Hearing me out
It was two days later that the dam finally broke.
"What happened?" Sally-Anne Perks asked, almost blurting it out. She then promptly blushed and looked terribly embarassed.
"What happened when?" Twilight asked, looking up from her book with a feeling of foreboding. She'd known this was coming, but hadn't exactly looked forward to it.
"With... the troll, and whatever happened on Saturday," the girl said.
"Okay." Twilight closed her book – advanced magical law – and sighed. "When we got told about the troll, I realized Harry might be in danger, because he wasn't there to hear. So I went up to find him and warn him, and..." she shrugged her shoulders. "I cast a shield spell, which stopped it, and then I hit it with a stun spell."
There were murmurs.
"As for the thing on Saturday... sorry, but I'd really rather not talk about it..." Twilight shook her head. "It wasn't nice. Don't worry, I'm fine, I just... don't want to talk about it."
"What spell did you cast?"
"My brother taught it to me. It's something he called a shimmershield – it's hard to cast, but shield spells are his speciality and he can make them do amazing things." She smiled for a moment, at an old memory – Shining Armor using a specially designed shield to keep heat out of an ice cream.
"You have a brother?" Cormac Mac Laggen said, startled. "I didn't think..."
"I do. His name's Shining Armor. He's a royal guard – that's like an Auror, I think, but not quite the same..."
"That was exhausting," Twilight said, two hours later, when the question-and-answer session finally petered out.
"You alright?" Spike checked.
Twilight tossed her head. "I hope so. I just..."
She was quiet for a minute or so.
"Right. Where was I?" With a determined look on her face, she picked the case law book back up and scanned the bookmarked page. "There we go."
"What is that?" the dragon asked.
Twilight gave him a sharp look. "Are you just asking to get out of homework?"
"No, I've done mine for today." As proof, Spike held up a roll of parchment in slightly ink-stained claws.
Twilight took it and speed-read her way through the essay. "Not bad at all, Spike. I'm sure Professor Flitwick will be pleased."
Spike grinned bashfully.
"Anyway. I'm reading about Wizarding law, and it's taking a while. They use common law here, so I have to read all the precedents to understand it..."
"Okay." Spike nodded, then frowned. "What about us getting home?"
Twilight looked him in the eye. "Spike, that's probably going to take years. I'm sorry about that, but it is. I know it can look like I'm focusing on everything else, but I'm spending at least an hour a day ploughing through the maths behind this kind of spell on the Equestrian end-"
"Okay, okay," Spike said, raising his hands. "Sorry."
The unicorn winced. "No, I'm sorry, you deserve to be kept up to date."
Spike shrugged. "Don't sweat it."
Twilight watched him walk over to some of their class-mates, and begin asking questions about Quodpot.
She still felt a bit guilty about snapping at him, but if he wasn't going to make an issue about it, then perhaps they could both just let the subject quietly die.
On Thursday, a letter landed in front of Twilight at breakfast.
"Thanks, Owlowiscious," she said, and he replied with a hoot before winging off upwards.
A moment's work with her telekinesis neatly stripped off the wax seal – something official looking – and she unfolded the thick parchment.
A second letter landed in front of Spike.
"It'll probably be the same thing as I got, Spike," Twilight said, as he finished his fried egg and reached for the letter. "Check to make sure, though."
"Sure," he replied, wiping his claws on a napkin.
"Talk with my mouth full, yeah, yeah," he said, and swallowed. "Right. Uh... something about the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures?"
"Yes, that's what I got." Twilight looked over at his letter. "Court time's the same, as well."
"We have to go to court?" Spike gulped.
"It's just a formality," Twilight soothed. "Or it should be, anyway. We're certainly intelligent creatures, and if they nearly took in trolls..."
"Right." Spike nodded.
"Oh, you're going to the Ministry?" Ron asked. "Huh. My dad works there. Different department, though."
"What's he again?" Twilight tapped a hoof. "I probably should remember..."
"Misuse of Muggle Artefacts," Ron rattled off. "Well, there's only a few people in his department, so he's kind of overworked, but he likes it."
"Oh, okay then." Twilight got up from the bench. "I'll go let the headmaster know."
