• Published 23rd Apr 2017
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Magic School Days - Dogger807

When the CMC asked Discord to help them attend magic school, he pulled an owl out of his hat. Only he didn't exactly have a hat. Which was okay, since their new school had a singing one laying around. Where the hay was Hogwarts anyway?

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Chapter 89: Best Laid Plans

At this depth, the ground felt as though it had a soul of ice. The occupants of the subterranean room, however, knew that the planet had a heart of fire. Many generations earlier, their forebears had learned to leech off the heat. The room's rich tapestries and plush carpeting, when coupled with its comfortable warmth, were almost enough to make one forget just how far beneath the surface the room was.

Seven leaders from around the world, each representing a goblin capital, stood in a ragged circle and conversed as equals.

"They are ignorant of the dominion they have over our kind," said the overseer of Gringotts. "They do not show the aggression or greed of a worthy goblin lord. They seem more than content with the pittance we have provided them. Their orders have been benign in nature with little or no impact on how we conduct ourselves."

The leader from Oceana snorted, "Their mere existence is an insult! The last goblin lord at least made an attempt to be a proper goblin."

"How did such weaklings amass such power?" demanded the leader from Kilimanjaro harshly.

“That is unascertained,” the Overseer said. “Neither is the type to covet the power they possess, let alone seek it out. However, it would be unwise to label the younger as a weakling. The whelp, nowhere near full growth, has recently joined in battle against a werewolf. A strike team was nearby to assist, but she and her allies triumphed without support.”

“No honor was shared with the warriors?” the leader from the Andes asked. "Was this some pup that she overpowered?"

Shaking his head, the Overseer replied, "This was as dangerous as they get. Our strike teams managed to keep it contained, but they could not capture or kill it."

Grudgingly, the leader from the Andes replied, “She may yet prove worthy of her position.”

“We will accept nothing less,” said the leader from Appalachia.

“You speak as if we have a choice,” said the leader from the Orient, easily the largest in the room despite being stooped with age. His white eyes were unseeing yet, somehow, they missed nothing. “We cannot even keep them ignorant, if they but ask.”

Hopelessness saturated the chamber. The attendees each contemplated the import of those words. There could have been bickering. There could have been criticism, swearing or accusations. There could have been a knock-down, drag-out battle. There could have been any act in reaction. There would have been no difference.

Those gathered showed enough wisdom to avoid any rash action.

Those gathered stood helpless in the face of the inevitable.

Any pretense of a winter wonderland was shattered after just one glimpse of the churned ground. The snow was no longer a pristine white blanket. Roughshod hooves scraped out a dirty brown line while clattering pawls marked a funeral cadence. In their wake, a trail of gritty slush marked their passage. Only a hard freeze prevented the ugly scar on the mountain from turning to mud.

Applejack confidently cantered through the grimy slush as she made her way up the switchback with a large boulder balanced on her back. Humming cheerfully, she approached the lead wagon, which seemed to be oozing rather than rolling. With a slight grunt, the farm mare sent the rock to enjoy the ride with its brothers.

“Not another boulder,” Ron whined.

“Y'all should have thought of that before picking fights,” Applejack said, making her way to the front of the wagon to check on the four earth pony foals laboring in their harnesses. “Y'all might want to save yer breath fer the pulling.” Smirking, she said, "When the thaw comes, y'all will help put the dam together."

Lavender spat, "Nemo me impune lacessit."

"Say what?" said Applejack.

"No one hurts my herd and gets away with it. I still say it was worth it," replied Lavender as she took the extra weight without complaint. Neville grunted in agreement while Apple Bloom held her tongue.

Silently, Applejack sighed. The filly had just confirmed what her new cutie mark declared to the world; there was little she wouldn't do to protect those she considered to be under her care. Instead of arguing with the stubborn filly, Applejack turned her attention to the wagon's twin, which lagged noticeably. The unicorn foals struggled with a much lighter load, but their expressions were no less defiant than those of the ponies bearing the heavier burden.

