A/N Thanks M
With this chapter, this segment of the story can be considered complete.
Armando Dippet frowned. He found his Transfiguration Master's pacing nearly as intolerable as the wait for his Deputy's return.
"Master Dumbledore, it is summer holiday. Have you no place else to be? Your family has holdings in London and Hogsmeade, do they not? Or perhaps you would care to travel. There is the continent, or I hear our colonies in America are nice this time of year."
"Headmaster, we no longer hold any colonies in America."
"Then go find a thirteenth use for dragon's blood! Master Dumbledore, you are bothering me."
"Why of all people did you send Shackleton to deliver her Hogwarts letter? Why not me, or Kettleburn?"
Dippet was not accustomed to being second guessed. "Master Shackleton is more than capable of delivering a letter."
"Armando, the man loathes muggles. The last time he saw the McGonagalls, he threatened to 'Obliviate' them. Repeatedly, I might add!"
"You needn't worry. I made him leave his wand here."
Dumbledore sighed. "I don't think that's necessarily my point."
"What is your point, Master Dumbledore?"
"I just don't believe Shackleton to be the most…conciliatory person you could have sent. He won't give the kind of impression we need-"
"-Master Shackleton is the Deputy Headmaster of this school. I am relatively certain he is capable of delivering a letter. I even told him to go in muggle attire."
"Muggle attire? Do I dare to even ask?"
Dippet again tried to dismiss the young man's concerns. "Master Archie said he had some muggle garments that he could lend him."
"What kind of muggle garments?"
"I don't know; I didn't ask. Master Dumbledore, does it really matter?"
Perhaps it did, Dippet realized as Master Shackleton entered his office in a flowered lady's nightdress. Thankfully, Dumbledore left off that line of questioning and turned his attentions to Shackleton. "Well?"
"Well how did it go!"
"It went…it went."
"So Kitten will be returning to Hogwarts in September."
"Well…no, I didn't say that. Well…actually, no I did at one point say that, but not to you."
Master Dumbledore hadn't yet allowed Dippet to get a word in edgewise and didn't seem about to anytime soon. "What did you say to them? What exactly did you say?"
Shackleton shrugged uncomfortably. "Well, I said that she would be coming to Hogwarts. She said-"
"-'She said'? The girl said or the muggle woman said?" Dippet felt it necessary to interrupt at this point to be clear. The last time he had seen her, that day in his office, she had ceased with any saying.
Dippet had last spoken to Madame Bagnold at the inauguration ball after she had been officially elected to the post of Minister of Magic. It was some months after the girl's departure. He had inquired if there had been any word from the McGonagalls. Bagnold had informed him that the muggle woman had owled her progress reports the first month or two, but the reports had stopped abruptly. Though there had been some improvements, the last she had heard, the girl had still not spoken even a word.
That had been some years ago, but he had never made further inquiries.
Still, he thought it would be a good omen if she had again taken up speaking.
"The girl. She said that she did not want to come. I said that I didn't care what she wanted. The muggles said that if she didn't want to go, they weren't going to send her. We were…talking and I said something to the effect that I wasn't leaving without having someone to bring back -"
"-Shackleton, classes don't start for more than a month."
"Who asked you, Dumbledore? I mean really, who asked you? Well at any rate, I said it and the girl…she got a little…peeved."
Master Dumbledore's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "What do you mean 'peeved'?"
"No, I don't know 'peeved'. What do you mean 'peeved'?"
"Oh, you'll know it if you see it, believe me. Anyway, I very much doubt that she will be joining us this year."
Master Dumbledore looked very nearly devastated. Dippet knew the Transfiguration Master had been waiting upon the girl's return for the opportunity to perhaps make amends for his earlier acts. The idea that this opportunity might not be coming seemed to trouble him greatly.
Shackleton too noticed the change in Dumbledore's demeanor. "I know, I was looking forward to having her back too. I was going to use her during my advanced section on dark creatures."
Dippet dismissed his Deputy's comments. "Of course she is coming here!"
"No, they have already started making plans for her to go to a different school."
"What school? Beauxbatons? Durmstrang?"
"Swan school?" Dippet repeated in disbelief.
"She doesn't belong here, Armando. She's been damaged. She's something of a simpleton. A vicious, foul tempered simpleton, but a simpleton nonetheless."
Dippet sighed. Master Dumbledore had been right; Master Shackleton apparently could not be relied upon to deliver a simple letter. Dippet took out a fresh piece of parchment and began to compose a new one. He would write the muggles to inform them that he would be stopping by to see them on Sunday afternoon. "I will go myself and put an end to this nonsense."
With or without a reply, the owl never returned. Despite, or because of this, Armando Dippet determined to keep his word and actually go. He did however alter his plans in one regard. He made a point of arriving several hours earlier than his letter had indicated. He wanted to catch the muggles unaware so that he might get a more honest portrayal of the girl's new life.
To that end, when he arrived outside the house in Darlington, Scotland, he used a charm to enhance his hearing and a potion to disillusion himself so that he would not be noticed. He succeeded in disillusioning himself just in time to avoid being seen by the muggle gentleman, still in his slippers and dressing gown, come to retrieve the newspaper from the side yard. Dippet followed him round to the back of the house, but remained outside as the muggle entered through the kitchen door. From the open window of the nearby dining room, Dippet had a perfect vantage point of the girl seated at the dining room table and the muggle man as he took the seat beside her. Both still in their dressing gowns, they appeared to be just settling down to breakfast.
The muggle gentleman was ignoring his plate in favor of the newspaper and a cup of coffee. "Meadow's Field is running today, Kitty. I believe that pony owes you a quid after the last time. Imagine, stumbling out of the gate like that!"
A little louder, he called out to his wife, presumably in the next room. "Mum, are you sure that fellow is going to be stopping by today?"
The muggle woman entered the dining room with a platter of bacon. She divided the platter's contents onto the three plates already on the table while answering. "That is what it said in the letter. The school Headmaster himself will be coming."
"Pity," the man said turning the newspaper page. "He couldn't have come on a Saturday?"
The muggle woman frowned at him while tightening the belt of her garishly tartan dressing gown. Turning her attentions to the girl, she questioned her. "Minerva, are you sure that this is what wizards and witches wear?"
The girl looked to be seriously contemplating the matter as she chewed the last of her second piece of bacon. "They wear…robes."
Mr. McGonagall smiled over the top of his paper. "I like that! Wearing bathrobes all day, sounds very relaxed!"
"Drafty is what it sounds like to me!" Mrs. McGonagall rejoined before being overcome by a fit of coughing.
Mr. McGonagall frowned. "So exactly how long are you going to have that cough before you finally go see the doctor?"
She ignored the question that was directed at her by offering her own. "What else can you remember about witches and wizards? We want to make our visitor feel welcome."
The girl looked down at the untouched toast and eggs on her plate. "Wizards only like to eat bacon."
The muggle woman sighed. "You have already had your two pieces of bacon. Try the eggs."
