Hermione spent the rest of break mostly doing homework and research alone. She'd found the ritual for calling in a blood debt easily enough in one of the Dark books Quirrell had given her, the one they could use for Harry. It was fairly straightforward, and only one of the ingredients gave her pause, but she dismissed it – she was sure she could get it one way or another back up at the school.

The ritual for Jade and Milan was harder to design.

The difficulty of it was she wanted to do something that had never been done before, a combination of science and magic cut and pasted together to get the desired result. But muggle science and magical ritual structure weren't playing as well together as she'd have liked.

Hermione knew what she wanted – Milan to conceive Jade's child – but it was proving difficult to break down all the parts of that process into what the ritual would need to do. First, Milan would need to ovulate – either unnaturally or naturally – so there would be an egg around for the ritual to target. Next, she'd have to get an egg from Jade, too – so Jade would have to be ovulating also, she guessed – to then have the ritual target and turn into a sperm.

Not for the first time, Hermione wished she could just make magic bash two of their eggs together and result in a baby somehow. That'd be much simpler. Unfortunately, everything she read said that such a thing was impossible – there were tags and genomic imprinting challenges to overcome, things that muggle scientists hadn't found a way around yet either.

So. Jade's egg would have to be transformed into a sperm. Either that, or Jade would have to be temporarily transformed into a male version of herself – a version where her eggs also magically turned into male gametes, too.

Hermione wondered if there was a variant of Polyjuice potion like that – one where you stayed yourself, just switched your sex. It'd certainly be much simpler, if there was – then all they'd need to do would be the necessary ovulation and fertility rituals, instead of cobbling together the odd ritual Hermione had in her mind.

She doubted it, though. If there was, she rather thought she'd have come across it by now. Snape would have mentioned it for Manny's situation, if nothing else.

It didn't help that they pretty much only had one shot at this. If Jade and Milan didn't conceive when planned, or Milan had a miscarriage, there would be no evidence of a successful pregnancy to announce at the end of the school year, and Jade would be married off against her will. Hermione had volunteered out of sympathy and indignation that something so stupid would tear her prefect apart from her partner, but she was finding it much harder than she'd thought to make the ritual magic do what she wanted it to do.

Before going back to school, Hermione visited the hedgewitches one more time. Clover was amenable to letting her use her Floo, and together the two headed down to The Yard.

"I got a wand," Clover told her, her voice low but her eyes bright. "And I can work it. You should see what we've done, what we've managed. You'll never believe it…"

"I honestly can't wait to see," Hermione said, smiling.

The Yard was busier earlier in the day, with the sunset coming earlier in winter as it did. It was still bustling with life inside, but there was something new as well – instead of youths jumping fires outside, there were small clustered groups of people sitting on the picnic benches, some of them glowing a slight reddish-pink. There were maybe thirty of them there, all sitting out in the snow.

"What are they doing?" Hermione asked, surprised. "It's cold outside."

"They're meditating," Clover said promptly. "The Yard is close to a ley line, but the iron and lead in the building make it hard to feel it inside. People come out here to practice tapping it."

Hermione's eyes widened. "You've... certainly been busy."

"Well…" Clover smirked, her eyes glinting. "You did tell us to teach as many people as we could."

Hermione wisely didn't comment on that.

Inside the halls, there was a loud noise and good cheer. Hermione wondered if The Yard was always so boisterous, or if it was just because of the holidays that people were so energetic.

"Witch-girl!"

Hermione turned to see Derek waving at her from the bar, where he was sitting across from Aurican, who was stirring a drink. With a glance at Clover, who nodded, they both went over, and Derek beamed.

"Do you have any idea what you started?" he asked her, grinning widely. "Do you have any idea what you've done?"

"Umm," Hermione said. "Honestly, no, at this point. I thought I'd just helped you discover a new way to cast magic."

"You did more than that," Derek said seriously. "You helped us remember what's important – what our heritage was."

Hermione blinked. "I'm sorry?"

"We'd forgotten the stories of the earth's magical lines." Aurican paused from wiping up the bar to meet her eyes. "There are old legends, things we'd dismissed into myth, tales of veins of magic running from the Fae lands to our world. People used to use these veins to cast magic together in covens. We'd forgotten these magical traditions, and we didn't realize we could use these lines to cast magic ourselves."

"That's… good, though, isn't it?" Hermione ventured.

