Magic School Days

by Dogger807

Chapter 72: Nonstandard Deviations

Petunia would have sworn that she knew exactly what it was like to be in Tartarus. Tantalus was in paradise when compared to her fate. For six summers, Lily had gushed about the world of magic. For six summers, Petunia had listened, enraptured by the wonders described. For six summers, the seeds of jealousy and resentment had been planted and nurtured. Why was she denied what her sister had been given so freely? The bitter harvest had been ensured when her sister had shunned the Muggle world, leaving Petunia to hunger for what she would be forever denied.

The time had finally come when she could start healing the rift. She had entered the world of magic as a guest of those determined to undo the damage that magic had inflicted on her. She could finally start to rid herself of the unwarranted hatred she had been forced to feel toward her nephew. Just as important, she could finally experience the world that she had known only through the words of her sister.

Somehow, reality did not align with expectations. She had expected majesty. She had expected grandeur. She had expected the arcane. She had received the absurd. Lily had never mentioned talking miniature ponies in the colors of the rainbow. If she were to close her eyes, she could easily believe that she was in the Welsh countryside.

What she had thought would be magical was, instead, mundane. Petunia had always imagined that unicorns were magical beasts, large, majestic, and white. They were supposed to be creatures of beauty, poise, and purity. What she found was a little girl whom Dudley had managed to befriend.

Somehow, the phrase "lap unicorn" was one she would have never imagined until today. That, however, was the perfect description of the friend that Dudley had to be coaxed into surrendering before they were able to leave the hospital. The dear seemed to enjoy being petted as much as Dudley enjoyed petting her.

Similarly, the phrase "doctor unicorn" was one she would have never imagined until today. The attending physician was just that, a little horse with a horn. There was no mistaking that he had used that horn as a focus to diagnose her condition.

To Petunia's relief, the prognosis was good. The doctor had cast a healing spell that should allow her throat to heal fully in a day. Fruit and hay smoothies would provide nourishment without aggravating her condition. There was, however, one complication; she was not to speak until her throat healed. Without her voice, she could not persuade Dudley to release his friend.

In the end, it had been their guide and sponsor, Bon Bon, who had convinced Dudley to release the small filly in his lap. Neither child had been pleased with the arrangement. The filly's mother had gathered the child in her wings when the pouting started, and the mare had mollified the little unicorn with whispered promises of a party to be held later in the day, with cake, punch, and muffins.

Petunia had tensed when Dudley had looked as though he would throw a tantrum. Fortunately, recent experience had taught him that public outbursts would have severe consequences. A calming hand on his shoulder had been enough to convince him to quench his anger.

The promise of a plethora of party foods had predictably caught Dudley's interest and obliterated any hope Petunia might have had of returning home promptly. When Bon Bon had shot her a questioning look at Dudley's demand to stay for the party, Petunia had sighed, but relented. What kind of mother would she be if she denied her son this once in a lifetime experience?

Now that they were staying through the afternoon, lunch became the next priority. A snack at a local café would tide them over until the party. A small hiccup in their plans arose when an orange pony in a Stetson galloped up with an absurd story about a rampaging greenhouse. Two of Bon Bon's friends rushed off with the farm pony to investigate, leaving Petunia and Dudley with just Bon Bon and the genteel little white unicorn from whom Petunia was never going to accept another drink.

Lunch itself was as uneventful as a meal in a restaurant full of curious colorful ponies could be. Luckily, Bon Bon was able to convince the waitress that no, even though the hay in the smoothie would be on the house, humans didn’t like it. Doubly luckily, Dudley had been content with a grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich. He had been more interested in watching the ponies who, in turn, were watching him. His behavior left Petunia wondering if he had taken their conversation of the previous evening to heart or if he was just afraid the ponies would do something humiliating, like give him another pig tail, if he acted up.

As they left the restaurant, Dudley asked, "Where are we going now?"

Rarity replied, "We're going to Twilight's place."

Seeing Petunia's quirked eyebrow, Bon Bon said, "She should have something there to help with your recovery."

As they neared their destination, Rarity said, "We're going to that treehouse; it's also the town's library."

Petunia and Dudley both shrugged.

Rarity said, "Don't you find that unusual? I didn't think that humans lived in trees."

Dudley said, "I heard a bunch of stories that said I should find Pooh in a treehouse."

Shocked, Bon Bon replied, "I thought you were supposed to find it in an outhouse." Without further ado, the group entered.

Petunia stopped short when she saw the non-pony working within. Lily had said that dragons were real. Lily had said they were giant ravenous beasts. Petunia never imagined that she would be greeted by one, especially one shorter than Dudley and wearing a pink, frilly apron.