The girl frowned. "At Hogwarts, you can have all the bacon that you want."
The muggle woman rose from her seat. "At the McGonagall's, everyone gets two pieces of bacon and then they learn to make due with eggs and toast or maybe some cereal."
"The cereal you make always comes out-" the girl wrinkled her nose as if it were the most revolting thing imaginable, "-wet."
The muggle gentleman spoke over the top of his newspaper. "Ooh, she's got you there, love!"
The muggle woman rolled her eyes at the gentleman. "Yes, well you don't have to worry about soggy cereal today." She kissed the girl on the top of the head before turning to again enter the kitchen.
As soon as the muggle woman's back was turned, Mr. McGonagall handed his bacon over to the girl. As she happily ate his two pieces of bacon, the muggle spoke from behind his newspaper. "You be a good girl and do as your mum says. You know the rules; two slices of bacon a day per person and then you try something else. If you want to, you can serve nothing but bacon all day when you have your own childr-" The muggle cut off his own words to rephrase his statement. "-when you are older, but for now, you need to listen to mum."
The girl's behavior was begining to unnerve Dippet. He had disillusioned himself so he was quite sure that she couldn't see him, but she kept staring out the open window in his direction. Despite the appearance of being absorbed in his newspaper, the muggle man noted her behavior.
"Something wrong, Kitten?"
"There is a man outside the window."
Dippet kept perfectly still as the man put down the newspaper and approached the window. "I don't see anyone."
The girl agreed and disagreed with him. "I do not see anyone either, but there is a man there."
The muggle went so far as to stick his head out the window to look around. He of course saw nothing. Pulling his head back in, the muggle's look of confusion turned to one of understanding. "I get it! It's that Claude Rains fellow!" Lowering his voice conspiratorially, he added, "Best not to mention him to mum. I don't think she would approve."
Ruffling her hair on the way, he returned to his seat and again picked up his newspaper. The girl, however, continued staring out the window.
From the kitchen, the muggle woman's voice could be heard. "You had best get dressed for church if you want to make the eleven o'clock mass."
Too quiet to be heard in the next room, the muggle man spoke back. "And who said that I want to make the eleven o'clock mass?"
After the man reluctantly left the room, the girl stood and leaned out the window. Though it had been his plan to spend longer observing the muggles without their notice, when the girl began casting the contents of the salt cellar into his general direction, Dippet decided it best to walk back around to the front of the house and properly announce his arrival.
He knocked only once before the muggle man came to the door. He didn't seem to remember Dippet – not terribly surprising given the anti-muggle wards – but because Dippet hadn't seen fit to himself wear muggle clothes, the muggle was immediately able to piece his identity together.
"You're that fellow! You're early!"
"Yes," Dippet agreed. "I hope that isn't an inconvenience."
"No, I would describe it as rather convenient. Come in."
Having heard the knock, the muggle woman too came into the room. The girl trailed after her. Dippet hadn't yet said a word to her, and already the girl was sending sour looks his way.
"I guess this means I'll have to miss church. Pity!" His disappointment seeming incredibly insincere, the muggle man sprinted back up the stairs.
"Please come in. Have a seat." The woman led him into the sitting room. She seemed about to say something more, but began to cough instead. She motioned to excuse herself from the room while she attempted to recover. Though the woman seemed reluctant to leave him alone with the girl, the girl chose to remain behind.
Though it had been several years since he had seen the girl last, she seemed very much the same. Perhaps a bit taller, and her hair with its braids woven atop her head was arranged far more elaborately than anyone at Hogwarts could ever be bothered to do. But she was still too thin and pale, and her eyes still held that look of apathy towards him. Shackleton was correct, she did speak, and when she spoke, the condescending tone that he recalled was unchanged.
"You were outside the window. What were you doing there?"
It would not do to have the muggles learn he was secretly watching them. Besides, it wasn't really possible for her to know that. "I was not."
"Yes, you were."
"No, I wasn't."
"Yes, you were."
"It isn't polite to contradict your elders!"
"It isn't polite to peep in windows!"
"I was not!"
"You were too!"
Thankfully, the girl herself changed the subject. "My mum says that I do not have to go with you if I do not want to, and I do not want to."
"What you want is of no consequence."
"No, what you want is of no consequence!"
Dippet shook his head. Truthfully, he hadn't actually foreseen her coming back with him, nor had he any Visions of her school days. He had, however, foreseen her at Hogwarts many times later. As the others could not happen without the one, surely the one also had to occur?
"There are certain events that are to come to pass. For these events to occur, there are things that you must do. In the past I have, on your behalf, attempted to resist, I have tried to make alterations, but I have since come to realize that it is of no use to battle against the forces of destiny. These happenings were already set into a course of motion long before you were born. Though I may neither like, nor approve, of the things that you are to do, that does not change the fact that you are to do them."
There was more that he wished to say, but the girl, insolent as ever, interrupted him. "How about no?"
"You will return to Hogwarts. It is your destiny."
"You can bring Peeves. It can be his destiny."
"Peeves?" Dippet questioned, recalling his Deputy having mentioned something like that several times.
Dippet heard a slight popping noise right before someone, or something, very forcefully tweaked his nose.
"GOT YOUR CONK!"
Dippet turned to discover the culprit; a little man, about the girl's height, with dark eyes and a wide grin. On further examination, Dippet realized it wasn't a man, but rather a poltergeist.
The girl explained the obvious. "He does not really have your nose. He just holds his thumb between two of his fingers to make it look like he has your nose."
Next the poltergeist 'aided' him in removing his hat.
Hoping that an offering of confections would prevent the girl from continuing to send her poltergeist after him, Dippet reached into his robe pocket to produce the package of ice mice that Mr. Hagrid had been sent to procure on his behalf. The girl gave a gasp of astonishment when he showed it to her. "That is candy!"
She simply stared at it wide eyed as he held it out to her. "Go on, take it."
Her eyes were fixated longingly on the box of sweets as she shook her head. "I do not want candy."
"Well of course you do!" Of all the contrary things to say! If she didn't want it, why was she looking at it as if it were the most wonderful thing in the world? It was clear she was still determined to be as difficult as humanly possible. "Take it."
As she again shook her head, her eyes kept darting between the doorway the muggle woman had gone through and the box of sweets. "I do not want it."
"If you don't want it now, take it and put it someplace for later."
She began to lecture him. "That is hoarding and we are not supposed to hoard things."
"What? No, just…" He had been back in her presence for not even five minutes and already she had started again. "…just save it for later."
She spoke to him as if he were the impertinent child, not her. "There is a fine line between saving something for later and hoarding, and I cannot tell the difference."
Dippet stood there staring at her, not sure what to make of that declaration.
"What do you think you are doing! Is that candy? You put that away right now!" The muggle woman had returned and now she was reprimanding as well. "Where did that come from? You did not have that when you were at the door!"
"They are only ice mice. They are a harmless sweet." Dippet was beyond befuddled. "Regardless, she doesn't want it. She used to adore confections…"
The muggle woman scowled at him. "Of course she wants it! But she can't have it! We don't allow her to have any candy or sugary sweets."
