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

Chapter 8

In which Dru is clearly in denial, children continue to be cruel, and the vampire librarian might be the nicest person Dru's met at Hogwarts.

"Draco!" Dru called, arresting her cousin's attention on the far side of the Entrance Hall — heading down to his Common Room, she presumed. Apparently he also had the period directly after lunch free.

He (and Stevie Lowell) stopped and waited for her to catch up. "Where've you been? Sean was going off this morning because he couldn't find you."

"In hospital. I told him I was going to get a sleeping potion..." She supposed that she could have returned to Ravenclaw Tower after she'd been woken up — she hadn't wanted to try another potion, not now that the Castle knew that she knew it was there, even though she'd only gotten about three hours of sleep — but she really hadn't wanted to. It sounded somewhat incredible, even to Dru, but she actually liked the Hogwarts Hospital Wing.

She hadn't told the healer that she thought the Castle specifically was somehow giving her nightmares, but she hadn't actually had to. The fact that she'd still had them, even while under what should have been a dream-suppressing sleeping potion (if not the Dreamless Sleep potion), suggested that they were external in origin.

Healer Turner's theory was that Dru was a seer, picking up the psychic interference from however many other minds and centuries of history around her when her mind relaxed in sleep. She insisted that this was the most reasonable explanation for Dru's symptoms, and that the Mind-Magic Professor (and mind-healer), John McKinnon, would easily be able to confirm it if she would let him legilimise her.

Dru, on the other hand, thought that was ridiculous, and not simply because she didn't want to talk to the mind-healer. Yes, several of her more unusual predispositions would be explained if she were, but the Sight first started to develop (supposedly) around age two or three. She'd been legilimised by plenty of other mind-healers since then, and none of them had ever mentioned anything about her potentially being a seer. Plus, as the evaluators at Beauxbatons had noted, she was far too functional to be a powerful seer, and there were alternative explanations for all of the traits which indicated she might be. And if she were a seer, and this was the cause of her sudden inability to sleep, why had it never been a problem before?

Healer Turner had countered that her dislike of food and sensitivity to cotton had begun to develop around the age of three; she'd never been legilimised while conscious, which might make a difference; and perhaps she was just quick enough to sort out the potentialities she was seeing as she experienced them. That there were alternative potential explanations was not indicative of anything other than that her symptoms weren't diagnostic, and had she ever tried to sleep in an eleven-hundred-year old castle before? one which had seen many battles and much bloodshed over those centuries, and was home to more ghosts than anywhere else in Britain? What about in a bed that dozens if not hundreds of people had used before her, in a tower surrounded by well over a hundred other children, the echoes of their pasts and futures potentially seeping into the space around them?

Admittedly, she had not, and she hadn't mentioned her compulsive habit of pursuing the potential courses of action for any given situation, which did sound sort of like sorting through the potentialities, but other people did mention "thinking a few steps ahead" on occasion, and it wasn't as though she was ever confused about what was actually happening in any given moment. She still thought the idea that she might be a seer and no one, including Druella herself, had noticed for the past eight or nine years seemed awfully far-fetched.

If she didn't want to simply say that the Castle was trying to communicate with her and giving her nightmares (which she didn't, because she wasn't entirely certain that was what was going on, and she didn't want the only healer she'd liked reasonably well since Healer Devlin to think she was completely insane), she didn't have a better explanation to offer — but if the nightmares were external in origin, regardless of their source, that should mean that a mind-ward amulet, like the more paranoid Dark Houses made their children wear whenever they left the house until they were proficient with occlumency, would stop them. Auntie had mentioned once that the Lestranges did that, she should be able to get one, or at least a scheme for Dru to enchant one for herself.

Healer Turner had agreed that that seemed like a reasonable next step, though by then it had been far too late to catch Aunt Caelia in her office, so Dru had sent a letter (thanking her for telling Healer Turner to treat her like a person instead of a child, as well), which ought to have reached her by morning, and was cautiously optimistic about getting a response sometime later in the day, or tomorrow at the latest.

"You seem to be in an unusually good mood for someone who just spent all morning with Healer Turner," Draco observed.

Well, that was just ridiculous. "Why wouldn't I be in a good mood? I like Healer Turner, and I think I know why I can't sleep here now, so that's progress! Also, I skipped History, Transfiguration, and Charms, all of which are boring, and I learned something new about myself!"

Draco laughed at her. "Is it a highly technical something I won't understand if I ask?"

"The general concept, no. The fact that it actually works, yes. Though I am definitely human."

By morning, the alchemical tests Healer Turner had started while Dru was potioned into unconsciousness had completed, with no significant differences in the results between Dru's blood and the control sample (Healer Turner's). So apparently Father's baseless assumption that she was human (he'd finally written back, one of the elves had brought the letter up when she hadn't been at breakfast to receive it, and the only proof he'd ever had was that Ella had borne her, as though changelings weren't exchanged at some point well after a child's birth — honestly, Father...) was in fact correct, even if it was entirely unfounded.

"Was that in question?" Lowell asked.

"Not especially," Dru said, but Draco much more firmly said, "Yes. And I'm not sure I believe you. I mean, how can you rule out that you're not just possessing a human body?"

...Curses. She glowered at him.

The truly annoying thing was, the interesting new thing she'd learned about herself was...pretty much exactly that. She was fairly certain that her consciousness had been born into this body, but she was also sort of possessing it — in the sense that she was at least partially animating it with magic, not unlike a vampire (an abomination, not an upyri). Except, of course, she wasn't undead, she was still properly alive (and probably human).

The physical hadn't been quite as painfully humiliating as Dru had expected, given that Healer Turner was already well aware that Dru was a freak and didn't expect the results of the examination to be in any way normal. Miss Jenkins, the healer's apprentice, who had been at dinner when Dru arrived, had actually performed the analysis charms because she needed the practice and she'd clearly been a bit alarmed when she finished working through the arithmancy and realised that not only was Dru's metabolism far slower than normal, but the only possible way for her energy intake, exercise level, and growth-rate to add up was if she was somehow using magic to make up the difference, either by subsuming the energy directly or using magic to move her limbs so that her muscles wouldn't have to work nearly as hard.

Which was fascinating, Dru hadn't realised she was doing that, though if she stopped to think about it, she actually was. It neatly explained why her blood had more magic in it than most humans' — her animus was rather absurdly over-developed due to her constant use of it to control her physical person and move it around like an oversized doll or puppet that she happened to be bound to — and why she could move much more smoothly than most humans when she really tried. (And also, Dru suspected, why she was so miserable in low-magic environments — obviously other ongoing processes would have to be suspended to use mundane, bioalchemic energy to move.)