"It's very good," Aurican assured her, lips twisting into a smile. "We've seen magical progress like no other in the past week. Though, granted, Derek set it off with a bit of a bang, I'll give you."

Hermione turned to Derek, who rubbed his head, grinning sheepishly.

"I remembered how you gave everyone a bit of magic from the line in the autumn," he said, "when we all offered a bit of our blood. And the stories of old, that Aurican knew – back then, during festivals, those folks had offered a lot more than jus' a bit of blood…"

"Derek and Worm went out and caught a bear," Clover said bluntly, her eyes glinting. "And then, at the Yule festival, they killed it, drained its blood in an offering to Magic, and we all ate its meat over the fire."

Hermione's jaw dropped open. "Did you really?"

Derek mistook her astonishment for awe, and he grinned. "Yeah. Really. We did. It was overwhelmin' at first, y'know – there was so much magic tha' a lotta people hadn't ever felt, and some people, they were gettin' really sick at first." His face looked serious for a minute, before smoothing out once more. "They're mostly alright, now – don't rightly know what was wrong with 'em in the firs' place. But eve'yone else – they felt all the magic, and they believed."

Hermione wondered if, ironically, those would be the people with stronger personal magic than the others. She'd felt sick herself, holding her magic separate from that of the ley line. The hedgewitches, with little personal magic, had been able to attune their cores to the resonance of the ley line instead, though – a feat Hermione couldn't manage herself. She thought it likely that those feeling ill hadn't managed to reconcile the two magics within them.

"We are a people who have been told all of our lives that our magic is stunted, broken," Clover said softly. "To have our entire community suddenly realize this was not true – to feel this was not true—"

"It changed everything," Aurican said, nodding. "We're being careful – we've learned some people cannot hold the line magic without getting a terrible headache or feeling torn apart. But most of us can, once we harmonize with it. And having magic… we don't entirely know how to use it, really, but we're learning."

"We're going to try and make wands or staffs in the spring," Clover said, grinning. "We learned the hard way that wandless magic is okay for small things, but if you're trying to do something bigger, you want to use a tool instead."

Hermione was loath to ask. "…the hard way?"

"Keenan blew her hand clean off," Derek said, wincing. "We got there in time, wrapped the stump an' everything, but her hand was… it was a bit of a mess."

"It was unsalvageable," Clover said diplomatically. "We warned people to be careful, but no one really knew where the limits were until we found them – violently."

"But! We're all practicin'!" Derek said quickly, moving past the unpleasantness. He grinned widely. "If nothin' else, we want everyone to be strong enough to help ward all the villages when we get them silver wards. If we can protect ourselves from werewolves, it'll be a good step in the right direction."

"Less dependence on landlords, for sure," said Aurican, with a dark look. "Some families use their protection practically as a threat, like the Notts – 'if you don't obey me, look what horrors might happen to you'."

"I'm—I'm really glad that you're finding so much success," Hermione told them honestly. "I didn't really expect so much progress so fast, but it's wonderful that you're rediscovering your magical heritage and claiming it."

Clover and Derek beamed.

"It feels good," Derek said, pleased. "I knew I had magic, but I never had much o' it to feel it, y'know?"

"It feels right," Clover said with satisfaction. Her eyes gleamed. "I'd never really felt powerful before. I do now, though. And I like it."

That statement sounded somewhat ominous, and it was with a shiver running down her spine that Hermione redirected the conversation around to how everyone else was doing and what their hopes were for the spring, pushing Clover's covetous mention of power to the very back of her mind.


The last day of break, a foul-smelling crow delivered a letter to Hermione, cawing and dropping it and flying off before Hermione had a chance to react. She fished the missive out of her juice quickly enough, but the letter smelled heavily of ink and salt, leading Hermione to mournfully set the glass aside, making a face. She wasn't about to finish it now.

The ink-spattered heavy parchment was familiar. This was the third letter she'd received from her 'fan', now, Hermione mused. A 'fan', of sorts – what else could she call them?

She eased the letter open, thick, scratchy black letters coming into view.

.

To Hermione Granger:

I am so excited to hear recent news of you. You have been busier than ever. You have been breaking Dark bloodline curses on your classmates, you have been writing laws for the Wizengamot, and you have been walking among the hedgewitches, helping them restore their magic so as to rise to their proper place and power once more. I am awed and amazed. Magic has truly gifted us with you.