Dippet tried to defend himself. "She didn't tell me that she couldn't have it. She simply said she didn't want to have it."
Dippet didn't understand; in all the time that he had known her, sweets were all that he had ever seen her eat. If they didn't feed her sweets, what did they feed her? "You don't allow her any sweets at all?"
Mrs. McGonagall gave a pointed glare at her husband, who had also returned, as she answered. "No, I don't and no one else is supposed to either. Candy causes cavities. When she is willing to let the dentist put his fingers in her mouth to clean her teeth, then she can have candy.
The girl opened her mouth to speak, but the woman amended her statement. "When she is willing to let the dentist put his fingers in her mouth and let him take them back out without biting him, then she can have candy."
The girl closed her mouth without comment.
Almost grudgingly, Mrs. McGonagall let on. "Occasionally, I allow her to have ice cream as a special treat."
Mr. McGonagall shrugged. "I encourage her. It's not that I mind the dentist, though actually I do, but I just think it's a good habit to keep her in. I fully support the idea that if you have something you wouldn't like bit off, you shouldn't have it near her mouth. If nothing else, it will certainly discourage the boys as she gets older."
Mrs. McGonagall glared at her husband. "The biting is not a major priority with us at the moment. Beyond the dentist, or should I say dentists, there really isn't anyone else with a reason to put their fingers in her mouth. Besides, I've noticed a pattern. The less sugar she has in her diet, the less energy she has to be active in certain other ways."
"I'm afraid I don't follow you. Active in what ways?"
Mrs. McGonagall said nothing, but inclined her head in the direction of the girl's poltergeist, who had begun ransacking the hat cupboard by the door.
Dippet scoffed at the idea. "Am I to believe you are suggesting that the girl's magical abilities are related to her sugar intake?" Thinking of his sweet adulating Transfiguration Master, Dippet went on. "Madame, if that were the case, Albus Dumbledore would be the most powerful wizard in-" Dippet trailed off with a frown as he thought about what he was saying.
A still merry Mr. McGonagall broke the awkward moment that Dippet had brought upon himself. "Won't you have a seat? I'll go make us all some tea."
Dippet took the offered chair, while the woman and the girl took the loveseat. The girl's mannerisms were still quite feline; she tucked her feet beneath her and curled up against the woman. The way the woman kept gently stroking her hair only added to the impression.
Seeing the empty owl cage on the bottom of the cupboard that the poltergeist was in, before it slipped his mind, Dippet wanted to inquire after the owl that had brought his letter. "The owl I sent to you, it never returned to the castle. Do you know what became of it?"
"It…" Mrs. McGonagall faltered for a moment in her petting of the girl happily curled up beside her. "…died."
"Oh, that is surprising. The journey here was not at all a long one. It seemed to me quite young and healthy."
"Yes," the muggle agreed, "it was. And friendly. Maybe a little too friendly."
"Ah, yes. Perhaps it picked up an illness from one of the other owls."
The woman just smiled weakly at him in response.
"You know you could have used the owl Madame Bagnold left with you. If you just write the name of your intended recipient, it will find them in most cases."
"We don't have that owl anymore. It…died too."
"Oh, most unfortunate." These people were muggles; Dippet didn't know what to say to them, but he wanted to make some attempt at conversation. Looking about the rest of the room, he indicated the scratching post by the fire place. "I see you managed to acquire a cat after all."
"That's mine!" The girl transformed and made her way to the post. She began viciously clawing it, giving him the evil eye all the while.
"She still transfig-changes into a cat?"
Mrs. McGonagall nodded. "Sometimes. Not very often these days. She used to do it quite often. When we first brought her back here, she would often curl up by the fireplace and just watch us. Not really interacting with us, just watching us. She still does that on occasion, but very rarely. Usually when she changes these days, it isn't because she is unhappy, it's because she…" The muggle's gaze darted over to the empty cage as she continued speaking. "…sees something that excites her interest."
Returning with the tea tray and taking the seat recently vacated by the girl, the other muggle added his thoughts, disturbing as they were. "Yarn is her complete undoing. If she even thinks she sees a ball of yarn, its all over. My wife has had to give up knitting entirely."
Mrs. McGonagall tried to silence her husband. "Hush you!" To Dippet, she continued. "He's only teasing. That isn't why I gave it up."
As well as tea, the muggle had brought a plate of biscuits. To his wife's displeased look, the muggle reasoned. "Special occasion, we have company."
Seeing the platter of ginger newts, the girl transformed back. Despite the ample alternative seating, she insisted on insinuating herself between the two muggles.
The muggle woman removed a small case from the pocket of her dressing gown. From it she removed two white sticks and offered one in his direction. Dippet took the stick and placed it into the teacup her husband had just handed him. He watched surprised as rather than do the same, she set hers on fire and put it in her mouth.
Taking a sip of his tea, he practically gagged. Clearly muggles had no idea how to brew a proper cup of tea. "Might I trouble you for some sugar?"
The girl was quicker to answer than either of the muggles. "Listen, you can screech and scream all you want, you can bellow, shout, you can bark for all I care, you can lie on the kitchen floor kicking and screaming, you can refuse to eat anything else, you can even ask nicely, but you are not, I repeat, not under any circumstances going to be getting sugar."
During this little speech, Mr. McGonagall developed something of a coughing fit. Apparently he had succeeded in catching whatever illness it was that Mrs. McGonagall had.
Mrs. McGonagall frowned slightly while herself attempting to answer. "We no longer keep sugar in the house."
Dippet nodded despite his lack of understanding. Not caring for the strong tea, but not wanting to appear impolite by not drinking it, Dippet sought something else to soften the taste. "Milk, perchance?"
"Today is Sunday. The dairy fairy does not come today."
Confused Dippet looked from the girl to the adults and back again. "The dairy fairy?"
"He is a fairy that comes while you are sleeping and leaves milk on your doorstep. Like the tooth fairy puts tuppence under your pillow if you leave your teeth for him. Only the tooth fairy never gives me anything because I have a problem with sharing. My teeth are mine and when they come out, I swallow them so no one else can have them."
The girl certainly had taken to talking again. However, it seemed she only spouted senseless nonsense. Or worse.
Mr. McGonagall said something that made equally little sense. "The milkman doesn't deliver on Sunday."
"I see…" No, he really didn't. He was aware however that muggles believed the moon to be made of cheese, so he thought it best to leave it at that.
Mr. McGonagall jovially went on. "Yesterday, someone, I'm not going to name any names, but someone found the milk and the cream on the front steps and drank it all before anyone else woke up."
"That was me!" The girl excitedly supplied. "I was the someone! It is okay though, it was not hoarding. I did not save it for later, I drank it all right then!"
The muggle gentleman tweaked the girl's nose. "Nope, hoarding it is not."
Mrs. McGonagall did not look amused. "You are not helping this."
Mr. McGonagall shrugged. "Well, it isn't hoarding."
