't familiar with the arithmancy on their interactions, but it seemed reasonable to expect the Hypnos to enhance the soporific effect of the Blue Lotus, and presumably the Blue Lotus would (theoretically) quell the nightmares by a similar mechanism as Dreamless Sleep. She really did think it best, most of the time, to try a solution that would definitely work (assuming she had correctly identified the problem), rather than a less extreme one that would only probably work (but might not, and then she wouldn't know if she was on the wrong track entirely, or if she just hadn't gone far enough the first time), but she really didn't have much of a choice here. "Fine, I suppose that will have to do."

"Lovely," Healer Turner said, drily enough Dru wasn't sure if she was being sarcastic...though she wasn't sure why she would be sarcastic at the moment. "You will need to be monitored overnight, given that this is a new potion for you. Return here before curfew, and—"

"Now is fine," Dru interrupted. Honestly, she hadn't slept for the past three nights! Why would any sane person in her situation want to wait until bedtime to take a sleeping potion that might actually help? "I'm not having dinner so I can have my physical tomorrow—" The sleeping potions shouldn't interfere with the analysis, her nutrient potions were only a potential concern because they were nutrient potions. "—and my plans for the evening centred on attempting to solve this very problem."

"...Well, go fetch your night-dress and take care of any necessary ablutions, then."

"I conjure my night-clothes, and there are spells for all that. Which bed should I take?"

"Whichever you like," the healer offered, clearly trying not to laugh at Dru's enthusiasm.

She glared at her. "This is the fourth day since I've managed to get a good night's sleep, Healer Turner. I fail to see the humour in the idea that a patient in such a condition might eagerly anticipate falling blissfully unconscious."

"That doesn't make it less funny," she was informed, as the healer waved her out of the office.

She took the nearest bed on the side of the room with windows, on the assumption that if there were any additional patients tonight, they would be unlikely to have reason to come this far down the ward, and it would be easier to shake off any lingering lethargy in the morning on the brighter side of the room.

She closed the curtain for privacy while she changed. Those were isolating enchantments woven into its fabric, which was probably the strongest indicator of wealth she'd seen since arriving here — much of the gilt and the treasures on display were ancient and essentially worthless. Valuable to the right buyer, of course, but the school hadn't laid out funds to procure any of it, and it would hardly be easily traded for more useful things like custom-woven privacy curtains. She resisted the urge to examine them more closely (they'll still be there in the morning, Dru), instead simply casting her usual personal hygiene and grooming charms as quickly as possible and flicking them open again.

It did feel a bit odd not to have to conjure linen sheets for herself, to protect herself from the standard bedding (Ooh, if trading the realness of a few robes for her conjured underclothes worked out, she could just permanently replace her sheets! Why hadn't she thought of this years ago?), and the idea of sleeping in such an open space as the hospital ward was weird and uncomfortable — which was also a reason she'd chosen a bed in a corner — but not prohibitively so, especially since this was probably the cleanest, neatest room in the entire castle, even if it was too big and open to potential intruders and the entire point of being here was that someone could watch her sleep. She didn't care, the important thing was, she would be sleeping.

"I'm ready," she announced, skipping over to a potions cupboard, where the healer was still measuring out the appropriate doses of each draught. And also giving her a look implying that she was doubting Druella's humanity — she'd probably moved too much like Louis for a moment there, she didn't spend much time skipping around outside of dance practise — but Dru also didn't care about that.

(It really could not be overstated how much Dru liked sleep, and how dreadful it was not to be able to.)

For all today had been objectively horrible, this development alone might be enough to make it a good one, she thought, as the potions began to affect her, dragging her down into silent darkness.

It didn't work.

She couldn't say that she was properly conscious of what was happening to her or how long it took, addled as she was by the potions, but at some point she became aware that she was in pain — not physical pain, metaphysical — there was something inside of her, something other and wrong, and it hurt, she couldn't make it stop!

It was almost like having to eat things, but worse, a hundred thousand times worse, and it never got better and she couldn't explain, couldn't tell anyone who could help — she was screaming and crying and begging and they just walked on by, through her and around her, without even noticing.

She was helpless and broken and contaminated and she wanted to wake up, make it stop, escape, but she was swimming for the surface as hard and fast as she could, lungs burning, desperate, fighting an invisible weight pulling her back down into the depths and when she reached what should be consciousness, it wasn't, like hitting a sheet of ice where she expected air, forcing her back down into the sea of misery and pain and wrongness, forcing her to be stone and cold iron and dead wood rather than magic, light and ephemeral, shifting and becoming, not simply being, trapped, pinned to the earth by a hundred thousand splinters of wrongness, mocking her and what she should be, what she had been

And there was guilt, too, a terrible, insistent awareness that she couldn't blame them. She loved them and she hated them, they were her reason for existing and the cause of her suffering, but they didn't know, they didn't understand what they were doing to her, what she should be. They didn't know she existed, they thought she was just a thing, unable to feel the pain they inflicted on her and—

That wasn't right. They didn't understand what they were doing to her, how awful it was trying to live in their world, how hard she tried to at least seem to be one of them, but she couldn't, they always knew, she wasn't one of them, she didn't belong, but they knew she was there, being wrong, a sour note, out of step, they couldn't help noticing her, they didn't...

They couldn't hear her or see her, they were killing her by inches, poisoning her with additions and 'repairs', forcing her to take those solid, miserable materials into herself, thinking they were helping. She was crying, begging them to stop, couldn't they see they'd broken her, she was lying helpless on the earth, barely able to crawl, much less fly like she should—

No, Dru realised, sunrise lancing through the ice, stark, lucid clarity striking her like the peel of a bell, that's not me. That was...