When the Dark Lord came into power, many of the hedgewitches initially flocked to his cause. He promised to restore their magic and power, explaining how the Muggle-borne had stolen what was rightfully theirs. The hedgewitches did not fully believe, however, as he did not restore their magic to them. He demanded loyalty but did not return it; the only magical power he offered them was Dark magic, drawn through evil acts and terrible sacrifice, and many hedgewitches flinched. The Dark Lord's rage at their betrayal was legendary and terrible, and most did not return to their homes.

Now, however… you, I hear, are teaching the hedgewitches how to manipulate the ley lines – how to handle raw magic and cast with it, without having their magical cores torn apart.

Your efforts resonate even here – the ley lines have swelled and dipped twice now, with your rituals with them. The hedgewitches will grow stronger, and you will have a powerful army utterly dedicated to you as they master their magic under your tutelage.

I am so proud and excited for you. I know Magic has gifted you to us, but to know you are making such waves and changes at such a young age fills me with a determination I have not had in a long time.

With your magical renaissance, I must ask – are there other New Bloods hiding among us? Will you bring them to the light at the right time? Some of the Sacred Twenty-Eight have grown weak and pathetic. Powerful new families blessed by magic would be stronger and purer, and I would be delighted to help the New Bloods depose the traitorous and weak ones of old. If there is a way for you to indicate it, a statement you can make to the press or release to the Wizengamot, please do. Your followers will be able to begin helping you in the search for other New Bloods, so you might gather them and be their leader.

I am so honored and excited to live in these unprecedented times. Again, as soon as I am able, I will help you and support you as best I can. You are destined and chosen by Magic to lead us and guide us to a new magical age, and I will aid you in your quest however I can.

Yours truly,

.

The signature was a smear.

Hermione carefully folded up the letter and set it down to the side. Her eyes were staring blankly out at nothing. Her stomach had dropped to the floor; her throat felt like a void.

This letter…

How had they known?

Hermione had been busy, sure, but this information – who was this? Who were they talking to? The fact she'd helped with a Wizengamot bill was nothing, nothing, compared to helping Manny Barrows break his 'bloodline curse'. That had been a thing that had only happened at Hogwarts, and the gossip around it had long since settled. She supposed someone could have heard about it – especially now, she guessed, since Manny had gone to 're-meet' his parents with Professor Vector at King's Cross. But it was unlikely, wasn't it? It only really mattered to Manny, and everyone else had dropped the issue fast. Or had someone remembered that she'd broken a 'Dark curse', and filed it away for reference?

What frightened Hermione more, however, was the last accomplishment of hers mentioned.

How did this person know she was helping the hedgewitches?

She was open about wanting to help them with silver wards and protection and grain allotments. That was part of her duties as British Youth Representative, as far as she was concerned. But the ley lines…

The only ones Hermione had told about teaching them the manipulation of the ley lines were the hedgewitches themselves.

And they certainly hadn't the foggiest who Manny Barrows even was.

The comparison to Voldemort chilled her. From what she had heard, Hermione had presumed Voldemort had mostly drawn support from the Darker old pureblood families, ones who would want to feel superior over others and believed in blood prejudice. But the hedgewitches… for Voldemort to play off of their biggest weakness and insecurity, for him to give them the Muggleborns to blame for their weak magic…

She shuddered, revolted.

It explained a lot, though, in a twisted way. The hedgewitches she knew seemed to skew distinctly young. There wasn't an entire generation missing, but there were far fewer parents and people from thirty to fifty around than she thought there probably should be, given the number of teenagers and children there was. It was disturbing to consider, though.

Had Derek lost his father because Voldemort had blown him up…?

Hermione bit her lip hard, making a mental vow to check back in with the hedgewitches the next break, as soon as she could. She wanted them to have power, but she wanted to make absolutely, positively sure that they did not think it was power that had originally been stolen from them by the Muggleborns.

Purebloods thought the hedgewitches stole magic, hedgewitches thought it was the Muggleborns... it was all fairly absurd. It was almost funny, all this stealing of magic business.

Almost.

Hermione sighed, rubbing her eyes before folding up the letter and pocketing it. Once again, with no legible signature, it wasn't as if she could write back to the author, so there was nothing further for her to do with it, she supposed. Not that she'd know what to tell her 'fan' if she could write back. The writer seemed kind of… unhinged.

Hermione found herself glad that the break was over. She never got such letters at Hogwarts for some reason, which was probably for the best, she mused. Each letter seemed more intense than the last, and she felt anxious considering what another one might contain.