Shaking her head, Applejack looked up and checked the airborne wagon being drawn by six winged foals. Hopefully, the charms to keep the boulders seated there were as foolproof as Remus Lupin insisted. Briefly, she considered adding a couple boulders to all three, but decided that the axles would break long before their spirits. Worse, she was positive that the foals were all aware of just how much danger they had put themselves in and that they would do it again without any hesitation if they deemed it necessary.

A lesson was being taught; sadly, it wasn’t the lesson intended.

The locals often joked that Mellow Yolk was the local egg breaker. In truth, she was far more than a mere broker. Her job was important, if not particularly glamorous. Most ponies suspected that she was part bat pony since her day started at the Demon's Hour. In a remarkably short time, she would visit each farm and household on her supplier list. At each location, she silently and swiftly collected all the eggs from the hens. She would then take those eggs to a drop box, where she would leave both the number of eggs requested on a note inside and payment for the balance, less her fee.

It was rare for her to find another pony awake at that hour, let alone one of her suppliers. In fact, she hadn't even had a word with Fluttershy in two years, despite the fact that the Element Bearer's coop was one of her most productive stops.

Earth pony magic kept the birds laying year-round, even during the short winter days. Thus, she always had enough stock to supply the local businesses, such as Barnyard Bargains and Sugarcube Corner. Despite their voracious appetites, she would generally be left with a gross or so that she would sell from her pushcart in the market square. Usually, her workday ended before most ponies started their shifts.

Sometimes, however, her harvest was large enough and the traffic slow enough that she would still be peddling her wares into the noon hour. This was just such a day. Mellow brightened when she saw an unfamiliar green earth pony stallion swaggering toward her. On further reflection, she decided that 'staggering' was more accurate. His gait was a cross between the tentative steps of a newborn and the loopy dance of somepony in the midst of their first firewhisky experience.

Mellow Yolk smiled welcomingly. “Good morning. Here to buy my last two dozen eggs of the day, I hope.”

The stallion gave a splendid smile in return. “Yes ma’am. We’ve got a gathering happening over at the Apple farm, and the cooks have found themselves short on eggs.”

“Oh?” Mellow frowned slightly. If this stallion did come from the farm, she’d be obligated to sell the eggs at cost. “I was there earlier, and their note didn’t ask for extra eggs to be left.”

The stallion brightened slightly at those words. “You are Mellow Yolk then. Granny told me to tell you that it was unexpected, and she would leave you a fresh apple pie for your trouble.”

Mellow's smile returned; such an offering was well worth the loss of profit. “So, you’re an Apple then?” she asked, producing a wicker basket for the stallion to carry the eggs since he wasn’t wearing saddle bags.

“No ma’am.” The stallion shook his head. “I’m a Weasley.”

Mellow paused in her work. “A Weasley? Like those twins Dull Roar and her friends have been going on about?”

“Fred and George?” the stallion asked. “If so, yes, those two are my younger brothers.”

Mellow abandoned any pretense of packing the remaining eggs. “I didn’t get your name.”

“Bill Weasley, pleased to meet you.”

“You’re a human then?” said a mare who had been walking by.

“Why, yes I am.” Bill Weasley answered the unanticipated addition to the conversation.

“I’ve heard good things about human stallions,” the mare from the next stall over commented.

“Oh? Really?” Bill Weasley asked.

“Yes!” came the seductive drawl from every mare in earshot.

In the Sleepy Saguaro Sanatorium, two ponies looked up at their patient with no small amount of worry.

A tawny mare with an airy voice asked, “Are you feeling any discomfort?”

“Dearie,” said the patient as she studied her new two-legged form. “When you get to be my age, it’s just one discomfort after the other. This ain’t nothing I can’t handle.” She sighed. "I kinda wish teeth came with the transformation."

“I’d like to go over the risks one more time,” said a mustard-colored mare in a firmer voice.

The old ex-mare laughed until she started to cough. After regaining her composure, she said. “This here is a hospice. We all know why I’m here. ‘Risk’ has lost any meaning.”