Miss Jenkins did not think this was fascinating — she thought it was horrifying because it was so very unnatural, and immediately started trying to think of a way to fix Dru's metabolism so she wouldn't need to use magic like that, even though it was obviously fine, even advantageous, since she didn't have to eat as much. She would just avoid ever going into a vortex, and it wouldn't be a problem. Healer Turner, at least, seemed willing to accept that it was clearly working...even if it was completely ridiculous and overly-complex, and it was absolutely absurd that Dru had been doing it unconsciously (even though normal people weren't conscious of all the little bioalchemic and voltaic impulses that controlled their muscles either, so she wasn't entirely certain how using magic to operate a body was any more ridiculous).

Dru had managed to skip all three of her morning lessons arguing with Miss Jenkins about whether animating her body was or was not a perfectly normal and reasonable thing for her to be doing, but she'd been dismissed to lunch (under strict orders to actually eat something — it had been two days, she actually managed to stomach putting chicken on her salad) while Healer Turner taught Miss Jenkins to analyse the results of the nutritional panel and (theoretically) formulate an appropriate potion to address any deficiencies. Of course, she fully expected not to find any — it would take a few weeks for the effects of Dru not taking her (already correctly formulated) potion to become evident and new deficiencies to develop — but the process was the same either way. They would probably also analyse one of her potions just so they knew exactly what she was taking, and could officially order her to keep taking it.

All in all, she thought it had been a fairly decent morning. Certainly better than if she'd attended lessons. And she hadn't had to deal with Sean being a nag, apparently. Though she was sure he would catch up to her later.

"Wouldn't she know if she were something possessing a human?" Lowell asked, as though Draco was being ridiculous. Which he was, but not as much as Lowell's tone implied.

"Not necessarily. I mean, who knows what kind of weird magic fae might use on each other to make them forget who and what they are before trapping them in a human body and exiling them to the Mundane Plane? Or it could be like when someone's raised from the dead, and they're actually just Death pretending to be that person, but it's pretending really well so that little part of it actually believes it's just that person."

"When someone's raised from the dead?!" the muggleborn exclaimed. "Wizards can raise people from the dead?!"

"Sure? I mean, Mother would murder me if I started practising necromancy beyond saying Happy Samhain to our dead, but..." He shrugged, apparently unconcerned that his friend's understanding of life and death had just been entirely upset.

"Witches," Dru corrected him. "Necromancy is witchcraft."

"Dru's probably not Death, but she might be an Aspect of Knowledge that decided it wanted to learn what it was like to be human, or something."

Dru scowled at him again. "Stop trying to ruin this for me, Draco. I'm definitely, one hundred per cent biologically human, at least. And that's not what I wanted to talk to you about anyway!"

Her annoying cousin cackled, far too amused with himself. (Cad.) "Fine, fine, I'll stop. What's on?"

"There's a muggleborn Slytherin, surname Riddle." She'd eventually found him sitting at that table, combing through her memories of the Welcome Feast while she was meditating last night, after the healer retired.

"What did he do?" Draco interrupted, abruptly fierce, all humour gone from his face and voice, even his posture tensing as though they were under imminent threat of attack.

"Nothing bad," Dru hastened to assure him. "Well, not to me. He apparently has detention all term, so I assume he did something against the rules and arguably bad."

"What, seriously?"

"Yes? Healer Turner said he did, at least."

"Blimey," Lowell muttered. "I mean, Riddle's a right scadger, but what do you reckon you've got to do to get a whole term of detentions?"

"Dunno. I think he only got a month for making that snake bite Malfoy, so whatever it was—"

"Criminy. Maybe he actually killed someone," the Hufflepuff suggested, more than half-seriously.

Draco seemed to be taking the suggestion seriously, too. "I think if he got caught killing someone, he'd be in Azkaban, or at least expelled. More like if he was compelling the muggles at his orphanage or something. Though I don't know how they'd catch him at it unless Dumb-as-a-door was stalking him over hols."

Lowell snorted trying not to laugh. "I can see it now, old Dumbles in his fancy purple suit down in the East End, minging around, peeking over bins trying to get an eyeball on Riddle like he just got out of the asylum, thinking, you know, those muggles are acting awfully peculiar..."

"Oh! Speaking of, how is my favourite Transfiguration professor today?"

"I did tell you that I skipped his lesson," Dru reminded him with a slightly exasperated sigh. She didn't think he was trying to change the subject, he was just distractible like that. "But I imagine he's managed to recover at least to some degree from yesterday's humiliation. I expect he'll be furious if he's heard that Healer Turner circumvented his bid to control my potions before I even asked, but he may decide to direct his immediate ire at her, rather than risk a public confrontation with me. If he's smart, he'll apologise and offer to begin again when we have tea on Saturday, but I'm not certain he has it in him."

"What happened yesterday?!" Draco demanded, apparently outraged that Something had Happened and he was not immediately informed. "Did you make him cry when I wasn't there to see it?!"

"No. One of my roommates and one of his Gryffindors managed to stun themselves attempting to break into my trunk; he refused to believe that I had enchanted it myself and obviously it hadn't malfunctioned; Headmaster Dippet mentioned our meeting on Sunday; Dumbledore took offence to the idea that I am as competent at his subject as I am at enchanting; I took the opportunity to make a wager regarding the conjuration of a handkerchief and whether I truly ought to be required to practise transfiguration exercises ad nauseam in lessons; he foolishly accepted; I conjured a handkerchief for him; he spent the next several minutes staring at it in uncomprehending silence. And then we got into an argument about whether he is or is not a petty tyrant. Which he is."

"You conjured a handkerchief?" Lowell sounded as inexplicably shocked by that as he was about the existence of necromancy, which was both funny and slightly pathetic. (Muggleborns, honestly. No sense of proportion.)

"Yes."

Draco cackled again. "Knowing Dru, it was probably crimson-dyed silk, and enchanted with gold-embroidered runes to resist wrinkling and doing that thing silk does when it gets wet." That was actually a neat idea, she'd have to try it sometime. Not with silk and gold, or to avoid wrinkling, but enchanting a handkerchief to dry instantly — or even better, to vanish any disgusting slime its user expelled — would make the concept of carrying one in one's pocket far less horrifying.

"You're having me on," Lowell declared, with the air of one who has been trying and failing to identify when Draco was teasing him for some time. (Several of their other cousins had been in a similar state of uncertainty in every interaction she'd witnessed between them for years.)

