Hours later, Hermione had to admit that having her parents help out had been a godsend.
"A lot of people would have passed out from exhaustion, I think, if we didn't have the muggle Cooling Charm bucket," Jerran told Hermione at one point. "A lot. Holes are hard. The water helped keep our spirits up. And it made Keenan feel useful, to have something to do, helping give out water."
"These flags're the best," Derek had proclaimed, waving a tent spike with a scrap of plastic attached to it at Hermione. "D'you know how many times we would've messed up an' dug holes in the wrong place? A lot. People jus' can't listen, I guess, but these things saved us a ton of digging an' re-digging…"
"They're pretty chill for parents, aren't they?" Aurican commented at one point. "We told them we needed to make giant bonfires, and they didn't even blink, just directed us to a place where there wasn't any grass."
Hermione regarded her parents, who were both helping a boy who had a deep gash in his calf from enthusiastically missing the ground with his shovel.
"Yeah," Hermione had admitted. "For parents, they're kind of cool."
Hermione had taken her father's words earlier to heart, and she'd focused on the magic of the ritual. She double-checked that everyone knew where to go and what supplies they would need. She supervised small groups practicing connecting to the ley line in the village, growing impressed despite herself at how well Derek and Clover had passed on the knowledge they'd only recently acquired themselves. She taught groups of adults and resting diggers the chant they would need, having them all practice reciting with her like a toneless concert, feeling very much like a school teacher all the while. It had needed done, though, and Hermione was pleased and confident that everything would work.
After supervising chanting practice, Hermione and Clover made big piles of the silver wards each tenancy would need, separating them out and labeling them before addressing the largest pressing issue: how to get the giant piles of silver from place to place.
The diggers had just been flying around with their shovels tied to their brooms, but it wasn't exactly feasible to tie 50+ large silver slabs to a broomstick. It had been Clover's complaining that so few people had a proper Floo that inspired Hermione – could they use the Floo?
Old Man Hobbs had taken up a spot shining all the silver wards with Blackbeard before they were to be put in the ground, grumbling all the while (it was entirely unnecessary, but Hermione figured maybe if the wards were shiny, they'd reflect more moonlight, so it could help, theoretically). Old Man Hobbs knew enough about the Floo network to help Hermione out.
"The Ministry are a bunch of fools, but they're not complete lumps," he snorted. "They have their Floo network all linked up so no one gets lost or ends up in a random fire getting burned. Their little maps and fireplace runes help keep people safe. But Floo powder used to be kept in your pocket in a sachet at all times, in case the muggles came a'calling."
"The muggles?" Hermione asked, curious.
"'Course," Old Man Hobbs said, squinting at her with his one good eye. "If the muggles found you, what do you think happened?"
"Umm," Hermione said. "Something bad?"
"They'd call you a witch," Old Man Hobbs said patiently, "an' then they'd drag you off to be burned."
Hermione's jaw dropped open as he continued on.
"Floo powder, it was a last resort," he told her. "If you could wiggle enough to get it to fall out o' your pocket and your fire to turn green, you had a chance at escaping – though then they'd know for sure you were a witch." His face was grim. "We've come a long way since that – muggles don't believe in witches anymore, I reckon – but Floo powder used to work just fine in great bonfires. No bloody fireplace needed."
Clover had been dispatched to Diagon Alley with a bag of gold, and she'd returned with several large sacks of Floo powder, heaving with effort as she dragged them back through the fireplace.
"It's two sickles a scoop, you know?" she said, panting as Hermione helped her with the bags. "D'you know how many scoops you can get for twenty galleons?"
"A lot?" Hermione ventured.
"A hundred seventy," Clover stressed. "A hundred seventy scoops."
Hermione instructed the hedges to make great bonfires at each site – one at the Longbottom tenancy, and one where they were at the Notts'. The hedges had decided the Longbottom estate was close enough to the Shafiqs' to only worry about one fire.
They'd put great buckets of Floo powder near each bonfires. With Clover helping, tossing a big scoop of Floo powder into the fire each time, Hermione had managed to levitate the silver wards through the giant glowing green bonfire to the other places they were needed – much easier than flying them all over the countryside. Hermione and Clover had celebrated when it had worked, thrilled at their discovery.