“Hey Spike,” Bon Bon said. “Twilight said you’d be able to help us.”

“Glad to,” the small reptile snacking on jam and toast said. “What cha need?”

“This is Petunia Dursley,” Bon Bon said. A library patron looked at where Bon Bon was pointing and noticed the human for the first time. After a sharp intake of breath, the mare exited at transonic speed. Bon Bon continued. “The doctor said we need to apply concentrated love directly to her forehead.”

“Concentrated love?” Spike tilted his head skeptically.

“Directly to the forehead,” Bon Bon confirmed.

Petunia killed Dudley's attempted rejoinder with a glare.

“That’s awful convenient,” Spike noted.

“I can’t see how it is,” Bon Bon said. “It’s not like we can go to the market and get a jar of concentrated love.”

Spike chuckled and motioned for Petunia to come near. “You’re in luck.”

Petunia squatted next to Spike to let him take a closer at her forehead.

“Okay, here goes,” Spike said and plastered the remains of his jam-covered toast onto Petunia’s forehead.

With a squeak, Petunia jumped back out of his reach.

“Come back and let me rub that in,” Spike implored.

“Spike!” Bon Bon gasped. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“I’m applying concentrated love directly to her forehead.” Spike shrugged. “I thought that’s what you wanted.”

Barnaby had ignored the jealous glares his entourage had received as he followed the three mares into town hall. He was practically prancing as he recalled the events of the morning. While he had been unable to secure another transformation ring, his current form had proven remarkably compatible with his companions'. It was almost a pity that his three partners seemed so guilt-ridden over their performance. It was almost a pity that he was about to leave, never to see them again.

To be fair, they had been practically passive, allowing him to explore at his pleasure. He was amazed at the way they had melted in his currently-absent hands as he indulged his every whim. The experience had been so far beyond anything that he had imagined that he had suggest that they postpone the annulment for another day. Unfortunately, that wouldn't be possible; they had received word that the princess was waiting for them.

Still, Barnaby was more than pleased with the turn of events. The contract the Primus had forced him to sign could not be enforced here, so all he had to do was to tell the truth about how he had been coerced. When he had been confronted in the infirmary, he had met a pony who could detect dishonesty. He would be a fool to think that the princess he was about to meet did not have similar abilities. He would have to use the truth as his weapon. His Slytherin upbringing would have had him throw Carrot, Cheerilee, and Berry to the wolves, but such a move would benefit no one. Besides, he would not let any blame fall on these mares. He was sure he could argue his way into an annulment. Perhaps the three could be persuaded to share a night of festivities before he made his way back to Britain.

When they set hoof in town hall, a pair of armored thestrals ushered them directly to the mayor's office. Inside, an old gray mare waited along with a large, midnight blue winged unicorn. The aura of authority that the latter projected was so powerful that Barnaby knelt reflexively. The mayor took a sharp sniff of the air and face hoofed as what Barnaby assumed was the princess merely raised a surprised eyebrow.

“Cheerilee! How could you!” the mayor moaned, not looking up.

“He was . . .” Cheerilee shuffled her hooves guiltily. “. . . aggressive.”

“Indeed,” the princess said. “An already vexing conundrum has been made more complex and at the same time resolved.”

“P-p-princess Luna,” Carrot Top stuttered and stared at the ground. “We know we shouldn’t have; Barnaby Lee was just so assertive.”

“That remains to be seen.” Princess Luna commanded, “Look us in the eyes.”

“Yes, your Highness.” Carrot Top tore her gaze from the ground to obey.

Princess Luna narrowed her eyes and said. “LEGILIMENS.”

Barnaby gasped before jumping forward and bumping Carrot Top out of the way, breaking eye contact.

Princess Luna blinked before saying. “Interesting. Truly, a most impressive asset.”

“Using legilimency against someone without their permission is against the law,” Barnaby snarled.

“Perhaps in thy homeland,” Princess Luna said. “Here, we are the law. However, we are content that these mares have done no wrong. Coercion was not exercised in order to get thee to perform.”

The mayor let out a loud sigh of relief. “Shall I prepare the paperwork to void the contract? If they want to pursue a relationship afterwards, that will be their own business.”

“Thou dost misunderstand,” Princess Luna said. “We did not come here today to dissolve thy commitment. If it were a simple matter of a pony stallion entered into such a bond, then thy resolution would suffice. However, this onus was imposed under the laws of a friendly government."

