Hermione hastily assembled her coven, and they co-opted a back corner of the library, Jade and Milan sitting at their table. Milan looked anxious, while Jade seethed. Blaise was trying his best to hide his amusement while looking through a book, but Hermione could see him and Harry exchanging private snickers. Luna seemed perfectly serene and unbothered.
"We marked you with runes," Susan worried, hovering over a reference book. "If there were secondary meanings we didn't consider—"
"I don't care how it happened," Jade snarled. "I care that you can fix it."
Hermione shot Jade a dark look.
"Fixing it isn't an issue," she informed her. "But we need to know specifically what happened before we try and mess with things more. If this isn't exactly what we think it is, and we interfere, we could make everything substantially worse."
At her words, Jade sat up straighter, while Milan's face fell.
"You can fix it?" Jade said, her tone trying to hide her excitement. "Really?"
"Oh, sure," Hermione said, shrugging. "There's a ritual that's been around for ages to steal a fetus from someone's womb to implant into your own."
Jade's jaw dropped, horrified, while Milan sat up in shock.
"There's a what?" Jade hissed. "Granger, what the hell have you gotten up to—"
"There is?" Milan's voice quavered. Her eyes shone. "We—we won't have to get rid of it?"
Hermione looked at Milan, her heart panging at the expression she saw there.
"No," Hermione said gently. "We won't get rid of it. We're just going to move the fetus from Jade's womb to yours, like in the original plan."
Milan wilted in relief, hiding her face in her hands, while Jade looked incredulous. She looked torn between comforting her girlfriend and demanding more information, and eventually settled on patting Milan on the back, gently rubbing it, while glaring at Hermione.
"What are we waiting on, then?" Jade demanded. '"If this is such a 'well-known ritual'..."
"She didn't say it was well-known," Blaise snapped. "She said it's been around for a while."
"And we're trying to figure out what went wrong the first time around," Harry chimed in, frowning over an Ancient Runes dictionary. "We don't want it to get more messed up."
"And we're waiting on you," Hermione said, raising her eyebrows. She pushed a piece of parchment across the desk. "The ritual is in this book, in the Restricted Section. You're Head Girl, so you have free reign of the Restricted Section, if I'm not mistaken."
Jade took the parchment, reading it over, and she shot Hermione a sideways look. "How do you know it's in this book?"
"I took that book out once before," Hermione said easily. "It's where we got the ovulation ritual from."
Blaise gave her a sideways look, curious, while Jade looked torn between annoyed and impressed.
"Fine," she said, pushing off from the table. "I'll go get it."
She headed towards Madam Pince at the circulation table, taking the parchment with her as she vanished through the stacks. Milan practically vibrated with energy as she watched Jade go, and Hermione turned back to her own rune reference book, a sketch of the ritual they'd done on the table next to her.
"We definitely got Berkano right," Harry said, frowning. "Everything I'm finding is all about fertility, birth, femininity, starting new life, and conception."
"I think I found something." Susan's voice was grave, and they all looked up.
"Yes?" Hermione prompted, and Susan took a deep breath.
"So we used 'Ingwaz' on Jade's stomach," she said, "which has a primary meaning of 'seed', and it's associated with male fertility and transformation. However, it's…"
She paused, swallowing hard.
"…it's also got secondary, more esoteric meanings," she said. She looked down at her book, reading aloud. "'Ingwaz, or Inguz, literally 'seed'; associated with process and space. Rune of isolation or separation in order to create a space or place where the process of transformation into higher states of being can occur; rune of gestation and internal growth'."
"But we used Berkano on Milan," Harry protested. "That one's all about female fertility!"
"I think I've got the other part of the problem," Blaise said. "We paired Berkano with Dagaz, for awakening and breakthrough and hope. Which, given the nature of what we were trying to accomplish, makes perfect sense."
"I'm following so far…" Milan said.
"But as secondary meanings, Dagaz is quite literally the rune of paradoxical truth, incommunicable experience, nonduality, and conceptual realization," he said, reading from the book he had open. "It also has meanings of transmutation, paradigm shift, and unity."
Hermione groaned loudly, thunking her head on the table. Milan looked confused.
"So… what?" she said, looking around at them. "What does that mean?"
"Yeah, what does it mean?" Jade's voice demanded, and Hermione looked up to see Jade returning with a grisly-looking tome. She handed over the book, and Hermione took it from her.
"It means when we were trying to make Jade's egg into a sperm, we did, but we also primed her womb as an ideal place of gestation," Hermione said, flicking through the stained pages of the book. "Milan's runes primed her egg for fertility and conception, but when we paired it with Dagaz for breakthrough and hope…"
"Your egg quite literally 'broke through' into Jade," Blaise said succinctly, eyes glinting, "and you two conceived in her womb instead."
Jade looked furious, while Milan looked mildly relieved.
"So it was just a simple mistake?" Milan asked. "The runes had more meanings that you got mixed up?"
"It's a bit more complicated than that," Susan admitted. "It has to do with the positioning of them too, but essentially, yes, that's what we messed up."