Having only two bonfires helped a lot. With only one street and two endpoints, there was little danger of anyone accidentally going to the wrong place. Hermione idly wondered if there was a way to crystallize the Floo powder into a solid thing, like a glowing green coal that could just be kept at the center of a bonfire, instead of needing to throw in more Floo powder each time.
She let the idea pass, though. She already had quite enough to do.
As dusk grew closer, the older hedges began to emerge, some of the women bearing large cauldrons of stew to share. Old wooden bowls and spoons appeared as if from nowhere, and the hedges all lined up to get food with the practice of people long since used to doing so. People ate and talked and laughed as they ate, the sun slowly setting.
As dusk approached, the hedges seemed to shift, growing from easygoing and light to more intense and serious. There was a fierce determination in their gait, now, even as they played with the flashlights Hermione's father was handing out.
It was kind of creepy, Hermione thought, to see how tense everybody grew. There were no children out, and there were lookouts posted on the side of the village nearest the trees with silver daggers and spears. As the moon rose, a lone wolf howled, and Hermione felt shivers run up her spine.
Almost silently, each hedgewitch went to their appointed hole, bearing their rune and their dagger, and Hermione levitated herself onto the roof of a tall center building of the little down to try and get the best view of everybody possible. She tapped her wand to her throat, murmuring "Sonorus", and cleared her throat.
"Is everybody at their positions?" Hermione called. "Can we get a final check?"
Her voice rang out over the area, and there were affirmative cries all around. Her dad and Blackbeard ran through the village, quickly double-checking that each hole had a hedgewitch positioned next to it. At their confirmation, Hermione drew herself up.
"Ready?" she said. "Let us begin."
A few flashlights were left on, laid on the ground nearby to help some, but the light of the full moon was bright enough for Hermione to see everyone. She watched as all of the hedgewitches, all one hundred of them needed to cover the expanse of the Notts' lands, settled down, meditating on their magic and going into their cores.
As each person reached equilibrium, they began to hum. Soon, there was an eerie hum carried throughout the entire area, echoing into the forest beyond. Hermione reached down into the ley line with her own magic, careful to keep hers separate, and realized she could feel all the hedgewitches harmonizing with it, linking up their cores.
It was incredible, to feel this. It was magical. And everyone else seemed to realize it, because when the last person linked up, very suddenly, everyone hushed.
Hermione had gone over the ritual with them all very carefully, instructing them all on what needed to be done. The hedges hadn't flinched at the blood needed, and they'd all practiced the chanting together. She watched as it all came together now, each hedgewitch cutting their hand deeply with a knife and holding it over their rune to bleed.
As their blood dripped from their hands, filling up the rune channels that had been pressed into each silver ward, the hedges began to chant.
"With our daggers, we cut our hands
With our blood, we defend our lands."
There was a feeling of tension, of magic growing and charging the air as the channels of each rune filled with blood. Hermione could feel it prickling her skin, could feel it humming around her. She glanced over at her parents, who stood over by the medical table with Blackbeard and Keenan. It was clear that Blackbeard and Keenan could feel the magic from the tension in their stance, while her parents watched with curious eyes.
"With our silver, we repel all harm
With the moonlight, we charge our charm."
The full channels of blood in each rune began to glow an unearthly silvery-white. It was like liquid moonlight, almost, forming tiny rivers within each rune stone, barely contained by its meniscus. Hermione watched the hedges' eyes all widen in shock that they were actually doing magic, but practice and discipline kept them chanting as planned.
"With our magic, we combine and connect—"
Hermione could feel the sudden drain on the ley line, as each hedgewitch took as much power from the ley line as they could and pushed it into their rune.
"—With our spell, this land we protect."
The effect was electric.
Beams of unearthly silvery light lit up the village, light going from one rune to another to another, connecting all of the hedges' silver wards together in a glowing silvery-white net. Light traveled, linking rune to rune, beam by beam, until every hedgewitch had a glowing silver ward, each one a link in the net of magic. It practically hummed, so powerful was their warded net.
It had worked. It had worked. They had done it.
Now that the wards were effectively 'charged', from blood, moonlight, and magic, Hermione could feel the hedges gradually disconnect from the ley line running through the town. There were gasps and murmurs, and Hermione watched as people carefully set their rune wards down on the ground before leaping to their feet, running to each other and hugging fiercely, laughing in celebration.
"We did it!" Clover cried, throwing herself at Derek, who hugged her back just as fiercely.
"We did that," Worm marveled. "I'll be. We did that. Magic."