Dumbledore looked over his glasses. "Indeed? How peculiar. Normally there is much more notice given for such a hearing. It is today, you said?"
Twilight nodded, holding up her letter with telekinesis.
"Eleven AM, the seventh of November. Indeed it is." Dumbledore contemplated his mostly-finished breakfast, and pushed his chair out with a scrape of stone. "Well, then, since I believe you require transport, I shall accompany you."
"Thank you," Twilight said, smiling. "I'm afraid I haven't been to the Ministry yet, so yes, I do require transport."
"And, of course, it is not possible to apparate or disapparate within Hogwarts. Since I understand your own teleportation uses the same method, there is that to consider as well... simply give me a few minutes to retrieve my cloak, and we shall be off."
The main hall of the Ministry building was almost like Diagon Alley all over again.
Once more, Twilight and Spike were the involuntary centres of attention – the sight of a purple unicorn and a small, bipedal dragon drawing every eye even before it became apparent they were wearing altered forms of Hogwarts robes.
And yet, there were differences. Rather than everyone staring individually, it became more that the crowd aggregated into small knots and talked quietly amongst themselves, still looking at them most of the time.
Dumbledore strode confidently through the hushed hall, heading for a particular set of doors, and the two Equestrians followed along in his wake.
As she hurried along behind him, Twilight found time to take in the architechture. It was all very unusual, to her eyes – ponies tended towards airy structures more than anything, while this whole complex was underground; But, at the same time, she could see a practical hoof – hand – had shaped it.
This big area was obviously for people to get from place to place without crowding, and the entrances all along one wall allowed for substantial throughput.
There was one thing still bothering her, though. The upper balconies indicated that people worked up there, but there was no sign of any stairs. And if they were behind the doors she was headed for, then they would take up a large amount of space...
Dumbledore tapped on a door with his wand, and it slid open to reveal a very small room. "Come in, please, Twilight. You as well, Spike."
Twilight looked at the room, confused. "It's not very big..."
"Ah!" The old wizard nodded to himself. "Yes, I suppose you wouldn't be familiar. No, this is what is called a lift. It is a small room which moves from place to place."
The unicorn's eyes lit up. "That would be so useful! It must be like a dumb-waiter? I've seen a few of those in Canterlot – I can't imagine why we didn't think of scaling them up. Or maybe we have..." she trailed off in confusion, thinking hard. Canterlot Castle was old, built hundreds of years ago as an administrative centre and royal residence. It was entirely possible that the Equestrian version of these 'lifts' was a more recent invention.
Maybe there were some in Manehattan? Now that she came to think of it, there'd be a terrible crush on the stairs of a high-rise building otherwise...
Dumbledore coughed discreetly. Twilight flushed, and trotted forwards into the lift car. Spike followed her, and then the doors closed with a clunk.
"Er, hi?" Twilight said, holding up the notice she'd received in the post. "I have a hearing at eleven?"
The receptionist didn't look up, instead checking the papers on her desk. "Please wait in the antechamber through the door on the left until called."
"Right." Twilight looked over to the only door that was on the left in any way. "Okay. Do both of us wait there?"
"That's the waiting room," the receptionist replied. "Next?"
"She wasn't very polite," Spike muttered.
"Well, she does seem busy..." Twilight looked back. The man in the queue behind them was giving her a number of glances, and seemed a little distracted.
"The Being division is, perhaps, a little more in demand than most," Dumbledore allowed. "Now, since the two of you are separate hearings, I must warn you that I do not believe that you will be permitted to sit in on the hearing of the other."
"What?" Spike said, a note of uncertainty in his voice. "But-"
"No, I know why." Twilight's eyes flicked up for a moment, as she called the passage to mind. "Something about how trolls could be trained to repeat simple phrases, and so could pass for intelligent beings when coached by a goblin?"
"That is indeed correct," Dumbledore confirmed. "However, I should have no such restriction."
"That'll help." Twilight gave Spike an encouraging smile. "Don't worry, we'll be fine."
"If you say so..."
The large teak doors swung open at their approach, and then closed again once they were through with an ominous thud.