“Are you sure you want to do this?” the tawny mare asked, making a last confirmation.

“Sure and eager. After all these years, if I survive, I'll have the memory of a lifetime. If not, I'll go in a blaze of glory."

“Okay then.” The mustard mare came over to help the ancient female walk. “Let me take you to his room and introduce you.”

“Thank you, dearie; I can hardly wait.”

The mustard-colored mare rapped sharply on the door and called out, "Peter! I have your next appointment!"

A resigned groan came from the other side of the door as it slowly opened. "I really need a day off."

'"You're an incubus. You know there's no rest for the wicked."

"But . . ."

"No 'buts'. We agreed to hide you from the hunters, and you agreed to provide service with a smile. Don't make me use the necklace."

With a forced smile, Peter opened the door and led the patient in. The mustard-colored mare jumped when the door was slammed in her face.

The tawny mare sighed. A new voice said, "Is something wrong?"

The mare almost jumped out of her skin. After collecting herself, she replied, "No, not really."

“Something has you worried.”

“It’s just that sooner or later somepony is going to come asking why half our filed certificates have hyperpareunia as cause of death.”

On the outskirts of the earth pony town of Ponyville, a somewhat unusual procession made its way toward the ugly brown scar that marked the switchback. In terms of calories, 76,000 led the small parade, with two unicorns trailing, line abreast. The food was held in a reunion-sized wicker picnic basket, held aloft in a magenta aura. Spying their objective, Twilight and Emma called out a greeting as they rapidly gained on Applejack and the three slow-moving wagons.

“Howdy, Twilight, Emma,” Applejack returned. “Just in time with them thar vittles. Tha foals need to keep thar strength up fer the other half of the mountain.”

“We got that covered,” Twilight said, producing a scroll seemingly from nowhere. “Granny and Molly made every item on the checklist. Those two are a sight to see in the kitchen; Dinner is going to be a meal to remember. In the meantime, the foals can enjoy a midday meal prepared with love.” Then, somewhat more softly than the Royal Canterlot Voice, she said, “Okay, everypony, unhitch yourselves! It’s time to eat!”

“Cutie Mark Crusader Food Critics!” Seamus declared, freeing himself.

“Yay!” came the traditional interjection.

“I can see you have all worked up an appetite,” Emma said as two red-maned foals darted past while the others stayed behind to help everypony else get unhitched. As Twilight spread the blanket that was atop the basket onto the snowy ground and centered the basket on it, Emma continued. "I'm sorry that we have to punish you like this, but you need to understand just how reckless and dangerous that stunt of yours was. That monster could have mauled you, or worse."

“We understand,” Neville said for the herd and left it at that.

“Wait a minute,” Scootaloo said, helping Luna from her harness. “Didn’t we already try for our food critic cutie marks?”

“That was back when there were only three of us,” Sweetie replied. “We might get lucky.”

“I don’t think any of us are that finicky when it comes to eating,” Hermione said, staggering slightly after being relieved of her load.

“A little help here,” Harry pleaded from where he and Abigail had got themselves tangled together.

“How did you manage that?” Ginny asked, gaping at her friends.

“Are you trying for your knot tying cutie mark?” Dean asked dryly. “I watched you do it and I still think it's impossible to do in only three dimensions.”

“I’ve got to say, that takes some talent,” Lavender said, moving to help.

That’s a right Gordian knot,” Emma said, following Twilight to assist.

“That’s my tail!” Abigail admonished when Harry gave a tug.

“Hey! Leave me out of this!” Parvati yelled when she got out of her own tack, only to be ensnared by her fellow flyers.

“I said, that’s my tail!”

“Lift your bum,” Harry commanded. “I need to get this over it.”

“Stop trying to get some tail! I only have the one!” Abigail countered.

“He’s going after mine now.” Parvati grimaced as she felt a tug.

Twilight sighed as she approached the tangled foals. “Let’s do this the easy way.” There was a flash of magenta light, and the trio tumbled away from each other as their impromptu bindings materialized on the other side of the cart.