Luna glared at the stallion, measuring his mettle. "Do not think, Barnaby Lee, that we are ignorant of how thou have come to thy current situation. Our morning has been spent in audience with thy minister. He has made it abundantly clear that this arrangement is not distasteful and is in fact a principled application of legal rights.”

Barnaby gulped as he sensed his freedom slipping away.

“This contract would have been an atrocity had it been suffered upon a pony stallion and fails when applied solely against our laws. Against a human stallion, such as thyself, it is considered a lenient forfeiture in light of thy conduct,” Princess Luna continued.

“How can you say that?” Cheerilee gasped. “Barnaby Lee said that he had no choice in the matter.”

“Why are you arguing with her?” Carrot Top shrieked before catching herself.

“Though it grates against our morality, we cannot void thy contract in light of the humans pledging to honor our own laws concerning herds. That thou hast chosen to advance thy relationship despite being under the impression that thy contract would be voided is a salve to our conscience,” Princess Luna said. “We are aware that males are the aggressive gender of thine species."

Barnaby had the decency to look guilty as Luna continued. "What is considered lawful in your land still does not sit well with our own preferences of how stallions should be treated. However, in light of how dubious thy kind finds the practice of having at least two mares for every stallion, concessions must be made. It is a ludicrous irony that the greatest point of contention between our two governments is founded in our unwillingness to take unfair advantage of each other.”

“Human stallions are more aggressive than their mares?” Carrot Top perked up, latching onto that part of Princess Luna’s dialogue.

“No surprise there.” Berry Punch commented.

“Wait?” Mayor Mare said waving for the two to be silent. “Are you saying that this contract is legal?”

Princess Luna took a deep breath “It is legal in the lands of the humans as herd agreements are legal in our own lands. The question has always been to what extent we recognize each other’s laws. Thus, the game of trade-offs begins. Humans may not use magics compelling loyalty to their family lines. In return, herds might have an alpha stallion in lieu of an alpha mare. Also, human stallions must take at least two pony mares if a herd is to be formed; in return, that same stallion has license to include one human mare of choice regardless of how the rest of the herd may vote."

Mayor Mare frowned. "There is just so much that can go wrong with this."

Luna quirked an eyebrow. "Edges are rough, and mistakes shall be made, yet a working framework has been agreed upon. Even so, it has already been negotiated that all concessions shall not be universally applied, where felonies have been committed. Barnaby Lee’s contract is already an illustration of the surrendering of certain key privileges. The stallion shall not have his override vote nor the position of alpha stallion. Likewise, there are criminals, already accepted into human society, whom we shall not sue to have the protections against loyalty magics.”

“That sounds so convoluted.” Cheerilee sighed.

“That is politics.” Princess Luna replied.

“It does raise another dilemma.” Mayor Mare said. “We already have an ex-human stallion in town who has one mare to whom he is married. So far, they have rebuffed all efforts to expand their herd. Does this mean they must accept two local mares? And if so, what is the time frame?”

“The stallion thou dost reference was brought into Equestria by Discord prior to any diplomatic engagements.” Princess Luna sighed and closed her eyes for a second. “Thou may inform him that failure to comply with current laws constitutes a violation of the conditions of his parole. The timing of his arrival is irrelevant. All must honor the letter of the law, if not its intent, lest they face the consequences.”

“Yes Princess,” the Mayor said, slipping the paperwork that was in front of her to the side. “Is there anything else that needs to be said here?”

Cheerilee interjected, "Wait! My herd has not signed the contract. Does that not set Barnaby free?"

Luna replied, "His transgressions against an Equestrian herd merit a far more severe penalty." Glaring again at the stallion, she continued, "According to the human minister, human's magics recognize intimacy with mares as legally forging the bonds of matrimony. By his own actions, he has rendered this conversation moot."

Rosie's screams had stopped many miles ago as strong winds tossed her like a runaway kite. While an adult pegasus would have shrugged off the wind, it was far too much for her tiny form to conquer. There had to be some way to escape. Abruptly, the filly snapped her wings shut, removing all lift. She plunged like a football toward the blanket of white. The tip of a mighty pine snapped at the impact, stealing a bit of speed from its assailant. An upper branch met a similar fate. A tunnel of destruction marked her path until she bounced off a lower bough and then smacked against the trunk of an adjacent tree. She slid down the trunk into the snow, finally stopping her journey.

Dazed and disoriented, Rosie ignored the faint cries of her brother until her head stopped spinning. Shakily, she dug herself out of the snow. Shaking her head, she scanned her surroundings. She was greeted by pines and barren trees in snow-covered ground. Gray skies hid the sun.

“Dean!” she wailed as fear came unbidden.