"Crimson would have clashed with his robes," Dru informed them. "It was purple silk, with a silver-embroidered lunar progression and a pattern of stars to fill out the border a bit. It didn't occur to me to conjure an embroidered enchanted handkerchief, but I suspect that if it had, I would have considered it excessive for an off-the-cuff demonstration."

Draco positively beamed at her. (His friend gave her a narrow-eyed look suggesting he suspected that she was having him on as well.) "I love you. You are my absolute favourite cousin. Next time we're home, you must put the memory in the pensieve for me."

"If you don't annoy me too badly before then, certainly. So, tell me about Riddle. He seemed nice enough to me, though our interaction was admittedly brief."

"He's not," Draco said firmly. "He's a creepy bastard — literally, probably. He's a parselmouth, but he was raised in a muggle orphanage, so one can only assume." That he was the natural child of a mage, gotten on a muggle woman who was subsequently abandoned, was the obvious implication, though it wouldn't be altogether strange for a squib line to have carried the trait. "He's not just a commoner, he's London gutter trash. Entirely unacceptable company for a delicate young lady. You should stay as far away from him as possible."

"Creepy in what way, specifically?" she pressed. She'd wait and judge how common and unacceptable he was for herself. After all, there were plenty of people who would say vampires and goblins were unacceptable company for a young lady, too.

"In a way that makes the hair at the back of my neck stand up every time we're in the same room, Dru. He's bad news, I mean it."

Dru nodded thoughtfully. "But do you have any actual reason to think so beyond that you find legilimens unsettling? Because I've yet to hear any actual reason I should avoid him."

"Firstly, legilimens are objectively unsettling—"

"He set a snake on Scorpius Malfoy last year," Lowell volunteered.

Draco nodded. "Yes! He just stood there and watched while Scorp was bleeding from the neck, with this awful little smile — he enjoyed it, seeing him in pain. And that was completely out of proportion. Scorp and Donny—" Adonis Lestrange, she suspected. "—and Matar—" Black, obviously. "—had been giving him a hard time since the beginning of the year, sure, but we're talking schoolyard jinxes in the corridors, and he went and escalated to potentially fatal physical attacks? He's insane."

...Well, that was a bit much, Dru would admit, but given that he was outnumbered three to one by wizards far more experienced than himself— The Blacks, at least, started teaching their children wizardry at the age of three. (Dru had learned this fact when she was three, eavesdropping on a conversation between aunts, and had proceeded to be horribly envious of them for the next year and a half, because if she had been born a Black, not only would she not have to steal Ella's wand to play with, but they would actually teach her charms instead of forcing her to learn them by herself in secret.) But practically every young noble had a wand by the age of seven, while Riddle would only have had access to proper spells for...a few months? (She had the impression that he was in the same year as Draco — Adonis and Matar were, and it would be odd if they were giving an older student a hard time.) —all of whom would know occlumency, escalating to a degree of violence his tormentors were not prepared to maintain might have been the best strategy available to him.

"Has he hurt anyone else?"

"Not that anyone can prove," Draco grumbled, brow furrowed into a dark frown.

"Though Dumbles has been trying," Lowell volunteered. "We were in the same section last year. Not sure why, but he pretty obviously has it out for him."

Well, if she were to judge Riddle based on the quality of his enemies, that was a fairly positive recommendation, wasn't it? "Which section is he in now? And where did he end up in your class ranking last year?"

"He...took firsts in everything except Transfiguration," Draco admitted, going a bit pink. As he should, if a muggleborn — a poor muggleborn, who almost certainly hadn't the means to have a wand made specifically for himself — had beaten him in Charms and Defence. To say nothing of History. (Though that did suggest Riddle was a bit cleverer than average, which could only be a good thing. It would have been terribly disappointing to meet someone interesting and nice, only to find that they were a complete moron, unable to even try to keep up a conversation.) "Don't give me that look! He's a natural and a swot, and I swear he's got nothing better to do than study, it's hardly as though he has any friends."

"Well, there is Thea," Lowell reminded Draco, elaborating for Dru: "Thea Malfoy, Scorp's twin — she's a Ravenclaw, they were partners in Potions."

"They're acquaintances at best, she only gives him the time of day outside of lessons because Scorpius hates him."

"And which section is he in this year?" Dru asked again.

Draco gave her a stern frown. "Why do you want to know? I told you, you should stay away from him."

"Yes, because he's a creep, though you can't explain how he's creepy, and he's only actually harmed one person, whom you have admitted was giving him a hard time first, and he managed to go from being a completely ignorant muggleborn to taking firsts across the board in his first year here." Except in a class with a professor who apparently hated him. "I'm having trouble understanding why I shouldn't want to talk to him."

"Why do you want to talk to him? You don't ever want to talk to anyone!"

"Because legilimency is fascinating, and I desperately want to know what he did to earn an entire term's worth of detentions."

"Actually, I kind of want to know that, too," Lowell chimed in.

"Well, then, you can ask him. I don't want him anywhere near Dru."

"Because...?"

"Because, Dru! You're the most innocent, most sheltered person I know! You may know everything, but you're terrible at dealing with people, and Riddle's a sneaky, conniving Slytherin. Which I would, generally speaking, mean as a compliment, but in this case, he's going to manipulate you and use you, make you like him and then drop you when he has what he wants from you, and you probably won't even notice until it's too late."

"Too late for what?"

"Too late not to get emotionally invested in having a friend, and to not get hurt when he casts you aside."

...That was the most ridiculous thing Dru had ever heard. "Are you joking?"

"No, I'm not joking. Look, I know people who like to hurt people when I see them, alright? And I'm telling you, Riddle would fit right in with Mother's family, at least insofar as being a dangerous, dark-minded little shite. Even if you don't see it, even if there's no proof, he's bad news."

"I'm not initiating a courtship with the boy, Draco. I haven't even had a proper conversation with him. He simply did me a kindness whilst I was in hospital having a poor reaction to the sleeping potions I was given. I owe him a debt of gratitude, and would like to thank him in person. Which section is he in?"

"What did he do?" Draco asked again, rather than answering her perfectly reasonable question. "Because Riddle doesn't do kindnesses for people. He wants something from you."

