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You stop and turn slightly to the side, plucking Rachel out of the air as she continues to drift forward, seeming awed by the sunrise.
"Uwah?" she says, coming to a stop as you walk back into the tower.
"I didn't tell you to come along." you chide...
... but hold on, you should take a little care. Yukari... it's difficult to tell if that nuisance is or isn't watching, and she's capable of the contrary sort of nature that an amanojaku or imp of perversity could envy. So if you say 'I don't want any of these to get around on that side', then the first time she gets bored there are good odds that flocks and herds of them will start appearing, just to get a rise out of you.
You've got plenty in your library already.
Completely unmoved by a tearing-up face, you bring her back through the portal.
"That's outside of Gensokyo, you know, and on another continent entirely." you lecture. "I've got business to take care of too, so I can't just show you around. Play nice around here, all right?"
"...'kay." Rachel replies, sniffling just a little.
Another woman might reconsider at that, but you're well practiced and confident in a heart of stone. If you might say so yourself, it's a point you take pride in, and you'll probably make great use of it considering how you're going to have to deal with children through the whole year.
Everything back in its place, you take a second shot at entering the castle grounds and are met by the door by Dumbledore himself.
"Ah, miss Knowledge." he says, too cheerily for an old man just at daybreak who probably hasn't even had his morning soggy oats and prune juice yet.
"You're unusually prompt to receive me, at this time of day." you note.
It's almost suspicious. His quarters are probably near his office, and that's at the top of a great flight of stairs and tower... is he following you, then? Or not following, but spying, perhaps deployed some mystic art to notify him of your presence and arrivals...
"Happily, I have made it point in recent years to take a few minutes in the morning to marvel at the natural beauty of the breaking dawn. A comfort to the aged, though I'm afraid that I miss it more often than I would prefer. Fortunately I happened to note your arrival this morning from a window this morning." Dumbledore says, beard partially hiding a genial smile.
"Your vision is remarkable, at this age." you respond, trying not to put it in a way that would come off as sarcasm or insincere flattery... you aren't sure how well you managed it.
"And I noticed that with you, there was... one of the fascinating maidservants from your home, perhaps? I must confess, my vision has not held up quite that well through the years." he admits, tapping his spectacles meaningfully.
"Ah... her. That isn't the case."
"No? ... I trust there was no diablerie involved?" Dumbledore asks, seeming somehow a fair few measures more foreboding.
"Nothing of the sort... in this case. I shall leave it for the moment with an explanation that I'm sure you will not find quite sufficient: that the individual in question is a current resident of my library who followed behind me unexpectedly. Since there was no business here, I took care to return her properly before continuing on."
"Ah. Very well." Dumbledore says, clearly making the decision not to pry.
"To business, then. You wished to speak with me?" you ask.
"Ah, yes. It's a simple matter, but it occurred to me that you are capable of a great many potential manners of tactics for dueling which might be called unusual, or unconventional. Now, it should be clear that the duel you have arranged with professor Flitwick is merely a friendly demonstration for the students' sake, and so I need not tarry much regarding specifically forbidding a battle to the death. I will, however, say this."
Albus' eyes turn hard and cold for a moment, like frozen steel, with an intensity that sparks a slight chill along your spine.
"This is a demonstration match for the students. As such, I will brook no diablerie in the matter." he says, tone carrying with it all the harsh finality of a funeral bell. After a moment, he calms, temperament soothing slightly. "Additionally, I would hope that it is not required to say outright, but I will nevertheless stipulate that I will not allow any magics which manipulate or control the bodies of the deceased. Such necromancy will not be tolerated in a school professor, and I will forbid it for as long as I have any control over Hogwarts at all."
Ah... how tiring. It wasn't in the plan, of course, and so it hardly limits you. Dumbledore himself looks tired, having to say it aloud.
"I see." you say, rather than any other response you might make.
"It must be said." he says, sighing lightly. "And better it be said before the students properly arrive than after. You yourself would appear to be proof that such arts may not be in all cases entirely corruptive in nature... but the statistics would appear to speak for themselves, and nearly all practitioners have met terrible, often-times bleakly ironic ends, sooner or later. Hogwarts is a school, and a place of learning, but I will not sit idly aside in such cases if exposing the students to such things can be at all avoided."
What noble censure. Surely, he only has the best of intentions in this judgement.... well, sarcasm aside, you don't truly intend to do more than what is expected of you to begin with, so it's something of a moot point. And necromancy isn't something you have much experience in anyway... the messy bits that involve cadavers, at least.
"Very well. Are there any other limitations you wish to notify me of in advance?" you ask, idly.
... Albus' smile becomes amused.
"I think... not." he says, unexpectedly. "So long as you keep in mind those particulars, and that this is a friendly match, then by all means. Though, I feel it only sporting to warn you in advance that despite being most disappointed in the failure to properly form a dueling club some years ago, dear Filius has made it a point since to keep himself in top form... just in case."
Albus blinks, seeming to recall something.
"Ah yes. And I mentioned before that Lucius Malfoy was acting as something of an... inquisitive counterpoint to madame Umbridge, correct?" he asks.
"Yes, I believe that was briefly mentioned in your last letter." you allow.
"Ah, very good. It is of course something of a conflict of interest to perform such fact-gathering activities for the sake of the Board of Governors when he himself is a noted seat of that Board... and so, Lucius seems to be in the unusual and unenviable position of looking to find a replacement for himself with as much swiftness as can be mustered, no doubt for various and multiple reasons of his own." Albus says, moving a hand vaguely. "Sadly, it appears to be proving somewhat difficult to come to a consensus upon the available options, but it appears that the decision happens to fortunately coincide with the discharge of one Gilderoy Lockheart from the long-term mental ward of St. Mungo's hospital."
The name tickles slightly at your mind.
"I feel as though he has been mentioned before." you say, trying to recall. It must not have seemed important at the time... "A previous Defense Instructor?"
"Why, yes. Unfortunately, at the end of his term of employment I am afraid that he came to some amount of misfortune, the precise details of which I myself am uncertain. The end result, I am afraid, is that the poor young man's mind was scrubbed quite thoroughly clean, as though it were silver passed through a tarnish-removing solution." Albus relates. "Most unfortunate indeed, but it appears that the incident has its upsides... for whatever reason, while all the experience and ability in other fields seems to have mostly gone the way of the poor fellow's memories of using them, his own abilities with charms and spells related to memory and the mind appear to have become remarkably acute. At the moment, it appears that he is the most likely individual to be offered this position, though I am afraid he did not leave a particularly good impression with the staff the last time he was here. Perhaps it will be different with the accolades of fame tempered by his current situation..."
"You said he was discharged." you note. "Then he is recovered from the trauma?"
"Well, you could say so. Though in truth, he is as recovered from it now as the day he was checked into the Janus Thickney ward." Albus replies, thoughtfully. "The fact of the matter is that it has been determined that there is quite simply nothing that can be done to recover those memories, at this point, and he is as familiarized with the world and himself as he can be from the secure sterility of his own room in a private wing of the hospital. There was, of course, discussion about whether or not to keep him for another year or two and the decision was a very near thing, but I am informed that in the end it was concluded that it would be best to allow him to re-introduce himself to society."
Interesting. You might want to speak to the man directly, if only to see for yourself what manner of unpleasantness tends to befall those in your staff position.
"Ah, yes." Albus concludes. "And if it is not too much to request, I would be most pleased if you were to say a few short words at the Welcoming Feast tonight. Brief introductions, expectations, and such. This is strictly voluntary on your part, of course... Instructors of Defense turn over so often that I can hardly expect all of them to make an introductory speech, after all." he chuckles.
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