Feeling he had suffered through enough of the tea and pleasantries, Dippet decided to take the jarvey by the tail and get to the reason of his visit. "It is essential that the girl return to Hogwarts in September. She is exceptionally powerful and her training must not be delayed any further."
Mrs. McGonagall frowned at him. The hand without the flaming stick rested on the girl. "We have decided to leave the decision of returning or not with Minerva."
"With who?" It took Dippet a moment to realize who she was talking about. "Oh the girl. You call her Minerva?"
"You didn't really think that we would keep calling her 'Kitten'? It's all right to name a pet that, or to use it as a pet name, but hardly appropriate for a given name."
How was he to know what a muggle would or would not do? "The girl really must retur-"
The woman clearly didn't like the idea of the girl leaving. Not that he was really surprised given the state of affairs when she had last been to Hogwarts. "Why do you do that? Why do you always call Minerva 'the girl'?' Why don't you ever use her name?"
Dippet ignored the question and continued to caution the muggles. "The powers of a witch or wizard are not a matter to be trifled with. A child must be taught to properly harness –"
This time it was Mr. McGonagall who intruded upon his speech. "We are leaving the decision with Kitten – er Minerva. If you want her to go back, she is the one you need to be convincing."
When he looked at her, the girl wore quite the smug look. Rather apprehensive, he questioned her. "Didn't you enjoy your time at Hogwarts?"
The girl thought about it for a moment before replying. "I like bacon."
That may well be, but it had nothing to do with his question. "Do you want to return to Hogwarts?"
The girl wasted no time in replying this time. "Maybe."
'Maybe' was better than the 'no' he had been led to expect. "Maybe? The Hogwarts Express does not depart London until the first of September. You do not need to give me your answer today. If you need more time to decide, I can send another owl to await your reply."
The girl looked at him puzzled. "Send the owl, but I do not need more time. I said no."
Dippet frowned. "You said 'maybe'. I distinctly heard you."
The girl frowned back. "'Maybe' means the same thing as 'no', but you use it when you do not want the other person to make a fuss."
Dippet began to try to reason with her. "You cannot be a proper witch without attending Hogwarts."
"I do not want to be a witch. I want to be a swan." In the silence that ensued, the girl added, "Or maybe a butterfly."
A swan or a butterfly? Splendid. Simply splendid. "But you cannot be a swan or a butterfly."
"Yes, I can. If I can be a cat, why can I not be a swan?"
It appeared Master Shackleton was correct, the girl was…damaged. Reasoning with her had always been and always would be utterly hopeless. Still Dippet needed to try something. The muggle woman looked highly affronted as he went to his old fallback. "You know at Hogwarts, children are given all the sweets they desire."
The girl's angry glare and the way she nestled into the woman told him she was unimpressed. Dippet tried to think of something else that would excite the interest of a child. While he didn't actually approve of the practice for girls- "Wouldn't you like to learn to fly on a broom?"
"Swans and butterflies fly without a broom! Besides I can already fly!"
Standing, the girl prodded the muggle man. He rose and taking firm hold of both her hands, began to spin her around the room. Dippet had to stoop to avoid having the girl's feet collide with his head.
"Stop that, the both of you, before you break-" The muggle woman's prophetic words died out as the girl's feet met with a lamp that, unlike Dippet, failed to stoop.
She continued glaring disapprovingly at the pair until the broken lamp reassembled itself, presumably at the girl's behest. Then she turned her disapproval upon Dippet. "She does not wish to return and we have no intentions of sending her against her will. I have to say, I was not favorably impressed with the goings on I witnessed at your school."
Dippet protested to no effect. "This isn't the way it happens! She has to go. She cannot not go. She simply must be sent!" Seeing his words were impressing no one, he tried a different tack. "How do you expect to become a swan here amongst muggles?"
Mr. McGonagall supplied the answer this time. "She is a bit old to start ballet, but we found a little school in town that will take her. She is going to study there a few afternoons a week. They have a yearly production of 'Swan Lake'."
It wasn't that Dippet wanted her to return – he most certainly did not. He already saw more than enough of her in the Visions that had been plaguing him for years. It was simply that she did return. He knew that she did.
These muggles, like all muggles, were beyond reason. "That is a few afternoons a week. What of the rest of her day? Surely, she is to have some other schooling?"
"We weren't really planning anything else. A couple of years ago, we did try to enroll her in a day school nearby, but things didn't work out."
Dippet seized on those words by the muggle man. "Didn't work out? How so?"
Though she tried to explain it, Mrs. McGonagall didn't seem pleased that Mr. McGonagall had brought up the topic. "She…unsettled some of the teachers. My husband would drop her at the school on his way into work. It's a quite lovely school –experienced teachers, wonderful programs, but Minerva didn't care to stay. She prefers to stay in our company. As soon as my husband would drive off-"
Dippet's ascension to the position of Headmaster of Hogwarts had been a political appointment. After the affair at the Wizengamot, the Ministry and the then Minister had wished to be rid of him. As such, he had never actually spent any time instructing students. Previous to the girl's mother, Dippet had had little, if any, exposure to children, but he had once heard a muggle adage which he had firmly come to believe in; namely that children should be neither seen nor heard. Listening to the girl again interrupt the conversation of the adults, it was clear biting was not the only ill habit of hers that needed to be worked on.
"-I would pop into the back of the car…" As she spoke, the girl disapporated from her seat and apparated to be standing behind Mr. McGonagall with her hands covering his eyes. "…and say 'Guess who!'"
Mr. McGonagall laughed. "All the teachers would go wild. They would be all over looking for her, thinking they had lost her."
When the muggle gentleman reached behind to flip the girl over his shoulder, Dippet was incredibly startled. He didn't like the way the man's hands began to roam over the girl's body, tickling her. He found the muggle's conduct wholly inappropriate, but by the sound of the girl's shrill laughter, she seemed not to mind.
"Hogwarts has wards that will prevent her from leaving, but what is to keep her from attempting to leave this other school in the same manner as the former?"
The obviousness of Mrs. McGonagall's answer did not sit well with Dippet. "Unlike the day school, or your school, she actually wants to go to this one."
Dippet spoke to the woman. "You really must reconsider. As you have just pointed out, attempting to muggle school her is not in anyone's best interests. She must receive proper schooling. If she has not been enrolled in school these past years, what has she been doing?"
With some difficulty, Mrs. McGonagall made herself heard over the girl's continued cacophony. "I keep her with me during the day. I am a homemaker."
Dippet frowned. "Have you been doing that long? Home making, I mean."
"Yes," the muggle woman nodded. "I suppose you could say that is what I have been doing since we married."
Dippet found the woman's answer to be unsettling. Had she not told Madame Bagnold that she was not employed? If she had lied about that, what else might she have lied about? Dippet was beginning to find himself less and less comfortable with the girl's current situation. "Is that wise, or even safe? For the girl, to be kept at a construction site all day with you while you are building houses? What of her edification?"
