Hermione had written to her parents immediately about what had happened with her experiment, thrilled as she was with the results. Her father had written back expressing how proud he was of her and praising her for combining science with magic. Even more, he was encouraging her to go further, to consider what all of it could mean.
What implication does this have for magic now? he'd written back to her. Is there anything you can do with this knowledge to bring it down from the theoretical into the practical?
Hermione had no idea. But she had four years of schooling left ahead of her – she was confident she'd be able to figure something out by the end of her Hogwarts career.
Her progress with Fleur's gift was coming along steadily, albeit slowly. Bloodthorne's advice about listening to the metal had started to make sense, she realized. As Hermione transfigured the metal, the metal would resist some shapes more than others, and Hermione found herself transfiguring along with the whim of the metal more often than not. What had begun as an elegant, understated, and rather feminine hairpiece was slowly becoming a thicker circlet, more like a metal headband or crown than a delicate tiara, but it wasn't to be helped. The function was more important than the form, in Hermione's opinion. And Fleur was plenty feminine without it, anyway.
When she wasn't pouring her magic into the slow, painstaking transfiguration of Fleur's birthday gift, she was pouring her magic into Tom Riddle's diary, which had taken up residence in her pocket once more. With the exception of Defense Against the Dark Arts, Hermione took the diary around with her to pour her magic into as best she could to prepare Tom for another reintegration attempt.
Hermione approached Harry about Tom making another attempt, rather nervous, but Harry agreed surprisingly easily.
"I've already had a piece of Voldemort in my body," he said, grinning. "I'm prime body-battle real-estate, really."
Hermione laughed. "If you say so."
"When do you want to do this? You said Halloween, so… what, midnight on Sunday night? Between the 30th and the 31st?" Harry asked. "The earlier the better, I'm guessing. The Feast that night will be a lot of Triwizard Tournament stuff going on, and it'd be better to have this taken care of by then."
"Works for me," Hermione said, smiling.
Harry grinned, clearly excited to be part of the adventure.
"So how do I do it?" Harry asked. "Should I start writing in the diary now? Open myself up to Tom's soul bit or whatever?"
"You can consciously open yourself up to the influence and access," Hermione said. "Though… we might need Susan on hand, too. If the Occlumency ritual blocks Tom's access, she may need to 'help' him past it somehow."
"It didn't help Millie," Harry pointed out, which made Hermione frown.
"That's true," she said, considering. "I wonder if it only helped for me because I'm my own protector?"
"Who knows?" Harry said, grinning. "We'll get Susan to come along just in case. I'm sure she won't object. We're sure the ring won't kill me, right?"
"I mean, no, but the necrotic curse on it was a one-time thing," Hermione equivocated. "All that's left is the horcrux that's in it. Which will try and take you over and try and kill you, but in a less immediately fatal way."
"I trust you," he said easily. "I'm sure it'll turn out fine."
Hermione, who had been the body for the last integration attempt, was much less sure. "…I'll ask Theo to come along too, just in case."
The Thursday evening before the delegations from the other schools were about to arrive, Pansy approached Hermione while she was playing with the circlet, setting the purple gems into place.
"We need to call a Slytherin council," Pansy told her. "Draco and I were talking about it – we need to decide as a house how we're going to present ourselves to the other schools."
"Present ourselves?" Hermione asked, puzzled. "It's not like the other houses will treat us differently while Beauxbatons and Durmstrang are here."
"Alright, who we're going to ally with," Pansy corrected, rolling her eyes. "Whatever."
"Who Slytherin is going to ally with?" Hermione asked her, not following. "Why are you coming to me about this? There are prefects for this kind of thing."
"Calling a House Council is a sign of power," she said finally. "If you're the one to do it, it commands respect. And if you run it, you can help control where the conversation goes."
"I don't know where we want it to go," Hermione pointed out, and Pansy groaned.
"Okay, fine. How about you call the council and introduce it, and Draco and I sit at your sides, and we run the council while you sit there and look intimidating?" she snapped. "Is that satisfactory?"
"I guess?" Hermione was taken aback by Pansy's sudden vitriol. "I don't—"
"I could have gone to a prefect about this, you know," Pansy said sharply. "And I didn't. I'm trying to establish you as a political powerhouse, even if you don't know dragon dung about pureblood councils. You could at least appear open to learning."
Hermione paused, took a breath, and collected herself, looking Pansy in the eye.
"You're right," Hermione said directly. "I didn't realize this was a variant of a pureblood tradition, or what it meant. I treated it dismissively, and I'm sorry."
Now Pansy looked taken aback, then suspicious.
"I don't know all the pureblood traditions," Hermione told her frankly. "Not all of them are written down. If you and Draco can help me learn this one, I would appreciate it."
Pansy nodded slowly.
"We start by calling a Slytherin House Council," she said firmly. "You want to do this in as casually powerful a way as you can."
'As casually powerful as possible' could be a lot of things. After Pansy provided a list of everyone in Slytherin, Hermione toyed with possibilities of messages on everyone's dinner plates, overly fancy scrolls, and sending a Patronus to everyone, before settling on using more thematically-appropriate messengers – namely, snakes.
After double-checking with Draco that his Serpensortia spell was a conjuration, not a summoning, she'd gone out to the woods that night with a plan. With a small ritual similar to beginning of the 'speak to serpents' ritual, she was able to summon a mass of snakes to her, where Hermione made her pitch to the snakes: she would provide them access to the warm castle and possible mice in exchange for their help with a day's work.
As it turned out, the snakes barely needed any persuasion – they were perfectly happy to obey her just because she could talk to them.
"We recognize the power of a speaker," one of the snakes said, speaking for the group. "Speakers care for snakes in realms of power we do not understand, but we respect the speakers for what they do."
Hermione wasn't quite sure what that meant, but given she wasn't going to try and kill all the snakes, she felt okay reassuring them she did have their best interests at heart. It took several trips to gather the snakes into a sack, drop them off in the Slytherin common room, and come back to pick up more. When she finally had enough of them, she returned to the common room, now deserted of everyone except for the snakes, and it abruptly occurred to her that if anyone had awoken and ventured downstairs, it might have been alarming for them to be confronted with a sea of snakes.
Well. Good thing that hadn't happened, then.
Hermione then spent much of the night sketching out a map of the Slytherin dormitories for the snakes to follow, explaining the layout. In her best calligraphy, she made a generic invitation for the council that evening and then duplicated it repeatedly, before addressing each one personally, using Pansy's list. She separated out the snakes in groups of five to ten based on size, instructing them on where they were to go – the smaller snakes to the first years, the largest to the seventh years. Because the snakes wouldn't be able to tell which witch or wizard was their particular target (not that Hermione knew either), she encouraged them to just explore the area visibly and hiss a lot when people started to wake up. The students would realize something was up when the first person saw an addressed envelope in a snake's mouth, and it'd be short order then for everyone to retrieve their invite.
When every snake had their instructions, including what to do after all the invites were retrieved, Hermione sent them off, just shy of three in the morning. Hermione was realizing just how much of making something seem casually powerful and effortless was making sure nobody saw the logistics and planning that went into it beforehand, really. But with the invitations Pansy had demanded finally done, she was all too relieved to finally go to her own dorm room, hide herself in the bathroom, and Time-Turn back before promptly collapsing into bed and going to sleep.