“It didn’t take y'all no time to get yerselves into bind,” Applejack commented. “Now that yer done playing around, it’s time to eat.”

Ron pulled his head from the picnic basket and swallowed. “We’re going to need more food.” He then plunged his head back into the side of the picnic basket which he had claimed.

Apple Bloom pulled her head out of the other side to comment. “Yeah, there ain’t much left.” With piranha-like voracity, she returned to her meal.

The remaining ponies watched two red tails point toward the sky as the basket's payload was swiftly metabolized.

“You two are becoming worse than Sweetie with a meat-covered pizza,” Parvati called out.

“Is that normal?” Emma asked, mouth agape.

“Nope.” Applejack shook her head. “Normal would be Apple Bloom helping her friends before thinking of filling her belly. An’ she’s been taught ta share.”

“That was beyond rude,” Scootaloo said. “It’s not like her.”

“They were just as bad at supper last night,” Hermione added.

“So . . .” Emma said. “Tapeworms?”

“Tapeworms?” Twilight snorted. “There was enough food in there for fourteen hungry foals and three adults.”

“Hungry tapeworms?” Applejack suggested.

“With leftovers,” Twilight added.

“So . . .” Emma said. “Magical tapeworms?”

“Mighty hungry magical tapeworms,” Applejack said.

“That would explain the famished parasprite impressions,” Sweetie said.

Applejack shuddered. “Granny is goin’ ta be mighty upset if’n they start belching up great grandfoals.”

“Well, I see a thorough exam in their immediate future,” Emma said.

“Ah kin see the wisdom in that.” Applejack trotted forward to seize Apple Bloom’s tail in her mouth. “Grab Ron an’ Ah’ll show ya tha way to the hospital.”

“Twilight, could you take the rest of the foals back to the farm for something to eat? I’ll help Applejack,” Emma said before gingerly taking Ron’s tail in a similar manner.

I’m on it,” Twilight said. “Scootaloo, fly ahead and ask Big Mac for a couple bushels of apples. We’ll go to the orchard and set up a campfire. That way we can have some roasted apples and not bother the cooks in the kitchen.”

“I’m hungry, and that sounds like a lot of work,” Abigail said. “We could just hit a restaurant in town.”

“Nah, it’ll be fun and I’ll teach you all a spell for lighting campfires.” Twilight said, herding the remaining foals back toward the farm.

"I can hardly wait," said Seamus. The other Crusaders carefully backed away from him.

A quartet of would-be gourmets wandered into the farmhouse's kitchen. Under ordinary circumstances, the three who walked in on two legs would have had the best perspective, but the fourth hovered above them, taking in all the sights and smells.

Without looking up from the bowl where she was stirring some batter, Pinkie Pie called out from around the handle of her whisk, “There are some cookies on the counter to tide you over.”

“Thanks Pinkie,” Rainbow said, making a beeline for the proffered treats. “I know we decided to cancel the surprise party for the humans' Hearthwarming Day, but I’m glad we’re not stopping all of the festivities.”

“This was spontaneous,” Arthur said. “but welcome. It is a pity that the children’s actions have caused us to abandon our original plans.”

“They did ruin the surprise factor,” Sirius said, reaching for a cookie of his own. “Now they know you and your wife are back in the country.”

“Speaking of wives,” Arthur said. “Molly, I know that smug look. You’re up to something.”

“Smug look?” Molly said, waving her wand and muttering under her breath to direct her knife to coarsely chop ten pounds of carrots. “It must be your imagination. I’m just helping with the cooking while I fish for grandchildren.”

“That doesn’t sound mischievous or anything,” Dan said. “How exactly does one fish for grandchildren?”

As if on cue, the back door opened and a green stallion rushed in, carrying a wicker basket. After putting it down, he declared, “I’ve figured out how to run in this form.”

“Did you get the eggs dear?” Molly asked, wandering over to inspect the basket.

“I’m lucky that’s all I got,” Bill said. “I almost got the eggs' seller with them.

“Mellow Yolk is a good respectable mare,” Granny Smith said. “Right reliable, that one.”