"He comforted me in the wake of a nightmare." She refused to be any more specific. If Draco was already convinced that Riddle was bad news, he would probably take the claim that Riddle was practising subsumption to the school authorities before the end of the day, even if he had been doing something kind and hadn't hurt her in any way, and clearly hadn't known the law. If he had, she sincerely doubted that he would have tried it on someone who was clearly capable of occlumency, immediately after drawing their attention to their emotional state. "He had no reason to suspect I might be useful to him in any particular way. Healer Turner did mention my surname in his presence, so it is possible that he thought I might be a potential ally against his own yearmates in general, but you can hardly criticise a muggleborn Slytherin who appears to have made enemies of a significant proportion of his own class for attempting to forge relationships to support him wherever he finds them — especially when he does so with gestures of kindness, which are still kind regardless of their motivation. Are you going to inconvenience me by forcing me to speak to Miss Malfoy, or are you going to tell me which section he's in?"

For a moment, Dru thought he truly might make her seek out Miss Malfoy, glaring at her. In fact, she didn't get to see which way his decision would fall, because Lowell said, "He's in gamma."

"Thank you, Mister Lowell."

"Er. You can call me Stevie, you know. Every— Ow!" he broke off as Draco punched him in the arm. "She was going to find out eventually!" he defended himself.

"Doesn't matter. It wasn't your business to tell her."

"I don't suppose you would also give me a copy of section gamma's time-table?"

"No," Draco said firmly. "And not only because I think it's a bad idea, you talking to Riddle. We're in alpha this year. We don't have it."

Dru wasn't entirely certain she believed him — she certainly knew the schedules of all the other sections in her own year — but it shouldn't be unduly difficult to find out. Ravenclaw House kept a folder with all of the time-tables in the House Library. "Very well. Stevie, you may call me Dru. Draco, take your opinion and shove it up a dragon's arse." She preferred to use Gobbledygook for profanity, almost entirely because it couldn't possibly count as vulgar to offer profanities in a language only well-educated elites spoke. (She also enjoyed the fact that the most common goblin profanities rhymed.)

"Hey! What did you just call me?"

She amended her earlier thought: a language only some well-educated elites spoke. "Probably nothing too terrible — I am a sheltered young lady, after all. But it really is none of your business who I do or do not talk to. Good day to you both."

Most annoyingly, second year's section gamma and first year's section delta (which was Dru's section) had almost no lessons at the same time, and consequently no free periods at the same time. The earliest opportunity Dru would have to catch the legilimens would be at dinner. Or more realistically after dinner, because there was no way Dru would be able to have a conversation in the middle of the Great Hall —it was far too public, and there was so much chatter and activity surrounding her that she could barely hear herself think.

She would probably have to stake out the main doors to catch him on his way out, since she had no way of knowing where he might plan to spend his evening, but that was fine. She could do that. In the meanwhile — after Herbology — she decided that she would return to the Library, this time searching for anything on the history of the school and the Castle itself. Obviously she knew that it had been constructed by the Founders, the wards written by Slytherin and Ravenclaw, but aside from that, well. The history of the physical structure which housed the school hadn't exactly been a high priority compared to enchanting her trunk and interrogating various cousins about the social expectations here.

Of course, that plan failed to take into consideration that having disappeared overnight and skipping morning lessons was rather curious behaviour.

"Where were you this morning, Dru?" Betty Carson asked, without preamble. Not confrontationally, but perhaps with a note of concern. Dru wondered whether she was trying to make up for her behaviour on the train by showing a degree of personal interest.

"In hospital. I presume I didn't miss anything important in lessons."

"Well, to be honest I fell asleep in History and we just did more needles in Transfiguration, but Professor MacLaine gave us a lecture on the three elements of a spell, which could be— But, well, I guess you probably already know, since you can already do magic and all, so, no, you didn't. But what happened? It wasn't something to do with why you ran out of Potions, was it?"

"Not really, no."

"No," Enid called over from where she, Jane, and Cosette were clustered together (which probably spelled trouble for Dru), making their own way back up to the school — not really with the rest of the mob (Dru wasn't either, for that matter), but still clearly within earshot of casual conversation. "She ran out of Potions because she's a freak and really does just look like that," she told Betty. "And I don't believe you were really in hospital, Princess! You better have been getting punished for putting me in hospital! And Janie," she added slightly belatedly, with a glance over at Dru's roommate, who had the good sense to keep her head down and her mouth shut. She'd probably been taken to task by her great-uncle, either last night or over lunch.

"She was probably just hiding in her room," Cosette drawled. "She can only take so much of our insufferable human company, after all."

Dru glared at them, resisting the urge to hex her most awful cousin. "You, Miss Hansen, and Miss Willoughby, are lucky that I didn't demand satisfaction from you for removing my trunk from my room and attempting to break into it, and publicly shame you as would-be petty thieves before the entire school! And you, Cosette, would be equally insufferable if you were a goblin or veela or upyri, I'm quite certain of it! You know I don't lie—"

"I don't think you can lie."

"Then why did you just agree with Miss Hansen that I was probably lying about my whereabouts this morning? And, for at least the eighteenth time, I'm human! Stop implying that I'm not!"

Cosette snorted, the piglike sound more suited to her round, snub-nosed face than her usual bray. "You keep track of how many times you've told different people that you're human? Very normal, Dru. Stunning performance, one can hardly see why anyone would doubt your word on the matter."

"I only keep track of the most egregious offenders—" Felix was at four-hundred and thirty-eight, which was saying rather a lot, since he had been at Beauxbatons for most of the past three years. "—and which is it? Am I fae or am I lying? You can't have it both ways!"

That, she quickly realised, had been a mistake. Cosette frowned for a couple of seconds, possibly trying to work through the rubbish she'd been spouting to decide whether it was logically consistent to insist that Dru was fae and also falsely claiming to be human, in spite of the fact that fae couldn't lie. After those brief seconds, however, her face split into a nasty grin. "Want to see something funny?" she asked Enid. She didn't wait for the Gryffindor to respond before asking, "Druella, is it possible for an all-powerful being to create something they can't move?"

"That is not funny!" Dru snapped, trying to force herself to stop trying to answer the question, thoughts chasing themselves around in circles over the paradox. (Of course, they're all-powerful, but then they wouldn't be, because they wouldn't be able to move the object, but they are, by definition, the question only pertains to an all-powerful being, so they must be able to move the object, but then they would have failed to create something they couldn't move, but—) It was all the more annoying because she'd come up with an answer to this one — only if in so doing the omnipotent being sacrifices their omnipotence — but that was really just dodging the question, because then they wouldn't be all-powerful, and the question specifically stated that they were, and it was at least implied that they still ought to be after, and— "I hate you!"

"What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?" Cosette asked, grinning so hard she was clearly having trouble getting the words out.