“It talks.” A man’s voice came from behind her. With an eep, Rosie spun around and saw three strange people. The first was the man she had heard; another was a woman and the third was a girl roughly her own age. Rosie blinked and looked again. The torsos were human, but they had the bodies of horses.

“Hello,” Rosie said nervously. “Can you tell me which way is back to town?”

The man came forward as the other two stayed back. “You are a child?”

“I am five,” Rosie said proudly.

“That does not answer my question,” the man said. “My guess would be that you are a child, but I have never encountered your kind before. You sound much too young to be roaming these woods by yourself.”

“The wind blew too hard.” Rosie took a step back from the towering form. “My brother is eleven, though, and my parents are old.”

“She is a child,” the woman said, stepping forward with the girl at her side. “A lost child it would seem.”

The man stared at Rosie before snorting. “I find her presence disturbing. I can barely see her, and what little that is visible shows she is adrift from her destiny.”

“That is probably just the nature of her kind,” the woman said. “She does not appear powerful enough to cheat fate.”

“My name is Rosie,” the small pegasus said, annoyed at being talked over.

“My name is Licenta,” the girl with them said, taking a few steps ahead of the woman.

“Careful, we don’t know if she is dangerous,” the woman said using one of her forehooves to drag the girl back a few steps.

“She is most likely poisonous,” the man said, eyeing Rosie’s bright colors.

“I’m not dangerous.” Rosie pouted. “I’m a good girl, just rambunctious. Would you like to be friends?”

“Yes!” Licenta called out from behind the woman’s leg.

The woman looked back and forth between Licenta and Rosie. “Undeniably a child. It would be best if we returned her to the human village.”

“There is a storm coming,” the man stated flatly.

“She is a child,” the woman repeated. “If you cannot be bothered, then take Licenta back to the encampment, and I will escort her myself.”

“I will not allow you to approach the humans so closely,” the man said. “Take charge of our daughter, and I will see this one safely returned to the humans.”

“Rosie!” Dean called, dropping from the path of destruction to land beside his sister. “Are you all right?”

“Dean!” Rosie said cheerfully. “I made new friends!”

Dean examined the three people. “Looks like it’s true that there are centaurs in the Forbidden Forest. Hello.”

“I can scarcely see him at all,” the man said, examining Dean.

"Huh?" said Dean. "If my coat were any brighter, I'd be glowing in the dark."

“Now you’re just being rude, Breon.” the woman said. “Hello, little ones.”

“Hi!” Rosie chirped as Dean waved a hoof.

“The wind is picking up,” the woman said. “So, let us not waste time; you need to be in one place and we need to be in another. Follow me back to the humans.”

“I said I would take them,” Breon said.

“I want to go too,” Licenta added. “Rosie is my new friend.”

“You are going directly back to the encampment,” the man said. “The coming storm is going to be harsh enough as it stands.”

“Rosie! Dean!” Lyra yelled as she came into view, more bounding through the snow than galloping. “Thank Celestia my tracking spell worked! Don’t scare me like that!”

The man had notched an arrow in a bow that Rosie hadn’t noticed he was carrying, but he did not draw. “Another approaches. I cannot see this one at all. They are creatures of chaos.”

“Stay your hand,” the woman said. “They cannot help their nature, and they do not appear to be hostile. Besides, if you look closely, she wears her destiny on her flank.”

“She is still adrift from the weave,” the man said. “They are strange and dangerous creatures.”

“She looks as if she is kin to the unicorns. Give her that much respect unless she gives you reason to do otherwise,” the woman said.

“Oh wow!” Lyra said as she came up on the group. “Real life centaurs! Hello there! Do you live in these woods? My name is Lyra. I'm so pleased to meet you.”

“Another child?” The man said, looking down at Lyra.

“Hey!” Lyra pouted. “I’m an adult.”

“Good,” the woman said. “We are pleased to see you have collected your children.”

“Thank you for keeping an eye on them for me,” Lyra said. “We are going to head to a party soon; would you like to join us?”

“No, a storm is coming and we must hunker down,” the man said. “We will take our leave of you now.”

“Okay,” Lyra said. “Nice to meet you.”

“Safe travels,” the woman said, turning to depart.

“Bye Licenta,” Rosie called out.

“Bye Rosie!” the little centaur called back sadly.

The seriousness of the impromptu meeting was underscored by the seniority of the attendees who had been dragged in. As they took their seats, the top-ranked members of MI5 could not help but notice how distracted the director seemed. Whatever had prompted this meeting had to be a doozy.