It was a triumphant, happy atmosphere as the hedgewitches congratulated each other, all of them in awe and beaming, proud of themselves. Most of them had never cast big magic, Hermione reminded herself, and she watched for a long moment as they celebrated, before she drew them back to the task at hand.
"Everybody be careful!" Hermione called out. "We need to be sure the wards are all buried before the moon goes down. If we want to do the Longbottom tenancy next, we'll need to be quick to make sure there's still enough moonlight left."
That sobered the hedges somewhat, but even as they each ran back to their hole, carefully placing each ward inside before scooping dirt back into it, there was happy laughter and teasing catcalls from across the village, the sense of glee and success unable to be denied.
"Quietus." Hermione holstered her wand and levitated herself off of the roof she'd stood on and made her way over to her parents, who watched her approach with amusement.
"Did you see?" she said excitedly. "Did you see? It worked!"
"Did it, dear?" her mother said. "Well done, then!"
"That was excellent," her father said. "Everyone chanting together – very mysterious and cool."
Hermione faltered, looking at her parents.
"Well, yes – that was the spell – but the net…"
Dawning realization slowly spread over Hermione, and her eyes flew to Blackbeard and Keenan nearby. Keenan grinned at her.
"That was awesome," she said, waving her stump arm emphatically. "So cool when everything started glowing. I can't believe it worked so well!"
Hermione's eyes went to Blackbeard, who was giving her a small smile.
"It was beautiful," he assured her. "Seeing the light of the magic, even if I couldn't help weave it. And now everyone's safe – that's a gift beyond measure, to us."
Hermione looked back at her parents, who were now discussing the logistics of treating everyone's cut hands before the hedges just went and cut them open again at the next ritual site.
Could they really not…?
Hermione stood still.
She had thought her parents would at least see something. The glowing blood in the runes, the light connecting each ward – that was physical, that was light, surely her parents would have been able to see that, even if they couldn't sense the magic – but her parents hadn't seen anything. They hadn't even realized the ritual had worked.
Hermione had thought they could tell, somehow. She'd thought they would be able to see. Why did she think that? Why? She wracked her brain, dredging up the memory of casting a protection spell on the house with them once. Her parents had reacted then, to the end of the spell. She remembered it. Her father had wanted to know where the blood on the door posts had gone. And her mother had been startled when the candles had gone out…
"Is that it…?"
It was a really weird feeling, realizing that her parents hadn't felt or seen the magic of the ritual at all. The first ritual she'd done with them, they only reacted to the end because physical things had changed – the blood was gone, and the candles she'd lit traditionally had gone out. But they hadn't felt the magic, they hadn't heard the clap, and must not have seen the glow of the blood at all.
And now. Hermione knew her parents were muggles – of course she knew that, she wasn't stupid – but there was still an odd feeling of realization, of slow comprehension. Her parents were muggles – they wouldn't have been able to participate in the ritual as they couldn't channel magic – but somehow, Hermione had expected them to realize something was going on.
She thought they'd be able to see the runes glowing with moonlight, maybe. She thought they'd be able to see the light illuminating the village. She'd thought it was light. And muggles could see light. They just couldn't see magic.
But the light had been magic. It wasn't just light at all.
There was an odd mournful feeling swelling in Hermione, one that was entirely irrational, but it grew anyway. It was a sense of loss for her parents, for not being able to share the beauty and success of this moment with them, and knowing that as much as they supported her, they'd always remain partially cut off from this part of her life.
"It was really pretty, mum," Hermione told her. She found her eyes were wet, and she dashed the tears away. "The runes all lit up with moonlight, and then the magic connected them all, like a giant net made of light."
"Did it really?" her father asked. "That's neat. A net... so is the 'protection' caught inside of it? Or is it more like a faraday cage, diverting threats down the sides of it and away?"
"It sounds very pretty, Hermione," her mother told her, smiling gently at her. "I would have liked to see it."
The hedges were still whooping and talking, filling in their holes to cover up their runes. Her father set about gathering up some of the supplies with Blackbeard, and Hermione leaned back against her mother, who took her and enfolded her in her arms in a close hug without a word as they watched the hedgewitches work to fill in their holes.
"I wish you could have seen it, mum." Hermione's voice was choked up, quiet as it was. "It really was beautiful."
"I know, dear," her mother murmured, pressing a kiss to her brow. "I know."