The tone in his questions must have gotten through to Mr. McGonagall, he ceased with his tickling and exchanged a look with his wife. Both of the muggles seemed to find his concern far too amusing.
It was Mrs. McGonagall who finally managed to respond. "We have been home schooling her in all the classics."
"We try not to discourage her from Wizarding customs. We want her to have an appreciation of your – her culture. She has lessons in Latin, Greek, literature, art-both painting and sculpting, calligraphy, music – the piano, the lyre, the flute…"
Dippet was unclear how, if at all, those things related to Wizarding culture.
Mr. McGonagall sounded disappointed as he added his thoughts. "I wanted to teach her archery and discus throwing, but my wife put her foot down." He spoke his next few words as though it made up for the former. "We do have a Frisbee."
Hearing the front door open without the preamble of a bell ringing, given that the girl and the two muggles were still seated before him, Dippet suspected it was the girl's way of indicating to him that the audience was over.
It was only when he heard a voice in the hall that he recalled that there was another muggle living here, at least part of the time.
"Mum! Dad! Did you leave for church already?"
The existence of Thomas McGonagall had somehow slipped Dippet's mind. Again coughing, Mrs. McGonagall rose to greet her son as he entered the room.
"Darling, I thought you were going to be driving back to school with your friends this morning?"
"They didn't want to wait until after church to head back so I told them to go ahead without me. Dad can drop me off at the station on his way to work tomorrow and I can take the train in. Why are you still in your dressing gown, Mum? Are you still not feeling well?" Looking around the room, the boy amended the question. "Why is everyone in their dressing gowns?"
Mr. McGonagall ignored the young man's questions in favor of his own. "Wouldn't you have preferred to skip church and go back to the university? I know if it were me, I would have preferred-" Seeing the boy's disapproving expression, Mr. McGonagall gave up with a shrug.
Dippet stood to be reintroduced to the young man. Mrs. McGonagall seemed almost hesitant as she introduced them. "Thomas, we have a visitor. This is Mr. Dippet."
"How do you do, sir. Very pleased to make your acquaintance." The boy looked anything except pleased.
"Make my acquaintance again you mean. We have met before, at Hogwarts."
"I'm terribly sorry to hear that your pig has warts."
"No," Dippet corrected him. "Hogwarts. I am the Headmaster at Hogwarts." The boy appeared to be struggling with this information. Dippet prodded him to help him remember. "Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, you attended my school for a few weeks a few years back."
"Hog warts? I've never been near your pig and I haven't any warts." The muggle boy's eyes strayed to the scratching post the girl had overturned. "Where is the cat? Has the cat been back?"
The girl's relative unobtrusiveness came to an end as the two children began to squabble. "I am the cat!"
"Stop saying that! You aren't a cat! You are a little girl!"
"I am a girl cat!"
The muggle woman interceded. "Thomas, darling, go and get ready for church."
The young man and the girl kept up their shouting until the muggle woman sent him from the room. "Go on, darling, get ready to go to church with your father."
After the boy left, the muggle woman explained. "Thomas doesn't…remember the time he spent at Hogwarts."
Dippet frowned. "Master Shackleton oblivi-removed his memories?"
He suspected that the woman didn't quite understand what he was asking, but she understood enough of it to assuage his concerns about Master Shackleton's possible misconduct.
"Thomas remembered right after he returned….about some things at least. After a few days, he seemed to forget more and more of the time he was away. When we try to ask him about it now…trying to get him to remember, it just seems to confuse him." The woman looked at him intently. "Is that…something that we should be concerned about?"
Dippet thought about it for a moment before answering. "Not at all. It is a fairly common muggle response to magic. Nor would it help that since he truly is a muggle, the anti-muggle wards at the school would have been in effect against him during his entire stay at the school. You would simply do well to stop mentioning it around him."
"Will you all be going to church?" asked Dippet, curious.
"No," Mrs. McGonagall shook her head. "We alternate. I went last week, so this week I will stay home with Minerva."
"I like it better when Mum goes." As the girl continued speaking, Dippet noticed Mr. McGonagall was now shaking his head and trying to get her attention. "When Mum stays we paint and play, which I like, but when Daddy stays, we get to go to the derby, which I like better."
"What have I told you about taking her to the races?"
Mr. McGonagall stopped shaking his head and responded with a weak smile to his wife's glare. "But she likes them! It's perfectly harmless." The muggle man turned to him for support. "Don't you think so, Mr. Dippet?"
Not quite following, Dippet smiled wanly. "While I fail to see the attraction, neither do I see what harm there could be in watching hats compete."
The girl scoffed at him. "Not hats! Horses! And you don't just watch! I mean, you can go just to watch, but there is no excitement, no sense of commitment in just watching. You need to have an involement-"
"-Involvement-" Mr. McGonagall's interruption to correct the girl's last word confirmed Dippet's suspicion that the girl was repeating someone else's speech.
Repeating the correction, she went on. "-Involvement, to make it interesting. You need to bet. When we go, we each get a tuppence to put on whichever horse we want."
"Does it have to stay on for the whole race?" Seeing their confused expressions, Dippet clarified. "The tuppence that you put on the horse, does it have to stay on for the whole race to win?"
Ignoring his question, the girl went on. "And we get all the cotton candy we can eat so long as we stop before we vomit." The girl frowned. "Sometimes that is hard to guess at."
At his wife's continued glare, Mr. McGonagall put his head down repentantly. "Candy is bad for you and we shouldn't go to the racecourse anymore."
The girl looked only mildly alarmed. "Wait, you are just saying that, right? We are still going to keep going, but not tell Mum. Right?" Clearly the girl's skill at deception had not improved much. That would come later.
The man tried to give a subtle nod, but his wife caught sight of it. If Dippet didn't know better, he would almost think Mrs. McGonagall's grimace as she banished her husband from the room was a smile. "Don't you think it time you got dressed for church as well?"
Given the relative quiet and the charm he had used earlier, Dippet could hear the two muggle gentlemen talking in the other room.
"Why doesn't Minerva have to go to church?"
"Because we don't know what religion the people Kitten came from had. After all, they named her after a Roman goddess."
"Why don't you ask them? Isn't one of them here now with Mum?"
"Fix your tie, Thomas. There are two things you never ask a man about; his politics or his religion." After a contemplative pause, the elder of the two gentlemen added, "Or his undergarments, so three things. It just does not make for polite conversation."
Dippet could hear the grimace in Thomas McGonagall's voice. "Well I don't care! You should make her come to church too. She is ours now and she ought to be like us, not them!"
Mrs. McGonagall's attempts from this room to be heard by them in the other room seemed painfully loud to Dippet's augmented ears. "YOU HAD BETTER GET GOING OR YOU WILL BE LATE!"
"We're off…just as soon as I find my bowler!"
"IT'S IN HERE! PEEVES HAS IT!"
Thankfully the shouting ended once the man came into the room. The 'bowler' turned out to be a hat of sorts, which the poltergeist was wearing.