When the last invitee shut the door, the director placed his head on the palms of his hands and said, “Here’s what’s going to happen. I’m going to tell you what took place this morning. Then you are going to start the paperwork that temporarily removes me from power until my mental stability has been evaluated. But in the meantime, you are all going to investigate the existence of our hidden society of magic users.”

A murmur swelled through the collection of agents as several decided that starting the mentioned paperwork was a good idea.

“Oh, you’ve found out about the wizards and witches again,” one of the group said. “I was afraid something alarming prompted this meeting.”

Silence swept the table as everyone turned to gawk at the speaker.

“What do you mean 'again'?” the director asked after a few seconds.

“Roughly every three months or so you grab three or four of us and closet us away in that room with the large portrait of a woman with a green dress. Then there are varying levels of evidence pointing towards the existence of magic users, plans are made, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Then, before anything can be implemented, they show up, wipe memories, and it’s back to business as usual.” The man had a bored tone as he explained. “I’ve called you every name in the book and you haven’t remembered a thing when they’re done.”

“How is it that you retain your memories?” the director demanded.

“Sir, you’ve ordered me to be the liaison. I’m what they call a squib. You want some level of coordination when their interests overlap ours. It’s my job to keep track of them, and those members of the system that are aware of the existence of magic. The other thing they regularly modify is when you approach me and demand to know what I’m doing with all of my time. You must have asked for my resignation at least fifteen times because you thought I was a deadbeat, when the truth of the matter is that it’s all I can do to keep up with the workload.”

“And you’ve done nothing to ensure that our memories are kept intact? Where do your loyalties lie?” one of the men at the table demanded.

“My loyalties are to queen and country. However, I was required to take a magical oath that is binding in ways I can’t begin to explain. I cannot initiate communication of any kind on this subject with those not in the know. Hinting that you do anything about it is almost beyond me as well.”

“Wilson, Hartton, go to ground,” the director snapped. Two men abandoned their paperwork at the table and rushed from the room. The squib looked pointedly at the papers they had left behind but said nothing. Without a word, another man added their papers to his own.

Once the door was closed again, the director asked. “Has there ever been a discussion about interdimensional spiders or ponies before?”

“No sir, that’s new,” the squib replied. Unnoticed by everyone present, a man returned to his painting, partially hidden behind a large potted plant.

“I cannot begin to emphasize just how much of a breach of security this is if true,” the director continued. A loud bang interrupted whatever it was he was about to say.

“Good afternoon gentlemen,” a woman wearing robes said as she waved her wand, locking all the doors to the room. “I see you have just about everyone here today.”

“Good afternoon, Sally,” the squib answered as everyone else in the room gaped at the witch who had just appeared out of nowhere. “How are the kids?”

“Good, good,” she replied. “My oldest started Hogwarts this term. Followed me into Ravenclaw, he did.” She then directed her attention to the most senior person in the room. “Mr. director, how’s your heart? I had to do some repairs last time, and I hope my work didn’t go to waste.”

The director sighed. “I haven’t had any difficulties with it that I know of.”

“I’m happy to hear that.” Sally smiled before frowning at one of the empty seats. “Please tell me you didn’t choose Hartton to go to ground, he always hides in the sewers.”

A flash of flames on a rooftop announced the arrival of Sweetie Belle and Philomena. The young girl quickly looked around before spotting her quarry. With a smile she trotted over to stand next to her friends who were peering over the ledge at the street below.

“Hey girls, what’s up?” Sweetie asked.

“Hiya Sweetie.” Abagail said, not looking up. "I came across a spell I want to try out."

"Why are you up here?" asked Sweetie.

“Hello, Sweetie.” Luna said. “Mrs. Bates insisted that we not mess up their flat, again. This seemed to be the best place to be if things blow up in our faces and the goblins have anti-trace wards on the entire building.”

Curious, Sweetie Belle watched as Abagail waved her wand and recited incantations with her eyes closed. The intrepid experimenter opened her eyes and asked, "Where is it? Where's the cocoa?"

The wail of a horn drew the girls to the ledge. Looking down at the street, they followed the sound to a speeding milk tanker lorry driving headlong toward an unattended pram. Brakes screamed as the cab jerked toward the left. The trailer slipped on a patch of ice and slid into oncoming traffic, breaking open against the back of a panel van that it knocked over. Milk leaked from the tank as the remains of the van bled chocolate syrup. A bicycle delivery person skidded short of the collision, throwing their load of marshmallows into the mess. The van's driver screamed in terror as he fled. Seconds later, the cab was engulfed by a fireball from the leaking petrol.

Sternly, Hermione glared at Abagail. "From now on, you're not allowed to make hot cocoa."