With an air of unconcern, Dumbledore sat down on one of the provided chairs. "Well, we have around ten minutes to spare, so perhaps I might prevail upon you for a chat. Tell me, Twilight, how did you come to know Spike?"
"Oh. Well, actually, I hatched him." Twilight shared a glance with Spike. "I was applying for entrance to Celestia's Academy for Gifted Unicorns, you see..."
"Could – oh!"
Twilight stopped in the middle of describing how she and Spike had begun a more formal relationship some way into her time at the Academy, and turned. "Yes?"
"I'm sorry," the Ministry employee said, regaining his composure. "Could Mister... ah... Spikoran-nu-"
"Spykoranuvellitar," Spike filled in, wincing at the poor pronunciation. "Just call me Spike, please."
"A-alright, then. Could Mister Spike come through into the courtroom for his hearing, please."
"Good luck," Twilight said with a smile. "You'll do fine."
Dumbledore rose as well. "I am afraid we must cut our discussion short, Twilight. A pity, I was rather enjoying it."
He followed Spike and the Ministry employee out of the room.
It was only when he had left that Twilight realized something strange. Unlike most of the teachers – indeed, all the teachers, and most of the other adults she'd met here – Dumbledore had called her by her first name in conversation today.
It had been so natural she'd not even noticed.
Unfortunately, with no-one left to talk to, Twilight began to become anxious. She couldn't help but worry about how Spike was faring, and how she would fare, and...
To try to take her mind off it, she started pacing. That singularly failed, so she began instead to mentally plan out how she would make up for the day's missed lessons.
Nearly half an hour after Spike went in, the door opened once more. The same Ministry employee poked his head around the door – though Twilight noticed that he seemed a bit more composed this time. "Twilight Sparkle?"
"That's me," she said promptly. "Excuse me – what happened with Spike? How did he do?"
Looking embarrassed, the man shrugged. "I'm not sure if I'm allowed to tell you..."
Twilight grimaced. "That's a pity."
Twilight walked over to the door. "Alright, then. May as well get this done."
The room was... well, large. Rather than the courtrooms she was familiar with, this one incorporated a ten foot wall between the area that witnesses and defendants stood, and even the lowest of the seats for the various officials.
There was also a very large, very securely built chair – with shackles – pushed over to one side of the room. Dumbledore gave her a cheery wave from where he happened to be sitting in it, and carefully got up as she walked to the centre of the circular floor.
"Miss..." there was a pause. "Twilight Sparkle." The voice came from somewhere in the panel of judges, but she couldn't tell where.
Twilight nodded. "Yes, that's me."
"You are here for a hearing on your status as a being, as opposed to a beast; and furthermore on your right to carry and use a wand. Do you understand?"
"Well, if I didn't it would be a bit of a black mark on my record..." Twilight stopped. "Sorry, that was sarcastic of me. Yes, I understand."
That answer produced a bit of quiet muttering.
"Very good," the main speaker said after a moment. "This court is now in session. Miss... Sparkle, make your case."
Twilight swallowed, and took a deep breath. "Okay. I am of the opinion that Being status is one that I deserve, mainly on the grounds that I am a self-aware creature with the ability to understand and make reasoned arguments. It could be that I am not as intelligent as I think I am, but in this case the dictum 'I think, therefore I am' could be said to actually apply."
She paused, marshalling her thoughts. "Further to that, since one of the requirements for Being status is to be able and willing to take part in the process of shaping those laws, might I suggest that the current laws on wand usage could perhaps be construed as unfairly restrictive? While it is true that wand use is not permitted to various non-human beings for cause, and is allowed to others, it seems to my outside eyes as though the main criterion for permitting wand use is that a being be of the same species as humanity."
There was a short silence.
"Well, that seems clear enough, doesn't it?" Dumbledore said brightly. "Certainly, Twilight Sparkle is no troll, so it seems to me that her status as being should be a matter of a moment's thought."
"Wait just one minute, Albus," said that same speaker again. "This is most certainly not a settled matter."
"Well, we sorted it all out with young Spykoranuvellitar, did we not?" Dumbledore asked, still cheerful. "I don't see how Twilight's case is different except in that she is older."