“Or the spice seller,” Bill continued. “Or the mare walking by with the white bags. Or the waitress from the café. Or half the ladies within earshot.”

“You’re using the wrong word,” Sirius insisted. “Replace ‘or’ with ‘and’.”

“You’re old enough to start thinking of settling down,” Molly said, removing the eggs from the basket with another wave of her wand. “Get a nice safe job at the Ministry and raise a family.”

“I am perfectly happy with the job I have,” Bill said. “I refuse to work at the Ministry.”

Molly frowned. “What you do is too dangerous, and you never are home. Now, we’re running low on yeast, so I’m going to send you back to the market.”

“What?” Bill squeaked. “I just got propositioned by a dozen mares, five cows, two stallions, and a goat. Send Charlie instead.”

“I’ve already sent him out to look for the twins. He has always been good at keeping those two out of trouble,” Molly said.

Open Secret looked up at the roof of the town hall and called out, “You do know that earth ponies aren’t supposed to be that good at climbing, either.”

A stallion who was quite obviously Fred's older brother looked out over the edge and said, “You two have been having an eventful break, haven’t you?”

“Eh, nothing to write home over,” George said.

“You do know I’m old enough to be your father,” Charlie called down to the gathered fillies.

“Well, then, my heart belongs to daddy,” Sad Smile called back.

“Wait.” Random Order said. “You’re like only four years older than us. Can human’s really have children that young?”

“I think he’s just exaggerating.” Icy Hot said.

“You do know it’s only a matter of time before Minor shows up on a broom,” Fred warned, looking over his shoulder.

“Y'all got that?” Granny said. “Rapid Rise is the mare you’re looking fer.”

“Pony names are starting to scare me,” Bill grumbled as he closed the back door behind himself.

“You do know there is another container of yeast on the shelf back there,” Pinkie said.

“There is?” Molly asked innocently. “I didn’t realize.”

“At least you’re using the right bait,” Rainbow said, reaching for another cookie. “All you need is to tie a bow around him in keeping with the season.”

“Diamond Tiara has already done that,” Pinkie argued. “You need to be more original. Slather him in frosting and hang a sign around his neck saying ‘yummy’.”

“How is that original?” Sirius asked. “Andi tells me they are still talking about your visit to St. Mungo's.”

“Why you’re at it, why don’t you chain an iron ball to his leg so he can’t run?” Arthur said. “Molly, I can’t believe you’re doing this.”

“I’m not doing anything dear,” Molly said. “It’s not my fault if he makes a special friend or three while shopping. If he meets someone who can take his mind off curse breaking, well, so much the better.”

“Besides, y'all don’t want to hamper his running. The best daughter-in-laws are the ones who can catch a healthy stallion,” Granny opined.

The front door announced a new arrival, and Twilight soon joined the gathering in the kitchen. Sirius took one look at his wife and gasped. “What happened to you?”

Twilight stood there with her right side blackened and burnt. The stench of scorched fur wafted from her. “We're going to go with the classic good news, bad news model here,” she said.

“What’s the good news?” Rainbow prompted.

“Dean Thomas just got his cutie mark. He’s going to be able to have a joint cutcenera with Lavender,” Twilight said.

“And the bad?” Granny asked.

“You're going to have to replace twenty-seven trees in the orchard. There is no way they’ll be bearing anymore fruit,” Twilight said. “We’re changing the punishment. Big Mac has the foals helping him collect the charcoal and removing the stumps and roots.”

“Were any of the children hurt?” Molly asked worriedly.

“They were all standing behind him,” Twilight said. “I’m the only pony who got caught.” She paused to consider her next words. “It’s amazing how fast you can move when you see a ball of fire headed your way. If I didn't know Merry Monsoon's Concentrated Cloudburst, the entire south orchard would be burning.”

“So, they are all right?” Dan said with relief.

“They are all happily celebrating the new cutie mark. Except for Seamus Finnigan, he’s really upset it wasn’t him who got the fire-based cutie mark.”