The question got stuck in Dru's head indefinitely, that was what happened. Her cousins — the Farleys, not the Rosiers, as her Rosier cousins were, generally speaking, more accepting of freaks like Dru — had realised when she was about five (after she had her wand, but before she knew better than to show off) that if they asked her a question, she would feel compelled to answer. Bothering her by asking too many for her to answer or things they knew she had no way of knowing or driving her mad with paradoxes had quickly become more entertaining than quizzing her on history and elementary magic, the 'game' becoming little more than Let's See How Long It Takes To Make Dru Cry. "No! Stop it!"

She started walking faster to get away from the awful wench and her thrice-cursed paradoxes, but she couldn't get far enough away in time to avoid hearing, "That little freak always gets away with everything, this is really the only way to get her back," over Enid's cackling. "Dru! The next sentence is false. The previous sentence is true."

But if sentence two is false, sentence one must be false, but if sentence one is false, sentence two must be true, but if sentence two is true, then sentence one must be true, but if sentence one is true, sentence two must be false, and if sentence two is false, sentence one must be false—

"I mean it, Cosette!" Dru snapped at her, shoving her way through the side-door closest to the greenhouses and heading up the nearest staircase, toward the library, of course. "Leave me alone!"

She didn't. She in fact laughed, because she apparently had the self-preservation instinct of a dementor-kissed sheep. "True or false: I always lie."

Dru stopped abruptly, turning on her heel, fingernails digging into her palms as she attempted to restrain herself. "False: you sometimes lie." ("Damn it!") You meant, 'This is a lie,' because if the statement is true it's not a lie, but if it's a lie, it would be true, but it can't be true because— (Damn it, Dru, now you're doing it to yourself!) "And if you don't stop, I will not be held responsible for my actions, because you are literally driving me insane and even Elladora could not possibly argue that you're not provoking me right now!"

"Er... Maybe you should stop," Jane suggested, a certain degree of pity and concern in her tone.

Cosette just scoffed. "She's not really going to hurt us. Can someone claim truthfully that they know nothing, Dru?"

No. If they claimed that they knew nothing, it would be a lie, because they would know that they knew nothing, which would be false because they would know that, in which case they in fact wouldn't know it, because what they "knew" would be false, which would make their claim accurate, except it couldn't be, because knowing that they know nothing would still be something

"No. The answer is no." The answer to the question of whether they could truthfully make the claim — either they would be lying or they would be wrong, but that wouldn't stop Dru chasing the broken logic of such a hypothetical statement in endless circles, even if she did curse Cosette to seven hells as well.

The most infuriating thing was, no, she wasn't going to hurt them, not if she could possibly avoid it — because while no one could argue that she wasn't being provoked, they could and would argue that it was unreasonable for her to respond to their provocation. She turned on her heel again with an inarticulate noise of frustration, stalking away. She just had to get to the library, they'd have to stop then, or get thrown out because being loud and obnoxious was against the rules.

Unfortunately following her around or pretending to study at the next table and constantly whispering questions at her was not against the rules. Cosette had apparently run out of paradoxes (though of course they were still stuck in Dru's head — Morrigan, why do I do this to myself?) and Jane disappeared right around the time they reached the heavy oak doors which should indicate sanctuary, but that didn't stop her horrible cousin grabbing books at random and hissing, "Dru, what's the capital of Peru?" (Lima.) or "When did the Italic Vampire Wars end?" (It depends how one defines 'end'.) or "Why is it impossible to make a philosopher's stone?" (Making permanent changes to the shape of the world, whether by reifying a conjuration or a transfiguration is Breaking the Rules. It's not impossible but it makes things unbalanced, which is not how magic is supposed to work on this plane. Indefinite rejuvenation is also possible, it's just inherently contradictory for a timeless, unchanging, truly immortal being to exist within a temporally active plane, obviously.) which didn't get stuck, but were harder not to answer aloud and still distracting enough that she couldn't get anything done.

Especially because the question about the philosopher's stone led to her running through the implications of reifying her underclothes and sheets again. It was undeniably cheating, but she thought that as long as she didn't tell anyone and just moved the realness of a similar object to her conjuration, rather than defining it as permanently real in a vacuum, it wasn't technically wrong. And she was reasonably confident that she didn't just think that because she wanted it to be...acceptable, if not really right. It still felt a bit naughty, but in a technically not violating of the letter of the rule while knowingly violating its spirit way, rather than much more blatantly and indefensibly ignoring it altogether.

Of course, transferring the essential qualities of one thing to another, redefining them oneself, without ritually appealing to some specific Aspect of Magic or designing an alchemical process to do so, was also naughty, but only in a normal people can't do this, I'm actively choosing to do something freakish way, not because it was a fundamental violation of the rules of magic on this plane (or skirting a violation of said rules).

"What does 'oi-see-you' mean?" Enid asked, interrupting Dru's rationalisation of the fact that she was currently wearing reified underclothes with a French primer in hand, whereupon Dru abruptly decided that she'd had enough.

"No! Stop it! Just— It's oiseau! Oiseau! How do you not know that?!"

"Well, excuse me, Princess, we can't all speak fifty different languages." Honestly? It's FRENCH! If you live in Europe and are only going to speak one language, it should be French! "What about 'ek-yur-e-al'?"

Écureuil? Maybe? No! I'm not doing this! "Stop! I'm not telling you anything! You don't even care! Go away, leave me alone!" At this point, she didn't even care if she earned a legitimate detention for herself running them off. She drew her wand and threw a pair of Pins-and-Needles Jinxes at them without thinking.

Enid yelped like a kicked dog, grabbing at her hands as they began to feel as though they'd fallen asleep and were just being brought back to life, her face a study in shock. Cosette shrieked, as though Dru had broken her arm or set her on fire or something equally dangerous. Dru's immediate thought was that this was intended to ensure that Dru would never hex her again — she cringed at the shrill, piercing sound, which probably hurt her more than the (incredibly minor) pain jinx had Cosette. Only a second later though, as the librarian rounded the corner, already asking, "What precisely is going on here?" and her cousin twisted her smirking face into a mockery of overly exaggerated pain, she realised she'd fallen for the trap: now Dru was going to get kicked out, and she truly didn't think she could stand being here if she were to be banned from the Library—

She collapsed into the nearest chair, tears pricking at her eyes. "Please, don't make me leave!"

"Druella cursed us, Madam Lyntz! We were just asking her a question and—"

"You weren't just asking a question! You were asking lots of questions! You were— I warned you! And she — Miss Hansen — she was mispronouncing French at me and— You don't understand!" She cut herself off, aware that asking questions and mispronouncing French were not, on the surface of things, truly offences worthy of hexing, and took a deep, shuddering breath, attempting to regain some semblance of composure.