"The dragon was bad enough," someone else said. "But this Twilight is supposed to be a fully trained mage already. Why is she going to Hogwarts?"
"That's hardly at issue-"
"It most certainly is at issue!" that first speaker said yet again. Frowning up at them, Twilight thought it was the one in the middle – it was hard to tell, what with the light being behind them, but she had a reasonable confidence in the matter...
"As the Headmaster of Hogwarts, I am at liberty to accept whatever student I decide to accept." By now, Dumbledore's voice was rather more stern. "I am sorry if you do not follow, of course, but if a student is to be removed from Hogwarts after acceptance then it must be demonstrated that they are a clear, present and immediate danger to staff or students."
"Perhaps we should ask her," a third voice said. "So? Why are you attending Hogwarts?"
Twilight smiled. "Well, a combination of two things. First, I don't really have anywhere else to go – Spike and I are lost. Secondly, while I'm trained in magic, Spike isn't – and neither of us know how to work the magic you have here, with wands."
"You mean to say your magic is wandless?" the second speaker asked. "But why would you need a wand in the first place, then?"
"We are not here to be laughed at, Albus!" the first speaker said, with what Twilight uncharitably felt to be more than a hint of petulance.
"Well, dear me, Cornelius," Dumbledore said, smiling broadly. "Do you mean to say that you have never performed accidental magic?"
There was a slight hush.
"That's beside the point," Cornelius said. "What is at issue here is whether she is dangerous."
"We're all dangerous," someone in the lower rows pointed out. "We learn how to cast hexes in second year!"
"That's not the same as-"
"Who put you up to-"
"Can we at least vote on the first issue before-"
Twilight winced. This wasn't going at all well...
There was a bang next to her, and she jumped.
Dumbledore lowered his smoking wand. "Ladies and Gentlemen!"
All talk stopped.
"I understand that tempers are running high, though I may not understand why. But please, for the benefit of the visitor to our world, conduct yourselves with dignity. Now, is there any more debate to be had on the issue of Twilight Sparkle's status as Being?"
One witch cleared her throat. "I'd only like to say this. If we end up not giving her Being status, there's a number of people I'd like to see re-classed as Beasts!"
A quelling glare from Dumbledore stopped the next rush of talk before it really got started.
"Very well. Those in favour of granting her Being status?"
Most hands went up, including those three in the centre of the judging panel.
"Excellent. Congratulations, Twilight Sparkle."
Twilight nodded to him. "Thank you."
"Now, as for the matter of magic – dear me. My opinion on this is much the same as on the first. Why not?"
"We can't be sure that she won't misuse a wand," someone said.
"Nor can I be sure that any of my students would use their wand with the care it deserves," Dumbledore pointed out reasonably.
"I'm aware of the ethics of magic use," Twilight volunteered. "No casting of spells on those who are not willing to receive them, except in cases of self defence." Her mouth twisted slightly. "Well, that's the summary version. The full version is a trimester-long course..."
"What's a trimester?" Cornelius asked, distracted.
"I believe, from context, it is what we refer to as a term," Dumbledore tried.
"Yes, that's right." Twilight nodded. "If a term is what you have three of in a school year, that is."
"Aren't we getting a little far from the point?" someone asked plaintively.
"Oh! Of course." Cornelius cleared his throat. "Well, then. Perhaps we require the services of an expert witness. I call in William Jennings, of the Office of Werewolf Support Services."
"That's hardly a fair comparison," someone muttered, loud enough to be heard. Cornelius flushed.
"Ah, mister Jennings," Dumbledore said, as a thin and reedy wizard walked in through a different set of doors. "I trust you are well?"
"Tolerable, thank you, Professor," Jennings said shortly. "Minister."
Twilight suddenly realized who "Cornelius" must be – Cornelius Fudge, the Minister for Magic.
It must have been stress stopping me from making the connection earlier, she thought.
"Mister Jennings, if you would describe to the court your normal responsibilities?"
"Very well, Minister. I am involved with the registry, tracking and proper acclimatization of those of our citizens afflicted with lycanthropy."