“Oh?” Asked Sirius.

“He said something about trying for his explosions cutie mark. It would be a good idea to keep an eye on him.” Twilight insisted.

There was a moment’s silence then Owlowiscious flew into the kitchen. Perching on the back of a chair, he fixed his worried gaze on Twilight.

“Well, here’s my ride. I’m going to mail myself to Andi and get some burn cream,” Twilight said. “We’ll be back in time for supper.”

Albus Dumbledore was not a happy man. The day had been an unmitigated disaster. The new Minister did not regard him with the same reverence that Fudge had lavished. It didn't take an empath to notice the disdain that Lovegood projected during each visit. Clearly, the ponies were a bad influence; he still could not fathom why they held him in such low regard. Minister Lovegood seemed determined to strip him of his accumulated powers; he had unequivocally delineated the duties expected of the headmaster of Hogwarts, the Supreme Mugwump, and the Chief Warlock. He had tried to convince Dumbledore that any one of those positions would be almost too much for one man to handle. He had all but promised that he would put forth a resolution at the next Wizengamot meeting to codify the changes.

It seemed that with every turn, the reins of his power frayed a bit more. It did not take a clairvoyant to see that the plans that he had so carefully groomed over the decades were now on a one-way trip on the handbasket express. Still, all was not yet lost. He still had the freedom to act before he was left with Hobson's choice. He just had to strategize how to accomplish his goals with less than a third of his original resources.

If he were being honest, he would admit that he had already lost control of the school. His once-loyal friend, Minerva. seemed to be thwarting his every move, all in the name of advancing education. The changes she was making would make the once-proud institution completely unrecognizable. If he were to keep his post as headmaster, he would be little more than a figurehead. The newly-formed board of governors seemed determined to assert their independence; those who met with him did so with great reluctance. They all but declared that he was a problem to be removed. He had no doubt that the next generation of magic users, bereft of his guidance, would be doomed to mediocrity. His relationship with the boy-who-lived was almost assuredly unsalvageable.

How could something so simple have gone so horribly wrong? His muggle puppet had no right signing away her responsibility like that. Why would a foreign witch agree to adopt a complete stranger, sight unseen? How could anyone have uncovered a secret known only to him? Dumbledore wasn't convinced that even with all the time in the world, he could groom his designated martyr to lay down his life for the greater good.

His position as Chief Warlock was almost as tenuous as his post as headmaster. By itself, the loss of the Potter proxy could have been overcome. The Rutter woman, however, had obliterated the status quo with the zeal of a crusader. She had stuffed the chambers with her cronies. Freeing the felon Black had denied Dumbledore control of that seat in addition to the Potter proxy. The former inmate was now literally running the asylum in all but name. All Albus could do was to try to stem the tide. However, change was coming so swiftly that the wizarding world was doomed to descend into madness.

The only post with even a hint of its former glory was Chief Mugwump. There, at least, he had some influence in both domestic and international affairs. However, with the collapse of the Statute, the extent of his power was less than certain. The muggle governments were already integrating their magical brethren into an abomination of muggle and magical. No longer could the International Confederation of Wizards stand on its own; without the shield of secrecy to protect it, the body would have to cooperate with the muggles or be forced into irrelevance.

Only one outcome was certain. Dumbledore's clout and importance would be a mere shadow of itself after the next meeting of the Wizengamot.

Lamenting his fortune, England's most powerful wizard entered his office at the Ministry to develop a strategy to exploit his quickly-dwindling power and to adapt to the new reality. The only saving grace was that the day could not possibly get any worse.

For the second time in recent memory, Dumbledore found the space already occupied. A blond witch was perched on the arm of a visitor's chair. She seemed to be in the guise of a squire; the coat of arms she displayed was a single black spade.

“Hello young lady.” Dumbledore said as he surreptitiously reached for the backup wand hidden in his sleeve. “I don’t believe we’ve met. How may I help you?”

The witch gave a predatory smile. “Hello Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore,” she said silkily. “My name is OB. My queen sends her greetings.”

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