"Of course we don't, you're acting like a looney, cursing people for no reason! And in a library, of all places!" Cosette chided her, carefully putting her back to the librarian so the vampire wouldn't see her smirking again.

"It wasn't a curse, it was a jinx, and I did have a reason, and I warned you— Please, Lady Margolotta, you must believe me, I only wanted them to leave me in peace! I tried asking, and they wouldn't stop! And the paradoxes won't stop, and I can't not answer, and she, that heathen, pronounced oiseau as—" Dru choked on her own voice, attempting to replicate the violation of French which was Enid's oiseau. "I can't even say it, it was so horrible!" And now she couldn't stop choking on her words, and the tears weren't just pricking at her eyes, but escaping them entirely, and—

The vampire sighed. "You two, Miss Hansen and Miss...?"

"Laurent, Ma'am."

"Laurent, then. Get out and stay out. If I see either of you in here again before Mabon, you'll be in detention for a week."

"What?" Cosette exclaimed, appalled. "But Druella was the one who—"

"The one who did, in fact, ask you to leave her alone — multiple times, increasingly desperately — while you continued to torment her, secure in the knowledge that, should she retaliate, she would be punished for drawing her wand on another student, while your systematic attempts to drive Miss Rosier beyond the point of reason went unnoticed. Yes, I know. I heard. Too bad for you, I will not stand for such mean-spirited bullying in my domain. Go."

"But—"

"If you think my father won't have something to say to the Headmaster about a dirty vampire—" Enid began, pink-faced and furious.

The librarian cut her off. "Do shut up, Miss Hansen. I'm certain Armando will have something to say to your father as well, about his daughter finding herself in trouble for harassing the same girl whose trunk she attempted to break into only yesterday." The pink drained from Enid's face, leaving her looking rather ill. Apparently that had been a bluff. "I'll be certain to alert him to expect your father's owl," Lady Margolotta said, the slightest hint of smugness on her voice, though not on her face, pointing toward the main doors.

This time, Dru's tormentors slinked away without protest, though they did both throw a venomous glare or two over their shoulders. Whether they were directed at Dru or Lady Margolotta, she couldn't say.

The vampire sighed again, turning back to Dru. "So. What am I to do with you?"

Dru was fairly certain that question was rhetorical, but just in case it wasn't, she repeated, "Please, don't make me leave."

"I'm not going to make you leave. In fact, I think I might make you tea," the vampire said firmly, gesturing for Dru to follow her. "Come."

She did, somewhat reluctantly. So far as punishments for hexing someone in the library might go, tea was a far lesser sentence than being thrown out, but it certainly wasn't the comforting gesture the librarian seemed to think it ought to be. "That's...truly not necessary, Lady Margolotta. If I could just—" She tipped her head back, trying to force herself not to sniffle. "I'd prefer to just be alone for a little while."

"Nonsense, lieveling. I've never encountered a student who could more clearly use a sympathetic ear on only the third day of lessons," the vampire insisted, leading Dru into a cosy little room behind the check-out desk. The librarian's "office" seemed more like a sitting room than a study — a continuation of the same purple carpets and light wooden shelves which furnished the library at large, but with a fireplace and a handful of much more comfortable-looking chairs than the ones out in the general section. Oddly, there were no books on the shelves, only trinkets and art objects.

They were clearly from all over the world, the styles of sculpture and decorative patterns on many of the vessels entirely foreign. Some of them she recognized — that statue was clearly Minoan, its subject a youth vaulting over a charging bull, and that was a model of the Athenian parthenon — but one of the landscape paintings showed a sunny savannah, a pride of lions lounging in the middle ground, and another an endless range of mountains, stretching away behind a tiny, brightly decorated hut, quite unlike anywhere Dru had ever seen. There were musical instruments, too — drums and a three-stringed instrument somewhat reminiscent of a lute — and weapons — several knives with entirely different styles of workmanship, an obsidian axe, a painted boomerang — though most of them looked ornamental.

Of course there were also a handful of tables and cupboards, a side-table with half a dozen bottles of various liquors in an adjacent cabinet. And unless Dru was very mistaken, that was a pensieve cabinet. There was one almost exactly like it in the Family Library — the top part folded open to reveal the scrying pool, and the tall, thin drawers beneath it pulled out to reveal racks of archived memories, carefully preserved in crystal phials.

"Please, sit." She gestured toward what turned out to be a very comfortable armchair, pillowy and large enough to pull her feet up if she were alone. It smelled like books, which she supposed shouldn't be surprising, given its leather upholstery, but still did manage to take her slightly by surprise. "Shall I call for sandwiches?" Lady Margolotta suggested. "Or perhaps a dinner tray, I suppose it is getting near that time."

"Oh, no, that's really not necessary. I mean, even the tea, I don't really..." She trailed off as the vampire drew her wand to conjure a pair of cups and filled them with water in much the same way Dru had drawn herself a glass on the train, heating and glamouring it— "I thought I was the only person who did that."

Lady Margolotta let out a startled laugh, sinking into her own chair. "No, lieveling, I think you'll find that absent-minded academics the world over have discovered that glamouring tea or coffee for themselves presents a far lesser distraction from their work than going all the way to the kitchen. Or worse, all the way to the café." Oh. Well, now Dru felt like an idiot. Obviously that made sense. "And I do try not to put the elves to more trouble than necessary."

"Oh." That also made sense, and was very thoughtful of her. "Thank you, Lady Margolotta," she murmured, accepting her cup when the vampire levitated it across the coffee table to her.

"You are very welcome. However, I must ask, do you make a habit of calling your professors by their given names, Miss Druella?" she asked, a note of cautious suspicion in her tone.

Druella froze, the question effectively scaring every other thought from the forefront of her mind. (Including the paradoxes — if she weren't so concerned that the vampire might take exception to the fact that Dru knew she was a vampire, she might be grateful for that.)

She'd known that she would inevitably give away that she was aware of that fact. She hadn't expected that she would give it away immediately. (Curses!) It was simply reflexive to use the correct form of address when she spoke to anyone. Vampires (in circles where they weren't killed on sight) were normally given the honorific as a courtesy. "Immortals" in general were afforded the title, as were greater fae and manifestations of gods — simply as a gesture of respect, recognising that they were dangerous and powerful individuals (more dangerous and powerful than the speaker, at least). And there were few enough "immortals" around and so few of them still actively participated in their mortal families' lives that they rarely used surnames among themselves (or with mortals who were aware of what they were).