Dumbledore raised a finger. "Excuse me, mister Jennings. Might I enquire as to how many werewolves are registered with the support services?"
"Ah..." Jennings looked up at the Minister for a moment, then controlled his reaction. "None at present."
"Such a shame," Dumbledore said with a smile. "And in the past?"
"Well, well." Dumbledore's smile did not shift. "Then please, continue giving us the benefit of your munificent experience."
Jennings paused for a moment, thinking, and then turned to go.
"Mister Jennings!" Fudge said sharply. "You are required by the court to-"
Another voice cut over him. This one was that of an elderly woman. "Enough with the farce, Minister."
"You are out of order, Madam Longbottom!" Cornelius snapped.
"I am not!"
Twilight turned, along with most of the room, to watch Augusta Longbottom as she stood.
"I am one of the heads of house on the Wizengamot assigned to observe the actions of this committee, and it is becoming clear that it is an attempt at defamation of an innocent – nay, virtuous – young woman, no matter her precise shape. My grandson, Neville, has written to me of Twilight's actions this Halloween last, when she saved the life of no less than Harry Potter!"
Muttered conversation greeted that statement.
"Furthermore, I shall now inform you that I will recommend to the Wizengamot that an inquiry be launched into the circumstances of this court – and, particularly, into the question of whether certain parties on the board of governors at Hogwarts are having an undue influence into the actions not merely of the board as a whole but of the government as a whole."
Fudge's face drained of colour.
"All who wish to strip Twilight Sparkle of the default state in law, that being permission to own a wand?" Dumbledore asked into the silence.
No hands went up.
"Excellent. Thank you for your time," Dumbledore said amicably. "Come along, Twilight, I believe that Spike was asked to wait in the blue room."
Spike hopped down from an armchair as Twilight came through the door. "Twilight! Everything fine?"
"Yes, it is," Twilight said, then looked over her shoulder. "Though, I have to say, that showed me rather more of the operations of the local government than I would like..."
Spike nodded, absently touching his wand-holster as though to reassure himself that he still had it. "They brought on an expert in dragons. Expert – he hardly listened to anything I was saying!"
"Indeed, such is the problem with an expert." Dumbledore winked. "They know almost everything about their chosen subject, so it can be very hard to wedge new facts in." He clapped his hands. "Very well. Shall we head back? I believe there is a fireplace nearby, so let us see if I can find it."
By the time they got back to the castle, Double Potions was over, and the duo got into class just as Defence Against the Dark Arts was starting.
Rather than take her usual place, Twilight pulled away a chair nearer the back – where Neville was, in fact – and put her things next to him.
Twilight followed along for the first five minutes, worked out which chapter from their textbook Quirrell was working from, and decided she could bear to read up on it (again) later.
"Neville – are you alright?"
Neville sniffed. "Yeah."
"What happened in Potions? I missed it..."
Neville twitched. "Snape was... I... I screwed up the potion, and it melted my cauldron, and Snape shouted at me."
"Are you alright?" At Neville's nod, Twilight relaxed slightly. "What potion was it?"
"I – I think it was a boil potion?" Neville shook his head. "No, it was something else... I can't remember."
"M-m-miss S-Sparkle?" Quirrell asked. "What is the principal advantage of the stunning spell?"
"It can't do any permanent harm, at least unless it's used on a young child," Twilight answered promptly.
"And the d-disadvantage?"
"Most common shield spells stop it easily."
"V-very good. M-mister P-Potter?"
As Quirrell moved on, Twilight turned back to Neville. "Sorry I wasn't there."
"No, it's not your fault, I just..." Neville tailed off.
Twilight thought for a moment.
"You know, your grandmother really helped me out earlier."
Neville looked up. "Really?"
"Yeah." Twilight nodded. "She mentioned something you'd said in a letter to her, and that helped a lot – basically, she's why I'm still allowed a wand, or she helped at least. So thanks."
Neville smiled wanly.
"Okay." Twilight tapped a hoof on the floor for emphasis. "Now, let's concentrate on the lesson, okay? Don't let Snape ruin your other classes."
With a hesitant nod, then a firmer one, Neville got out his notebook and started writing.