"Ah, I'll need that for a bit, but you can have it when I get back." Placing the hat on his head, the muggle turned to his wife. "And not to worry, love, with the new car I shan't ever be late to anything again." Excitedly he turned to Dippet. "Did you see it in the driveway? Aston Martin, DB series. One of only fifteen made. It can reach speeds of up to one hundred and ten kilometers per hour. Same model won the Spa 24 last year!"
Given that not a word of that had made sense to him, Dippet just smiled weakly.
Mrs. McGonagall didn't seem to be nearly as excited as Mr. McGonagall. "That car is going to be the death of you! I don't want you driving even half that speed with either of the children in the car!"
"Not to worry. I'll let Thomas drive. He's a much better driver than I anyway."
That did not seem a suitable substitution for Mrs. McGonagall. "There is no need for anyone to drive. It is only a five minute walk to church."
The girl, though she wasn't going, began to protest. "I should drive! I am a much better driver than Thomas is!"
"That you are, my pet! That you-" The man's smile stopped at the look of wrath on his wife's face.
This time, there was no mistaking her anger. "You had better not be letting our eleven-year-old daughter drive that car!"
Suddenly the muggle man became quite eager to get to church. "We really should get going. Come along, Thomas. Don't want to be late!"
With their departure, Dippet found himself alone with the two ladies, neither of whom seemed at all pleased at his continued presence. There passed several awkward minutes before the muggle woman made an inquiry that required Dippet to speak. "Will you be staying for lunch?"
"I shall depart as soon as you agree to send the gir- Minerva back to Hogwarts in the fall."
Mrs. McGonagall stood stalwart. "I'll put out another place for lunch."
While Mrs. McGonagall set about preparing lunch the very time consuming muggle way, the girl occupied herself at the kitchen table with a set of oil crayons. Not having any inclination to help either, Dippet peered around at all the muggle contraptions in the kitchen. He stared at the china cabinet for several minutes before he realized something was wrong with it. Realizing what it was that was wrong took several more. Moving close enough to see behind it, he finally discovered the problem; it was pressed not against a wall, but a door - a door with many, many locks on it.
"Where does that door lead?"
The woman glanced up at the question, but her eyes returned downward before she answered. "It doesn't lead anywhere. It's a cupboard."
A cupboard with four…five…Dippet counted six locks and a cabinet pressed against it? "What do you keep in it?"
The woman was reluctant to answer, but the girl had no such qualms. "That is the doll cupboard. All of my dolls go there when I am not playing with them - which is always."
Unpleased, Dippet questioned the muggle. "You allow her neither sweets nor toys?"
"I would allow her candy if only she would stop biting the dentists! As for the dolls…we keep them locked up for her safety." The muggle woman seemed displeased to have this all coming out. "One of the dolls tried to attack her in her sleep! She has a scar where it bit her and she refuses to sleep alone in her room for fear of them."
Recalling the time the girl had set a room full of serpents upon herself, Dippet was not entirely surprised by the woman's revelation. The girl had always had a self-loathing streak. He was surprised however when without even a wave of her hand, the girl moved the cabinet and unlocked all the locks in order to access the cupboard.
Seeing his questioning glance, as she took out a few of the dolls, the girl explained. "They only bother me when I am alone sleeping."
Again, not entirely surprising. When a young witch or wizard was in a sleep state at times their magic could become unfettered. While the presence of others nearby could serve to curb such meanderings, if left alone it wasn't unheard of for a powerful enough individual to imbue nearby objects with excess energies. She should in time outgrow the habit.
The faces of the dolls she handed to him were grotesquely distorted. Dippet felt confident that no doll maker could have carved the assorted wooden and porcelain faces into such expressions of rage and fury.
As the girl began to list off the names of several, Dippet's sense of foreboding was further enhanced. "This one is Augustus, this is Lycurgus, this is Malfoy…"
"Why do they want to hurt you?"
Returning to the table, the girl shrugged seemingly indifferent. "I am alive and they are not…but they would like to be."
Dippet was trying to follow the logic. "And if they kill you…they can be alive again?"
"Again? The girl looked up at him with both confusion and annoyance in her eyes. "No, they are just dolls; they cannot be alive." Back at her seat, she added almost as an afterthought, "They are just really bitter about it."
Stepping closer, Dippet for the first time took a look at what it was she was drawing.
All the talk of Hogwarts seemed to have brought to the forefront of her mind stories Mr. Hagrid had no doubt told her. Having herself never arrived by boat to Hogwarts, it seemed clear her latest work was inspired by a tale Mr. Hagrid had told of his own crossing as a first year. Though Dippet could not himself recall the details of that night, from the picture it seemed quite clear that the evening in question had played host to quite a tempest. The girl had taken the time to painstakingly depict a seemingly infinite supply of raindrops and with them she had doused all the crossing students who huddled in windswept poses. Despite the shortness of the voyage, the small boats had been exposed to enough rain that it had begun to pool in their bottoms in a hazardous manner.
Beside one of the numerous boats there was something small and gray submerged beneath the water. What it was supposed to be, Dippet was unable to discern. Perhaps Hagrid had caught sight of one of the mercreatures that night and relayed it to her? Without enchanting the stationary to move, he could not be sure.
To Dippet's eyes, the years had not done much to improve her drawing ability. Her proportions were completely wrong; Mr. Hagrid more than dwarfed the other children on the parchment. He seemed to be using an entire vessel for himself. None of the depicted children were even remotely identifiable as the classmates Mr. Hagrid had-however temporarily-been schooled amongst. Having encountered many of them in her own brief stint as a student, the girl should have been able to more accurately portray them. Also the groundskeeper, who traditionally accompanied the children, was not to be found.
Despite the many shortcomings of her work, Dippet found himself drawn to picture that the girl had drawn. "May I have that?" He wasn't sure why – if it was that he wanted to have some small thing, some memento to remember her by, if, as the muggles emphatically stated, she would not be returning to Hogwarts and hence he would never see her again. Or was it that there was something to the picture itself? Something more that was not quite right about it. Something that if given enough time, he might be able to discover.
The girl scowled at him in response. "It is mine."
"Yes, I know that, but may I have it?"
She looked down at the picture and then back up at him. When she picked it up off of the table, Dippet for the briefest of moments thought that she really would hand it to him. He really should have known better. Instead, she handed it to the non-thing she had summoned to sit beside her. 'Peeves,' as the creature was referred to, immediately and gleefully scribbled all over the paper with a black marker.
Dippet didn't care. He still wanted it. There was something about it. It would be incredibly difficult to do because the two were essentially the same being, but he believed it to be worth it to take the paper to try to separate the work of the two. "I should still like to have it"
Again the girl shook her head.
"May I at least look at it again?"
"It is mine!"
Surprisingly, the muggle woman attempted to intercede on his behalf. "Minerva, let him look at it."
"But it is mine!"
"I know dear, but just to look."
Instead the girl took the picture back from the poltergeist and crumbled it into a ball. Even then she would not share it with him. She put it into her mouth and tried to swallow it whole.