Upyri were mortal. Their natural lifespan was considerably longer than a human's, but they had clans and family names. It would also be...unusual for a human to use a title for an upyri, even Madame or Monsieur, due to the historical attempts of humans to exterminate upyri. According to Louis, who had begun exploring the culture of his birth over the past few years, they didn't appreciate human honorifics being applied to them, and it was extremely presumptuous for a human to use the titles upyri used among themselves. (Or to use their language at all, for that matter.) If Lady Margolotta were upyri, Dru supposed that she might have called her "Librarian Lyntz" — human librarians were properly addressed as Madame or Monsieur, even if their title of reference was Librarian, but addressing her as "Librarian" rather than Madame would make it clearer that she wasn't simply giving Lady Margolotta the common human title as a (somewhat condescending) courtesy, so—

Why was she even thinking about this? It wasn't relevant, except insofar as she certainly wouldn't have called an upyri "Lady Margolotta".

Dru had obviously intended to be polite, which meant Lady Margolotta had to know that she wasn't simply calling her by her given name. Which meant she probably shouldn't try to pretend ignorance at this point. (How Sean thought that Dru would possibly be able to pretend to be remotely normal, she had no idea — she couldn't even pretend not to know one little fact when her life might literally depend upon it.) "...No, my Lady." When Lady Margolotta continued to stare at her, even through her first sip of 'tea', she added (somewhat anxiously), "Please forgive me if I've been presumptuous, I did not intend to give offence, I simply...wasn't thinking."

A hint of a smirk pulled at the corner of the vampire's lips. "Surely a rare occurrence. I trust that if I were to ask you to keep your suspicions about my species to yourself, you would promise to do so?"

Well, of course she would, but, "Just to be clear, do you mean for me to keep it to myself that you're supposedly upyri, or that you're an abomination?"

The vampire's eyes widened ever-so-slightly at the upyri terms Dru used. "The latter. There are plenty of students who already 'know' or suspect that I am upyri — Miss Hansen, for one — and I believe you must have deduced by my continued employment here that the staff are under the same impression."

"Yes. That is, yes, I have, and yes, I promise to keep it to myself that you're an abomination. I give you my word, on my wand, twice and thrice sworn, before Magic Itself." Properly speaking, the vow ought to have three witnesses, but the whole point of this particular vow was that this secret would stay between the two of them. It took, anyway — Dru shivered as ambient magic twisted around her, binding her to her word, though the feeling faded after a few seconds. "Does that mean I should call you Librarian Lyntz?"

"Do you honestly think that there is a single human in this school who is aware of the implications of calling me Lady Margolotta?" Well...no, not really. "There are certain students I have given leave to use my given name, as an upyri might share her public name with humans with whom she is on familiar terms. I expect that anyone would presume your insistence on a title is a personal quirk of yours, should you not be able to bring yourself to do the same. And not an inappropriate one, given that you are a child addressing a figure of authority, whom you would not wish to offend with 'Madam', now that it has been acknowledged between us that that title would be incorrect in any tradition."

Dru nodded, relieved both to be on solid protocol ground again and to have avoided any unpleasantness surrounding the revelation of her awareness. "Lady Margolotta, then. Well met."

"And you, Miss Druella. Now, how on earth are you familiar with the implications of that particular form of address?"

"There was an anonymous Sixteenth Century Handbook of Comportment in the Rosier Family Library," Dru explained promptly. "It included forms of address for beings such as yourself." She had been looking for a definitive authority on whether she was required to allow new acquaintances to take her hand — and if not, how to gracefully decline to do so — coming across the information on immortals incidentally.

The vampire nodded slowly, her expression giving away nothing. "And I confess I've never heard of an upyri who would teach their language to a human."

...Was she hinting that she didn't think Dru was human? or was Dru being overly sensitive at the moment? She honestly couldn't tell. "I only know a few words. Louis, my ballet partner, was adopted by a human when he was small." His parents had been murdered in a senseless act of racist violence when he was about six years old. He had escaped and taken up hiding in the basement of a nearby theatre, where Madame had eventually come across him and taken him in. That he had taught Dru as much about his birth people as he had was better attributed to the fact that he (like Felix and so many others) didn't consider her to be human than his relationship with Madame, but that was neither here nor there. She'd also picked up a few words at Beauxbatons, hiding in their dormitory. (The upyri who looked like they were Dru's age were at least a few years older, and therefore more mature and restrained than the average seven-year-old human or veela, which had made them ideal to hide among.)

An expression twitched at the corner of the vampire's lips. It was too quick to catch, but Dru got the impression she was amused. "Very good. And if I were to ask you directly whether you are or are not human?"

Dru pouted. Perhaps it wasn't altogether surprising that the vampire would doubt her humanity, given the circumstances, but, "I would say that I cannot imagine why it might be relevant, but Healer Turner will assure you that I am in fact human."

The vampire raised an eyebrow, now definitely amused. "I'm sure she would."

She was fairly certain Lady Margolotta thought she was just avoiding saying that she wasn't human, rather than simply unable to definitively say that she knew with one hundred per cent certainty that she was (especially after Draco just had to point out that just because her body was human didn't mean she was), but there was nothing she could say that couldn't be interpreted that way.

"I think I'm human. I'm definitely physically human, at least."

The vampire gave a considering little hum. "And if you grew from infancy, which I presume you did — surely your family would have noticed if you suddenly appeared among them — you cannot be a lovely little Galatea, which was my second guess." She gave a tiny shrug. "I suppose I will just have to be as surprised as anyone else when you begin to awaken."

"Awaken? And what was your first guess?"

"A Child of the Forest. There's something very sylph-like about you. And awakening refers to a changeling child — under the old definition, so cucoo fae and demonic half-breeds, but also demigods and metamorphs and sometimes just unusually powerful sorcerers — coming into their own, realising what they actually are, and...reevaluating their relationship with humanity, in light of that realisation."

"...I'm pretty sure I'm just a freak."

"Most changelings think the same," Lady Margolotta said, in a tone that was probably supposed to be reassuring, though it rather missed the mark. Through no fault of Lady Margolotta — Dru simply wasn't in a state to be reassured about anything at the moment. "On which note, would you care to tell me what was going on out there?" she asked, her head tipping toward the door. "While I did overhear more than enough to know who was truly the victim in the confrontation...?"

To be perfectly honest, Dru did not care to tell her what had been going on — and not only because she might accidentally get too close to thinking about questions she wasn't going to think about and getting them stuck in her head again. She intended to explain, vaguely, that Cosette was her least-favourite cousin, and delighted in tormenting her at every turn, either because Dru had inadvertently mortally offended her at some point or because Cosette simply enjoyed seeing Dru miserable. She did not intend to transition seamlessly from explaining Cosette's delight in torturing her to the incident with Jane and Enid and her trunk to her difficulties dealing with children in general and then to everything she had discovered in only the past four days that she hated about this place.