Twilight smiled, then got back to her own work. (Mostly theory, this class.)
"Enjoying your last day, Sparkle?" Malfoy asked that evening, at dinner.
Twilight blinked. "Last day?" she asked, turning to face him.
"I'm not surprised you didn't notice." The boy sneered. "That hearing you were off at this morning, remember? If you can, of course."
"Not really," Twilight said, slowly. "I remember getting confirmed as a Being, and that I was okay to carry and use a wand. Why?"
Malfoy flushed. He started to speak, then thought better of it.
"This isn't over," he said finally, walking off.
The Weasley twins clapped politely.
"Excellent show," one of them said.
"Top marks," the other confirmed.
Percy shook his head, the edges of a smile on his lips.
"What just happened?" Ron asked, looking lost.
"Not sure..." Twilight said, thinking. "Perhaps – isn't his father on the board of governors?"
"Yes, he is." Percy frowned. "Largely due to money, I suspect."
"Right. Well, Neville's grandmother said something about people on the board of governors influencing their actions? Maybe Draco's father passed the information on to him about the meeting?"
"I wouldn't be surprised if he was the one who had the hearing called," Percy sighed.
Fred and George exchanged glances.
"Well, all's well that-"
"-ends with us pranking Malfoy."
The first twin looked at the second. "I'm pretty sure that was supposed to be ends well."
"You mean we're not pranking Malfoy?"
"I never said that."
Percy gave his brothers a look. "Now, now, you two."
"Don't worry, Perce," they said in unison. "We'll be good."
"We'll be excellent," one added.
"I don't think our dear brother is all that reassured by the prospect, Fred."
Many of the first years were watching the verbal tennis game by now, their heads going back and forth between the twins.
The sight made Twilight giggle.
"I heard about the hearing," Professor Kettleburn said as Twilight unpacked her latest weeks' worth of notes in his office. "Shameful business. It's plain as the nose on my face that you're human in every way that counts – which is the mind."
Twilight looked up at him. "Didn't you say you broke your nose once?"
The professor shrugged. "It's still there, isn't it?"
"Fair point." Twilight put the notebook down. "Okay, there's the last of what I remember about Spike's biology."
"Excellent!" Kettleburn opened the book and flipped through it. "Oh, diagrams, I see. Very useful."
"They're probably not all that great..." Twilight admitted. "I used an illusion spell to create the image I wanted, then traced it onto the paper – so it might not be all that good. I'm still trying to see if there's a transcription spell..."
"Well, if you find one, please let me know – it's tricky enough writing with only one arm that works properly." He was silent for a few minutes as he continued to skim the book. "What's this? Greed growth?"
"Oh." Twilight looked down. "I half forgot about it until this afternoon, in a free period... when a dragon like Spike gets very greedy, he can start to grow larger."
"That sounds risky, if you don't mind my saying so," Kettleburn said casually. "How do you stop it?"
Twilight winced. "Last time, it was, er, shouting. But I'd feel responsible if it happened again, so I'd put as much effort as I could into stopping him. He seemed to stop when someone he... cares for," Twilight summarized something which none of the parties involved were entirely sure of the precise nature of anyway, "was in trouble. And he does know about it now – half our trouble last time was that we didn't have anyone to talk to who knew the first thing about dragon biology."
"Yes, I can see why that would be a problem. Well, I'll let Hagrid know if it happens to him again – solid chap, Hagrid."
Twilight nodded. "He's a bit... inconsiderate? No, that's not the right word..."
"I do know what you mean." Kettleburn frowned at her. "Wait, didn't you go out with him on one of his perimeter sweeps last week?"
"Don't remind me." Twilight shook her head. "I... we ran into a dead unicorn. I..." she swallowed. "I didn't take it well."
Kettleburn clapped her on the shoulder – or, in other words, her right withers. "Nasty business, that. I'd feel ill enough, and I'm not even the same species. Well, if you need someone to speak to, do stop by. My door is always open for you and Spike – unless, of course, I'm at class."
Twilight nodded. "Thank you, then, professor."
...goodness, this has been a while.
Sorry about that, this chapter fought me, and I've had several other projects going at the same time on top of that.