"Kitten, now really!"
After getting the girl to spit the wad of paper out, the muggle woman deposited it into Dippet's hand. Standing there, holding the wadded, saliva stained piece of paper, Dippet had an epiphany; what was it he was trying to accomplish here? He didn't actually desire the girl's return to Hogwarts. On the contrary. Were she never to return to Hogwarts, she would not be there to do all the wretched things that he had foreseen.
If the muggles wished her to remain and she wished to remain with the muggles, far be it from him to interfere.
Somehow, whatever might be in that paper didn't seem all that important now. Tilting his hand to allow the remnants of the girl's 'art' to fall to the table, Dippet spoke. "I really must be returning to the castle. I will have another owl sent."
The muggle woman tried to mask her pleasure at the unexpected windfall. "Won't you at least stay for lunch?"
"I think n-"
He was interrupted as the front door again opened. "-Where's my little heathen!"
Rather than walk or run to the door, the girl disapparated from the table with a pop. When Thomas and Mr. McGonagall entered the room, the girl was hanging off the older man's back. Not for the first time Dippet was struck by how young the girl's conduct was. But then, he supposed she could afford to be. Themises were known to have a far longer lifespan than most witches and wizards. While he had noticed himself winding down since reaching his bicentennial, Mnemosyne though she would have been roughly the same chronological age as him, had she not immolated herself, would have been in the prime of her life.
The idea also struck Dippet that the castle's anti-Muggle wards may have caused some permanent damage to the older Muggle gentleman. Though the girl was literally hanging off of him and not even bothering to attempt to stifle her cackling, Mr. McGonagall spent several minutes looking for and calling out to her.
"Kitten, where are you? Now where did my little kitten wander off to? Is she hiding under the table? No. On top of one of the cupboards? No. Now where could she be?"
When the muggle finally happened to notice her arms around his neck, he deposited her into her abandoned seat. "Lunch is ready, love."
The girl spoke up as soon as the muggle woman began putting out plates of pasta. "You forgot to put bacon in there."
"No," the muggle woman corrected her, "I didn't forget."
"Well there is not any in here. At Hogwarts, they have bacon, bacon, bacon."
"Does this look like Hogwarts?"
"Not so much." After taking a moment, the girl offered a suggestion. "I could add a moat!"
At Dippet's sputtering, the McGonagall boy spoke up. "You mustn't listen to her. She makes up all kinds of outlandish stories about things that never could or would happen. Do you know she claims that before coming here she dined on nothing but sweets! No one would be so irresponsible as to let her do that."
"He did!" The girl pointed straight at him. "He had boxes and boxes of candy sent to my room, whole stacks, so I would never be hungry."
All eyes were on him expectantly. Dippet knew it simply would not do to admit the truth to these muggles. "I certainly did no such thing."
"You did!" Thankfully, the girl didn't argue the point. She abashedly returned to the side of the muggle woman. "I thought you did…"
"I told you she made that up! Just like everything else she says!"
"Hush now, Thomas." Mrs. McGonagall reprimanded him while fretfully looking at the girl.
Dippet wasn't so sure Mr. McGonagall believed him. The look he threw Dippet's way before lifting the girl up was somewhat telling even before the muggle's words.
"I for one prefer to believe you any day! Stacks of candy as high and as far as the eye can see- that's the life for me!"
As soon as the muggle returned her to her seat, the girl stood back up again. "I am done."
The muggle woman sighed. "Even if you don't care to eat, you will stay at the table until everyone else finishes."
The girl sunk into her chair sulkily, but made no further attempt to leave. She soon began to hum and to entertain herself she made the elbowed pasta on her plate stand on end and move to the tune of her song.
With her occupied, the muggle woman turned her attentions to her real child. "Thomas, go wash your hands before you sit down."
"The saints go marching one by one. Hurrah! Hurrah!"
For the same cause, the muggle woman soon chased her husband from the room. As he could clearly not be trusted to actually do as he was told, she followed after him.
"The saints go marching one by one. Hurrah! Hurrah!"
Dippet was so enthralled watching the macaroni pieces move about, he failed at first to notice the muggle boy's return. It was the odd almost choked noise that came from the boy's throat that caused Dippet to turn round to him. In the closer of his unwashed hands, the boy carried two slices of bread. But it was the item in his other hand that, albeit briefly, startled Dippet's memory. The large kitchen blade was quite unlike the sword of Godric Gryffindor and yet it was in ways similar enough. From his position behind the girl, the muggle bought the blade down with enough force to bury the tip far enough into the wood of the table to allow it to stand on its own. He laid one slice of bread on top of the pasta and mashed it down with the palm of his hand. As he flipped the plate over to add the second slice to the bottom, a few pieces fell to the floor where they continued their dance. The boy ground the still moving pieces into the floor with his heel before retrieving the knife. Realizing this was nothing like the scene that had once played out between Mr. Hagrid and the boy, but simply that the boy had required the knife to cut the sandwich in half, Dippet regained his composure.
"The little one stops to tie his gum." The girl hadn't even batted an eye. "Make the little triangles that I like!"
"How are you supposed to ask?"
The girl thought about the question a moment before repeating herself. "Make the little triangles that I like."
Thomas McGonagall frowned. "What's the magic word?"
"Accio!" The girl readily supplied a magic word, but it didn't seem to be the one the muggle boy was looking for.
"'Please!' 'Please!' The magic word is 'please!' You have to say 'please!' 'Accio' isn't a real word!" The muggle child looked very near to desperate as he twirled a piece of his hair between his fingers. A few strands came out in the twisting. "If you eat your lunch like a good little girl, maybe I will take you to go see a picture show this afternoon."
"The Wizard of Oz!"
"No! Not that ridiculous movie again! Witches and wizards don't exist!"
Dippet snorted indignantly, but the boy didn't seem to notice.
"They are just made up. Nothing in that movie is real. Besides you've already seen it at least a dozen times."
"Two dozen!" the girl corrected him.
The children's bantering was beginning to grate on Dippet.
"Well you can't see it again because its an old movie. They stopped showing it years ago! It doesn't play anywhere anymore."
"Lots of times when I go to the pictures, the new reel doesn't work and they have to show an old one."
Seemingly choosing to ignore the girl's comments, the boy produced the paper the other muggle had been looking at that morning. "Anna Karenina is playing at the theatre in town."
The older pair had at last returned. "I think a movie is a fine idea, but Thomas, darling, don't you think that one might be a bit inappropriate for a child Minerva's age?"
"It's a historical drama." The younger McGonagall countered.
"Your mother's right." Taking the paper to look it over himself, the older muggle became excited. "Let's go see Abbott and Costello meet the Ghosts – it has Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, and a wolfman!"
Mrs. McGonagall sighed. "Is it really any wonder our daughter won't sleep in her own bed? What about a nice Shirley Temple movie?"
Mr. McGonagall had other ideas. "Why don't we let our guest decide? Mr. Dippet, what kind of picture would you like to see?"