They weren't right, they shouldn't be here, shouldn't be inside her, forcing herself to include them, to wrap herself around them and take them in, hurt, it wasn't something she'd been designed to do, but she had to there was no other option, they were here, she couldn't rid herself of them or simply stop existing, there was no way out—

No! Dru thought again more firmly, pushing back against...whatever it was, the great magical consciousness surrounding her, invading her dreams with its own waking nightmares. Stop it! I'm not you! Go away! Let me sleep! I need to sleep!

She felt herself catch its attention, like a cat clawing at a dragon, so small and insignificant it hadn't even noticed that it was stepping on her, it could barely feel her, lost in its own pain and misery, but suddenly given an other to focus itself on — Dru, caught in a much more deliberate maelstrom of feeling and very foreign thoughts as it tried, very pointedly, to communicate a single, simple idea: HELP ME.

Magic flared with her terror — the lonely diver struggling to reach the surface suddenly noticed by a giant squid, an eye the size of her entire body opening and fixing on her — burning through her—

She suspected that she would have woken screaming, if she weren't desperately gasping for air. She sat up on instinct, fists balled in the sheets, her face wet with tears, her throat tight, heart racing.

She wasn't sure how long she'd been asleep. The sun had gone down, at least, night fully fallen, and the Hypnos should have kept her unconscious for at least eight hours, but she had a feeling that it hadn't been nearly that long, that the flare of magic burning through her had overridden the effects of the potion, allowing her to flee back to consciousness, away from...

From the Castle?

She thought she could still feel it, a nagging sense of wrongness at the edges of her mind, and the images of stone and wood and construction would make sense if it were... Well, sort of, she didn't know why repairing the Castle would hurt it. But it did also fit with people walking through it, not even realising that it was more than just a thing...

"Miss Rosier?" Healer Turner said softly, from the other side of the curtain.

"Yes?" she called back, trying to force her voice not to shake.

"See, I told you she's awake," a boy said, sounding very pleased with himself as he flicked the curtain open. She flinched at the light behind him. "And something scared the bejesus outta her, and why do I even need to do that stupid ritual anyway? Hardly anyone has even been here yet this year," he complained, moving aside enough for her to make out his face along with his profile — pale, with dark hair and light eyes, the shape of his face not quite the same as anyone else she knew, none of his features indicative of a particular House, though perhaps that ought to be expected. Bejesus was a very muggleborn turn of phrase.

"It's the second day of term, Riddle," the healer snapped. "I don't have anything else for you to do. Neutralising the magic in here again won't hurt, and if you wait until you can see the dust to vanish it, you've waited too long, anyway!"

The boy groaned. "Fine. I'd just like to point out, no one does this outside of the Hospital Wing."

Healer Turner began to say something, then changed her mind. "And the rest of the school is— Actually, that's an excellent point, Riddle. Starting on Thursday, you can go around tidying up the ambient magic in every single room and corridor in the Castle. That should keep you out of my hair for the rest of term easily enough."

Riddle glowered at her.

"Don't look at me like that, I'm not the one who earned a whole term of detention over the summer. Finish the ritual and you're free to go."

"Rosier's still leaking fear, she's just going to mess it up again right away."

"Sorry," Dru inserted, making a more concerted effort to contain her emotions, even though she was becoming more certain even as she listened to the two of them talk that the thing that was keeping her trapped here, that was invading her dreams and not letting her sleep, was the Castle itself, and it was watching her now, she could feel it...

Riddle grinned, his magic reaching out to brush against her mind as he focussed on her. "Oh, I don't mind," he drawled, pulling away and sort of...taking her fear with him, or at least most of it. Somehow. Was he a legilimens? That seemed like a legilimency trick, subsuming an emotional reaction, but it also seemed like it would be rather unpleasant for him, assuming she understood the basic premise of legilimency correctly. Also, she wasn't certain, but she suspected casually skimming emotional energy off of unsuspecting children was probably skirting the edge of the parts of subsumption that were anathema, like eating souls. But then, he was muggleborn, he might not know that. "Just making a point."

"Oh. Thank you." You probably shouldn't do that to people, though, she added silently, projecting the thought into the space between them. His eyes went wide with surprise, though he hid it quickly. Dru didn't think Healer Turner noticed, too busy giving Dru a peculiar look for thanking this perfect stranger for no apparent reason. I really do appreciate it, she added quickly, projecting that, too. But even if you are just being nice, it's still metaphagy, and people can be a bit paranoid about that sort of thing. Other people, I mean. I don't mind.

She did hate mind-healers, but that was more because they made it their business to tell her how to think and feel. She didn't have a problem with mind-magic in general. She was actually a little envious of those with the talent. It seemed like it would make dealing with people much easier. Or at least making them ignore her.

He extended a cautious probe, poking at the edge of her mind, where she'd firmed it up to stop leaking emotions at him. She let him in just enough to slip the question Are you a legilimens, too? into her immediate thoughts.

No. Then she pushed him back out. Speaking languages other people can't, right in front of them, is rude, she threw out in explanation. I know I started it, but I thought you might not know about subsumption being illegal, and that's important.

"Get on with it, Riddle. I need to speak to Miss Rosier."

"Alright, alright," he muttered, retreating with a little nod toward Dru, and an expression which said, even without legilimency, we'll talk about this later.

Not that she minded. That was the best interaction she'd had with another student since arriving here. And she desperately wanted to know how he'd gotten a whole term of detentions before the school year even started.

I feel like I should have notes on this one, but I'm dead today. Yay, Tom exists! (It's established in the next scene that he's a second-year at this point.)