She was on her second cup of tea, ranting about Dumbledore being a complete and utter boor, when she was interrupted by the ringing of a bell at the check-out desk.

Lady Margolotta lifted a single finger. "Please excuse me for a moment, I should attend to..."

"Oh, yes, of course." And Dru should stop talking. Even if it weren't somewhat embarrassing to spend the better part of half an hour monopolising a conversation ranting about one's own troubles, she abruptly became aware that, even with the tea, her mouth was dry and her throat was getting sore. She didn't generally talk this much, and she was beginning to feel rather tired, dwelling on how miserable the past few days had been. Those three hours of poor sleep seemed very long ago already. And now that she'd taken a moment to breathe, the awful, hollow-headachy feeling which inevitably followed being driven to tears was settling in.

She should probably apologise for taking so much of Lady Margolotta's time when she returned from helping whoever was at the desk, thank her for the tea, and go back to her room. She was in no state to continue researching the history of the Castle (or Unobtrusive Charms or the fae or anything else) much less to try to find and speak to Riddle, and she wanted to meditate for a while before Astronomy — they were to have their first practical lesson at nine, ending just before curfew. As much of a relief as it was to lay out her problems, to have someone listen and nod and assure her that she was not being entirely unreasonable refusing to attempt to teach her peers how to transfigure needles or walking out of Potions or for putting up a barrier to separate her part of her room from her roommates', she really did want to just be alone for a while. She could do her barre exercises, maybe draw for a bit. (She would prefer to play piano — making music was relaxing in a way few other things were — and Ravenclaw House did have one, but it was in the Common Room.)

Yes, she decided. That was a good idea. Though she couldn't possibly leave without saying farewell, that would be even ruder than monopolising the conversation as she had. She wandered idly around the room, inspecting several of the objects on the shelves more closely as she waited for the vampire to return. She was examining a tri-coloured cameo portrait, marvelling at the detail the artist had managed to include — sculpture was a medium she had not experimented with, but she suspected that creating something so fine would require a great deal of skill — when Lady Margolotta did finally reappear.

"Perhaps the most painful irony of my existence," she said, startling Dru (she moved even more quietly than Louis), "is that I became a vampire because one lifetime simply wasn't enough — there are so many wonders to see and experience in this world, so many places to go, so much to learn, I couldn't stand the thought that I would die with so much left undone — but the human mind is simply unable to remember more than one or two centuries worth of experiences, no matter how amazing and unforgettable they seem at the time. All those things I've done, places I've gone, people I've met, they fade away in time." That, Dru thought, was absolutely tragic, but when she turned to look at the vampire, she was wearing a nostalgic smile. "But they do so less quickly if one is periodically reminded of them, and so I have my mementos."

Dru bit her lip. She had had every intention of taking her leave, but she couldn't seem to stop herself from asking, "If you became a vampire so you could see the world, why are you here? There must be plenty of more interesting places than Hogwarts..."

Lady Margolotta nodded. "Certainly. Though when one has spent six centuries and more wandering the Earth, seeing what there is to see and doing all there is to do, a few decades spent tucked away in a boring backwater is hardly the sacrifice I imagine it seems when one has barely begun to live.

"I spent much of the Seventeen and Eighteen Hundreds helping to build up the University Library's collections, procuring texts from all over the world — most of these were collected in the course of those travels," she added, gesturing at the art and artefacts lining the walls. Dru felt her eyes grow wide and her intention to go entirely vanish at the revelation that Lady Margolotta was actually from the University. "When I heard that the Hogwarts Library was in need of a new librarian, I thought it sounded like a good opportunity to encourage free sharing of knowledge in a country which is notoriously repressive, and perhaps to steer a few more promising students toward the University after they achieve their NEWTs."

Like Druella, perhaps? She'd already been pleased that the Librarian seemed to have taken a liking to her (and wasn't going to kill her for knowing that she was a vampire), but now, knowing that Lady Margolotta might be able to write her a letter of introduction when she was finally allowed to take her exams and apply to mastery programmes, she was doubly pleased to have made her acquaintance. That alone might make this whole Hogwarts ordeal worth it.

"Perhaps more importantly," Lady Margolotta continued, oblivious to Dru's immediate interest in changing the subject, "if I am here holding the position, it is not in the hands of someone who would actively limit the sharing of knowledge with students. The Headmaster of Hogwarts has a great deal of latitude when it comes to enforcing British laws. The Hogwarts Librarian cannot refuse to enforce restriction laws if the Headmaster wishes to do so, but they can — and have — enforced the restrictions even when the Headmaster is ambivalent or apathetic toward the matter. Armando is amenable to allowing a bit of flexibility when it comes to whether children who are technically underage ought to be allowed full access to the collections here—" ...That sounded suspiciously like if you ask, there is every chance that I will allow you into the Restricted Section to Dru, which did considerably more to brighten her mood than the tea. "—which means that whether the librarian is sympathetic to our cause is the limiting factor in whether potentially hundreds of students will or will not be allowed to pursue the knowledge they seek.

"I have no intention of staying here forever. Armando will eventually retire or, more likely, die in his office. Young Albus is the obvious successor to the position now that he has been promoted to Deputy Headmaster, regardless of his suitability to the role or lack thereof. He holds no love for upyri and firmly believes that children need to be protected from the so-called corruption of the Dark Arts, and so must not be allowed even to read of them. He will most likely make my termination his first act as the new Headmaster, and institute a restriction policy even more draconian than the actual letter of the law. But for the moment, he is powerless to stop me from allowing you, or anyone else I like, to study freely."

"Tell me about the University," Druella blurted out, almost before the librarian finished speaking. "And the Library — I want to know everything!" It was only afterward she realised how rude and demanding she sounded, and so attempted to soften the request with a belated, "Please!"

Fortunately, Lady Margolotta seemed to find her eagerness more adorable than annoying. "Very well, lieveling, but I feel it is only fair to tell you up front that the Dean is bound by certain treaties not to offer enrollment and therefore citizenship to anyone under the age of seventeen."

...Well, that was disappointing, but still. There was no reason she shouldn't complete a mastery programme elsewhere while she bided her time, and then apply to the University. If she already had a Mastery, she might even be able to apply as a researcher, rather than an undergraduate! "I don't care, I still want to know everything!"