Thankfully the muggle woman saved him from having to answer. "Actually, I believe our guest was planning to leave after lunch."
"Oh, say that is too bad." To Dippet, Mr. McGonagall looked to think nothing of the sort.
"And, I was thinking just the children would have an outing." Mrs. McGonagall paused meaningfully. "There are a few things around the house that could use a little looking after."
The elder Mr. McGonagall began to…there was no other word for it, whine. "But I want to go to the movies! Can't we just get one of the neighborhood boys to trim the lawn? We haven't gone out to a picture in ages!"
The girl tugged on his sleeve. "You and I went yesterday, after Mum went out. Don't you remember?"
"I wasn't referring to the lawn. I meant upstairs…in the bedroom…"
Young Mr. McGonagall wore a horrified expression as he made the connection. "Mum!"
But the girl and the elder Mr. McGonagall remained blissfully unaware. "I can hang those frames for you anytime – this movie is playing today only!"
Mrs. McGonagall seemed to have had enough of her husband's obliviousness. "Fine. Go to the movie. Maybe I can get one of the neighborhood boys to take care of things in the bedroom too."
His wife's snapping seemed to get the muggle to finally catch on. "Oh. Oh! Yes, I suppose you are right. You children go along and have fun."
"I'm not taking her out like that. Her feet have soot on them and her nails have crayon under them. And people don't wear dressing gowns out of the house!"
"Scourgify!" Despite possessing no wand, to Dippet's eyes the girl's casting succeeded in removing all traces of grime. The muggle boy's eyesight must have been keener for he disagreed.
"If you want me to take you to a picture, you have to take a bath, but a quick one – no staying in there for hours."
"All right," the girl agreed. In all the debate as to which picture to see, no one other than Dippet seemed to take note that the girl had never actually eaten any of the food before her. "But you have to come with me."
Highly disconcerted, Dippet turned to the muggle woman for explanation. "He goes into the water closet with her when she bathes?"
"Water closet? Ah, no, not in with her! One of us always stays outside to play 'Marco Polo' with her. It is a regular Wizarding custom..." Seeing his look of confusion, she sighed. "I take it that isn't a regular Wizarding custom?"
Not that it mattered; the boy was rebuffing the girl's request. "I have better things to do with my time than sit outside the door yelling 'Marco'."
The girl laughed in his face. "No, you don't. Now give me a hippogriff ride."
The boy's reply was sharper this time. "It's a piggy back ride! There are no such things as hippogriffs and no such things as hippogriff rides! Call it by its right name or you don't get one!"
Dippet was astounded to see that after taking a moment to consider her opponent, the girl yielded. "May I have a piggyback ride?"
A moment after they took off for elsewhere, Dippet heard a door slam and the girl bellow, "Thanks for the hippogriff ride!"
Over the sounds of the running water, Thomas McGonagall could be heard to be pounding on the door that the girl had just closed in his face. "It wasn't a hippogriff ride! It wasn't!"
The sound of the two children squabbling was a very clear reminder to Dippet of one of the numerous reasons why he had never himself desired to have children.
The girl would not lower herself to respond to his particular protest, but she did shout back to him the word 'Polo!' at regular intervals. Eventually, in line with the girl's earlier estimates of the usefulness of his time, the boy's shouts changed to a steady stream of 'Marco's'.
Muggles were, to Dippet's mind, a most peculiar breed of creature.
Though the door to the water closet never reopened, the girl reappeared shortly after with the distinctive pop that customarily accompanied an apparition. In place of her dressing gown she now wore a muggle dress. Her hair was slightly damp and no longer in its incredibly elaborate braids. As the muggle woman set about brushing out her long hair, the girl – seemingly having missed the purpose of having been sent to have a bath – began unpacking her art materials to begin again.
Unawares, the young man could still be heard to call out 'Marco'.
Looking at the paper before the girl, Dippet realized it was the one from before. It possessed no wrinkles or tears, it was in fact wholly unsullied, but it was the same paper from before – of that he was sure. Even the marks of the poltergeist were absent.
Noticing the direction of his attention, the girl, followed by her poltergeist, offered a hiss of displeasure. Taking that as his cue to be going, Dippet rose. "I will take my leave of you now."
Looking at the poltergeist, Dippet took his wand from his robes. "I can, or at least I can try, to dispose of that for you."
"No," the muggle woman shook her head. "Leave Peeves. It's good having someone around for Minerva to play with. Most of the other children in the neighborhood…" It took the woman a minute to settle on words to end her sentence. "…aren't the right age to play with her."
"As you wish. I will send you a new owl as soon as I get back to Hogwarts."
"Really, you don't have to! I….I don't think the owls care for it here – the climate…or some such thing. It really isn't necessary to send another of the poor things."
With a wicked look, the girl glanced up from her latest work of art to disagree with the muggle woman. "Do send more. I so enjoy them."
The girl's words and the muggle woman's chagrined look led Dippet to a horrifying realization.
With one last look back at the girl, Dippet made his way from the house.
Still he wondered; could it all really be made to end this way? Could the girl be made to live out the rest of her unnaturally long life as a muggle? Never again to be a part of the Wizarding world? And could the events that he had foreseen really be averted in this way?
Facing the house from the outside, Armando Dippet raised his wand and began casting the 'Fidelius Charm.' He meant to seal them in to protect them from interference. In that way he could prevent Mr. Riddle from making attempts to seek the girl out to be further tainted by her, and he could thwart Mr. Moody's predilection for meddling. With the enchantment, he could be certain that so long as he lived and kept the secret no one of magic would be able to discover the people abiding here…
Stepping out of the pensive, trying to think on all the things that he had just seen, Harry Potter felt completely and utterly overwhelmed.
He had a niggling feeling that there was some thing, or things, that he had missed.
He was still struggling to find words, any words, when Professor Dumbledore abruptly left, taking his pensive with him.
"I trust I will be seeing you tomorrow for your legilmency lessons, Harry."
Harry nodded, but Professor Dumbledore had already departed.
Albus Dumbledore knew that Harry would have questions, so very many questions, but he could not bring himself to stay. He needed to leave, to be alone to see what he had begun through to its conclusion.
Facing the house from the outside, Armando Dippet raised his wand and began casting the 'Fidelius Charm.' He meant to seal them in to protect them from interference. In that way he could prevent Mr. Riddle from making attempts to seek the girl out to be further tainted by her, and he could thwart Mr. Moody's predilection for meddling. With the enchantment, he could be certain that so long as he lived and kept the secret no one of magic would be able to discover the people abiding here.
He meant only to keep others from interfering…
Instead, he was sealing them all in to their respective dooms.
Everything had all seemed better than he had the right to hope for, so perfect. The girl was happy, well taken care of, loved even. The only part that gave him pause was Thomas McGonagall.
Years later, in hindsight, Armando Dippet would curse his own lack of foresight. He would wonder why he hadn't paused enough at Thomas McGonagall. There were portents, early indicators, but he had glossed over them.
Years later, he would wonder how it had all gone to hell so quickly.