Milan breathed a sigh of relief.
"So everything's still fine and normal, then," she said, looking up. "Right? We just missed the right womb."
"Fine and normal?" Jade hissed. "Milan, I am pregnant."
"Only temporarily," Milan insisted. Her eyes flicked over to Hermione. "Right?"
Hermione gnawed her lip, looking at the ritual they would have to do.
"Only temporarily," she agreed slowly.
Jade's eyes narrowed. "How temporary?"
"Well, in order to have the best odds of the fetus transferring successfully, without any Dark magic or taint, we'll want to choose the perfect astrological time to do the ritual," Hermione equivocated. "We could try on any new moon – the next one is on March 12th – but the moon will be in Pisces, which… this type of thing wouldn't be recommended, then."
"When, then?" Jade demanded.
"Our best bet would be Ostara," she admitted. "The spring equinox."
"That's March 21st," Milan said to Jade. "That's not too far away!"
Jade levelled a look of horror at her partner.
"That is five weeks away," she hissed. "Five weeks."
"You're exaggerating," Milan said. "It's four and a half."
Jade looked like she wanted to tear her hair out.
"Milan, I love you, but I am going to be ten weeks pregnant when we swap this into yours," Jade said, closing her eyes tightly. "Ten weeks. And morning sickness is said to be the worst in the first trimester."
Milan bit her lip.
"I'll help brew you potions?" she offered. "And – well, you're tall. There's a decent chance no one will be able to tell that far along…"
Jade groaned loudly and thunked her head down onto the table. Milan hesitantly stroked her back, unsure.
"I'll do it," Jade grumbled. "I'm not saying we should terminate the pregnancy or anything. Just… I really don't want to."
The stress on Milan's face eased at Jade's grumblings.
"I'll dote on you and spoil you rotten until we change places," she assured her, petting her hair. "C'mon. We can go figure out morning sickness potions now."
Grumbling, Jade took Milan's hand and stood, shooting Hermione a glare.
"You will fix this, Granger, do you understand?" she snapped. "If you do not, I will make your life miserable."
Jade's eyes were venomous and promised an unpleasant death, and Hermione swallowed hard.
"Understood," Hermione said weakly.
Jade turned in a huff and stalked off with Milan, who seemed considerably more cheerful at her side. The coven watched them go, vanishing into the stacks, before they all exchanged heavy glances with each other.
"You think she'd be nicer," Luna commented. "We're magically subverting the natural order of things so she can have a daughter with her girlfriend, and she hasn't thanked you at all."
"Right?" Harry groused. "I didn't want to say anything, but she seems plain ungrateful."
Hermione raised her eyebrows.
"So if you and your wife decided to have children," Hermione said to Harry, "and you unexpectedly conceived and were growing the baby instead of her, you'd just be grateful to have a pregnancy at all?"
"I mean..." he faltered. "It's not the same..."
"It's pretty close to the same," Susan said, sighing. "Jade was expecting to father the child, so to speak. Not gestate it."
"She's still a girl," Harry objected. "She still has the girl parts needed to actually grow a baby. That's a pretty big difference."
"I would," Blaise said out of nowhere.
Hermione glanced over at him as she flicked through the book. "You would what?"
"Just be glad to have a pregnancy," he said easily, shrugging. "Why not? Why should she be expected to bear the child?"
Harry's jaw dropped, and Hermione snorted.
"You mean besides virtue of her biology?" she said, incredulous. "Her innards literally being built for it, as opposed to your own?"
"Magic can do incredible things," Blaise said, grinning. "Who am I to stand in its way? She could bear the next kid. We could take turns."
"So you'd what, poop the baby out?" Harry demanded, looking green. "Mate, I dunno how to tell you this, but—"
"Blaise is not pregnant, so this really isn't a matter of concern right now," Hermione interrupted, rolling her eyes. "This conversation is not helpful right now."
"Right," Susan said. She looked at Luna. "If we get this sorted away, Jade will probably be more grateful then, right?"
Luna shrugged. "Maybe."
"That's the plan," Hermione said, sighing. "If we 'fix' it and pull this off, Jade's supposed to publicly support our coven, when news of that comes out. Which is close enough to gratitude for me."
"So what're we looking at to fix it?" Blaise asked, drumming his fingers on the table. "That book doesn't look pleasant."
"If it's the one that we got the conception ritual out of, it already had a ritual that needed unborn dead rabbits," Luna remarked. "I doubt a ritual to steal a baby out of a pregnant mother is going to be a particularly nice one."
Susan winced. "That's true."
"It's… going to be complicated, and it's going to be grisly," Hermione said, paling as she looked over the instructions. "…very grisly."
"We better get started then," Harry declared. His eyes were bright green, glowing with determination. "We've got a month to prepare, yeah? Let's divvy the list up and see what we can do."
Hermione sighed withdrawing a quill and parchment. "Fair enough." She glanced up. "So. Who wants to harvest Baneberries, and who wants to find a dead cuckoo bird?"
There was a collective grimace, and they all settled in for a long, unpleasant discussion.